The Harry Potter Studio Tour plus our very first prize giveaway!

Firstly, a plug for two blogs that are not only about travel and exotic places but are also well written and full of lovely photos; and Over the next couple of months the three of us will be crossing paths and traveling together and it’s going to turn into whatever the blog equivalent of cross pollination is. Or something. While that doesn’t, on the surface, sound exciting, trust me. It’ll be awesome to get in now on the ground level and bond with some extremely likeable characters.
Anyhoo, on to our latest adventure…
In preparation for visiting the Warner Bros Studios in Watford, north of London, I’d watched all but the first of the Harry Potter movies within the last 2 months. I hadn’t seen them before – I’d been unimpressed with the first movie but as I’d been told the studio tour was well worth doing (thanks for the tip, Linda!) Luke and I spent some of our quiet days between playing tourist watching them on his laptop.
I’m glad we did.

Diagon Alley

The tour was terrific, well, except for the first part, where you spend half an hour in line with eleventy-billion other people. You can’t just turn up to the studio – in fact you can’t get into the carpark without a ticket. We had booked for the 1:30 session. My tip for people thinking of going is to set your date several months in advance and book the first session (10am) or book any time in the day and turn up first thing. They don’t seem to mind letting people in early but it’s probably be better to be organised.
After a long wait in the queue we were ushered into a plain room in a large group and had a guide speak to us and show us a short introductory film while we stood up, then it was into a theatre to sit down and watch a longer film (not much longer) before entering Hogwarts main hall. I imagine they do this to space out groups but it’s also a good introduction and builds some excitement for what you’re about to see.
After the dining hall where some costumes are displayed, there are two large studios full of well-signed displays of props, movie displays, many costumes, latex masks, all kinds of things – in fact just about everything. You can stand in front of the house on Privet Drive, walk through the wooden covered bridge that is part of Hogwarts… the collection includes pretty much everything you could want to see. My favourite part was the cardboard sculptures of all the buildings and the conceptual art paintings. And of course the giant model of Hogwarts that was used for many of the CG shots.

Set schematics. There was a whole room just devoted to these.

Mum and I took about 2 and a half hours to go through, Luke a bit less than 4 but he had paid extra for the audio visual guide and so had more to listen to.
There were lots of interesting bits of info – boards with photos describing the animals used in the films and the fact that each of the staff had their names inscribed on the end of a box in Olivander’s Wand Shop. There were 17,000 boxes altogether in the shop and each had its own unique, hand made label.
The first and last thing we did was look in the gift shop. There was quite a range of merchandise… in fact it was probably the most extensive merch store I’ve ever seen. It was funny to overhear people talking about buying wands for display in their lounge rooms. I’m not sure I’d ever achieve that level of fandom about anything.
I bought a packet of every flavoured beans for my nephews and some chocolate bees. Mum will take them back for me, although I wish I could be there to see their faces when they try the dirt and earwax flavours.
Speaking of Mum, she had only read one of the books and seen none of the movies and still said it was a great day out. She really enjoyed watching the interviews with the directors and what each had tried to bring out in their movie/s.

This model of Buckbeak breathed and moved a little.

So our verdict was that although nearly 30 pounds seems a bit pricey, you get a lot for your money and it’s definitely worth seeing if you’re even mildly interested in the films… or even if you’re just interested in films in general. Luke paid extra for the guide – you got the hand held device plus a guide book to keep (which he forgot to pick up when we left) and it’s probably worth getting if you’re a big fan.
All in all a good day.
Also – I bought 5 postcards and have no idea who to send them to. If you’re a Harry Potter fan leave a note and I’ll send one to the first five replies (you might have to email me your address to a1lenon at yahoo dot com). It may also be worth noting that there’s a series of Dr Who stamps available here in the UK right now so if you want a particular doctor on your postcard I’ll see what I can do.
Now we’re off camping for a week so I’ll post said cards (should anyone be interested) when we get back to civilisation.