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This post is going to give you all the information needed for you to enjoy a visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Lonon, or should I say: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter. I will be filling you in with some useful tips on booking, how to get there, best time to go, and of course an album full of incredible shots taken from the sets of Harry Potter. But don’t worry, I can assure you there will still be plenty of surprises and things not mentioned here that you can see on your visit.
I am going to be honest, I was never a huge potter fan growing up, primarily because I never got the opportunity to watch the films, well not in the order anyway. For Christmas, I originally planned this trip for Kevin and our friend Charlie as they absolutely love Harry Potter and this just looked perfect. Fortunately for myself, Kevin actually decided to take me anyway, as we also had another activity to do in London, so we just thought it would be a good idea to do them both on the same day. Last month, I managed to watch all of the Harry Potters, so as you can imagine, I was ready for this day!
On Saturday 30th March 2019, I had the wonderful experience of visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. I am now a potter head to say the least, and I found out that I am in Hufflepuff. I cannot say enough how mesmerising it was. I absolutely loved finding out how they designed the sets, created costumes, filmed the magic, and getting the chance to do it myself.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter
ENTER THE GREAT HALL OF HOGWARTS
The Harry Potter Studio Tour begins with a short intrduction about the making of the studio itself and why they decided to open it to public, then the tour starts by the opening of The Great Hall. The two tables in the middle of the room were removed to create more space for the tour (sadly), but this is the exact set of where the scenes in The Great Hall were filmed everytime. The room looks pretty much the same as to what you would see on screen, obviously it’s not got all the students and candles in, but the representation is the same. Unfortunately, I did not see the sorting hat, either I just missed it or it was not there!
Tip: To get a good photograph of The Great Hall, I definitely recommend either being the first one in or waiting until everyone leaves – to get a photograph of it empty. This is the only room of the tour where your time is limited.
THE CHOCOLATE FEAST
The Chocolate Feast from the Goblet of Fire comprised of many sweets and treats including, several edible deserts that were actually baked in the scene, so that the cast members could actually eat them.
THE MOVING STAIR CASE
GRYFFINDOR BOY’S DORMITORY
These beds were used for the duration of all the movies, in which the boys had to curl up in the later ones to avoid their legs and feet from hanging out the bottom of them.
THE GRYFFINDOR COMMON ROOM
THE MAGIC OF THE GREEN SCREEN
Filmmakers often shoot visual effects scenes on a green screen, which allows them to replace the green colours with a completely different background or computer-generated set. Most of the scenes in Harry Potter were done using a green screen, even the ones in other countries.
THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS DOOR
Many fans assume that the Chamber of Secrets door was a computer-generated effect. In fact, this intricate device was hand built by the Special Effects Department.
THE FORBIDDEN FOREST
Towering Trees – the trees of the Forbidden Forest were built to a massive scale, reaching diameters of 12 to 14 feet (4.3 metres).
Painted Forests – the hand painted backdrops were up to 600 feet wide and among some of the largest ever created.
Giant Spiders – to bring Aragog to life, the Creature Effects Department built a huge, physical animatronic that spanned 18 feet across. Aragog was filmed creeping out of the tree roots, which hid the wiring, mechanics and support crew.
THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS
Most of the scenes that take place on Platform 9 3/4 were actually shot on location at King’s Cross Station in London, however, during Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, part of the station platform was recreated on a soundstage here at Leavesden complete with the track and the train.
PLATFORM 9 3/4
It’s got to be done! If you ever get to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour, you need to get a photograph, especially with the Hogwarts Express 9 3/4 sign and trolley.
During production, the backlot was home to the exterier sets of the Harry Potter films – including Privet Drive and the Hogwarts Bridge.
Tip: Make sure to book a time slot during the day or an evening in the summer, especially if you want some good photos outside in the backlot. As you can see mine were fairly dark and I still used flash. I have seen some photographs online from during the day and it looks incredible.
Knight Bus – The 22-foot tall Knight Bus was created from pieces of three vintage London double-deckers. Two versions of the Knight Bus were build: one that was motorised and able to be driven and a ‘stunt’ version that spun around on a turntable.
Privet Drive – Number Four, Privet Drive was the quiet, suburban home of the Dursleys, the relatives who raised Harry Potter after his parents’ unexpected deaths. The ‘Seven Harrys’ scene was filmed on the Leavesden Backlot.
Hogwarts Bridge – Though it was never in the original novel or script, the now iconic Hogwarts Bridge was created for Harry Potter and the Prisioner of Azkaban. Only one section of the bridge was ever built; the Visual Effects Department created the remaining sections using computer-generated effects.
In its labyrinth of underground vaults, goblin-run Gringotts is the safest place in the wizarding world to store anything valuable.
The Diagon Alley set constantly changed throughout the film series. The original design of the street combined the rich details from the Harry Potter books with inspiration from the streets described in the works of Charles Dickens.
HOGWARTS CASTLE MODEL
This is a jewel in the crown of the ART Department: the intricately detailed model of Hogwarts castle. Built for the first film, the model’s every courtyard, tower and turret were filmed and enhanced with digital effects to create unfortgettably realistic views of the magical school. A team of 86 artists and crewmembers built the first version of Hogwarts castle for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone.
TIPS FOR VISITING WARNER BROS. STUDIO TOUR LONDON – THE MAKING OF HARRY POTTER
You have to purchase tickets in advanced. You can do that online here. I booked these tickets on 19th December 2018 and the next available weekend was 30th March 2019, so be sure to keep looking online to get the right day and time that you’re happy with. The tickets are timed entry, but you can stay for as little or as long as you like, although they do close at 10pm. You can either print off your booking confirmation and collect the tickets when you arrive or you can pay £3.95 for them to be sent to your home address when you book.
HOW TO GET THERE…
The answer to this will depend on how you are travelling to the studio, whether if that is by public transport or by car. You can obviously drive to the loaction as they have parking which would definitely be the easy option as it is located in Leavesden (20 miles outside central London). If you are getting the train, like me, then don’t worry as it’s pretty straight forward – just allow time for delays. Wherever you are travelling from, you need to make sure that you get to Watford Junction which is the closest train station. Outside of Watford Juction station there will be a shuttle bus available for you to get on which takes you to the location (Note: You will need £2.50 per person in cash for a return ticket). The shuttle bus run every 20 minutes. The time slot I had was 5:30pm-6pm and I arrived at Watford Juction at 5:05pm and there was a bus just turing up, so it was very convenient.
HOW LONG WILL THE TOUR TAKE?
This will depend on what you want to do. There are many opportunities for you to experiences some of the things such as, flying with the green screen, taking a photo on the Hogwarts Express (green screen), and many more. These were very busy, so allow time to wait. You will have to pay for these videos and photos as you aren’t allowed to use your own camera. I was roughly inside the tour for around 2 and half hours, but I did not wait to do some of the extra things. I would personally allow around 4/5 hours, especially if you want to look and read everything, as well as stopping for food and butterbeer of course!
Harry Potter Studio Tour: Website
Address: Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden, WD25 7LR
I hope you enjoyed reading this post all about my experience at The Harry Potter Studio Tour. I have not included everything as that would not have been fair to those of you who haven’t been, so these were my best bits. There is so so much more to see and I recommend that you go too, even if you’re not crazy about Harry Potter. I found it mesmerising how they created everything and what they went through to create all the movies.