Wednesday 5 February 2014

The Harry Potter Studio Tour

If there was one attraction I had been more than a little excited about visiting, it was the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Having read all of the books within record time just because I simply couldn’t put them down, and visiting the cinema with each new film release it was safe to say that I was a fan!

We very recently went along to the outskirts of London to the very studio that the Harry Potter features had been filmed in. I was full of expectations of what I would see, what we would do and finally discovering what Butter Beer tastes of!

We visited on Saturday 7th December 2013 and Christmas had truly arrived at the studio tour.  We collected our tickets from the ticket booths located outside the entrance and made our way inside. There was a fabulous Christmas Tree in the centre of the entrance and everything was clearly presented. There were ample toilet facilities on hand and a cafĂ© to grab a drink before joining the entrance line.

As soon as you walk in you know that you are somewhere very special. One of the first things I spotted was Ron’s flying car from the second film! Before you get in the line to enter the attraction you can look into the digital tour, we decided not to do this as the initial section is by guide anyway and we later found out that everything was clearly marked up.

Once we got to the front of the line we were ushered into a separate room. It was here that we were shown by the means of film just how popular the Harry Potter phenomenon really was all over the world. When the films were first created, no one could possibly have fathomed just how big they would become with kids and grown up’s a like.

From this room we were lead out into a cinema type room, lots of chairs and a big screen. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson appeared on the screen before us. They welcomed us and prepared us to discover secrets that had never been revealed before the studio tour…With the conclusion of their introduction the screen lifted up right before our eyes to reveal the entrance to the Great hall!

Of course there was a great photograph opportunity here, it’s not everyday you find yourself about to enter Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry… Walking into the Great Hall was a complete de ja vu moment for me, recognising everything and having the feeling that I had maybe been here before.

I was amazed at the attention to detail that has gone into everything, every tapestry or portrait you see in the film has actually been created and you can view them all at the studio tour. The tables were all laid up for a Christmas feast and the decorations were in place..

It all looked amazing, I could have spent so much time in just the Great Hall alone. As this part was guided and timed we were limited to what we could see. We had to move on out of the Great Hall before the next group of people finished in the screening and came on in. So in one respect I did feel rushed to get out of the Great Hall and don’t feel that I got to see everything that there was to be seen. We were given the option of coming back in after the next group had been guided around, but with all of the people I didn't feel that I could.

Moving around the studio you could go at your own pace which was nice, and there was so much to see. What kept blowing my mind time and time again was the detail that was put into absolutely everything. You could peer into the Gryfindor common room and see the beds that Harry and Ron even used during filming. Did you know that by the time filming wrapped, that the actors were way to big for these beds? It was clever filming angles that never gave this secret away!

I have to admit that I did think that you would be able to  interact more with the sets. Maybe this was me expecting too much? After the Great Hall all of the sets had a rope to stop visitors from entering. Of course I can see why this is the case, but when I imagined what it would be like to visit, I always thought we would be able to walk around each set, and have a proper look at everything.

We saw Snape’s Potion Room, Dumbledores Office, Professor Umbridge’s Office, Hagrid’s hut and even the Ministry of Magic. Simply walking around let my imagination run away with me and I really was enjoying the magic of the day. When you are walking around you will be amazed by what you see, some things you will recognise instantly, others you will have to read about to discover where and when they were featured. You can see the original robes, the wands and even Harry’s glasses. Everything has been incorporated within the tour and if you keep your eyes peeled you may even spy a snitch!

I have to admit that I was rather excited at the prospect of flying a broom against the green screen. Before I joined the half an hour long line… I popped in the exit to check out the prices of the photos. If my memory serves me correctly, the cheapest option was £12.00. I felt my wallet sink a little deeper into my hand bag and begrudgingly refused to pay that amount for a photo. It may just be me as lot’s of people were more than happy to spend their money on a photo, but I couldn't help thinking that it was pricey.

It was around this time that we braved the cold and headed outside to view the famous house on Privet Drive and all of the other outdoor features. Of course there was another photo opportunity by Harry’s house that our group took full advantage of, not to mention getting the chance to sit in Hagrid’s bike and cart!

As we visited on the run up to Christmas, every so often there would be a staged snow flourish outside. The fake snow that they used throughout the films was actually a really interesting aspect that I had never really given much thought to it before. They used a different type of snow depending on what effect they were trying to achieve.

It was while we were enjoying the outdoor attractions that the chance came around to try Butter Beer. Oddly I was expecting a hot drink after reading the books, and how it was described as a warming drink… But actually in reality it is a cold drink and not what I was expecting. Maybe because I am getting older my taste buds couldn't cope with the exceptionally sweet taste it posed in my mouth? This again was another hefty price… For a small plastic cup it was around £3.00 and if you wanted the plastic goblet it was over £6.00. The child in me really wanted the goblet… but in the end Luke and I decided to share a small cup in case we decided we didn't like Butter Beer.

Moving onto the last section of the tour we discovered all of the creatures that feature throughout the film series. This was really interesting and I was really impressed with the life size models, suffice to say that the werewolf in the Prisoner of Azkaban is much bigger than I ever anticipated. If I was to come face to face with such a creature… I would be terrified. They even had a moving model of Voldemort from the final film where he is dying… This alone was creepy enough.

One of my favourite parts of the studio tour has to be the model of Hogwarts it’s self. I guess this is why they leave it until the end as it is really something special! It is so much bigger than I ever imagined it would be, and it had been decorated with snow to match the season. The turrets and the bricks were so very detailed and there were even lights on inside the castle. I found myself thinking back to the movies and couldn’t believe that this was the model that had been used throughout. Technology really is spectacular these days!

There really is so much to see and do at the Harry Potter Studio Tour, and I am so pleased that I got the opportunity to go along and see all of these treasures first hand. My only quibbles are the prices of everything, as it can very quickly turn into a rather expensive day out.

Adult tickets cost £30.00 per person and children’s tickets £22.50 per child. If you were to indulge in all of the extras while inside and then of course the gift shop which is almost obligatory if you go with children. I admittedly almost bought myself a chocolate frog or two!

Over all though I do think it was a great experience and one that I would definitely visit again. It is one of those attractions where you will discover something new with each visit, so I would happily go back and do it all again.

Disclaimer: I was issued with tickets to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour in exchange for an honest account of our visit. 

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