With the seven tales of Harry Potter gaining worldwide sales of 450 million copies and the eight films garnering sales of $7.7 billion, there was always been a market for the heroic boy wizard and his adventures in Hogwarts and beyond. How though, to continue to allow people to find out more about how the books were adapted and share their love with others who feel the same?
The answer lay in Watford. Opened on 31 March 2012 with an unveiling featuring pretty much all the cast and crew from the franchise, the WB Harry Potter Studio Tour shows in intricate detail just how the films were made.
It begins by seeing this welcoming sign. The car park is huge. Not just for the cars parking, but for space for coaches coming in. It is so popular that you need to book your tickets ahead as you won’t be able to buy them on the door. As with most attractions the earlier you get there the less people there will be. After the small queue there was a video introduction by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. You can feel the magic of Harry, Ron and Hermoine rub off.
You start with the great hall, where so many exciting scenes take place, not least the sorting scene, where the characters are set into either Gryffindor, Hubblepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin (booooooo!). You get to see the costumes they wore and the different emblems of each house. And the hall really is huge.
What really comes across is just how much those involved in making the films are fans of the book, and how dedicated they were. What is also highlighted is just how many people were involved, from set design and costumes to stunts and props.
One of the biggest delights is seeing Dumbledore’s office, especially as its design is explained in so much detail.
All along the floor there were plenty of interactive screens for finding out more on each room. Bearing in mind all set designs are also carefully labelled and around half have videos explaining more behind the process, you can see why the whole trip takes on average three hours to see.
The role of the animal actors aren’t forgotten either. The video even said that some animals were trained up to four months before filming started, but they were clearly well cared for. Perhaps surprisingly, the owls were the most tricky animals to film as they won’t always keep to script!
As Harry Potter is so successful, it is no surprise that there has been some quite marketing products throughout the world.
Leaving the first of the three main sections, you then go outside into where the exteriors of Privet Lane were shot. You can take photos as though you are a next door neighbour and have dropped in on Harry to say hi. This is the only part of the studios that may be affected by the weather. Luckily it was a perfect day when Madeleine and I went. You can get butterbeer if you want it, but I’d avoid it. It really is dreadful, sickly sweet and tastes more like medicine you’d have to take as a child.
After that you move back inside into a third room, where the villains are shown, as well as Diagon Alley, including Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment. For the easily scared, I should add the spiders or other deadly creatures don’t move from the wall.
You can also see the stylish artwork the films have inspired.
But for all the impressive and eye-catching sights, perhaps the most stunning is seeing the small scale model of Hogwarts. The level of detail is astonishing. After that there is a gift shop, filled with all kinds of merchandise (including Harry Potter Studios shirts and themed chocolate). Whether or not you buy anything to take back with you, you will have the memory of a great day out and most likely a bucketload of photographs. My thanks to my girlfriend Madeleine for letting me
steal borrow some of her shots. You’ll find more of her photos here and here.