‘The tour will take at least three hours’ we are told at the start of the Warner Bros Tour London – or Harry Potter World as we call it.. Three? Try five. At least.
Although the studios claim to be in London they are actually in Watford, which is better for parking and there are free buses from the train station.
The place is immense and the low-key start – tickets, foyer, queue, talk – barely prepares you for what lies ahead.
From here we enter a cinema (Tip: Go through the left-hand door for a front-row seat).
The huge screen is filled with the three young stars – or Harry, Ron and Hermione as we know them – who guide us through the Harry Potter big-screen story and how it’s been very much their lives for more than a decade.
After the short film, the real fun starts.
Part 1 The Great Hall
The huge castle door opens and, much like the young Harry, Ron and Hermione, the Great Hall is revealed. And it cavernous, with long tables full of metal plates and goblets, and big windows. The whole set has been moved piece by piece to give a stunning opening to the tour.
Part 2 Props, sets, wand choreography and the chance to ride a broomstick
A simply massive aircraft hanger of a room with hundreds – maybe thousands – of familiar Potter sights. There are props, sets and costumes; the Gryffindor dorm, Hagrid’s cottage, Dumbledore’s study. There is also the chance to learn some ‘wand choreography’ with a hologram Paul Harrison (no relation!) who worked with the actors to perfect their wand-wielding skills. Finish off this section by riding a broomstick through the streets of London and soar high above Hogwarts Castle on a green screen set.
Part 3 Hogwarts Express
Walk along Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters, through the steam and it’s all aboard the Hogwarts Express, through the narrow carriage walkway to see how Harry and his classmates travelled to Hogwarts in style with individual compartments dressed for key scenes throughout the films.
Part 4 Butterbeer
It doesn’t taste of butter or beer but the young wizards swear by it. It’s very much a drink for the sweet-toothed, a bit like a fizzy drink topped with ice-cream. At about £12 a pint you wouldn’t want much more than the small cup on offer anyway. If you have to choose, go for the butterbeer ice-cream – £4.95 a cone but has a nice caramel/toffee flavour. There is also a cafe and picnic area here and the chance to rest up, refresh and refuel.
Part 5 Privet Drive
Walk off the butterbeer with a trip outside to Privet Drive, where Harry lived with the Dursleys, and Potters’ Cottage in Godric’s Hollow. There is also one of the Ford Anglias from the films – sadly this one doesn’t fly – and the motorbike Hagrid used to deposit and then pick up Harry from Privet Drive.
Part 6 Make-up, special effects and creature comforts
A huge snake’s head, giant hanging spider and an animated mandrake root, this is where objects come to life. Members of the special effects team are at work on animatronic creatures and explain how the characters, creatures and objects are brought to life.
Part 7 (i) Diagon Alley
Take a magical walk up the most magical street in Potterland – Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Eeylops Owl Emporium, Ollivanders. They are all here.
Part 2 (ii) Hogwarts Castle
Wow! Simply wow! The best is saved for last, the scale model of Hogwarts used for the flying and swooping scenes in the films. The light dims and brightens to add some extra atmosphere. Simply stunning and a great way to end the day.
The tour ends in the gift shop. Almost £9 for a chocolate frog, £27 for a wand. You get the picture. Get in, get out quickly with your memories of a fantastic day.
- Full details and ticket prices for the Warner Bros Studio Tour can be found at www.wbstudiotour.co.uk.