Happy Halloween!! I’ve got a bit of a themed post for you this evening – I have loved Harry Potter ever since the first books were released back when I was in primary school! I still remember queuing for new books as they came in to the shops and reading them cover to cover in one go so nobody could spoil the story! Sometimes creating films from books can erode some of their original magic, but I think I’ve become more and more of a fan as the years have gone on and with each new film. It’s surprising then that it’s taken so long for me to visit the Harry Potter studios in North London! It’s amazing to think that two of the Warner Brothers studio buildings on the site have been permanently converted into this attraction. It certainly demonstrates just how much love there is for Harry Potter!
We arrived by train to Watford Junction where we boarded the bus bound for the studios – you can’t miss it!
We had a bit of a wait for our allotted time slot, but soon we were entering Hogwarts itself and the Great Hall adorned with pumpkins and with the long tables set for a Hogwarts Halloween Feast!
After marvelling at the genuine stone work and array of pumpkins, we walked through into a huge room full of sets like the potions room and Gryffindor common room. Costumes and props from the films are interspersed throughout the sets making it feel even more like you’re in the films. There are some great interactive features too like playing with forced perspective (check out Mark the giant below) and even getting yourself filmed riding a broomstick!
Things got more spooky as we walked through the eerie, dark Forbidden Forest and came face to face with Aragog and his eight-legged friends! Perfect for Halloween! Although if you’re not fond of spiders there’s an “escape route” so you don’t have to worry.
The Forbidden Forest opened out onto platform 9 3/4 with the Hogwarts Express ready and waiting. They have dressed each of the cabins to recreate a scene from each of the films which I thought was quite clever. On the platform was a huge selection of sweets from the films that you could buy like Fizzing Whizzbees, Chocolate Frogs and of course Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans!
Probably one of the things I was most excited about was sampling some Butterbeer! It was quite tasty with a sweet, creamy, frothy top, although it didn’t taste quite how I would have expected. We also bought some of the butterbeer ice cream which I have to say didn’t taste of much so if you’re going, stick to the cups of Butterbeer.
A quick trip back into the cold was next on the list to see Privet Drive, Hogwarts Bridge and the Knight Bus. You can see inside the Privet Drive house, but there was quite a queue and it was getting chilly so we skipped that – one for next time!
There are so many other-worldly, magical characters and creatures in Harry Potter, so it’s quite incredible that they used a lot of real models and animatronics rather than relying on computer effects. It’s probably what makes the films so visually impressive as they used real, tangible kit. I loved how they curated the models and animatronics section with a video featuring Warwick Davis with animatronics experts. Seeing the model of Buckbeak the Hippogriff was amazing and it gave me goosebumps when he bowed to us!
As well as the animatronic wizardry, the talent and skill that went in to the films comes through in every little piece of the studio tour from the huge sets, to costumes, to models. There is a room full of technical sketches of various elements of the set and props which are so detailed and show just how much work goes in to producing films like the Harry Potter series.
As it was Halloween, Death Eaters were roaming a dimly lit Diagon Alley where you could peer into shops like Olivander’s wand maker, Flourish and Blotts bookshop and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes joke shop.
The most magical moment for me was seeing the Hogwarts Castle model. This, like everything else of course, is the real deal. When you see Hogwarts on the screen, you’re seeing this beautiful 1:24 size model. The detail and craftsmanship of this incredible work epitomises for me the message of the whole studio tour – a massive, dedicated crew of phenomenally talented people who worked for ten years to create the films for us to love and enjoy, and that demands a huge amount of respect.