We took the new Harry Potter tour at the Warner Bros. Studios in Hertfordshire to see if the hype was worth it.
There is no doubting that Harry Potter is a phenomenon. Fans of the series have camped through the night to be first in line to get the latest book and taken eight motion pictures to box office heaven.
Now, fans of the Harry Potter stories can take the tour, spread out over 150,000 square feet at the Leavesden Studios near Watford and experience the magic behind the movies.
Leavdesen may be a long way from the Hollywood Hills, but it was here that the characters, places and stories from J.K. Rowling were transformed for the ‘silver screen’. So our love affair with Harry, Ron and Hermione is set to continue with this impressive multi-million pound tour and behind-the-scenes experience that is set to become one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions.
Tours are divided into 30-minute timeslots throughout the day to try and keep a steady flow of people, with an estimated tour time of three hours. But it will be very busy, with up to 5,000 visitors expected at peak times. Luckily, we managed to take the tour on a special preview day which afforded us with more space than I fear will be the norm.
A short film introduces you to the tour; emphasising that the sets, costumes and props are real – straight from the films. This is not a theme park.
You then walk through a grand entrance and straight into the Great Hall at Hogwarts. You actually walk on the solid York stone laid over ten years ago – this is the real set wonderfully recreated for this very authentic tour.
We were then let loose on stage sets, prop displays, and interactive special effects; all revealing the secrets behind the magic.
Daniel Radcliffe, who played the part of Harry Potter in all eight films said of the tour: “It was such a magical place to grow up. People will be amazed to see the incredible sets that we’ve worked in all these years.” It’s hard to disagree.
Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s all truly impressive, very well done, and should hold the interest of both adults and children. Audio tours are available, but whether you opt for this or not, there’s fun to be had as you pull on your wizard robes and fly through the London skyline, all thanks to the latest digital technology. And of course, you can buy the photo of your experience before washing some cake down with Butterbeer (some link to the film I am told), and trawling the impressively stocked (although highly expensive) gift shop at the end of the tour. We all had great fun back at Kill The Boredom HQ, trying the myriad of flavours in a packet of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans – watch out for the dirt and rotten egg flavours.
Of course, you can take your own photos and there are plenty of opportunities inside the sound stages and within an outside refreshment area where you can sit and relax and take photos of the Knight Bus from the Prisoner of Azkaban film, or 4 Privet Drive, where we first met Harry Potter in the very first story. A mention has to go to the tour staff, who were always on hand to take a photo and to offer stories and help, always smiled and made the experience all the more pleasurable.
Visitors taking The Making of Harry Potter tour will be able to watch a number of never-before-seen videos featuring interviews with the crew and cast, revealing some of the secrets behind the film making process. Your will also be able to appreciate the spectacular animatronics and make-up designs within the Creature Effects workshop, which features iconic Harry Potter film creatures. I found these areas fascinating, although perhaps this section of the tour may hold more interest for older visitors, rather than young Harry Potter fans who I found to be more interested in the sets themselves.
Various games and puzzles help to keep the younger ones entertained as you go round. The only criticisms are the lack of space and seating areas when it comes to refreshment, plus the expense. With only a relatively small outside backlot area between sound stages, and one ‘decent sized’ (it’s not massive if you get 5,000 visitors in a day) restaurant/cafe which actually served pretty good grub.
There’s been much hype, but hats off (pointy ones) to the people behind the films and this tour. It’s going to be huge.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter is now open. Tickets are priced at £28 for adults, £21 for children and £83 for a family of four. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk or through approved tour operators.