I’m not ashamed to admit that I got Gryffindor pajamas for my 40th birthday.
It wasn’t like that in 1999, as I tried to read my copy Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Awkwardly hiding the cover on my train ride to work. Subsequently, it was introduced as a book for children, a magical romp based on Roald Dahl. matilda and tolkien hobbit,
But under the guise of its youth, there was a world that even the elders were enjoying secretly. It was a chance to be clever, inventive, funny, and out of our grown-up world for a while. For me, it was pure escapism to a fantasy world of wizardry. But it was also about optimism and courage—a belief that you can be your absolute magical self, that no one should live in a cupboard, and that love outweighs hate.
When the last Harry Potter book came out in 2007, I read it for 10 hours straight without a break, and I was sad when it was over. When my three kids were old enough to understand what a dementor is, we read books together, and then watched movies, which we return to regularly. Our Halloween costumes usually include one, if not many, of the characters from books and movies: Dementor, Professor Snape, Hermione, Harry, Professor McGonagall and, most recently, Mooning Myrtle, complete with toilet seat.
Needless to say, we were Potter’s dyed fans who were eagerly waiting to take another deep dive into the wizarding world with a trip to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London.
after like this The strong ties to the books and movies, however, worried me whether a behind-the-scenes peek into the alchemy that made JK Rowling’s series so popular might ruin the magic. Will the kids be a little disappointed to learn that during filming, Butterbeer was actually apple juice? Or that Hagrid was often played by a very tall actor with a fake Hagrid head?
Sure, secrets have been revealed. But being able to stroll Diagon Alley, peek into Weasley’s bill and ride a broomstick Exactly what we all wanted. If you can get over the slightly bleak industrial look of the giant airport hangar outside Watford that’s all set, there’s plenty of unmatched magic to enjoy.
The tour begins with a short film that retells film history and features actors Oliver and James Phelps (the Weasley twins) as well as Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron) and Emma Watson (Hermione). ), but the magic begins when the doors to ‘Hogwarts’ only great hall are open.
Although the tall oak tables, flagstone floors and stained glass windows are all intact, the ‘enchanted ceiling’ is a rig of harsh lighting and metal bars. But I’m soon distracted by a penguin ice-skating on a Christmas cake and several plum puddings that have just caught fire with the flick of a guide’s button.
I wanted to stay here a little longer but we were soon taken to the next set, the first sound stage. From there, you can go at your own pace, thankfully—and you’ll need to take your time to digest and appreciate all its magic.
The ingenuity and craftsmanship that one sees in the movies becomes apparent when you walk around the different sets. You learn how set decorator Stephanie McMillan aged the furniture and tapestries in the Gryffindor boys’ common room, that the hundreds of books lining the walls of Dumbledore’s office are actually leather-bound British telephone books, and that Weasley’s The crooked burr was designed to look like Mr Weasley made it all and is the result of construction workers taking the support beams out of place for that off-kilter look.
Familiar rooms and sets sit elbow-to-elbow: Hagrid’s Hut; dispenser class, lined with 500 bottles; Forbidden Forest of Darkness and Mist; Feline Adorned Office of the Ministry of Magic and Umbridge. It’s going to be a little detour and you sometimes have to go back a couple of times to fully appreciate the movie wizardry that went into making them.
An audio guide and information prompts help, but the curators are often the most knowledgeable. “It took 15 people to operate the animatronic spider Aragogue, and each hair was individually hand-sewn,” a guide tells us as we watch the 18-foot Aaragogue swing over his head.
Creature effects take up a good chunk of the tour because there are so many fictional animals in the movies. We turned a corner and practically ran into a life-size model of Buckbeak the Hippogriff, for example. We then found that, when creating the model, actual feathers were used and each was individually inserted and glued on by the Creature Effects team to ensure they were the correct size.
In addition, 250 animals were trained to portray the characters’ various pets, among them a team of mastiffs who played Hagrid’s giant dog, Fang.
Highlights come on thick and fast. We watched Weasley wash himself pots and pans and drink Butterbeer (at £3.95 per cup) on the backlot. We boarded the Hogwarts Express and saw Lavender Brown’s famous love heart at the car window.
One of the most anticipated attractions was Diagon Alley, where all three of my Weasleys were delighted to see the wizard puking pastilles in the window of the Weasels, followed by an incredible reconstruction of Gringotts Bank – where we discovered that the beautiful marble floor was actually colored paper. Was. ,
From the costumes to the creatures, there are so many iconic moments on the studio tour that it’s hard to pick just one, while appreciating the sheer scale of the operation and the effort and artistry that went into making it. But when the Golden Hall of Gringotts is destroyed by a Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon right before our eyes, it turns into a hair-raising yet thrilling moment.
All three of me were very excited at the prospect of blowing up a broom for the meticulous detail of the set, and despite knowing I was being ripped off (£20 for a souvenir video / £14 for a picture) I also ended up whistling. Made my way through the streets of London and Hogwarts on a Nimbus 2000 – which, I’ll admit, was a lot more fun than I thought. Children also took wand lessons with wand combat experts from the movies based on pre-recorded videos (free of charge).
The technical trickery and charm continues in a backlot, which is home to Privet Drive, a section of the Hogwarts Bridge, the Night Bus and Mr. Weasley’s Flying Ford Anglia. After that, you reach Platform 9¾, which is complete with a full-scale original locomotive and its vehicles.
The grand finale is an epic model rendering of Hogwarts, scattered with snow, that was used for wide shots in the movies. It is the final curtain of magic revealed, reminding you that here, in Watford, the stone walls of Hogwarts are hollow.
Did it break the spell? If anything, it charmed us all the more.
Studio tour tickets cost £49.95/£39.95 per adult/child or £159 for a family of four. Each digital guide costs £4.95. Orla and her family came as guests on the Warner Bros. studio tour. wbstudiotour.co.uk
best time to visit
The tour takes about three and a half hours, but once inside, you can stay for as long as you want. Timely tickets mean crowds are manageable, but it’s best to book slots in advance so you can go at your own pace and make stops.
how to get there
The easiest and fastest way to get to Watford Junction from Euston (thetrainline.com) is by train. Opt for an express train, which takes around 20 minutes. From there, shuttle buses operate every 30 minutes to Warner Bros. Studios (£3 return), about 15 minutes away. Studio London also operates bus transfers from Victoria and King’s Cross stations via Golden Tours.
Anyone age 11 and older is required to wear a face covering when going on a studio tour, unless exempt. A COVID pass or vaccination certificate is not required, but temperature checks, a one-way system and staggered entry times are operated to control the flow of visitors. Remember to also check any travel-related COVID-19 restrictions, including your return home in Ireland (Govt. dfa.ie/travel,
Theme parks have infamous food choices, and this one is no exception. If you can, eat before you go or bring your own as the options are limited. The Chocolate Frog Café serves cakes and treats, while the Backlot Café has a menu of hot dogs, burgers, fries and a vegetarian burger (meal £9/£5.95). Try the Butterbeer, which I can confirm is a prime blend of delicious butterscotch.
exit through the gift shop
Beware the all-singing all-dancing gift shop, which is hard to avoid in the end. All three of my souvenir wands and hats fell into the trap of sorting, until I finally found them with a Dumbledore wand (£32), some Quidditch sweatshirts (£35 each – eek!) 15.95). I took a sample of them and got the taste of vomit. Beautiful.
We stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster Hotel. With a great location on the River Thames next to the London Eye and three tube stations nearby, it’s a solid family hotel with several good restaurants, a gym, spa, great views and, rare for Londoners, a pool. Family rooms, room only, from £392; parkplazawestminsterbridge.com