If only we had acquired magical powers before we left home. Negotiating almost three hours of heavy traffic, in a car with no air conditioning, on one of the hottest days of summer, made me question the wisdom of this trip; a thought that was quickly dispelled as soon as we arrived. The giant posters of stills from the films along with the chess pieces from the first in the Harry Potter franchise offered an exciting taster of the awesomeness to come.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London opened in 2012 and is available by pre-booked ticket only. Each visitor is given a time slot to ensure that the attraction can cope with numbers. It is very popular; daughter and I were lucky to get a cancellation or we would have had to wait another couple of months to visit. The organisers seem to have got the numbers right though. It was busy inside but not so busy that the exhibits could not be enjoyed.
There is plenty of on site parking with attendants guiding cars to available spaces. Those coming by public transport can catch the specially liveried buses from various pick up points around central London.
Before entering, the email confirmation of booking must be exchanged for tickets. There are automated machines and manned booths for this. Queues build up when buses disgorge their passengers but quickly clear.
Once inside, the entrance hall offers plenty to look at with huge posters of the cast and a couple of larger props to admire. There is also a cafe and entrance to the gift shop which is laid out to match several of the shops in Diagon Alley. I challenge any visitor to leave without spending more than they intended here. The souvenirs on offer are an irresistible temptation for any Harry Potter fan.
Around half an hour before our alloted tour time we joined the main queue inside. This seemed long but it moved quickly as each group is taken through the doors all at once. Again there is plenty to look at, including Harry’s room under the stairs. Each tour party is ushered into a room where screens provide information on how the films came to be made. Next door to this is a small cinema providing background information before the tour proper begins. Entering the Great Hall at Hogwarts felt amazing.
A guide accompanied our group into the Great Hall where we could wander more or less freely. This was the only part of the tour that felt rushed as we were asked to move through to the next section to allow the next group to enter before I had quite finished admiring all that there was to see. We were, however, told that we could return should we wish once the additional visitors had passed through.
Beyond the Great Hall is the first in a series of large spaces set up to display the vast number of props used in the films. We were able to examine the Gryffindor common room and bedroom, Dumbledore’s office, a potions classroom, Hagrid’s hut and the dining room at Malfoy Manor amongst many other set pieces. In and around these rooms were other random props including the triwizard cup, death eater masks, wands, broomsticks, Mad Eye Moody’s trunk and many of the costumes from the films. Visitors could choose to be filmed riding a broomstick or take lessons in how to wield a wand.
Beyond this large area was a new exhibit for this year, the Hogwarts Express. We were able to board the train and admire carriages laid out as shown in each of the films. There is another small gift shop here selling some items not available in the main outlet.
By this time we were ready for some refreshments. What better way to quench one’s thirst on a hot day than with a butterbeer. Daughter decided that she liked it; I was less enamoured but was glad that I took the opportunity to give it a try.
Beyond this cafe (which sells a good selection of refreshments alongside the butterbeer) is an outdoor section containing, amongst other things, the Knight Bus, Privet Drive and Godric’s Hollow. Visitors then enter a fascinating space containing many of the animatronics used in the films. Some of these move…
Next up was Diagon Alley where I was very happy to discover a book shop. Admiring the colourful Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes I felt sad once yet again at Fred’s demise. Why did you have to do that JK?
As well as the many large props and exhibits there were a number of impressive examples of artwork and 3D models produced by the concept crew. These helped to offer some insight into how a film goes from idea to actuality. The talent of these artists blew me away.
We spent quite some time admiring the final exhibit but I will not post pictures as I think it deserves the wow! factor that we felt when we entered the display. We had spent close to three hours marveling at the skill of the designers and creators of so many props yet the detail on this still had us in awe.
For fans of Harry Potter, for those interested in the planning and making of a big screen film, this tour is a must. It is no exaggeration to say that this visit was one of my best days out ever.