Guest Blog: Inside Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter
My friend (and Coaster101 reader) Clint Hannah is currently studying abroad in the United Kingdom, and recently took a visit to “The Making of Harry Potter” tour at Warner Bros. Studios in London. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind writing down his thoughts about the tour for Coaster101. He kindly obliged.
When I found out I was studying in the United Kingdom this fall, I was initially incredibly excited. Unfortunately, that excitement slightly dissipated when I found out I wouldn’t be studying at Hogwarts. This was remedied when I found out that the Warner Brothers Studios where most of the movie was filmed was available to tour. It became a necessity.
The studio is a fairly easy 40-minute transit from central London, though if you’re like me, this feels like 40 days—a biblically long wait. A train followed by a bus takes you right to the studio, which from the outside is just a large warehouse with the familiar Harry Potter font above the entrance.
The tour begins with a quick video featuring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint thanking the members of the video staff and vast crew that helped make the movies. It was a nice touch. Movies take a ton of work from people behind the scenes, and for people who aren’t familiar with just how much is required, hopefully the video gave them some idea.
After the video the magic begins, as you are led into the Great Hall.
The set still looks like it is ready to film another Hogwarts meal, and along the walls are various wardrobe items from the film. Moaning Myrtle’s outfit was representing Ravenclaw, and young Harry Potter’s robes stood behind the Gryffindor plaque.
The tour guide, who only stays with you in the Great Hall, got the crowd excited by asking which house everyone would support. Ravenclaw? Tepid applause. Hufflepuff? Mostly expected silence. And then she asked for the best house of all.
I let out a whoop for Slytherin, which was greeted with several confused looks by adults and dirty looks by children. No shame. Finally, and expectedly, the largest cheer was for Gryffindor. I explained to a man next to me that I thought Gryffindor was nothing but Slytherin for people who have no smarts. If anything, the tour guide created some excitement within the group.
The rest of the tour is self-guided, but for less than £5 you can rent out a digital guide. Tom Felton—the actor who played Draco Malfoy for those unfamiliar—voices the audio guide, and accompanying video. Is it worth it? I think that’s a tough question. Often I think the extra information is worth a small expenditure, but there was something exciting about hearing the buzzing among people of all ages seeing such familiar items.
The next big room is filled with several movie props. There are costumes from all seven movies. It is interesting to see the young Danielle Radcliffe wardrobe early and then see the costumes from the final scene of the movie franchise where all of our protagonists are older and standing on Platform 9¾.
One bit of interesting movie magic I was excited to learn was how they film some of the “invisibility cloak” scenes. Daniel Radcliffe, or any other actor who needed to wear the cloak, would wear a bright green cloak and green screen was used to make the actor invisible. While this is a pretty obvious solution to the issue, it was pretty interesting to see the cloak used. It was also pretty humorous to imagine actors walking around with a type of neon ghost costume.
Halfway through the tour there is a break with a small café. The food is about what you might expect from a theme park—tasty yet more than you might want to pay. One unique aspect, which is a must for anyone visiting, is a cup of Butterbeer. The non-alcoholic tribute to the Harry Potter universe is something of a butterscotch soda, and it is only sold in three places in the world—definitely worth the expenditure.
Following the café, there are several sets outside including the Dursley’s house on privet drive, the Hogwarts bridge, and a few of the large figures from wizard chess (an underrated scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.) Also on display was the Knight Bus, which in the lighting shined an even more impressive purple.
The second half of the tour is dedicated mostly to the creatures/buildings of the Harry Potter universe and some incredibly impressive, detailed work done by the artists. If you take away anything from the studio tour, it will likely be just how incredible some of the work is. Sadly, there is a doll of the original Dobby. I won’t include a picture because there is no need for depression, but it is surprisingly touching. I think it says a lot about the magic of movies that seeing an inanimate movie prop can tug on the heartstrings. There is also a much happier model used in the movie of Fawkes the phoenix.
The tour ends walking into a room that has the full model of Hogwarts that was used for the movie. The castle is maybe 30 feet high, and it is absolutely jaw dropping. Pictures hardly do it justice. The lighting is just right in the room, and it is a perfect ending to the tour.
Was the tour with it? An adult ticket is £33, which is just more than $50 U.S. The gift shop at the end is absolutely incredible. I cannot imagine any Harry Potter themed item you could purchase that wouldn’t be found there. The staff is friendly throughout, and you can tell most of the workers love Harry Potter as much as the visitors. It creates a pretty awesome experience in which everyone bonds over a mutual love. If you love Harry Potter, it’s a must. If you like Harry Potter, it’s definitely still worth it. If you don’t like Harry Potter, reevaluate your life. Perhaps this is the first step in doing so.
And what was the best part of the entire tour? They let you practice casting a few spells.
For more information about Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, be sure to visit their website! And thanks to Clint for this great post!