Having queued at midnight for the books, lined Leicester Square for the premieres, and dressed as Harry for a marathon of the films with my equally enthusiastic girlfriends, I can confidently say I am a humungous fan of the magical world of Harry Potter. This weekend (not for the first time I should add!) I visited the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, which houses many of the sets, props and costumes used in all eight films. Currently exhibiting Hogwarts in the Snow, the Tour offers a chance to see the magical world in the depths of winter, and is not to be missed this season. Christmas might be over, and the last of the mince pies finally finished, however it is worth reigniting your festive spirit for such a magical experience, which is unique in every way.
The festive theme is evident from the moment you walk through the doors. A humungous Christmas tree, rather like the one Hagrid famously drags through the snow in The Philosopher’s Stone, greets you upon arrival. It is only a taster of what lies within, as the Great Hall is lined by eight more trees, ornamented with golden baubles and decorations made by the set design team; golden stars top them, encircled by flying witches on broomsticks. Along each of the plaster walls, deceptively made to look like stone, are two great tables, bedecked with a fantastic array of tasty delicacies – from turkeys and hams to Christmas puddings, the mouthwatering list is endless! Unfortunately they are not edible, despite the fact that in the first ever days on filming, real food was indeed used! The Christmas puddings, which are authentically set alight for great amusement of fans, are a highlight. Within the Great Hall, characters are also introduced, as the robes of Harry, Hagrid and Dumbledore, amongst many others, can be viewed.
Passing through the Great Hall into the central room, the spectacle does not end. The four directors and their visions for their films are explored – Chris Columbus, who’s craftsmanship on the first two films made them so magical, is my favorite. More costumes follow, such as Hermione Granger’s iconic dress for the Yule Ball, and Luna Lovegood’s tiered number for Slughorn’s Christmas Party – the two would make the perfect 21st dinner dress, my imagination tells me only too often! As well as costumes, wigs worn by Luna and Lucius Malfoy are shown, and the display of one of the wig fitting rooms allows insight into the life of those behind the camera. The sets in the room are magnificent, highlights being Dumbledore’s Office, lined with seemingly ancient texts and the magical pensive. As well as the wizened Sorting Hat, and beautifully embellished Sword of Gryffindor, and the Gryffindor Common Room, with its medieval inspired hangings and open stone hearth, is cozy and inviting. From the magical chopping of carrots in the Weasley’s Kitchen, to the stirring of cauldrons in the Potions Lab, no details are spared.
The set not to be missed however is the Hogwarts Express, a new addition to the Tour. In a wonderfully dramatic rendering, you approach the steam train as Harry does in the films, rounding a corner as though exiting the paved barrier that separates the wizard world from the muggle. An iconic symbol of the Harry Potter books and films, it is breathtaking. Mounting several steps, visitors are able to go inside the locomotive, and view the compartments where scenes, such as the dementor attack in the Prisoner of Azkaban, were filmed. With the Hogwarts Express shop located just beside the train, boasting its own Honeydukes section, you can also stock up on Bertie Bots Every Flavor Beans, which really do encompass bogy flavored beans! If that doesn’t put you off, once past the train you can tuck into a freshly prepared sandwich and a glass of Butterbeer at the Studio Café – although sickly sweet you have to try it!
The second half of the Tour focuses on the magical creatures in the films, and from the animations of Dobby to Buckbeak the Hippogriff, the technical innovations used are magnificent. Visitors come face to face with the giant spider Aragog, and also the petrifying basilisk, used by Voldemort in the Chamber of Secrets to scare students and teachers from Hogwarts. Our first ever glimpse into the magical world in the Philosopher’s Stone, Diagon Alley, is also kept for the second part of the Tour. Wondering down the cobbled stones, past the precariously balanced Gringotts, and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, you are utterly immersed in the wizarding world. The true highlight however is left for the end, when rounding the final corner the huge model of Hogwarts, used for many of the exterior shots of the castle, comes into view. Emerging from the level below, enveloped in dramatic lighting, and with emotive music from the score, it brings a tear to your eye.
And so, once through the wand room, which houses wand boxes labeled with the names of all those who worked on the films, you enter the shop, where much damage to your bank account can be done! From the massive array of wands, to copies of the Marauder’s Map, it is a consumer’s ideal of heaven. Thankfully, I was somewhat restrained, reassuring myself the model broomstick will still be there when I next go back – for some reason, I have an inkling that will not be too far in the near future!
Images sourced from Pinterest