No magic wand was needed, we didn’t have to be a wizard nor did we have to have a special invitation to gain access through the doors of Hogwarts. For £35 you’ll get access to a behind the scenes of the wonderful world of Harry Potter. Now you may argue that £35 is a pretty hefty price for such a thing, but when I say the tour will take up most of your day, I guarantee that when you arrive at the studios in broad daylight you’d be leaving under the street lines that guide us in darkness.
Our Potter taste buds were teased when we first gathered in our group in a darkened room that was decorated by a series of electronic boards that flashed up different Harry Potter posters that were used to market the films over the world. Our tour guide gave us a brief of what to expect before leading us into an auditorium. We were treated to a 15 minute feature of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson informing us of what it was like working and growing up on set. It wasn’t until Daniel Radcliffe mentioned that 17,000 wand boxes were all individually crafted throughout the making of the franchise and the three support the size of the movies by stating the roles and the scale of the team that made the Potter franchise possible.
With the movie over the whole room was ready to explore the Potter universe. At that very moment the cinema sized screen was slowly raised to the rafters and behind were the doors to Hogwarts. We were ready to enter.
Right before our eyes was the Great Hall table that Harry and all the other students of Hogwarts underwent feasts that us as viewers were all jealous of. The feeling felt pretty surreal and as we walked further into the dining hall, the sorting hat was proudly on display just before you reached the podium where Dumbledore, Professor Snape and the other teachers stood. Of course they were life size mannequins, but a part of me was hoping that Michael Gamdon would walk in at any moment dressed in full Dumbledore gear.
From this point the group tour become more of a tour that allowed you to investigate whatever you wished for what seemed like as long as possible. The next room seemed more like a size of a warehouse, as it consisted a collection of several sets that appeared through the movie franchise. From the prefect room and Harry and Ron’s dormroom, to Albus Dumbledoor’s office and the table that Voldermort and and his alliance once gathered, the studio helped us understand the great scale of things by having mannequins occupy each set. What I was taken back on was the amount of detail that went into each set. The walls of Dumbledor’s office was filled with framed hand painted pictures, with his table and chair in which he stood behind all hand crafted to perfection.
Within this warehouse sized room also gave kids (and lets not kid ourselves, grown-ups) the chance to have their photo taken flying a broomstick and learn the different movements in order to cast particular spells. It’s hard to single out exactly what was most impressive, as every set told a story that all Potter films would love to look back on as they envision the actors occupying each space.
As we left the section, we were treated to the Hogwarts Express. The large train was visually impressive from the outside, however as cool as it was to walk through, each seating area lacked any kind of “wow” moment. The cramped walkway and stalls made it hard to believe that this was the actual train that was used for filming, but viewing the outside definitely gave me a sense of nostalgia. It was as if I had taken this train some years ago and I was reliving the memories.
Pass the train came the overly expensive burger to cure my hunger levels, for almost £10 the incredibly overcooked burger couldn’t quite justify handing over the only bit of cash I ever have in my wallet. Shortly after, we stepped outside to gaze at the huge night bus as well as the Dursley’s household. We then stepped into a room full of handmade props which made me realise just how much time and effort went into every little aspect of this movie franchise. Don’t get me wrong, all the things that came before this made me realise this, but seeing a hand crafted, life sized model of a demontror that took a full year to make but only received 3 total minutes of screen time supported the fact that the makers wouldn’t half arse any aspect of the movies.
Exploring the prop room had my jaw dropped to the floor the whole time. From incredibly detailed goblin faces, to the huge sculpture of Hagrid’s movable head, it was incredible to see the work of a group of prop makers who are at the top of their industry. There were so many sculptures on show that I could write a whole new article dedicated to the collection of work, but I have to warn you that there is a very creepy baby Voldermort who, at a press of a button, moves around while laying down in a glass case. Trust me, this was one of the freakiest things I’ve seen in my 26 years on this planet.
After walking past the life size Buckbeak that moved effortlessly, we were treated to a gallery of digital art that was produced through the franchise’s run. Much like the team that worked on the props, the work of these artists were once again incredible. I was thinking of a plan on how to prize all the work off the walls and make a quick getaway before getting tackled by security. Unfortunately this plan failed to adapt in my head, so I thought I’d just enjoy looking at them like everyone else.
After walking through a small room with its walls decorated by architectural drawings of several buildings found in Harry Potter, we came to the grand finale. When I say grand finale, boy do I mean grand finale. What came next I had heard existed, but to see it in person it honestly took my breathe away. In front of my eyes was the large model of Hogwarts. To call it a large model isn’t doing it any justice, the detail that had gone into the model was not only impressive but made me wonder how on earth the makers made each little brick so lifelike.
The Hogwarts castle measured over 50 feet across and consisted of 2,500 fibre optic lights that simulated lanterns to light up each room as well as students passing through hallways, a great detail added by the 90 people had worked on the Hogwarts castle. We got to see the castle in all its glory too. When we first walked in every little detail was visible and as we walked around it the lighting in the room began to dimmer, showing the castle in all it’s glory at night. This truly was something to marvel at.
With a £35 entry fee and having to dig deep in your wallet to afford the food, the Harry Potter studio tour isn’t cheap. Also, be prepared to spend a considerable amount in the store if you want to walk away with some souvenirs. However, the experience is a must for all Potter fanatics and even if you’re not a keen Potterhead, the work that went into the movies is something that anyone can appreciate and enjoy seeing on display.