The Making Of Harry Potter Studio Tour

SFX was at Hogwarts yesterday for the press preview of the major new London Harry Potter attraction. And – excuse the cliché – it was magical

It was an obvious idea. For eight movies SFX was invited onto the sets of each successive Harry Potter film, and they were always among the most enjoyable set visits we had the pleasure to go on. Because set visits, as exciting as they may sound, can be a bit dull. Film shoots are often a slow, repetitive affair, and the sets themselves – being transitory by their very nature – can be a bit disappointing and flimsy in the flesh (especially in these days of green screen extensions).

But Potter was always different. There were standing sets that were used for multiple Potter movies which could afford to be more substantial and detailed. Even some the one-off sets were awesome – walking into the Victorian elegance Ministry of Magic for the first time was a moment we’ll never forget. Going on the Potter set was almost like being invited to the biggest fantasy playground ever. But it wasn’t just the sets. The various design departments would always be Aladdin’s caves of animatronic creatures, beautifully-crafted prosthetics, intricate props and gorgeous preproduction designs.

You couldn’t help thinking that it was an experience wasted on mere journalists, and made you think (and even suggest*), “You know what, when the films end, this would make a brilliant tourist attraction.”

(* Not that we’re claiming any credit – as, we said at the start, the idea was obvious .)

And that’s exactly what we’ve now got.

Click below to play sneak peek video of the Tour…

[VAMS id="12s81O4C8FFt5"]

The Making Of Harry Potter Warners Bros Studio Tour opens on 31 March, and yesterday SFX was invited for a look around. And it was – excuse the cliché – magical.

Kicking off with a couple of short but entertaining films – one spotlighting the filmmakers and fans, the second introduced by the films stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint and containing some great behind-the-scenes footage – the screen then rolls up back to reveal the entrance to The Great Hall and the tour begins.

You go through the doors and you’re actually in the Great Hall itself. Yes, the actual set used in the films. It’s decked out with costumes and props from all eight films, and you find yourself snapping away at every crevice and corner. But this is just the start…

Next, there’s a hangar-like space crammed with set, props, costumes (some of them cleverly animated) and audio visual delights. There’s little rhyme or reason to the layout, but that’s all part of the pick and mix fun: chocolate feasts, ice castles, flying motorbikes, the gates of Hogwarts, the model of the Great Hall ceiling, a display of Potterverse newspapers and magazines, a section of the Ministry of Magic – it’s hard to take it all in. The massive pendulum from Azkaban dominates, but Dumbledore’s multi-tiered office is another of the highlights. Oh and there’s the Weasleys’ kitchen, with touch pad-activated self-chopping knife and self-cleaning pan. Unlike the Great Hall, you can’t wander around these sets (considering the amount of foot traffic the exhibition is likely to get, they clearly wouldn’t survive) but you can get satisfyingly close. You get a sense of how detailed the designs are and the true brilliance of the movies’ craftsmen, and realise that what you saw on screen was the tip of the iceberg.

More on the next page…

There’s a small excursion outside where the triple decker bus from Azkaban is parked alongside a section of Hogwarts’ wooden walkway, both next to Privet Drive. Then you pass the life-size chess pieces from The Philosopher’s Stone , before entering the unbelievably packed creature department packed with dwarf masks, dragons, thestrals, werewolves, mandrakes roots and dementors.

After that it’s a walk up a stunning recreation of Diagon Alley (you’ll want to look in every window) and on into the design department. Here you’ll see some absolutely gorgeous preproduction art, only later to curse the fact that you can’t buy prints of them in the obligatory, overpriced gift shop…which is shame because we pay over the price for them.

The best is saved until last, though, as you walk into chamber holding a simply breathtaking 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts (used in the actual films) which you can walk around to admire from all angles. You’ll be there for ages, “Oh look, Dumbledore’s office… Hagrid’s Hut… the main gates…!” It is a thing of sheer beauty that’s impossible to capture the majesty of in mere photos. Almost worth the entry fee alone.

But just before that obligatory, overpriced gift shop, there’s one final pleasure. Mr Olivander’s wand shop has been repurposed as special tribute to everyone who ever got their names into the credits of the Harry Potter movies. It contains over 4,000, each individually named in honour of each member of the cast and crew, arranged with wonderful randomness so you’ll find Gary Oldman next to a caterer named Bob.

The guides and staff are all well impressively gemmed up with Potter knowledge, extremely friendly, eager to help and to impart information (though whether they’ll remain quite so cheery after thousands of members of the public have stormed the place is the real test). The place is liberally dotted with entertaining little documentaries on video screens and clever little audio visual flourishes (such as a touch sensitive Marauders’ Map). You can even (at an extra charge, of course) leap on a broom in front of a green screen and get yourself superimposed into some flying action from the film (the result are remarkably good).

The tour is a wonderful monument to the film series’ design crew and serves them well. For £28 pounds a ticket, though (£21 for children, family discounts available), whether you think it’s worth the cost really depends on how much you want to make of the exhibition yourself. You could conceivably walk straight through in 20 minutes, giving everything a cursory glance or cursory prod and wonder what all the fuss is about. But if you want to take your time, and immerse yourself in this world, you will be rewarded. For more hyperactive children there may not be quite enough interactive material, and when the public is let in it’s conceivable there may be massive queues for all the interactive bits and bobs that are available. It’s a shame, also, that's there no equivalent of the mini adventure at the Doctor Who Experience .

On the other hand, it’s about 20 times the size of the Doctor Who experience. So if you have any love of the Harry Potter series, or an appreciation of movies design and craft, you will find The Making Of Harry Potter Tour an absolutely absorbing and enchanting experience.

ilm shoots are often a slow, repetitive affair, and the sets themselves – being transitory by their very nature – can be a bit disappointing and flimsy in the flesh (especially in these days of green screen extensions).

But Potter was always different. There were standing sets that were used for multiple Potter movies which could afford to be more substantial and detailed. Even some the one-off sets were awesome – walking into the Victorian elegance Ministry of Magic for the first time was a moment we’ll never forget. Going on the Potter set was was like being invited to the biggest fantasy playground ever. But it wasn’t just the sets. The various design departments would always be Aladdin’s caves of animatronic creatures, beautifully-crafted prosthetics, intricate props and gorgeous preproduction designs.

You couldn’t help thinking that it was an experience wasted on mere journalists, and made you think (and even suggest*), “You know what, when the films end, this would make a brilliant tourist attraction.”

(* Not that we’re claiming any credit – as, we said at the start, the idea was obvious .)

And that’s exactly what we’ve now got.

Click below to play sneak peek video of the Tour…

[VAMS id="12s81O4C8FFt5"]

The Making Of Harry Potter Warners Bros Studio Tour opens on 31 March, and yesterday SFX was invited for a look around. And it was – excuse the cliché – magical.

Kicking off with a couple of short but entertaining films – one spotlighting the filmmakers and fans, the second introduced by the films stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint and containing some great behind-the-scenes footage – the screen then rolls up back to reveal the entrance to The Great Hall and the tour begins.

You go through the doors and you’re actually in the Great Hall itself. Yes, the actual set used in the films. It’s decked out with costumes and props from all eight films, and you find yourself snapping away at every crevice and corner. But this is just the start…

Next, there’s a hangar-like space crammed with set, props, costumes (some of them cleverly animated) and audio visual delights. There’s little rhyme or reason to the layout, but that’s all part of the pick and mix fun: chocolate feasts, ice castles, flying motorbikes, the gates of Hogwarts, the model of the Great Hall ceiling, a display of Potterverse newspapers and magazines, a section of the Ministry of Magic – it’s hard to take it all in. The massive pendulum from Azkaban dominates, but Dumbledore’s multi-tiered office is another of the highlights. Oh and there’s the Weasleys’ kitchen, with touch pad-activated self-chopping knife and self-cleaning pan. Unlike the Great Hall, you can’t wander around these sets (considering the amount of foot traffic the exhibition is likely to get, they clearly wouldn’t survive) but you can get satisfyingly close. You get a sense of how detailed the designs are and the true brilliance of the movies’ craftsmen, and realise that what you saw on screen was the tip of the iceberg.

More on the next page…

There’s a small excursion outside where the triple decker bus from Azkaban is parked alongside a section of Hogwarts’ wooden walkway, both bext to Privet Drive. Then you pass the life-size chess pieces from The Philosopher’s Stone , before entering the unbelievably packed creature department packed with dwarf masks, dragons, thestrals, werewolves, mandrakes roots and dementors.

After that it’s a walk up a stunning recreation of Diagon Alley (you’ll want to look in every window) and on into the design department. Here you’ll see some absolutely gorgeous preproduction art, only later to curse the fact that you can’t buy prints of them in the obligatory, overpriced gift shop…which is shame because we pay over the price for them.

The best is saved until last, though, as you walk into chamber holding a simply breathtaking 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts (used in the actual films) which you can walk around to admire from all angles. You’ll be there for ages, “Oh look, Dumbledore’s office… Hagrid’s Hut… the main gates…!” It is a thing of sheer beauty that’s impossible to capture the majesty of in mere photos. Almost worth the entry fee alone.

But just before that obligatory, overpriced gift shop, there’s one final pleasure. Mr Olivander’s wand shop has been repurposed as special tribute to everyone who ever got their names into the credits of the Harry Potter movies. It contains over 4,000, each individually named in honour of each member of the cast and crew, arranged with wonderful randomness so you’ll find Gary Oldman next to a caterer named Bob.

The guides and staff are all well impressively gemmed up with Potter knowledge, extremely friendly, eager to help and to impart information (though whether they’ll remain quite so cheery after thousands of members of the public have stormed the place is the real test). The place is liberally dotted with entertaining little documentaries on video screens and clever little audio visual flourishes (such as a touch sensitive Marauders’ Map). You can even (at an extra charge, of course) leap on a broom in front of a green screen and get yourself superimposed into some flying action from the film (the result are remarkably good).

The tour is a wonderful monument to the film series’ design crew and serves them well. For £28 pounds a ticket, though (£21 for children, family discounts available), whether you think it’s worth the cost really depends on how much you want to make of the exhibition yourself. You could conceivably walk straight through in 20 minutes, giving everything a cursory glance or cursory prod and wonder what all the fuss is about. But if you want to take your time, and immerse yourself in this world, you will be rewarded. For more hyperactive children there may not be quite enough interactive material, and when the public is let in it’s conceivable there may be massive queues for all the interactive bits and bobs that are available. It’s a shame, also, that's there no equivalent of the mini adventure at the Doctor Who Experience .

On the other hand, it’s about 20 times the size of the Doctor Who experience. So if you have any love of the Harry Potter series, or an appreciation of movies design and craft, you will find The Making Of Harry Potter Tour an absolutely absorbing and enchanting experience.

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