Happy Halloween everyone! I can’t believe how fast October has essentially flown by. In honor of today’s frightfully fun holiday, I thought I’d try and cover more about the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London. I know I haven’t touched upon it in a few weeks. Forgive me, I’ve been planning out so many other posts I want to share, I forget about some of the other content I’ve started!
Last time, we examined two of my favorite larger sets, the Gryffindor Common room and Boy’s dormitory. Dumbledore’s Office is perhaps the most detailed set of them all. As you approach his Office, you really don’t appreciate how large the set really is until you see it in person. The office consists of two levels.
Approaching it form the Common Room, you’ll first encounter the stone Gargoyle.It’s almost as if the statue springs to life. I really loved seeing all of the portraits of the former headmasters around the exterior as well as the glass cases of strange magical items Professor Dumbledore supposedly collected. All of the books in the office are real books, but they were aged and glued together in order to ensure they would stay in the bookcase.
The penseive in Professor Dumbledore’s office is one of the fun interactive items you have the chance to touch and kids get to select memories with. I want to mention too that at the beginning of the tour, you have the ability to collect a WB studio passport. The passport contains clues for you to answer and will let you know where you can find stamps to fill your passport with. It’s a great little souvenir. I started it, but got too absorbed into taking photos to finish.
The Potions’ Classroom and Professor Snape
Our tour guide almost made me cry when we reached Professor Snape’s classroom. Alan Rickman, the actor who portrayed Professor Snape passed away several years ago. She told us a story about his casting that really made me appreciate him all the more. when JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter novel, Alan Rickman was the man she had pictured as the feared potions professor.
When Harry Potter was announced as a major film, Alan Rickman was approached and advised that he would have to play the part of Professor Snape for the remainder of the films. He was often cast as the film’s villains and did not want to get stuck as one again (especially for 7 more films); before he would agree to anything asked to have a meeting with JK Rowling. He asked her to tell him why he should play Professor Snape. She took it to heart and told him that he would be the true hero of the series and gave away Professor Snape’s ending.
Not a single person save for Alan Rickman and JK Rowling were aware of what would happen to Professor Snape until the release of the final two boks. He had known since the first film how Professor Snape would redeems himself and knew that this was the part of a lifetime. Our tour guide really wanted to make a point that Alan Rickman used this information to influence how he portrayed the professor in order to show that Professor Snape really cared about Harry Potter as the son of Lily Evans. It’s difficult to rewrite this story, but if you go back and rewatch the films in a crazy marathon (as I did when I returned home), you’ll see Professor Snape in an entire new light.
The Potions’ classroom is one of the darker sets and it can be difficult to take just the right picture. There are many nasty items on the shelves along with some beautifully handcrafted books. The Advanced Potions book, from the Half Blood Prince film, for example, contains handwritten actual instructions on how to prepare several different potions. The film makers wanted to have a book that could be used for close ups whether it was Harry flipping through the pages at random in his copy of the book or the students in the advanced potions class turning to the pages to brew the perfect potion for Professor Slughorn no attention to detail was spared.
Going back to the nasty potions ingredients, the tour guide was able to pull one off the shelf for my group to examine closer. Every single ingredient contains a handwritten label and comes from the most disgusting looking things the film designers could find. The particular bottle we looked at were the bones of a long dead chicken. They were cleaned well before being placed in a jar of water that has not been opened since the third film.
Green Screen Experience
The studio has a couple different places you are able to stop and take professional photos (inside Mr. Weasley’s Ford Anglia, the Hogwarts Express, Quiddich). There is only only place where you can create your own video with a green screen experience and this is the Quidditch area. If you purchase the deluxe package, you get 4 photos and a video with your package. This alone saves you a lot of money!
The line can be long here, but it’s well worth the wait if you intend to purchase your video or photos. If you have the deluxe package, you flash your badge and are escorted to the front of the line. I was greatful as I was trying to maximize my time here. You are given a robe of your house choosing (I choose Gryffindor!) and are shown how to sit on a broom.
You take a few photos from different camera angled around the attraction area before you are directed to fly and look different directions for your video. This was one of the highlights for me as a Harry Potter nerd! I’ve always wanted the ability to fly on a broom and learn how it was done in the movies! You have the option to view and purchase your photos after. I wanted to get mine then and there, but you can also wait until the end as well.
The Weasley Kitchen
Between the Quidditch experience and the Weasley Kitchen lies the special effects display of the tour. We didn’t spend a lot of time here, but you will see displays of costumes, doors, green screens and the other items. I would like to point out the door to the Chamber of Secrets, Professor Moody’s trunk and the flying Ford Anglia.
The Weasley Kitchen is one set I wish was expanded! It was smaller than I expected, but was one of the sets that Chris Columbus, the directer at the time, wanted to highlight as a wizard’s kitchen. It’s the first time the audience has a chance to see what it might be like in a wizard’s home. On this set, the kitchen items are preparing themselves, sweaters are being knitted and you have the chance to interact with several other items.
One of my favorite items was the famous Weasley clock. I assumed we would be able to see it a little closer, but it’s inaccessible from the roped off front of the set. The Weasley Kitchen is a room where the film set designers went to as many second hand stores as they could to piece the set together. They wanted to show that although they were Weasley’s they were not the most well off members of the wizarding world.
The Dark Arts and Ministry of Magic
Approaching the back of the sound stage, the tour literally darkens as the props from Bourgin and Burkes dark arts shop are on display. You pass some of the Death Eater masks and through the living room of the Malfoy family. The living room contains a meeting of the Death Eaters where Voldemort orders Nagini to attack the suspended Muggle Studies professor.
Behind the living room sits the prominent Black family tapestry and the Ministry of Magic. There were only a handful of exterior sets for the Ministry of Magic remaining. Our tour guide explained to us that the vast majority of shots from the film were green screen and CGI. I didn’t know that even the fountain from the Order of the Phoenix film where the duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort takes place was CGI.
Professor Umbridge’s Office
The person most despised in the Harry Potter universe after Voldemort is Dolores Umbridge. Her office stands out with it’s garrish pink coloring. The set designers apparently had a field day with the kitten patterned pictures, plates and tea cups in the room. Our tour guide explained that the film crew brought in over 100 kittens in order to capture as many different looks and movements from the animal as possible.
The kittens were taken from various shelters around the area. I would have loved to have been on set that day! They hired several extras just to play with kittens for a day! All of the kittens on set were adopted out to loving families. The kittens on the plates in the office move and are interactive just like the Weasley Kitchen.
One note I found interesting is on Professor Umbridge’s style. Dolores Umbridge sees herself as confident and as one of the most important people around. In addition, she seeks an elegant and refined royal style Who also carries themselves that way? The Queen! All of the suits and items in her office were inspired by Queen Elizabeth.
The Forbidden Forrest
By the time we reached the gates of Hogwarts, I was ready for lunch! We weren’t quite half way through too the backlot yet! Rebuilt from scratch was the Forbidden Forrest. We entered the dark forbidden area and were advised to watch out for spiders. The forest the filmmakers actually used lies in the northern Scottish highlands. There were so many mosquitoes and rainy delays, however, they needed to build an indoor set.
The original indoor forest was destroyed after the wrapping of the Deathly Hallows. No one envisioned a Harry Potter Studio tour. When the attraction first opened, they didn’t have the forbidden forest piece. Deciding this was a vital area to add, the set designers met up and as carefully as they did the first time, reconstructed the home of Aragog as best they could.I don’t want to spoil some of the surprises here, but I will mention to look out for an amazing lifelike version of Buckbeak!
When you clear the forest, you are almost halfway! You must travel though Platform 9 and 3/4, the Hogwarts Express and then you will find the backlot cafe! The Platform here is loaded with many photo ops from entering the platform to the train itself. The platform has another photo opportunity for sale that you may want to try and shop to purchase good from. I loved walking through the train myself, but it can be a little difficult if you’re claustrophobic. I would advise you to hold off on your shopping until the end of the tour.
The photo experience here has you and your family sitting in a carriage from the Hogwarts Express looking out the window and experiening what it can be like to interact with a green screen. It’s a fun experience that again is worth waiting in line for! You will love seeing the reactions of those acting out the scenes on the train while you are waiting in line!
I’m going to stop here for today, but next time, we wil certainly finish up my experience on the Harry Potter studio tour with the remaining sets and the backlot cafe review! Until next time, happy travels!