The Making of Harry Potter

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WIZARD indeed! I took my family to Warner Bros Studio Tour, to The Making of Harry Potter at Leavesden, and I’m delighted to report that all three of us were swept away by a magical experience. Even on a rainy January day, the car park staff were cheerful and friendly, and we were quickly out of the car and into the entrance hall. With 25 minutes to go to our tour we passed the time in the gift shop which has every bit of Potter produce you could hope for. It’s all pretty pricey – the cheapest thing I spotted was a postcard at 95p, the most expensive the sword of Griffendor at £199.95 – but if you’re a true fan you might not mind coughing up for some quality souvenirs. Then on to the tour, and we made our way past Harry’s Cupboard under the Stairs, into the introduction, the cinema and then on to the Great Hall. These sections are all timed, presumably to make sure the Great Hall isn’t too packed as the guides explain what’s on offer, and show you around. This first section is a bit of a whirlwind and it would have been nice to have had slightly longer to marvel at the setting, the props and the costumes. After that, however, you can spend as much time as you want as the studio opens out to welcome you to various scenarios: there’s the Gryffindor Dormitory and Common Room, the Potions Classroom, Dumbledore’s Office, the Burrow, Birgin and Blotts, to name but a few, plus sections devoted to effects such as making fire and snow, and green-screen filming for broomstick flying. Next up is the café where the food is of the grab and go variety (burgers, hot dogs etc), and this is the point of no return: once you’ve left the Studio you can’t go back in so make sure you’ve had your fill of the sets before moving on. It was also the scene for the only disappointment of the day which was the Butterbeer, expensive (£2.95 a cup) and quite disgusting – small children might like this sickly concoction but it really was ghastly! We enjoyed the small outdoor area which, even in the rain, was fun despite the Hogwarts Bridge being closed due to the weather! It included 4 Privet Drive and the Potters’ cottage from Godric’s Hollow, along with Hagrid’s motorbike, the flying Ford Anglia, and a range of chessmen from the first film. Then it was back in to the props department, complete with hundreds of models and some good video of Warwick Davis showing everyone how various creatures were brought to life, nicely tied in with the models just a few feet away from us. This took us into the realm of the artists who brought Harry Potter’s world to life – and it was more fascinating. Models, wigs, replica characters and animatronic beasts gave some idea of the incredible detail put into the making of the movies. Then it was time for a stroll along Diagon Alley, before seeing the artwork and the white card models in which the sets are first created. And finally we reached the jewel in the crown, the replica Hogwarts Castle, a massive ‘miniature’ with that attention to detail that’s been such a feature of the tour. The tour ends back where you started, in the gift shop, and we came out three hours later having enjoyed a terrific trip into JK Rowling’s fantasy world. Basically there’s something for everyone here and all ages, and it’s fully wheelchair accessible too. If you’re a Potter fan then you’ll be in seventh heaven: if you’re merely a fan of movie making, special effects and model work then you’ll love it too. There are elements for younger visitors – a passport in which to collect stamps, and a trail of golden snitches to find – but all ages should enjoy this. The whole thing isn’t cheap at £33 per adult ticket, and there's no concession for seniors, but we all felt that such an immaculate recreation of Harry’s world provided fantastic value for money. Absolutely brilliant, despite the Butterbeer!

Jane Leigh

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