For £39 adults can become kids for a few hours with a visit to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. A few thousand square metres undercover have been transformed into a marvellous magical world frequented by wizards, muggles, fabulous creatures and grotesque goblins.
The greatest part is that you are there to witness the actual sets and props used in the fantastic films that brought J K Rowling’s spellbinding book series to life. Not Disney style recreations but the actual Gryffindor common room, Dumbledore’s study, the Burrow and the Ministry of Magic that lit up the cinema screen.
After a short film telling the story of the making of the films, huge doors are opened and you enter the Great Hall, with the huge house tables laid out for a feast. Sadly no howlers were in evidence, but you were now inside Hogwarts for the first time, no sorting to be done maybe, however the magic had really commenced.
The attention to detail is absolutely amazing, the portraits, the sculptures, the boars head goblets and the ornate lanterns. Just as they were in the films.
A teacher’s line up featuring Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, Flitwick, Snape and the rest stood at the far end of the hall keeping a watchful eye over proceedings. He who must not be named was thankfully absent.
You are free to wand er as you please – look at yourself in the mirror of Erised, meet the who’s who of wands, stand in awe at the defence against the dark arts classroom and gaze into the Burrow with carrots being chopped, pans washed and scarves knitted as if by magic.
You learn the secrets of how the magical props worked – there is an awful lot of the Potter films that are innovation rather than CGI.
The man hours and craftsmen & women skills that must have gone into creating the objects and scenery now on display is absolutely staggering. I now know that it takes six months to train a snowy owl what can be learned by a raven in a day! Patience is the byword for perfection in this fantasy world.
Recent additions have been the Forbidden Forest complete with bowing hippogriff and one tonne Aragog the spider, and the Hogwarts Express set inside a copy of part of Kings Cross Station.
I was delighted to climb on board and find the compartments to be the like of the ones I travelled on in the 70s & 80s in the U.K. and sometimes still do in Eastern Europe.
We stopped for an over-priced butter beer (when in Rome and all that) and then wandered into the courtyard, home of 4 Privet Drive, the Knight Bus, the Hogwarts Bridge so nobly defended by Neville Longbottom in one of the final scenes of the final book/film and the giant chess pieces from the Philosophers Stone.
Having had a wonderful time thus far, there were still three tremendous treats to come. First up a section full of props, together with explanatory films on how they were made and were brought to life.
Next up Diagon Alley. All the favourite buildings are there – Ollivander’s Wand Shop, Flourish & Blotts, Gringotts Bank, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Weasley’s’ Wizard Wheezes and the rest. I didn’t want to leave!
The final delight was the huge model of Hogwarts Castle, used for all the external shots in the films. Every turret, secret passage, and gargoyle was present. What a fantastic toy! It must have taken months to make.
All in all we were there for three and a quarter hours – we could have lingered far longer and I already feel that I will have to go again.
We booked the 5pm Saturday tour which was relatively quiet. I imagine earlier at weekends or school holidays can be pretty busy and stressful. I took a train to Watford Junction Station from where a regular double decker takes you the short hop for £2.50 return.