Studio tour opens to reveal the real magic of Harry Potter

Date Posted: 26/03/2012

The much-hyped and highly anticipated Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter finally opens on 31st March. Rob Yandell went to see how the magic of the movies was created and why group travel organisers should organise a tour.

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They’ve camped through the night outside book stores and sat through eight motion pictures. Some have even attended premiers dressed as wizards. Now fans of the Harry Potter stories can take the tour, spread out over 150,000 square feet at the Leavesden Studios near Watford in Hertfordshire.

It may be thousands of miles away from the Hollywood Hills, but the magic of Harry Potter was transformed from book to screen at Leavesden studios, and has now opened a 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.

Although I have read one of the books by J.K. Rowling and watched most of the films, I wouldn't really call myself a fan. But knowing I would win huge kudos with my young nieces and only living a short drive away, I was intrigued to see the attraction for myself. I admit that the benefit of taking the tour before its official opening, when it hopes to attract up to 5,000 visitors a day at peak times, was also appealing - I hate queuing.

But take note - this is not a theme park. A short film introduces you to the tour, featuring the stars of the movies, Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley). Emphasising that we’re in the spiritual home of the Harry Potter film series, it sets the tone before you are let loose on stage sets, prop displays, and interactive special effects; all revealing the secrets behind the magic. And it’s authentic; you’re standing in the real Great Hall from Hogwarts (where you walk on the actual solid York stone laid over 11 years ago), seeing the real office of Professor Dumbledore, and walking along the real Diagon Alley.

Daniel Radcliffe, who played the part of Harry Potter is proud of his association with the film series: “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.” And incredible they are; the detail and work that went into the films is staggering.

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’ve had great fun in the office 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.

Group visitors 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 group 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.

Kids can also be kept amused by collecting stamps within their Harry Potter passport after completing a range of activities, and can tick off each time they find a hidden Golden Snitch (essential for a game of Quidditch) at different sets and stages throughout the tour.

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 and a group trip that should sell fast.

The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter opens on the 31st March. Tickets are priced at £28 for adults, £21 for children and £83 for a family of four. Tickets for group trips must be booked in advance via www.wbstudiotour.co.uk or through approved tour operators. Group discounts apply for parties of between ten and 24 people via the website, or for large groups telephone 0845-084 0900.
 

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