So guess where I went recently. No, it wasn’t the latest annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas sadly, (I’m working on that). But it was somewhere just as epic… yes, I have finally been to the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden.
First thing to note about the attraction, I feel, is the price. I got this as part of a birthday present but being mercenary as I am I wanted to see how much the tickets were too as I plan to go back again at some point. Individual/ adult price is £28. There are of course family, group and concession discounts, but this is the basic price if you’re not part of a family or there are just two of you. I was pleasantly surprised at this; Warner Bros. know full well they could charge £50+ and part of your soul and the die-hards will pay it, just to be in areas where their beloved students of Hogwarts have treaded in the past.
A shuttle bus takes you from Watford Junction station, north-west of London, directly on a 10-minute journey to Leavesden Studios where all eight of the Harry Potter films were shot. Don’t think that was free though – you do pay £2 return for the privilege of the shuttle bus. Once you arrive you are greeted with a vast, behemoth cream-coloured building adorned with artwork from the last film. Also sitting outside on massive plinths as a taster are some of the chess pieces that Harry, Ron and Hermione use at the end of The Philosopher’s Stone to battle their way through the huge game of wizard chess. Pretty impressive and exciting stuff so far.
Ticket check-in was easy, all self-automated. You must book this is in advance on the website though, no tickets are sold on the door. When you walk in the foyer the first thing you see other than squealing children are the three hand-prints-in-cement of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint which were part of the opening ceremony of the studios. Having marvelled at this you walk further through to the main area where you queue to actually start the experience. I stopped for at least ten minutes to marvel at the enormous canvas photographs of the main characters which are erected high on the walls. Also, suspended along with them on hopefully what is very strong wire, is the Ford Anglia which Ron and Harry drive to Hogwarts in at the beginning of The Chamber of Secrets. And as if your appetite couldn’t be whetted any more, as you queue up the Cupboard Under the Stairs is right next to you! Fabulous! My first nerdgasm of the day.
You start to queue up next to the Stairs until you are ushered into a very dark room with an allocated amount of people. I like this; even though it was busy only a set amount of people go through at any one time and this helps with over-crowding and makes it seem a lot less like a zoo. In this dark room there are eight video screens, four on one side and four opposite, all showing in rotation artwork from foreign editions of the film posters. A tour guide makes his appearance at this point talking about the experience and the usual health & safety/ refreshments speech. A very short video is broadcasted on these screens, after which three sets of double doors open and you are now presented with a cinema. I sat down thinking, were they going to start showing all the films now in some huge and unexpected marathon? Well don’t be ridiculous, of course they weren’t. We were shown an exclusive 10-minute-or-so documentary presented by the three main actors about how much they loved making the films, things we can expect to see on the tour. This was their homage to the extraordinary crew who bought JK Rowling’s books to life.
So you’re all excited now. This is it. The film gets the adrenalin going and you just know you are going to see some awesome things.
And could it have kicked off in a more fantastical way for right on cue, the cinema screen itself is dismissed into the ceiling above to reveal behind it the enormous and most famous oak-doors in the world; the entrance to Hogwarts. The actual ones! Just incredible. Our guide comes back to give us some more information and without further ado, like some elaborate West End musical transition, the doors to Hogwarts are opened and you find you’re reminding yourself to breathe as you come to terms with the fact that you are now standing in The Great Hall of Hogwarts.
What happens after that, well, I’m not going to spoil if for you. If I tell you everything that happened and what you can expect to see then either you won’t want to go or it will get you ridiculously over-excited. Either way, I’m not taking the chance. You’ll just have to go and see for yourself the secrets that were revealed.
I will say though, that Butterbeer was good.
All pictures were taken by the author.