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Behind the scenes of Harry Potter - Phenomenal
Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour (London)
Member Name: moog27
Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour (London)
Advantages: All the real sets, costumes etc . Well organised . A great day out . Brilliant staff and informat
Disadvantages: You annoy everyone by pausing the films every 10 seconds to point things out .
Since the day I read the first book in one sitting I have always been a huge Harry Potter fan. I love the books and I loved the films. So as you can imagine I was just a little bit excited when my friend announced that her birthday present to me this year was to take me to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour. I knew that various friends had been before and rated it highly so my expectations were high right from the start.
You cannot just turn up at the studio tour; tickets must be bought in advance. I think this is a good thing as it means that they only allocate a certain number of visitors for each tour time slot meaning that it is never going to be so crowded that you can't enjoy it properly. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling their call centre. A great feature here is that you can buy "gift tickets" so for example if you wanted to buy tickets for someone as a surprise gift without having to steal their diary/attempt to guess at a day they might be free you can do. You purchase the tickets and they can use the website to book their day and time slot.
If you are booking the timeslot there and then the website is easy to use and you will be send an email confirmation of the tickets. You can also opt for them to be sent to you. My friend booked ours online but somehow managed to delete her booking confirmation. She rung them using the number on the website and they were very helpful and gave her all the information she needed. It is also worth noting here that if you want to change the day of your visit once booked you can do but it will cost you a £10 fee to change the booking.
Adult tickets cost £30, children (age 5 to 15) cost £22 and under fives are free although you still need to order a ticket for them. There are some family ticket options available which cost £89 for 2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children. You can pay a bit extra for "The Complete Studio Tour Package" (£39 for adults, £32 for children) which includes a digital guide and souvenir guidebook. To be honest I don't think the digital guide is necessary as there is so much brilliant information around the studios and the staff there will tell you anything you want to know. We saw a few people with them but they almost looked like a bit of a hassle as to watch the videos you need to stand still and obviously find somewhere to do this without getting in the way of others. However, the guide is narrated in several languages so might be interesting for guests who would find it difficult to read all of the information around the studio.
The website is well designed and very useful as it explains how the tour works, what to expect and how to get there.
Getting there and Arrival
We live in Sussex (South East England) and according to the SatNav and Google maps it should have taken us around 2 hours to get to the studio tour which is in Watford (North West London). Our slot was at 2.30pm but we decided to leave at 10am to give us plenty of time to get there (they ask that you arrive 20 mins before your time slot) and time to stop for lunch on the way there.
We didn't want to be late as it does state that they cannot guarantee you entry if you miss your slot and with the unpredictability of the M25 we thought it best to leave plenty of time.
We made the mistake of going on a bank holiday weekend and ended up spending hours sat on the M25. As a result we didn't get time to stop for lunch and spend 4 hours in the car trying to get there in time. The stress of being sat still or moving at snail pace on the motorway was eased by our general excitement and the fact that I had brought a Harry potter and Ron Weasley cardboard mask for my friend and I which she alternated between whilst I drove to entertain our fellow drivers. We enjoyed making so many people laugh and smile and even managed to stop a couple of young children throwing tantrums much to their parents delight.
As we finally arrived at the studios (which was brilliantly sign posted) we were greeted by car park staff directing us to a space. The car park is huge and well organised. We headed towards the outside ticket booths where we could collect our tickets (there were also self-service machines). There was almost no queue as it was so well organised and we managed to collect our tickets quickly using our booking number. The only thing here that is not obviously mentioned on the website is that they ask everyone for ID when you collect your pre-booked tickets. Luckily my friend had some but she hadn't expected to be asked for it. The lady at the ticket desk was lovely and cheerful which just added to our already over excited state!
We made our way into the building and were wowed by the huge photos on the wall of some of the Harry Potter characters as well as the flying car suspended from the ceiling. Off of the foyer area there was a café which we just had time to grab a sandwich in. They did hot and cold food as well as a variety of drinks. There wasn't the biggest choice in terms of sandwiches but we both found something we wanted and it was pleasant and not insanely expensive. The café was busy but we managed to grab a space at a table. There are plenty of toilets available before going into the tour so no need to queue and they were perfectly clean. There is a kiosk where you can hire the digital guides as well as checking coats, bags and pushchairs into a cloakroom for a small fee (you can take buggies into the tour but they suggest you don't).
You can start queuing to enter the tour 20 minutes before your time slot. Whilst you queue you walk past "the cupboard under the stairs" where Harry slept in the first film. There is a real buzz of excitement and we didn't feel like we were queuing for too long before we were led into a large room where we were welcomed by an enthusiastic member of staff and shown a short video. It felt like there were about 100 of us but wasn't too cramped or crowded.
Next we were led into a cinema room with comfortable chairs where we sat and watched an introduction to the tour by some of the actors. This was interesting without being too long. It explained that all of the props, sets, costumes etc were from the actual film and that the studios were where much of the actual filming took place.
We were moved on through to the doors of the great hall. As we entered it, although it seemed smaller than it looks in the films, we were just filled with awe being there where so much action had taken place. A guide with a microphone gave some more information and pointed out some key features in the great hall. We were able to walk around and take in some of the detail whilst the guide continued to talk. There were some costumes in here and it was fascinating to see them up close. You can take as many photos as you want so we took a few before we were free to move on to the next stage of the tour.
From this point forwards to are free to go at your own pace. The next area is a large studio with hundreds of props, costumes, wigs etc as well as parts of the set such as Dumbledore's office, Hagrids hut and so on. There is plenty of interesting information to read and we found that although there were a lot of people, you didn't have to push your way to the front to see things and although it is behind barriers you are close enough to get a really good look. In this first studio there is also a room where you can pay extra to get a film of yourself "riding a broom" against a green screen.
As you move out of this section of the tour you are reminded politely by the staff that it is a one way system so to make sure you are happy you have seen everything as once you move on to the next section you can't go back. This makes sense and works well to ensure the tour does not get too congested whilst still allowing people to spend as much time as they want in each section. We moved outside to the courtyard which fortunately had some covered areas as it was raining. There is another café here and you can buy a butterbeer. There are only two places in the world you can buy an official butterbeer (the other being in Florida) so we took up the opportunity. It was pretty foul so we were glad we only bought one to share! In the outside area we were very excited to see the outside of Privet Drive as well as Harry's parent's house where they were killed by Voldemort. There is also one of Hagrid's motorcycle's (several were made for the film) as well as another model of the flying car here that you can get in to have your photo taken. Unfortunately some children were hogging it so we didn't get a turn! There is also part of the Hogwarts bridge that you can walk along.
Next you move into another studio where there are lots of the masks and some wax models used in the films (these are quite scary as they are so realistic). There were some electronics and information on how things work. There is also the HUGE spider Aragog suspended from the ceiling which was very unpleasant! There is plenty to look at here and again you can spend as much time as you want before you move on. As you walk through you find yourself in the set of Diagon Alley which is almost a bit overwhelming as you feel like you have actually stepped into the film. Next are some of the hundreds of sketches and designs from the films as well as some paintings and paper scale models. The next part of the tour is the scale model of Hogwarts. The model is just phenomenal and there is a real change in the atmosphere as you walk into this section as everyone is just in complete awe. You can walk around the model and read information about it. There is quiet music playing and the lighting changes which just make it even more wonderful. This is definitely one of my favourite parts of the tour as it is just so spectacular that it has to be seen to be appreciated.
Finally you walk into the inside of Ollivanders' wand store where all 17000 wand boxes have been labelled by hand. There is a wand for every member of the cast and crew and the staff in this area are amazing and seem to be able to direct you to the wand of any character you can think of.
You leave through the gift shop which is the only area of the whole tour that was ridiculously over crowded. It was unbearably busy so we only had a quick look before making our exit. It is a shame as everything seems ridiculously overpriced.
The tour is wheelchair friendly although you should let them know at the time of booking. There are plenty of clean toilets situated throughout the tour which include disabled and baby changing facilities. There are a few areas throughout the tour to sit down although the cafes can be quite busy.
They suggest that you should allow around three and a half hours to complete the tour. We were there for around 3 hours and enjoyed the fact that we could look round at our own pace.
The staff are brilliant, very friendly, enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable They come across as being very helpful and there is always someone around if you need any help or extra information.
There is an extra charge for the green screen broomstick ride although it does look pretty impressive. We didn't do this as there was quite a bit queue.
We absolutely loved our afternoon at the studio tour. We were so hyped up before we even left that it could well have not lived up to our high expectations but it absolutely did. It was utterly amazing, breath-taking in parts and hugely interesting to a Harry Potter fan. When we got home we wanted to watch all of the films again to look at them from a whole new perspective. In fact we have now decided that we want to go again at some point as there is just so much to take in that you could easily do it a second time.
It's not the cheapest day out but it is incredible and in my opinion well worth it. The staff and atmosphere as a whole are fantastic and it is very well organised and managed which makes is completely stress free. There were quite a few children there who seemed to be interested and excited but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for younger children who probably wouldn't be able to appreciate it properly. However for any Harry Potter fans, I definitely recommend this as a wonderful day out that you will spend days raving about to anyone that will listen.
The only real negatives are that it took us so long to get there and that no one will ever want to watch the films with me again as I insist on pausing them every few seconds to look at certain things that I have seen a the tour or to share my newly acquired 'interesting facts'.
Summary: An absolute must for any Harry Potter fan
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