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Old 03-26-2012, 04:56 PM
EmmaRiddle EmmaRiddle is offline
Post Warner Bros Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter review

SnitchSeeker was invited last week to a press preview of the Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter, which opens officially on March 31, this coming Saturday. The studio tour serves as a tribute to the thousands of cast and crew who spent a decade working on the series at Leavesden Studios in Watford, Hertfordshire.

On site parking is available; however I travelled via train from Euston to Watford Junction and then jumped on the Harry Potter bus, a shuttle service put on by Mullany’s Buses especially for the attraction. A full passenger timetable can be found on their website. Fare is just £2 for a return journey, which is significantly cheaper than getting a taxi – take it from someone who knows!

From the moment you arrive at the studio, you are immersed in the world of Harry Potter. The lettering on the entrance, the chess pieces from Philosopher’s Stone on the pavement and the photos on the studio walls (both outside and in the foyer); they immediately transport you into the world that we’re all so familiar with. The gift shop, canteen, a concession Starbucks, some facilities and cloakroom are all situated in the immediate foyer area.

The tour itself features various elements, some interactive, to keep visitors of all ages engaged with the story that the studio has to tell. From videos, to hands on special effects, from a golden snitch hunt, to trivia and a stamp-collecting exercise, there’s something to keep everybody amused.

Upon entering, you are shown two films; one chronicling the story of how David Heyman bought the rights to the books and the other taking you on a journey through the films. The first is displayed on split screens in a waiting room, the other in a cinema. The second film is presented by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. It’s a very moving piece in which the leads pay tribute to everybody who worked on the series. The finale of this film leads you into the tour. I won’t spoil how it does this, as it might ruin the magic for visitors but I will say that even in a press preview, it elicited an impressed reaction from the audience!

The first of the two sound stages takes you through various sets from the films, interspersed with costumes, props, information boards and videos. The first part of the tour, featuring the Great Hall set, is introduced by a tour guide. After that, you are free to roam as you wish, although there are guides around to answer any questions, who are both very professional and full of interesting anecdotes about the series that even the hardened fan will find fascinating. The first stage takes you through the process of film making, with contributions from all four directors, the producers, screen writer, production design, costume, make up and special & visual effects. If you stop to watch every video, do every interactive activity and read every board, this first stage would take you around 90 minutes to walk through.

Being free to roam as you wish gives you the opportunity to stop and take in the details that you otherwise missed on screen, like the portrait of a young McGonagall in the Gryffindor Common Room or the hand-painted labels on potion vials and tubes in the Potions Classroom. Most interesting are the behind-the-scenes elements that we never got to see at all, like post-it notes left by the crew on mirrors in the make-up department, revealing the day-to-day lives of those working on the sets. One of my favourite sets on display has to be the kitchen in the Burrow. Here you can help Molly chop carrots, do the ironing or knitting, showing how all these magical effects were created not with a computer but with electronics and mechanisms.

The first sound stage is also home to various prop cages and displays, through which you can get up close and see the hand-crafted details of newspapers, boxes, books, maps, trophies, trinkets, the horcruxes, wands and so much more. There’s also a green screen area where visitors can ride a broom against various back drops and have their photo taken. Just around the corner from that, is a display showcasing how green screens were utilised in various flying sequences, featuring not just brooms but the Gringotts carriage and Hagrid’s bike.

By the time you’ve walked around the nine or so sets on the first stage, you might find yourself in need of a break. Studio one leads out onto a courtyard where refreshments (including Butterbeer!) can be bought. The courtyard also features props and sets from the film, including Hagrid’s bike, the Flying Ford Anglia and the Knight Bus, all of which you can get on or in, to pose for a photo. It also features some chess pieces from the first film, the Potter house, part of Privet Drive and a section of the Hogwarts Bridge.

The second stage opens with a look at some of the creature effects used throughout the series, including prosthetics, animatronics and lifelike dummies of some of the cast. These include a massive Aragog hanging from the ceiling, a moving regal-looking Buckbeak (so life like, you’ll want to stroke him), Fawkes, Hedwig and a creepy looking miniature Voldemort from the Kings Cross scene in the final film. This section gives you an opportunity to marvel at the creativity and ingenuity in creating real moving characters for the cast to interact with on set.

Also featured in the second studio is the set of Diagon Alley, complete with cobblestones, which you can walk through from Gringotts right up to Fred and George’s shop. Each building is dressed so that you can peer inside the windows and see all the details of the items on display. Given that this is one of the biggest sets to be constructed, it’s fitting that in the next room you get to peer into the workings of the art department, where various blueprints and sketches, along with concept art and models, are on display.

These lead upwards, around a winding corridor, giving you an idea of the journey taken from pre-production to production, all the work that goes on before a camera can even begin to roll. This builds up to a beautiful crescendo and a truly fitting climax as you turn a corner and come face to face with a massive model of Hogwarts. The use of music from the soundtracks, together with the lighting which shows how the model looks in both daylight and night, creates a really emotional finale to the tour. Many visitors simply stopped and stared, myself included, fighting back tears. There are almost no words to describe how beautiful, majestic and overwhelming the castle truly is.

As a nod to everybody who worked at Leavesden, the credits for the tour, if you like, thousands of wand boxes were decorated with names and shelved in the final room before the gift shop. From the lead actors’ right through to the caterers, from the lighting team to the stunt doubles, everybody’s name is there. As a final goodbye, words spoken by J.K. Rowling at the London premiere of the last movie, are lit up on the wall; “The stories we love best do live on in us forever, so whether you come back by page or the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

For someone who is a massive fan and wants to see everything, it is a wonderful attraction. It ticks all the boxes in terms of the information, the depth of detail, the sheer coverage of key points from all the films and all the new behind-the-scenes stuff we never knew about before. For those who are not such big fans, I think it will bring a new-found appreciation of the artistic integrity behind these films and the sheer amount of work put into them by so many people.

Whether lesser fans will pay the slightly hefty prices, however, is another thing entirely. As a fan, I would happily pay the adult rate of £28 but this might prove too steep for some, especially families. I am not convinced it is necessarily the best day trip for younger children, who may get bored or tired. The enjoyment of the visit does largely come down to whom you go with. As someone who went with a group of fans, I had a lot of fun but taking people who aren’t into Harry Potter as much as you might not be the best idea. All in all, it does take around 3 hours to go through, if you take every single detail in fully.

The gift shop offers a wide range of merchandise, from clothes to beverage containers, from toys to sweets, from costumes to wands, all of a really good quality and some are even exclusive to the store. That does mean, however, that the prices are very high, which again adds to the cost of the trip in a big way, especially if you have children with you. But we were told there would be ‘pocket money’ items that would be more affordable, however they had not arrived on the day we were visiting.

My verdict would be that the WB Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter is great for fans but perhaps not so great if you’re not that keen on the series. So if you want a great experience, go with mates rather than taking your reluctant sibling!

The WB Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter opens on March 31. All tickets must be pre-booked.

Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. This material may not be rewritten or redistributed without proper accreditation.

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Old 03-26-2012, 07:23 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Oh my goodness! I think I might be the first person posting on this amazing article! Wow, I really wnat to go. Man, I wish I could go to Leavesdan. But sadly, I'm stuck in the US for eternity! But I hope to go. One day... *looks out the window to the east hopefully*
Oh, and now because of this post I am now a Jobberknoll! Double points!
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Old 03-26-2012, 08:25 PM   #3 (permalink)
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OMG!! It looks sooo amazing. Not long for me now. Accio April 12th!
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Old 03-26-2012, 08:49 PM   #4 (permalink)
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it looks great hoping to go
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Old 03-26-2012, 10:37 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Ah! I can't believe I get to go! Can the end of May come sooner please??????

Thanks, Kitakins <3
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Old 03-26-2012, 11:17 PM   #6 (permalink)
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One day I'll get to cross the pond and visit the place!
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Old 03-27-2012, 01:09 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Question: Does the butterbeer taste like the concoction at Wizarding World? That stuff is so addictive.....
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Old 03-27-2012, 03:03 PM   #8 (permalink)

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Old 03-27-2012, 06:13 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I siriusly can't wait until when I go!!!!! But before that I'm going to the red carpet event on Saturday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 03-27-2012, 11:23 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Oh wow, that's such a great review - thanks for sharing it in so much depth with us.
I just hope I can save a few grand and fly there and see everything

always on the move
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Old 03-28-2012, 08:16 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Ill head down there one day when it's MUCH cheaper x
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Old 03-29-2012, 05:49 PM   #12 (permalink)
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This review just got me a lot more excited to go!! Roll on 13th April!!
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Old 04-13-2012, 10:23 PM   #13 (permalink)
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OOOOH; sounds so amazing, want to go now! reading this article only made me even more anxious xD
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Old 04-14-2012, 03:09 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I am so, so jealous of everybody that gets to take part in this. This is amazing!
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Old 04-30-2012, 09:02 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I went a few weeks ago. Absolutely INCREDIBLE. So amazing, that I applied for a job there. XDXD

Although, I haven't heard anything yet. But seriously, EVERYONE GO THERE!!!

It made me CRY.
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Old 05-05-2012, 02:25 AM   #16 (permalink)

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I have that big book that says everything about the movies and all, and as I read through it, it makes me want to go there even more!!! And I WILL!! Eventually... probably in... 2013 or 2014...

Oh, well! Better late than never! *waits impatiently*
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Old 10-23-2012, 09:20 PM   #17 (permalink)
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the studio tour is amazing a must for a harry potter sister whos not to keen didnt enjoy it..dont know whats wrong with her tbh...but its amazing i like tht u litrally got to see a lot of stuff..the great hall is wow when u 1st step in to it it amazing cant wait to go again next year (:
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