Two weeks ago now (where did that “summer holiday” go, eh?) I had the pleasure of going on a weekend break with my boyfriend to LDN. Whatever gods there are out there must have been shining on us because the three days we spent in the capital we absolutely glorious in regards to weather, we could not have asked for a better trip with a only a single bout of raincloud blighting the sky – hey, this is Britain after all.
The instigator for our weekend London trip was one of my finer gift-giving efforts, as last Christmas I bestowed upon my other half a pair of tickets to the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour. He also gained an Elder Wand which, in my opinion, is a perfectly acceptable reason to regress a good ten years to the midst of Potter-hype and reminisce over the anticipation of book pre-orders and the race to see who could finish the newest novel first.
Travel to our destination was – almost astonishingly – seamless, with us arriving at Watford Junction at approximately 2.30pm after a train departure of 1pm! Unfortunately, I can’t quite give a shoutout to that neat little pub next door to the junction with their satisfyingly generous portions of food (if anyone knows the name of it, do comment!) as I can’t recall the name. A short bus ride to the actual studios followed, and the excitable atmosphere of out entire party was palpable as we entered the site, and – believe me – there were more than a few adults dragging their bewildered six year olds along for the jaunt!
Picture overload – apologies! What ensured was pure nostalgia and childlike happiness as we discovered little nuggets of production information that we would never have gathered from watching the films alone (wait until you see the ceiling of the Great Hall in person, you’ll understand what I mean!); who knew that the majority of the cast were, in fact, wearing wigs, even the ones with the most achievable hair – Dean Thomas, I’m looking at you! The sheer commitment of the costume and set designers was extraordinary, with every detail down to the last stitch being a task of precision, and their results of their efforts are far more noticeable in the flesh. One of my favourite features in the tour – aside from the Hogwarts bridge and Dumbledore’s office – was the installation of the ‘MAGIC IS MIGHT’ monument seen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Representing the superiority of witches and wizards over ‘muggles’, the sculpture depicts ordinary humans being crushed by the might of Lord Voldemort and likeminded magical folk. It really is a piece of an impressive scale with the human victims being life-sized and individual in appearance, and overall it is resolutely eerie in its oppressive message.
Of course, another highlight was the animatronics; the Hungharian Horntail, Aragog, Buckbeak, Gringotts’ Goblins and – of course – Dobby. One thing I found particularly interesting was the different processes the designers went through in their attempt to portray Lupin as a werewolf onscreen. As you can see below, they constructed a (incredibly creepy and, no doubt, heavy) body suit and brace for a person to wear in The Prizoner of Azkaban. What you can’t see here is that the lower half also had its own contraption, whereby the person’s legs would be strapped into werewolf-style leg braces to mimic the size and shape the team were after. Considering the size and presumed weight of it, it is unsurprising that it was shelved in favour of CGI. I’m sure that particular actor would have breathed a sigh of relief!
One of the most impressive sights however, was the scale model of Hogwarts itself. The detail that went into it was immense.
The only downside to the entire experience that comes to mind is actually the same as every parent’s nightmare, which is… the gift shop! It was ridiculously overpriced, e.g. £6-8 for a keyring! Plush toys were around £20 whilst scarves were about £25, whilst Hogwarts uniform style attire varied between £40 and £70 depending on the type (e.g. jumpers and cardigans as opposed to robes et al). It really was shocking, especially as it was such an obvious plot to cash in on parent’s money following the prior excitement of the tour. I actually left with a Gryffindor shield/banner (thing), a Chocolate Frog and an updated copy of J.K Rowling’s Comic Relief book Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them which, at £4.99, was by far the cheapest item in the store.
That instance of negativity aside, it really was a magical (gag) day out, great for adults and children alike, and whilst I doubt I’ll be returning just yet, I highly recommend it to both the casual fan and Potter-nerds alike!