If you are anything like me, you are still in mourning from the day you turned eleven.
If you are anything like me, you are still in mourning from the day you turned eleven. You awoke to find no letter from Hogwarts waiting at your door, no wand ever came your way and all hopes of riding a Nimbus 2000 were dashed forever.Thankfully, muggles like us have been granted a second chance to experience the magic, in the form of Warner Brother’s Making of Harry Potter studio tour.
Unlike The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, there are no replicas here: this is the real thing. Yes, hold on to your hippogriffs, fans really can walk along Diagon Alley, admire the portraits in Dumbledore’s office and even have a go at flying a broomstick.
Majestic Hogwarts castle
From the outside, the studios are surprisingly generic. They are large, certainly, but resemble my local Cineworld more than the majestic Hogwarts Castle. A member of staff who is, disappointingly, not in full Hogwarts attire but a smart shirt scans my ticket and I join the queue. I don’t know what to expect.
We begin with a short film, in which Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Emma Watson (Hermione) and Rupert Grint (Ron) welcome us to the studios that were home to them for a decade. Then, like magic, the screen rolls back and behind it are the doors to the Great Hall.
The Great Hall as we see it is what’s known as a hot set; it is dressed and ready to go. Each of the house tables is laid in preparation for one of Hogwarts’s famous feasts. Around them are several recognisable costumes, such as Harry’s first tiny set of robes and Neville’s grey Fair Isle cardigan that featured prominently during The Battle of Hogwarts.
The attraction is split into three sections. Sets, props, and animatronics fill soundstages J and K (a mere coincidence, apparently), while a backlot displaying outdoor features, such as Number Four Privet Drive and the mighty Hogwarts’s Bridge, connects the two.
Costumes are paramount to the attraction. On show are Dumbledore’s robes, both the ones belonging to Richard Harris and Michael Gambon; the cast’s attire from the Yule Ball, including Hermione’s signature purple dress and Ron’s hideous dress robes as well as other iconic ensembles, such as the Death Eater’s fearsome masks and Hagrid’s enormous cloak.
The sets are equally impressive. Property Manager, Brian Wilson, said: “ since the first film, the standards have stayed the same. Every set we’re proud of because they’re just brilliant.”
They are exactly that: brilliant. From the contouring paint-job on the Ministry of Magic wall tiles to the genuine flagstone floor in the Great Hall, it is clear no expense has been spared to bring this wonderful Wizarding world to life. The only disappointment is you may only look at the sets. However, bring your camera, as there are ample photo opportunities throughout.
Like all good attractions should, Warner Brothers save the best until last. I walk into a cavernous atrium which houses the magnificent 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts Castle, which was used to film exterior shots for the first six films.
The attention to detail is astounding. Over 2,500 fibre optic lights gleam through the tiny windows to create the impression of lanterns and students moving along the corridors. The astronomy tower even features a minute telescope and all the doors are hinged. No wonder it took the crew eight weeks to transport and reconstruct the model for our viewing pleasure. “It’s magnificent, isn’t it?” says the gentleman standing next to me. I hastily agree. His children are enraptured by the towering structure before them. I myself am feeling a bit emotional as the iconic Harry Potter score crescendos in the background. I just want to grab some Harry, Ron and Hermione figures and play with this ultimate dolls house.
We exit through Ollivander’s wand shop. On each of the wand boxes packed high from floor to ceiling is a name. These are the names of the 4000 talented people who worked on the film series. They have earned their place in history by bringing the life of a boy wizard to cinema audiences across the globe.
For that is the true magic of the Harry Potter tour: it clearly shows that the films’ messages of love, friendship and perseverance were as prevalent behind the scenes as they were in front of the cameras.
Warner Brothers Making of Harry Potter: children, £21.50; adults, £29; family ticket, £85 from www.wbstudiotour.co.uk