Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter in Watford London is an amazing experience and I would recommend it to everyone, particularly all of you Potterheads out there!
You can book the tickets via their official website. Be aware that the studio tour can sell out months in advance, so I would try and book early to ensure you get the date and time you most want.
The process to book is quite straightforward, taking you through step-by-step; selecting the number of tickets you want before going through and selecting a date and time. The dates that are fully booked are greyed out and the unavailable times do not appear. I would suggest booking a time earlier in the day so you can have about three hours to enjoy the tour. The tour itself is fully accessible. If you have a disability and require a particular ticket, you can either choose to book online or over the phone. Online, you select the number of people who are going in your party, minus a ticket for your carer. Once you have done this, you finalise your booking and you will be sent a follow-up email, confirming the details and reference number of your booking. You then need to phone the studios, give them your reference number and ask them to add a carer to your booking. You may be waiting anywhere between 10 and 50 minutes while trying to get through to the studios.
If you prefer not to use the booking system online, you can phone the studios and book with them. The wait time is a similar duration and predators will assume you know the date and time you wish to go,so I would just check the available dates and times online before you phone them.
One of the requirements the tour askes to complete is on the day before the tour you need to ring the number noted on the email. After supplying them with your reference number, you need to book specific assistance with them depending on your degree of disability and how that might affect you throughout the tour and attraction. Make sure to be completely honest in every bit of support you may need throughout the tour so you can have the most enjoyable experience possible.
I do admit you can be on hold for a long time so I would advise putting a great amount of time aside to make this phone call just in case. The attraction will send regular automated email reminders to you to ensure you phone up to sort everything out. To verify your booking, you will be asked to bring your reference number and proof of disability with you on the day.
As well as booking all of the assistance you require, I will take this opportunity to draw disabled visitors’ attention to the ‘Changing Places’ facility the attraction has for those disabled visitors who cannot transfer independently or have any other complex issues. When calling the attraction to pre-arrange everything, be sure to check whether the facility is in working order, it is better to be prepared.
Full review can be seen here
THE BEGINNING OF THE TOUR
The start of the tour was extremely engaging. Everyone who worked there was organised, polite and helpful as we were guided through a queue towards the cinema screenings. Upon entering the first room, we were greeted by some people in their house colours (on-screen of course) and some familiar faces! This set the tone of the whole studio tour and was very interactive. I don’t know how you will feel when watching these mini videos, but it made me feel all the more excited for the tour to begin.
After this, you move on to a second screening… Again, it’s all very emotional! You’re told that all the sets featured in the studio tour are the actual sets from the Harry Potter films. They’re not replicas!
There is a surprise at the end, and if it’s your birthday (pre-covid times perhaps) you might be offered to do something extra cool! You find yourself in the Great Hall set – the real thing! – so enjoy this. There are costumes to see and special effects to experience. All the teachers at the high table.
SETS AND INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCES
Throughout the whole tour, you can see the sets and speak to staff members if you have any questions.
As you explore the sets, I would make the most of every minute, taking it all in as the detail is so rich and you feel like you’re actually there. It’s a shame you can’t go into the sets themselves.
The first item you will come across when you step outside the great hall will be a number of information boards, based on the different directors that took part in bringing the Harry Potter wizarding world to life. Personally, as a media student, I love reading about all of these roles and the extent of their involvement in all of the films. I think there is a lot of talent in these teams and they go unnoticed when fans look at the bigger picture as the films play out in front of you. My advice here is taking time to slow down and read about the backstage team, it may allow you to appreciate the quality of the films even more than you did before. Those interested in working in the film industry may find it beneficial to read about these roles as it’s something you may want to pursue in the future.
SMALL SETS AND PROPS
Moving around the tour, you will come across a number of small sets and props that were featured in the Harry Potter films. I think that it is a good thing to feature the smallest sets and props within the tour to allow you to get a feel for everything and allow the Harry Potter world to form around you as you look around.
One of the smaller props that I found very insightful is the wand display case. Here, staff are more than happy to answer any questions and give you in-depth information about wand craftsmanship and there are also videos around the sets giving more in-depth information into their creation.
Moving around the exhibition hall, you will see a number of bigger sets which are regularly featured in the Harry Potter films. Here, you might be able to identify exact scenes that were filmed in them – especially in the Return to Hogwarts Reunion!
As well as the smaller sets where I was able to appreciate the detail and the craftsmanship, I enjoyed immersing myself in bigger sets such as the Ministry of Magic. One of my favourite sets was Dumbledore’s office and how you could actually step inside it. This was not possible with some of the other sets. It felt so surreal to actually be standing in these. I just keep thinking how much time and effort it takes film crews to design and build these kinds of sets to be featured only briefly.
There are a number of interactive experiences which I strongly suggest you get involved in. I would particularly recommend the wand classes and acting out the scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where you summon the broom.
Unfortunately, I cannot comment on riding a broomstick on a green screen as I was unable to get out of my chair to climb onto the broomstick. However, there were many more things I could get involved with meaning I didn’t miss out!
One of the largest sets on the tour is the Forbidden Forest. Behind the Hogwarts Gates topped with the winged boars, the tour has a ‘Forbidden Forest’ section. I’m not joking, when it was first added to the tour I was apprehensive and refused to go in as from the outside it was dreadfully eary. As we all know on the edge of the Hogwarts grounds is the Forbidden Forest and the Forbidden Forest is home to the most dangerous creatures wizard kind knows and the eary feel of this part of the tour adds to the atmosphere.
Walking through the set you will see some of the iconic creatures found in the forest. Personally, I am not a big fan of spiders and thought it was wonderful to look at this set, I found it distasteful and off-putting. Funds who I have spoken to about this part of the tour say that the Forbidden Forest a weak addition to the tour and though I had to see myself, I really do agree; this set was a real disappointment and there are many more sets which are so much better, so wonderful in comparison.
The scene at the end of the tunnel following the Forbidden Forest that will truly stun you into silence. Emerging from a billow of smoke you will see the model of the Hogwarts Express. Hearing the Hogwarts anthem and the blare of a train horn and seeing the Hogwarts Express stretches far and wide is surreal. For a moment you may be too stunned to move but once you’ve snapped out of your trance, you will be able to admire the train and its many carriages up close and take as many photos as you want. You will be able to pose on the train and take some photos to help remember your day! People can board and walk along the train. Unfortunately there wasn’t an accessible carriage within the train so I wasn’t able to board it myself but I was able to pose by one of the trollies and pretend I was pushing them through to platform 9 and ¾. It was a great photo opportunity and one which I will keep!
Leaving platform 9 3/4 you will follow a new passage through into a small cafe which is at the halfway point of the tour. Personally, I found the cafe to be somewhat of a disappointment, there are sandwiches, cakes and some hot food there to have or you can bring your own, but there is very little effort put into this cafe to allow it to fit into the Harry Potter universe. There is only the chance to get a Butterbeer, however, expect to have to wait in a long queue as the drink is very popular! You have to decide whether it’s worth it or not and you have to determine for yourself whether you like the taste.
As well as the interior sets and props, there are a number of sets and props you can find outside such as no.4 Privet Drive and the Hogwarts bridge. My friend had fun going on the Hogwarts bridge and being able to sit on Sirus’s bike which was also part of the exterior sets but I couldn’t convince her to go into the Ford Anglia. The tour is always expanding and there is a new set being built next to Privet Drive.
Upon entering the Creature Shop, you will see a range of models of creatures all featured in the Harry Potter films. Around the room you will notice videos playing on a loop, featuring heads of the creature departments talking about their responsibilities in the creation process of how they made creatures, sculptures and everything animatronic for the eight films. I was quite impressed by the details featured and never even started to consider the amount of time and effort filming these magical creatures and animatronic sets
GRINGOTTS AND DIAGON ALLEY
The Gringotts bank is a new addition to the tour which makes a play for my favourite part of it, next to the Hogwarts Express. It is so vast and looks brand new and I was just taken aback by the surrealness of it all. It is split over three to four rooms, meaning there is a lot to experience – there is a cool surprise at the end!
Diagon Alley is also an iconic set which I enjoyed walking down with the individual shops which I long to explore. Unfortunately these are not open to the public. Again, it was so surreal, and I admire the amount of work and dedication that went into creating the sets of these shops even though not all of them were featured in detail in the films.
ARCHITECTURE & MODELS OF SETS
Down another hallway, you will see a great number of architectural drawings, paintings and models of the stunning sets, which are featured at least once in the Harry Potter films. Being able to view these drawings will help you understand and appreciate the significance of the department in the creation of all of the films before the sets can be built, they have to be drawn and designed. Every architectural sketch, painting and model featured in this section of the tour is very rich in detail; at least one will hit you in the chest and make a lasting impression, enjoy them.
GIANT HOGWARTS MODEL
Towards the end of the tour is a special surprise of the giant Hogwarts model. I felt quite emotional. The grandeur of this model is incredible, every single bridge, tower, door and window you see in the films is present; roped off the entire way round to ensure that those on the tour don’t damage the extensive model. Viewing the model in person will surely be the highlight of your tour.
Before you come away, make sure to explore the gift shop and treat yourself to some of the extensive merchandise from your house.
NOTE FROM REVIEWER
I have been to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London several times now and I cannot get enough of it. I plan to return to experience the tour once again. J.K. Rowling has these words for you…
“The stories we love do live in us forever, so whether you come back either by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”