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As you most probably can see by the photo above, I was rather excited to indulge myself for several hours into the world of Harry Potter. I must apologise about the quality of my photos – they were meant to be in HD, but my camera decided to refuse to operate as soon as we got to the studios – so I had to revert to using the camera on my phone, which wasn’t great – but the experience of being at the studios certainly made up for it.
The beginning of the tour sits you in a rather comfy cinema, where the delights of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson greet you on the rather large screen in front of you. In the video they are stood in front of the famous Great Hall doors, talking about how the studios, based in Leavesden, has been their home for the previous ten years. I’d heard Radcliffe say that the studios were like a home in an interview I watched on YouTube – and I didn’t really understand how it could be like a home, I mean – it was his job for 10 years, so effectively it was simply all of their workplace. However, in the video at the tour the three young wizards told us how they’ve been educated there, and have spent the entirety of their teenage years working, living and learning there. They also said, besides it sounding cliché – it is like a family. After the video had finished, the screen lifted and behind it was the Great Hall doors from the video, beside it were the statues of Hogwarts. I found myself obsessively screaming “pierre totem locomotor” – as Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) does in Deathly Hallows Part Two.
The audience were then lead into the Great Hall itself, which had been stripped of two of the house tables, and simply left with two long dining tables at the side of the hall – to allow for room for people to wander. This first section of the tour was guided by someone from the studios, talking about specific parts of the hall. The hall featured original costumes as worn by the main cast in the films. One of the costumes was Harry Potter’s first year robes, it was definitely odd to see how much he’d grown over the years at Hogwarts. At the front of the hall, was all of the costumes from the teachers of the wizarding school. The guide also revealed that Severus Snape’s (Alan Rickman) cape is forked at the bottom like a snakes tongue, but we rarely see it on the films – which was a nice little bit of information.
When leaving the Great Hall – you are simply lead into what looks like a warehouse, full of Harry Potter memorabilia. The first prop/set you see is the entrance gates to Hogwarts, which we see Professor Flitwick (Warwick Davis) enchant in the Half Book Prince. Around the corner you are then introduced to the Griffindor Common room, of which a secret is revealed about one of the portraits of a young woman – but I’ll keep that one to myself, I think! In the common room, you can see the costumes of the three main characters – we see a more up-to-date version of them directly in front of us/ However, upon the balcony, near the dormitories, we can see the costumes of the three main actors from the first film. We then get a look into Albus Dumbledore office (Richard Harris/Michael Gambon), seeing things like the costume of the man himself and the pensieve Dumbledore used to review his memories in various films. The remainder of this section of the tour gives us an insight into Rubeus Hagrid’s (Robbie Coltrane) hut and Snape’s potions classroom, which is pretty much what it says on the, rooms full of potions and a cowering hound. The final full set we see in this section is the Weasley’s Burrow in which we see Molly Weasley (Julie Walters) in the kitchen, where the audience can wave an interactive wand to either do the ironing, wash the pots, or chop a carrot. Wouldn’t that just make life easy – just waving a wand?
The next selection of props we see is shown in front of a rather large green screen, as we take a look into the magic of Quidditch and flying in Harry Potter. It was rather interesting to see the magic behind the camera! The Ministry of Magic is the next stop for the audience, as we can see the sets and props for the offices and fireplaces in the ministry. One of the largest and most impressive props is the statue in the centre of the Ministry, of muggles (US!) being crushed, which is much larger than I expected it to be. We also can see a variety of costumes from Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), to the Dark Lord himself (Ralph Fiennes).
The final bit I will reveal about the tour (in order to not reveal to many surprises about what lies in the second half!). The final bit of the tour is the most breathtaking. I had assumed that every shot above Hogwarts we see from the outside, was simply CGI. However, it turns out that there is a 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts, which I cannot sum up in words. It’s simply ginormous? Is that even a word? It’s the best one to sum it up! I do hope someone reads this and then visits – it is a must see for any Harry Potter fan. You don’t have to be a creepy, obsessed enthusiast like myself! It’s enlightening to see what world J.K Rowling has created for children around the world. And big kids like myself.
By Jack Burrows