As a birthday treat we went to the glamorous setting of the outskirts of Watford at the weekend to visit The Making of Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studios. There was much excitement!
Caution – spoilers if you read on.
The tickets are for a timed entry that ensures that there isn’t an overwhelming flow of people through the exhibits. I was a bit concerned that this would mean that we would be herded through but this wasn’t the case. We were told that we could go through at our own pace and that the record for time spent there was 13 hours, set by a couple of Canadians!
As you queue at the entrance you can see the cupboard under the stairs. I’m going to have to watch the films again as I don’t remember there being so many gas and electric meters under there. Taking a leaf out of Disney this was the first of three holding areas. The next was where we were given instructions on what we could and couldn’t do and then the next room was a short film introduced by Harry, Ron and Hermione. Then, in an unexpected move, the wall shot up and we were in front of the doors to the great hall. The hall itself is enormous and pretty impressive even without the enchanted ceiling! This was the only part of the tour where you were herded through to ensure that it was clear for the next party. That wasn’t an issue as you still got plenty of time walkthrough.
The next area was a huge open space containing loads of sets including the bedroom and common room from Hogwarts, the clock from the entrance to Hogwarts, the rather unsettling centerpiece from the hall at the ministry of magic and much much more. This also included the only interactive piece in the whole place – a change to ride a broomstick or enchanted car on a green screen background followed by the opportunity to purchase a photo of video of your ride. You really could spend hours in this area looking at all the props that have been created – the number and the detail really is mind boggling.
Then you outside with the Knight Bus, Privet Drive and other larger props. Here you can get to take a rest, grab a bite to eat and try out the butter beer.
Next you are back inside for Diagon Alley with all it’s quirky charm and a selection of scale models of some of the major buildings used in the films. The detail in these and the concept artist paintings was amazing, it’s no wonder that these films cost so much to make. The paintings by concept artist Andrew Williamson are good enough to hang in a gallery.
The penultimate treat was coming into a darkened room where the centrepiece was a scale model of the whole of Hogwarts which I assume was used for the overhead and fly-through shots.
Finally (before the obligatory gift shop) was the interior of wandmakers Ollivanders. Here were thousands of wand boxes all individually made and labelled each with the name of a cast or crew member. It was fun wandering through to see how many people you could spot.
A cynical view might be that this was Warner Bros. making back some money by opening up the sets used but it was brilliantly done and for us well worth the ticket price.