Review Blog: The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studios
What to do with the Teen/Tween combo during the Easter holidays? How to avoid days of stultifying TV watching, kerb-trawling around the village and general boredom and lethargy? Well, we found the solution.
Yesterday we took the Terrible Two to the Warner Bros. studios at Leavesden, near Watford. A bit of a trek by car, given the state of the holidaying M25, but nevertheless we got there in one piece and without any tantrums. Result number 1.
The Two had no idea what they were going to, and it was a sick and twisted pleasure to keep the whole thing a secret from them for over three weeks! They were expecting the usual parental tortures of visiting castles and digesting historical facts; yomping through open spaces requiring much movement of legs; or – worse – something involving home-made crafts. No, yesterday was not what they expected at all. Entry into the inner sanctum of the studio that filmed the Harry Potter movies was not on their radar. Result number 2.
We were ushered into the foyer to await our tour into the innermost workings of the Potter movies. We are all fans, even if we are far too cool and teenage/old to admit it. The first thing we saw was the poignant sight of Harry’s actual understairs bedroom:
Complete with cobwebs, spiders and a pair of round-eyed spectacles left by the side of the bed. Poor Harry! Then we went into a cinema for a brief film explanation from the main stars of the movies as to what we were about to see. Staff then lead us on to the first of the “wow” factors – the Great Hall. Gobsmacked doesn’t begin to describe the Mini-Pigs faces. I haven’t included the picture I took of them as they took it all in – I don’t want to spoil the surprise when you go along – but it was an absolutely hysterical portrait of two kids who were trying not to show that they were seriously impressed!
The exhibition contains original sets, props, costumes and artwork from the movies that were filmed there. Harry’s Quidditch cape, the cloak of invisibility and Dumbledore’s robes – all here, all original and incredibly detailed pieces of work. The tour also explains to the layman how a movie is put together, who the main players are from the director of photography through to the make-up girls and runners. Satisfyingly, it also reveals how the children were part of a huge extended family of cast and crew – something I found very comforting given the 10 years or so the main characters spent at the studios and on these films.
There is also a creature workshop with all the ghouls, goblins and fantastical creatures that featured in the movie, from conceptual art to the moulds to the finished masks. There is even a hairy werewolf chest – the Man-Hog was momentarily intimidated by such manliness in a human dog. Then there’s the animatronics - moving works of art simply staggering in their detail and lifelike actions.
After all that, you can pay a visit to gringots Bank, wander through Diagon Alley, stop by the wand shop and pick a cage for your owl. You can sit in the flying car – and yes, that’s the real Hogwart’s bridge in the background there, not a painting:
Jump aboard the bike or take a photo on the back of the triple-storey night bus (seen in the background in the pic below):
You can even swoon over Ron Weasley’s bed with hand-knitted blanket, as the Mini-Pig Girl did….who knew she had long harboured such a crush??
Or, like the Man-Hog, you can marvel at the level of detail given to each prop, piece of original artwork or paper model which at every stage transforms the unbelievable creativity of J K Rowling’s mind and works into actuality. You can, like me, be moved by the simple things such as the sight of the REAL sorting hat (pic at top of page) or the incomparable final surprise of the tour which is so breathtaking and awesome I will not ruin your experience by detailing it here.
Besides all of this were the extremely courteous and knowledgeable staff, who knew details and snippets of information you will not get anywhere else. They were able to point out things to the children that they may not otherwise have noticed, and the experience was the richer for that. The Starbucks cafe at the entrance to the venue is an excellent, clean and comfortable place to meet with others before starting your tour. The shop at the end is full of everything a child could want and the prices were no more than you would pay in your local Disney or other concession store. Result number 3.
Forget what you may have read in the press, and don’t baulk at the price – I promise you it is well worth the money. The cost at the time of writing is £83 for a family of two adults and two children. The audio tour and digital guide are extra but are, apparently, excellent though we did not take advantage of it as I sometimes think those audio headphones cut off family enjoyment of being able to share things together. The price was worth every penny when your cynical “too cool for my own good” teenager turns to you in the final room and says, “Mum, that is just the most amazing thing I have EVER seen.” Worth the drive there when your son says “Thanks for today. I was a bit worried it would be boring but….it’s been brilliant.” Forget all of that when your husband says “Thanks for booking this….it wasn’t what I expected at all.” The Man-Hog is rarely impressed by anything except my roast beef and Yorkshire pud. Successes on the family entertainment front, then, don’t come much better than this. Final Result: Harry Potter – 1, Boredom & Lethargy – Nil
In conclusion, go and do this tour - if you have even an inkling of the scale of astoundingly skilled work and people involved in bringing the Potter books to life, you will not be disappointed. You can book tickets at their website at http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk
DISCLAIMER: All opinions expressed in this review are my own personal views and I have no link to Warner Bros. or any affiliated entity whatsoever. I wrote this review because I was impressed by the venue and did not write it for any form of monetary or other personal gain. All photos are my own.