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This blog post has been long overdue, however with one thing and another I’ve simply not had time to sift through the mounds of photographs to create this blog. As you’ve probably gathered today I’m going to be talking about my time at the Harry Potter Studio Tours. Since it opened, I’ve been wanting to go to the studios for such a long time, this year for my 23rd birthday I went on the 25th of last month with my parents and my guide dog Unity. Me and my mother are hardcore Harry Potter Fans, Unity and my dad however…not so much. Nevertheless, I cannot get over how amazing the experience was and how much there was to see
We arrived for the 5.30 tour and didn’t leave the venue until 9.30pm, but believe me you could easily spend a lot longer in the tour. This is truly a place for Harry Potter fans to revel in the spender and to see the magic behind how these incredible films were made.
The tour really helps you to appreciate the sheer amount of work that went into creating these films, from props, mechanics, special effects and the actors who had to act with a green screen behind them for so many of the iconic scenes from the films.
I had ana amazing time, I got to ride a broom, I bought a wand, I walked the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley and I went aboard the Hogwarts Express.
The tours are based in Watford, an hours drive from London. Once we arrived in the lobby the experience began immediately with props from the film, photographs and Harrys legendary home The Cupboard Under the Stairs as we waited to be taken into the tour.
One thing I have to say about my experience as a person with a disability, is that the staff members were all incredibly friendly and helpful. They always made an effort to offer me assistance throughout the tour and were very chatty and enthusiastic about Harry Potter and were an absolute mine of information when it came to the films.
I personally found the tour to be very interactive, there was lots of different sound effects throughout the tour and I also had a audio descriptive tour guide which was incredibly useful when walking around the tour. It pinpointed very precise bits of information and things that I wouldn’t necessarily have bene able to see if I hadn’t had the prompts of the guide.
The tour began with a cinema experience which then lead us to be lead through the doors of the Great Hall just Harry would have done during his first time to Hogwarts. The Great Hall was the most incredible experience, it opens up to a large room with flagstone floors, tables appointed with goblets and cutlery and the long teachers table with the costumed figures of Snape, Hagrid, Dumbledore and so on. There was so much attention to detail, from the medieval style windows to the costumes of the different houses. To be in this room was a really unique experience and very surreal to think that so much of the films were set in the Great Hall.
The Great Hall is the only timed part of the tour, so you only get a short amount of time to look around. So, have your cameras at the ready to take those pictures. After that the rest of the tour is at your fingertips and you are free to spend as much time looking around as you wish.
The tour is a maze of different sets from the films from the wigs and costume design, to the Gryffindor Common Room, The Potions Class, Dumbledore’s Office and The Weasley’s House. Each set that was on display had so much detail and character, it was just like looking at the set as it would have been directly transported from the film. The common room had old books and a mug of Butter Beer sat on a table, the potions classroom had jars upon jars of ingredients stacked neatly on the shelves and The Weasley’s house had hundreds of little trinkets scattered around the room. You could visit this place every day for a month and still find something you hadn’t seen the first time around. There was just so much to see from portraits that were painted by artists for the film and then specially treated to give it an aged appearance to the moving staircase of Hogwarts. Although alas the staircase does not move during the tours. However lots of other things do like the branch of the Whomping Willow and the pots in the Weasley House. In fact there are so many things that seem to move of their own accord its just like magic…well this is Harry potter after all.
Then after that we then proceeded into the Forbidden Forest, there is a lot more footage of this on my vlog. So do be sure to go and give that a watch if you want to hear the sounds and see the sights of this new attraction. I absolutely loved seeing this part of the tour, you walk through the set of the forest where creates appear in all directions from Buckbeack to the large spiders who lurk in the shadows. But, beware if you’re afraid of spiders as it moves! There were also lots of thunder sound effects and special lighting which really gave it an eerie feel.
After the darkness of the Forbidden Forest it was then time to head into the bright atmosphere of Kings Cross Train Station to see the legendary Platform Nine and Three Quarters. I absolutely loved seeing this, with the gleaming red Hogwarts Express train in all its glory, the old steam trunks piled up high and the platform shop selling sweets and merchandise. The train itself was absolutely incredible to see, as I embarked inside we went through narrow corridors which ran past each compartment with the old style seats like what they would have on board old steam trains.
After that it was then time to step outside to see some of the props that were used in the films, like number 4 Privet Drive, inside Privet drive we also saw the conventional Muggle room in turmoil from the hundreds of scattered Hogwarts acceptance letters. Then there was the Night Bus, one of my absolutely favourite things from the Harry Potter series, the legendary Turquoise Ford Angleia, Godrick’s Hollow and the Hogwarts Bridge. Seeing these creations in the flesh really brought it into scale and perspective and the fact that these were not all green screen images brought the magic to reality.
After many rooms which showed the magic behind the films like the special effects room, the models room and so on. We then came to one of the most magical elements of the series, Diagon Alley. To walk through the cobbled streets and to see the shop fronts of Olivanders, Magical Malkins and Flourish & Blotts. There was also the impressive structure of Gringots Wizard Bank, although if I had a bank it would be an empty volt!
After galleries of incredible artwork, rooms with special effects models and many more rooms that showcased the incredible work of artists and technicians in the making of these films it was then time to see the Hogwarts model. If any of you don’t want the magic of the Hogwarts castle ruined, stop reading now.
OK, so for those of you who have stayed, Hogwarts is alas not a massive castle somewhere in the Scottish Highlands. It is actually a large model that was shot in the studios, but what a model. The scale of it is incredible, there is so much attention to detail from the turrets, to the greenhouses that border the Castle structure and the large sloping bridge. Lights twinkle in the windows, so that at a distance it almost looks like you are looking at the castle from a far of hill and you can almost imagine the students tucking into their feast in the Great Hall.
The tour ends with the impressive Room of Wands, a room with shelves groaning with dozens upon dozens of boxes of wands. Each with a different name on them for each character and what I found so incredible was that the staff member who was supervising this room knew off by heart where each of the character’s wand was situated. A fun fact for you each of the boxes was hand painted by artisans for the film and this room had hundreds and hundreds of them. So to think of the hours and hours that must have been spent crafting this for the film is incredible.
Then after that I headed into the gift shop and let me tell you some serious damage was done!
One of my favourite things about the experience was the Green Screens, one thing about the films was that behind the broomstick rides and flying cars was what went into making these scenes a reality. The actors had to act with props against a green screen to make the magic happen, but now the visitors can also have a go at flying a broom or posing in front of the camera as a wanted Witch or Wizard.
It was so much fun pretending to fly a broom over the streets of London and over the Hogwarts skyline. There was a member of staff who gives you prompts on what to do like lean forward, look up and so on. I think I got a little too carried away in the film and may have just fancied myself an actress (dream on Emily.) But, it was so much fun to do and the photographs are hilarious.
All in all, I had a truly amazing time and it was incredibly memorable. Harry Potter was a huge part of my childhood and to see the magic behind it and get to experience so much of the film in the flesh as an adult was wonderful. I would highly recommend giving it a visit.
So that concludes this blog today, be sure to like, comment and follow my blog for future posts.
And I will see you all next time.