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Family Experience Of The Month: Warner Bros. Tour - The Making of Harry Potter

Take a look behind the scenes of the wizarding world of Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter.

Fans young and old will love this spellbinding insight into the film adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s magical books. Taking in sets, costumes and stories from the cast, this is a magical – in all senses of the word – family day out. Citizen Enfants enters the world of wands and witchcraft, Hogwarts and Hogsmede, and even of ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’ to find out more.

What is the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter?

This unique experience gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the much-loved films. Housed in the studio where all eight were produced, the tour is packed with sets, costumes and items that were used for one of the most successful film series of all time. From Hogwarts and Hogsmede to Gringotts and Diagon Alley, you’ll discover every corner of the wizarding world.

Leavesden Studios in Watford was home to the movies for over 10 years and during that time the production crew saved plenty of memorabilia. When filming wrapped on the final instalment, The Deathly Hallows – Part 2, in 2010, they were left with a treasure trove of thousands of intricate and stunning artefacts which are now preserved and showcased in the Warner Bros. Tour. Fans are given the opportunity to explore two soundstages and a backlot filled with original sets, animatronic creatures and breathtaking special effects.

The tour starts in the Great Hall that was first built for The Philosopher’s Stone. Stepping through the huge wooden doors you are immediately transported to Hogwarts and will marvel at the design of the grand room – anyone who has watched the films will recognise it instantly. The setting for so many feasts, adventures and funny moments on screen, the Great Hall even has the names of some of the cast members carved into the walls – take your time and try to spot them. As you continue you’ll visit the Gryffindor Common Room, where Harry hung out with pals Ron and Hermione; the boys dormitory to see the actual beds the cast used; Dumbledor’s office, where the original Sorting Hat and the Sword of Gryfindor are on display; Professor Snape’s potion’s classroom; Hargrid’s Hut; and the Weasley’s kitchen. An audio guide as well as lots of signs packed with information explain exactly what you are looking at and its significance in the films.

Explore the Forbidden Forest which played such a pivotal role in many of the storylines. Offering shelter and protection to Hippogriffs and Acromantula the giant spider (expect to see her in all her creepy glory), this set is filled with 19 trees each with a diameter of over 12 feet. Visitors can walk beneath the giant entwined roots and enjoy an interactive element: controlling the weather using the same techniques created by filmmakers. Wander on to the Diagon Alley set and check out the renowned Hogsmeade sweet shop and Ollivanders Wand Shop where Harry’s wand chose him. Throughout the year there are slightly different themes to the tour: visit in autumn to see Hogwarts Hall decked out with Halloween pumpkins, or in winter for a festive feel. 

Who is it for?

Anyone will be enthralled by the spellbinding sets and the amazing attention to detail in every aspect of the tour, but it’s wizarding fans – young and old – that will really get the most out of the experience. If you have read even one of the books or seen any of the films, you’ll love spotting all the cleverly-placed items and references to Harry’s escapades.

There are no age restrictions but it is ideal for children aged five and up; very young children may struggle to walk around the whole exhibit and could even be a bit scared by some of the sights and sounds. If you do plan to take a baby or toddler there is space to leave buggies, and an area for parents to feed, complete with nursing chairs and changing tables (located next to the Backlot Café). 

The Highlights

The list is endless. Every Harry Potter fan has their own favourite characters, locations, and parts of the books. Some will love seeing the robes the young wizards wore, while others will be thrilled to see the life-size Hogwarts Express locomotive which transported hundreds of students from Platform 9 ¾ to Hogwarts. The Prosthetics and Creature Effects department is particularly fascinating as it showcases all the masks used to create characters such as Lord Voldamort and Dobby the elf. Each prosthetic mask for the goblins who worked at Gringotts Wizarding Bank took weeks to create, with every hair individually inserted and veins painstakingly painted by hand. Many of the original cast and crew returned to reassemble the sets and record their memories from filming, and you can listen to their thoughts on the audio guide as you journey through.

A must-see is the intricately detailed model of Hogwarts Castle. Built for The Philosopher’s Stone, every inch of it was filmed and enhanced with digital effects to create unforgettably realistic views of the magical school. A team of 86 artists and crew members built the first version and, if one was to add all the hours that have gone into building and reworking the model, it would come to over 74 years. It truly is a work of art. 

What To Wear

Most of the experience is housed inside, however if you wish to see the sets for Privet Drive (home to Harry’s nasty muggle relatives the Dursleys) or the Night Bus that whisked wizards from London to Hogsmeade, then you will need to step outside. So with this in mind, bring warmer clothing on colder days. There are three cafés on site. The Chocolate Frog Café, the Hub Café and The Food Hall. Food is served until 8PM during holidays and weekends and until 5PM at all other times. Try the ButterBeer for an authentic (non-alcoholic) magical treat.

Where is it? 

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London is located on Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden. There is a regular shuttle bus that operates from Watford Junction to the studio with a journey time of around 15 minutes. Buses run to and from the studio at least every 30 minutes, and the last return shuttle bus back to Watford Junction will depart when the tour closes. There is also plenty of free parking on site. 

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