Okay, so it’s been another few days between blogs, but that is because I haven’t done too much. My days have pretty much consisted of lying down at Tim and Helen’s and watching television and reading books and hobbling around Shepherd’s Bush just for 20 minute stretches and this is because my legs are still really freaking painful. Sean came back from Germany on Monday after a brilliant weekend at Volksfest in Nuremberg and I’m really glad he got to do that, because it sounded like he had a brilliant time. Volksfest is a beer drinking festival, which makes me glad I didn’t go, because there would have been very little for me to do! Anyway, yesterday we had to actually get up and out of the house because we had booked a tour for the Warner Brothers Studio Tour of the HARRY POTTER FILM SETS!! It was pretttttttty exciting. We took the train and then a big Harry-themed shuttle bus out to Leavesden. It was packed. You walk into a giant foyer with enormous prints of all different characters around the side of the wall. I had paid for a digital guide, so I collected it and promptly realised while they call it a ‘digital’ guide instead of an ‘audio’ guide. It’s an iPod touch, filled with stacks and stacks of photo galleries and audio tracks and short films and visitor’s information, covering everything you could possibly want to know while you are there, from how they trained the animals, to the costumes designer’s sketches for the Yule Ball, to where the toilets are and the souvenir shop.
After lining up for ages, you enter a room where they show you a short film about the producers and the development of the films and how they swept the world. Then you get led into a cinema, where they show you another short film featuring the three main actors and their stories of ‘growing up’ in the studios. It is full of scripted cheesiness and I loved every second of it. And then, AND THEN, the curtain rises and you see the doors to the Great Hall. You enter through these and then you are there. The Great Hall. Where it all began. I nearly wet myself. All throughout the hall (and the rest of the exhibition) there are mannequins wearing the actual costumes used in the films. The actual props adorn the actual sets and the floor of the Great Hall is made from actual stone. Such. A. Cool. Place. For anyone thinking of going (and I highly recommend it to you all), make sure you book a relatively early time. Bearing in mind it takes a while to get to Leavesden, I would book a tour before midday. We booked ours for 4pm and the place closes at 7.30. It’s not long enough. Not if you want to see everything, read every placard, watch everything playing on every screen, do the Quidditch photo op, watch each and every item on your digital guide and have time to look in the souvenir shop. It is easily and definitely worth your money, but if you are one of those people who needs to go through it slowly and thoroughly, you will need a long time. Once you head out of the Great Hall, you go through a giant room with all the interior sets (it used to be an aircraft hangar, that should give you an idea of the size of this room). We saw make-up and costume stations, the Hogwarts gates, the Yule Ball table dressings, the Gryffindor boy’s dormitory, the Gryffindor Common Room, the Mirror of Erised, the Fat Lady’s portrait, all the featured character’s wands, props from Lupin’s classroom, not to mention an enormous cage filled with props and set pieces from all eight films (including brooms, books, suits of armour, chandeliers, Horcruxes, the Time Turner, the Deluminator – pretty much any prop you can think of was available to see). We then continued on and saw Dumbledore’s office (one of my favourite and most detailed sets), the Potion’s classroom, the Burrow, the Portrait Wall, Hagrid’s Hut, the animal training station, huge doors including the ones to the Chamber of Secrets, the vault in Gringotts and Hogwarts Castle itself, Mad-Eye Moody’s chests, the Gringotts vault mobile thingy, Sirius’s flying motorbike and plenty of Quidditch props and brooms. We saw the Triwizard Cup, the Golden Egg, and the Goblet of Fire. We saw sets of the Ministry of Magic atrium, Umbridge’s Office, the Magic is Might statue, and the Vanishing Cabinet. There was also an enormous set of shelves with issues of the Quibbler and the Daily Prophet, all manner of textbooks and Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes products, even the letter from Lily Potter to Snape. Also in this section is an opportunity to get a photo on a broom. It’s all against a greenscreen and they really make it look like you’re flying and all. But we couldn’t do that bit. Sad face 😦
Once you finish in this epic hangar of Potter-awesomeness, you head out to the backlot where they have more big pieces of set/props, including ones you can actually sit in eg the Ford Anglia, Hagrid’s motorbike and the Knight Bus. They also have number 4 Privet Drive, the house at Godric’s Hollow, a huge piece of Hogwarts Bridge, Tom Riddle’s gravestone and the giant chess pieces. Also…they sell Butterbeer!! We had to buy some, even though it was too sweet to even finish a cup (I think it may have been creaming soda…with cream…). Once we mined the backlot for every photo op possible, we headed back inside and went through the model rooms. This is where they created all the masks for the goblins, all the animatronics and movable things, as well as all the models for the special effects. So (get ready for another list), we saw Inferi, the Death Eater model that the DA used for practice, Bathilda Bagshot, Fenrir Greyback, mermaids, werewolves, Dobby, Robbie Coltrane’s animatronic face for his size double (creepy), dead Voldemort baby thing from King’s Cross (creepier), Hedwig, the Monster Book of Monsters, all the models of people’s bodies for when they were dead/cursed/underwater, Aunt Marge blown up, Charity Burbage, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail, Thestrals, Buckbeak, and giant spiders among a million other things. There was an informative short film playing with some of the people in charge of making these models, with Warwick Davis who played various roles. Then, onto the final part of the set displays – Diagon Alley. You walk up the cobbled street between the shopfronts that you’ve read about and seen on the screen and a piddly little camera simply cannot do it justice. But seeing all these places, dressed to look just perfect, makes you feel happier than ever that you’ve read the books and seen the films. Ugh. Harry Potter is the best thing ever. EVER. Anyway, once you’re out of Diagon Alley, you head through some rooms with some really stunning art on the walls. There are not just sketches, but full-blown, enormous paintings and sculptures that were used while developing concepts for sketches. The exhibition finishes with an enormous, ENORMOUS model of Hogwarts. It’s filled with fibre-optic lights and real stone and all manner of things that make the detail simply extraordinary. Again, there is no way to possibly do this justice with a camera, so you’ll all simply have to visit yourselves. Cool. I didn’t buy anything from the shop, amazingly, but I have a souvenir guidebook that I paid for with my ticket to remember it by, as well as about 4 million photos, which are now on Facebook. Enjoy!!