Saturday 12 April 2014

The Harry Potter Studio Tour Presents Feathers and Flight

On Friday 4th April the entire family set off on a wild adventure, and when I say family I don't mean myself, Luke and Leo. I mean my parents and siblings. I cannot remember the last time we all went out as a family of 6, but I know a lot of time has passed since we have all got together and done something like this!

We were on our way to the Warner Brother's Harry Potter Studio Tour for an exclusive preview of their Feathers and Flight feature that is running from the 4th April right through to the 27th April 2014. Suffice to say we were all incredibly excited and looking forward to an evening full of magic and laughter. Having visited the Studio Tour back in December, I knew we were in for a fantastic time and I knew that the rest of the family, who had never visited before were going to LOVE it!

Feathers and Flight 2014

- Pose for a photograph with the owl that played Harry Potter’s letter-delivering companion Hedwig as he sits outside 4 Privet Drive.

- Meet the talented owls that played Ron Weasley’s tiny pet Pigwidgeon and the Weasley family owl Errol who will be stationed along the wizarding street of Diagon Alley.

- Watch as crows and ravens that appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabandemonstrate their acting skills in our backlot.

- Learn how birds were taught to ‘act’ by taking a look at the equipment that was used on set.

- Hair and Feather Supervisor Val Jones will lead an expert team to demonstrate the techniques that made winged wonders such as Buckbeak the Hippogriff and Fawkes the Phoenix a reality on screen. By individually inserting thousands of feathers, Val worked to create the Hippogriff’s feathery coat which helped transform it into a believable creature that really moved.

- See the broomsticks of Fred and George Weasley, used during their escape in Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, in Hogwarts’ iconic Great Hall as the set will be decorated as it was for owl post delivery scenes. Specially-made broomsticks and letters, which were designed to be light enough for owls to carry, will be on display as well as a breakfast feast of racks of toast, cereal and jugs of juice.

The Feathers and Flight event shows us exactly how filmmakers brought the feathered creatures to life on screen. From Buckbeak the Hippogriff to the training of the Owls, the ravens and special effects equipment...There is so much that went into the most simple of scenes. I was so impressed during a question and answers session with Julie Totman and colleague Guillaume Grange, they allowed members of the group to ask questions and shared some of their secrets. Did you know that for each animal character their were at least 3 animals playing that role? Each animal has their different strengths and weaknesses, one animal would be great at tricks, one maybe better at being handled and so on...  

With the introductions coming to an end it was time to start the tour. I have to say that I was so excited to be visiting after hours, when everybody else had gone home and it was just my family and the rest of the people on our tour. As you can imagine, the studio tour is a magical place to be and this feeling was heightened as we got to see everything up close and personal while taking our good sweet time as we went around. First up was the Great Hall, and I took great pleasure in watching everyone's faces as the cinema screen lifted to reveal the entrance to the famous set. I think my younger sister's draw dropped when she first walked in!

We enjoyed nibbles and drinks in the Great Hall and nosed into the crooks and cranny's of this magical room. This set is my favourite, and you don't have to look around to far to work out why. The flagstone floor, the big open fireplace, the detail that is just absolutely everywhere is just outstanding. What I adored about visiting after hours was being able to spend so much time in the Great Hall alone, when I visited in December I felt that there wasn't enough time to see everything, so I made the very most of every moment that night.

We slowly made our way around the tour, we took in everything and posed for many, many photographs. My Mum who hasn't really watched many of the films was enjoying taking everything in (I will be insisting she watches them all now!), my Dad who is the biggest kid enjoyed it as much as my siblings. There was ample opportunity to speak to the guides as they were on hand all evening, and were happy to answer any additional questions that we had. 

There was one thing that I was looking forward to more than anything that evening, and that was to have a play on the broomsticks! On our last visit the line to have a go was about 30 minutes long, and our group decided not to have a go. But on this occasion we just walked straight in, there was no waiting around and we even got to don a Hogwarts robe. We flew Mr Weasley's magical car, and then we each took to the sky's on our broomsticks. It was AMAZING! For my first broomstick flight I don't think I did half bad, and I was so pleased with the picture that I walked away with. The entire family had a go at flying a broomstick that night, and they all absolutely loved it.

Next up we were off out into the back lot, it is here that you can try Butterbeer and see if it tantalizes any of your taste buds. Having tried it before I knew that it was a little too sweet for my liking, but happily drank it up. The younger brother seemed to really like it, but the rest of the family were not sold on it. I definitely recommend giving it a try, you may just be surprised. 

It was here that we came face to face with Hedwig, and we gladly took it in turns to snap our photos with him, before having a look at the night bus, Hagrid's Motorcycle and of course the flying car which happen to all be featured outside. 

As you move out of the back lot and back inside to which ultimately is the final bit of the tour, you find yourself in a room full of creatures featured in the films. There were goblins, wax models of the cast and of course some of the creatures. Dangling from the ceiling I saw Aragog, King of the Spiders. I have to say that he is a spider that I would rather not come across!

Another of my favorite sets has to be Diagon Alley. It is a set that you can walk through and actually gives you a sense of being in a magical world. You see familar sites and can marvel at the shop fronts, my favourite being The Weasley Brother's Joke shop! 

As we began to come to the end of the tour, I knew that we would very soon be casting our eyes upon the Hogwarts Castle, and I knew that this was going to blow everybody's minds. The last time I visited it was for Hogwarts In Snow, and Hogwarts was covered in a blanket of snow. It was nice to see it this time in it's true form, but it still completely blew me away. The detail and sheer size of this model is just incredible. Every outside shot of the castle that you see in the film series, is actually of this model. For the longest time I just assumed that the exterior shots in the film were computer generated imagery. How wrong was I!?

Leaving the room with the rather incredible model of Hogwarts brings you out into a room full of wands. I remembered this room from last time but didn't actually know what it was for. I was really pleased that there was a member of staff in there on this occasion, and he explained to me that each wand box had the name of someone involved in the Harry Potter films. Each wand box had been hand inscribed and the guide was so familiar with each and every box, that he could actually point with his laser pen to the box with the persons name he was talking about. He could point out absolutely anyone and everyone, and even tell you all about them. 

This brought us to the end of our adventure around the studio, and it was time to make our way back to the car. We all had an absolutely amazing time and it was lovely to do something together. 

If you are planning on visiting before the 27th April, the Feathers and Flight experience is great. I am sure you will all love it as much as my family and I did. 

Disclaimer: We were invited along to the event, provided with free admission and a goody bag. I was not asked to write this post and all views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.

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