Recently I (the webmaster, Dan) went to London for vacation. Of course this vacation wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour!
It was my first time going to the Studios and I was just awe-struck. It is amazing. The sets are just like I imagined, and are just as they appear in the films. Everything about it is impressive; the grand entrance with character stills; the courtyard filled with outdoor sets; and even the gigantic gift shop. Here’s a guided review of the tour…
THROUGH THE TOUR:
After 17 Underground stops, 4 overground stations, and one ride on a double decker bus, we arrived. In all its glory, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour — London was unveiled before our eyes as we exited the bus. We we’re anxious to collect our tickets and enter the building.
Once inside, we were exposed to a vass lobby, with character stills posted on the walls. We got in line and waited to enter the set. In the queue area, there is the Cupboard Under the Stairs, and quotes from J.K. Rowling telling how Harry Potter came to be. Her insight was interesting, and just made me more excited for what was in store.
We then entered another waiting room. While in here, a quick video was played about the Harry Potter films. (Basically just the preview of the following film, just to get the blood flowing and the tears jerking — it did both.) After this was done, we entered a cinema-like theater, to watch another short film about the making of the Harry Potter films, led by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. At the end of the video, the screen opened up and the Great Hall set was unveiled to the audience. (By this time, I had goosebumps all over my body, and butterflies of excitement in my stomach.)
The Great Hall set is the first of many we encountered along the way. After an introduction by one of the Studio workers, we made our way through the main room, which included sets for the Gryffindor Common Room, Snape’s Potion chamber, the Burrow and Hagrid’s Hut. From the later films, there was Umbridge’s Office and the Ministry of Magic sets – and they did not disappoint!
In a separate room, the Diagon Alley set was laid out with Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, Gringotts Bank and Ollivanders. It’s life size, basically, so when you walk through it, on the cobbled road, you get the feeling that you’re walking through the real Diagon Alley, or a winding street in London. It was just really awesome, in the true sense of the word.
Sets weren’t the only things on display. They had exhibits dedicated to the Hair & Makeup Department and a wall filled with the Hogwarts portraits. There were props from the movies, like Harry’s Nimbus 2000 and Hagrid’s Motorbike. Costumes and manequins were everywhere, showing off the clothing from the films, including the dress that Hermione wore to the Yule Ball, Harry’s dress robes from the first film, and some of Dumbledore’s robes. They also had a “Circle of Wands” an incased set of wands that were displayed in the way that it made a circle (see above in the gallery). It featured the wands of Lord Voldemort and Fred and George. It was very cool.
Before leaving Building J, a display case showed off all the painstakingly intricate works of Mina Lima, the graphic design team that worked on the Harry Potter films. These pieces included Harry’s Hogwarts letters, candy boxes from Honeydukes, and Rita Skeeter’s The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. This part was nothing short of extraordinary.
Between the two buildings of the complex was a courtyard filled with the outdoor sets from the Potter films. Stored in the courtyard is the triple-decker Knight Bus, Privet Drive, the grave of Tom Riddle Sr., Godric’s Hollow, the chess pieces from the first film, and more — all of which are perfect photo-ops. In the courtyard there is also a place to eat, featuring the Wizarding World’s most famous drink, Butterbeer! It was the first time since I visited the theme park in Orlando in 2010 that I got to taste it, and it’s just as delicious and refreshing as it is in Florida.
We then continued on to building K, where the main focus was on design, whether it be costume design, set design. They had manequins of Dumbledore and Katie Bell, the house elves — a blood-stained Dobby included 😦 — and the 7 foot tall mock up of Hagrid. They had small models of the sets, such as a miniature version of Dumbledore’s office, and Hogsmeade village.
The concept art was also shown, and let me tell you that they are beautiful. It’s as if you stepped into an art museum. The art not only looks like an actual painting, but the design aspect of it makes it very realistic. If you’re ever there, take a moment to breathe it all in. It really blows your mind.
After the design exhibit, one is taken into another room. In this room, in all its glory, is a 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts, a.k.a. Heaven on earth. This model was used in the films for the exterior shots of the castle. If you think a 1:24 scale seems small, it’s not. The castle is huge, taking up a rather large room. And its not just the castle that is unbelievable. It’s the courtyards, the miniature trees, the tiny stairs, the cathedral windows, the shingles that took 8 hours to apply. If you do not already appreciate all the work that was put into the films, this will make you appreciate it. The amount of detail put into it is astonishing. It is as if you’re looking at a 15th century Abbey, or a courtyard in Oxford. It is absolutely, hands down, across the board breathtaking. I will always remember it.
Now, you’re probably thinking, what could top that?! Well, the tour was not yet over and we still had one more room to explore — the wand room. A replica of Ollivanders, the wand room has thousands of wands, with individual boxes for everyone involved with the making of the Harry Potter films. Everyone from J.K. Rowling to Nicoletta Mani (you know, the actress dubbed “miscellaneous crew” on IMDB… even I had to look that one up) has a wand dedicated to them. Then, to top the whole tour off, was a single quote in the center: “The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” What a way to top of the tour!
Like any attraction, we exited through the gift shop. But this wasn’t just any gift shop. This was freaking the Harry Potter Emporium. Every merchandise item you could think of was on sale: ornaments, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans, the books, the movies, plush Hedwigs, and so much more. I might have bought a few confectionaries…
But of course, once you’ve gone through the buyer’s line, it’s all over. Nevertheless, it was the experience of a lifetime! The memories will live on!
Have you been to you the studio tour? What did you think of it? If you haven’t we recommend it. It would be a terrific experience to any Harry Potter fan – young/old, movie/book — anyone.