Are you a Harry Potter fan like me?
Then a visit to the Warner Bros Studio in London for the Making of Harry Potter needs to be on the top of your list of things to do in London!
The self guided tour is simply magical and a dream come true for any Harry Potter fan.
I am 30 years old now, but grew up with Harry Potter in my early teens. In fact, Harry Potter inspired me to start reading books. I always hated reading, but I got hooked on, or better fell under the spell, of the book series and since then never looked back.
When I heard The Making of Harry Potter opened its doors to the public, I instantly knew that I would go one day and visit.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO SEE DURING YOUR TOUR
The Studio Tour has a vast collection of everything Harry Potter related you can think of. It is just amazing and I would go back in a heartbeat.
Expect to see different sets from the movies, costumes from famous and also not so famous characters and all the props.
Learn more about the special and visual effects that helped to create the Wizarding World and brought its magical creatures to live.
Moreover, be prepared to discover how sets were created all the way from the drawing board to the screen and potentially become part of the Wizarding World yourself.
588 sets were created across all the Harry Potter films and many are to be explored during the Studio Tour.
The Studio Tour starts by you entering the Great Hall. This for me was one of the highlights of the tour, well actually the day.
The Great Hall
You have to wait outside these big old and solid looking wooden doors, just as you can see them in the movies.
You are waiting in anticipation, you feel like a little kid again waiting for a treat that you really, really, really want.
And then all of a sudden the doors flung wide open and your journey into the amazing and magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter begins.
The Great Hall has two of the four house tables on display so that people can walk around and lots of costumes of teachers, ghosts and students are on display. The torches in the mounts are lit up and even have little “fires”.
Gryffindor Common Room
One of my other favourite sets was the Gryffindor Common Room.
Just as the Great Hall, this set oozes coziness with the carpets hanging on the walls, the fireplace, the paintings and of course the armchairs.
This is the room where Harry, Ron and Hermione became friends and spend lots of their time in Hogwarts. A must see for every Gryffindor fan.
The famous Hogwarts Express! I remember watching the first movie and thinking “I wish I was on that train”.
Almost 15 years later I was, even if I was not off to Hogwarts.
Still, it was a dream come true.
The train is iconic, marking the beginning and the end of Harry’s journey. And also the journey for every Harry Potter fan.
I really enjoyed seeing the set of Harry’s first trip to Hogwarts with all the sweets scattered around and of course the sweet trolley.
I love Bertie Botts Beans. I tried them myself and I must tell you that bogey does not taste great.
I was very pleased to find the set of the Potions Classroom.
I was always very curious how it would look like. I love all the jars with the pickled herbs, spices and weird creatures as well as the little cauldrons.
Here you can see Professor Slughorn’s robe and Snape, of course, is there as well.
There are so many sets, more than I expected and plenty that I really wanted to see.
Some of the other sets, just to wet your appetite, to see are:
- The Ministry of Magic
- The Burrow
- The Forbidden Forest
- Harry’s Room in Pivet Drive
- Dumbledor’s Office and many, many more
Costumes of actors are on display from different characters and books throughout the tour.
They are often placed into scene settings and there is even a dedicated section on how costumes were designed, how costumes were made to look old and worn and how they changed with the characters over time and much more.
You can see the sophisticated and beautiful Beauxbaton uniforms as well as those of Durmstrang from the Goblet of Fire.
Find out how designers came up with the uniform, the cut and colours. Did you know that renowned milliner Philip Treacy designed the Beauxbaton hats?
Or maybe you are a Quidditch fan and always wanted to see the Quidditch uniforms from the different houses?
No problem. There is an entire Quidditch section with lots of props and costumes. You can see how the uniforms style and gear changed over the years.
Weasley is our King!
The tour starts by you entering the Great Hall. And I cannot think of a better room to display the majority of teacher costumes.
You can find the likes of Snape, McGonagall, Dumbledore, Flitwick, Trelawney, Lupin Well, actually all costumes of Hogwarts staff more or less.
Honestly, there are just so many costumes from all sorts of characters from all the movies: different Hogwarts staff, costumes from the Goblet of Fire such as the Yule Ball, Hagrid, the Ministry of Magic, Death Eaters and the list goes on.
The props are in my opinion what made the movies. All the little bits and pieces, the final touches, the attention to detail when creating and crafting the props made the sets complete.
They helped to create this world that so many of us love, this magical world of pure imagination.
Props range from textbooks to sweet packaging and Daily Prophet issues.
Interesting fact! The Daily Prophet newspapers were dipped into diluted coffee, then left to dry before all the wrinkles were ironed out to achieve the aged look effect.
And did you know that the prop team had to create over 950 potion jars and its contents such as herbs and disturbing looking creatures and weird liquids?
And over 100 plates were designed for Professor Umbridge’s office in the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts with the moving kittens on them.
Other props that are very imaginative and that I really enjoyed seeing were the Snitch, Dumbledor’s Deluminator, Neville’s Remembrall and Hermione’s Time Turner.
The detail on those, especially the Snitch and the Remembrall, is so intricate and some of the props look very delicate.
I was also fascinated by the different types of brooms and the props from the movie The Goblet of Fire. I always wanted to see the Triwizard Cup.
Special and Visual Effects
During your visit, you will find out and learn how some of the scenes were shot using special and visual effects and how some of our most loved creatures came to live.
For example, the Quidditch scenes were shot on green screen. The green colour is then later on replaced with the different background scenes that are of course computer generated.
Remember the scene where Harry and Ron crash into the Whomping Willow and get hit by its branches over and over again? That scene was shot using mechanically operated branches.
Often wondered how Harry turned invisible when he put on his Invisibility Cloak? I often did. Simple, as in the Quidditch games, green fabric was used acting as the green screen.
If you are asking yourself right now, what the heck is the difference between a visual and a special effect, here is the explanation.
A special effect is realised or happens on set such as the mechanical branch of the Whomping Willow.
A visual effect on the other hand is added at a later stage and not during a scene. That would be the green screen.
Basically, one takes place during production and the other post – production.
Here you can find out how the magical creatures such as the Basilisk, Dobby, the Goblets of Gringotts and many more were brought to life.
In the Forbidden Forrest you can find Aragog and Buckbeak. Both creatures, depending on the scene in the movie, were moved using animatronic for close up scenes. This is the movement of electro-mechanically animated puppets.
Other scenes used CGI, computer – generated imagery.
For Buckbeak, the designers took inspiration from birds such as the Golden Eagle and each feather was individually inserted and glued.
Aragog’s hairs were also individually inserted and materials such as bristles from brooms and pieces of coconut were used to get the desired version of Aragog.
It took more than 15 people to operate Aragog, four of these for operating and acting as puppeteers of the back four legs.
Some of the creatures such as the Goblets of Gringotts came to live using good old fashioned prosthetics, basically masks. Actors wore these to transform into the desired character.
Hagrid’s half – brother Grawp was a collaboration between the Creature Effects and Visual Effects department. His giant head was sculpted so people would know what he should look like, but CGI brought him on the screen.
There were lots of sections in the tour that I was not aware of, such as the art department.
This department was mostly responsible for designing and creating sets and props, turning an idea into reality.
You can find technical drawings, white card models and one of the highlights for most visitors, a model of Hogwarts.
White card models were created before an actual set was constructed to help the director and production designers determine camera angles by looking at size and scale of the models.
Below is a picture of the white card model of Hogwarts …
… and here is the real constructed model!
This model was build for the very first movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Every inch of this model was filmed and digital effects were added for enhancement to create realistic views of Hogwarts.
86 artists worked on this model and all combined man/working hours would add up to 74 years. That is a lot of time and dedication that went into this amazing model of Hogwarts.
The model even has 2,500 fibre optic lights installed that simulate lanterns as well as torches.
BOOKING AND TOUR LENGTH
Tours are very popular and need to be booked months in advance. Make sure to book your ticket and reserve your preferred time as far in advance as possible to avoid disappointment of missing out.
Tickets are timed to manage the flow and number of visitors. It is recommended that you arrive 20 min before your tour starts.
I had to collect my tickets as I had a gift voucher and there was a long queue. Also, you might want to use some facilities beforehand, drop of your coat and bag (free of charge) or purchase any items such as guide book to enhance your visit.
The website states that it will take you around 3, 5 hours to go around the Studio and see everything. There is no limit imposed on your time, thus you can spend as much time as you like exploring.
It took me just over 4 hours to go around, because I took my time. I looked at everything and read every single little description I could find as it was really interesting to learn about the costumes, sets and especially the effects.
FOOD AND DRINK
I brought my own food and drink. I thought the ticket was already expensive, totally worth it though, and I wanted to safe a little money.
And that was a good decision for several reasons, besides me being stingy 🙂
First of all, I wanted to spend my money on other items such as souvenirs instead of food and they are in the higher price bracket.
And secondly, there are several eating places, but they were all packed. The tours are always booked out so there are lots of people and it is always busy. People were even sitting on the floor eating their sandwiches as they were unable to find an empty seat.
Food prices overall are not too bad. You can get a portion of Fish n Chips for around £12,00, which is standard pub prices.
THE SOUVENIR SHOP
Of course, every tour ends with a stop at the souvenir shop.
I must warn you though, the souvenirs are a bit pricey. Make sure to factor this in into your trip.
Scarfs from the houses can cost around £27,00 and even a single Chocolate Frog can set you back £9,00.
EXTRA COSTS TO LOOK OUT FOR
There are a few costs to look out for when you are visiting the Studio. These can add up quiet considerably so be aware of them.
There are extra activities that you can participate in. The most popular one must be the Green Screen Experience – Flying.
You get the chance to put on a Hogwarts robe of your choice, sit on a broomstick and fly over the lake in Hogwarts or London. Depending on the package, you can get photographs and/or a video of you flying. Pictures start from around £12.
I already mentioned food and drinks and the souvenir shop, but another hidden cost that you would most likely want to spend money on are the sweets. You can buy the Chocolate Frogs, Butterbeer, Bertie Botts Beans and much more. There are a few opportunities to buy sweets throughout the tour and trust me, you will be tempted.
Other paid for extras include the Souvenir Guidebook (£9,95) and the Digital Guide (£4,95 pp).
FREE EXTRAS TO ENHANCE YOUR TOUR
I was not aware of some of these when I visited, but you can download the Wizarding World App to unlock more secrets, videos, quizzes and facts during your tour.
There are so called “Enchanted Keys”, just like the keys with the wings in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, located throughout the Studio.
The App is free to download from the App Store and Google Play and easy to use.
All you have to do is:
- Download the App
- Log in and access the Discover tab
- Tap the key symbol
- Scan the Enchanted Key
Another fun thing to do is to pick up a complimentary Activity Passport and complete the fun Golden Snitch hunt, puzzles and trivia.
Additionally, you can collect souvenir stamps in your Activity Passport, which can be collected at several key points throughout the Studio Tour, for instance at Platform 9 ¾ and Gringotts Bank.
The Activity Passports can be collected from a member of staff at any point in time during the Studio Tour. However, if you do not want to miss out on any of the activities and stamps, I would recommend you collecting one at the beginning.
- Opening times: The Studio Tour is open 7 days a week. Please check the website as times vary depending on the season and day of the week.
- Admission: Tickets must be purchased in advance and children under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult. Adults (16+ years) £47.00, Child (5 – 15 years) £38.00, 4 and Under go free, Family (2 Adults and 2 Children) £150.00 and Family (1 Adult and 3 Children) £150.00
- How to get there: By Public Transport – Take either the Overground or National Rail to Watford Junction, depending which one is more convenient for you. Both modes of transportation start from London Euston. Overground will take slightly longer as there are several stops in between. National Rail is a direct service and takes around 20 min. The Studio itself is not within walking distance from Watford Junction Station. There are frequent shuttle busses outside the station that can take you for a fee of £3 for a return journey to the Studio and back. By Car – The Studio is located around 20 miles north – west of London, just outside the city. The post code for SATNAV is WD25 7LR, parking is free of charge
- For more information please visit: https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk