It turns out the The Making of Harry Potter- WB Studio Tour is about 5 miles down the road from where we live in St Albans in a large complex at Leavesdon Studios, so when we were asked to come to a special preview a week before the 31 March official opening, we jumped at the chance.
We’re not the worlds largest Harry Potter fans but we have read bits of some of the books and seen most of the films, possibly even in the right order, and we enjoyed it. I’d like to say I can only guess how great it must be for people that have grown up with the books but I can’t say that as I experienced it first hand- two grown women running around in awe and dressing up at the end told me all I needed to know about the effect this tour has on fans of the books/films. If they could have moved in and lived there, they probably would have.
The tour is well structured, you start off in a mini cinema with an introductory video from Emma, Rupert and Daniel. If Emma doesn’t stop raising her eyebrows quite so much, she’ll get wrinkles. Afterwards, the screen rises and you walk through a door into the main hall at Hogwarts. It’s straight from the film, sans special effects and roof admittedly, but is astonishing in its attention to detail. It’s only when you come out the other side and see the scaffolding holding it all up, that you can bring yourself to believe its not actually made of stone but fibre glass and paint.
Once you’re out of the main hall, you’re at liberty to wander around and look at sets and props (but obviously not to touch) to your hearts content. WB reckon the whole thing will take around 3 hours but if you want to experience the magic of green screen and get some footage of you flying a broomstick, I’d hazard a guess of 4,5 or 6 hours depending on how busy it was. The queue was fairly epic even on a preview day and with 3 under 5’s, discretion was the better part of valour for us. That didn’t stop the kids from enjoying some interactives though and I was very impressed that our 4 year old sussed out how the magic wand managed to chop the carrots. Clever fella!
Housed as it is in two huge hangars, (or sound stages apparently but they looked like hangars to me), there is plenty of space for bigger props and sets but the space never seems to dwarf the things in it. The tour takes people in pre-booked slots to ease congestion and crowd flow is further managed by ticketing being available by pre-booking online only. So WB will know the maximum number of people due at any given time. This gets a thumbs up over some other attractions we’ve been to, as it seems a more sensible way of managing crowds.
Cost wise, a family ticket is £83 and adults are £28, kids £21. The cafe is actually very reasonably priced, and the food pretty good. The shop, which like all modern attractions is where you exit through, is similarly Harry Potter themed and is packed with premium priced goods. Apparently 25% of the stock hovers in the sub £10 category but if they packed it out with £4.99 wands instead of £25 premium collectors wands, every single child would leave the site with a wand and a big smile on their face. As it is, we left with a purple screaming 4 year old but there you go, they’ve got time to change the stock.
The grand finale, the H U G E model of Hogwarts, is nothing short of astonishing in size, detail and general magnificence. The interactives are very good here, showing how the model has live action figures integrated into it. Overall the interactives are pretty good. Some of the panels could be a little clearer but they’re all legible and clear in what they’re trying to get across, so I have no complaints there.
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, there is no question that you have to go to the Making of Harry Potter tour, it is absolutely the sort of thing you will love. Even as casual fans of the films, we all loved it!