*****WARNING – PHOTO HEAVY POST*****
It is no secret that the UK and a large portion of the World love Harry Potter. The books, films, merchandise rake in billions every year, quite rightly in my opinion.
I first read the books as my girls were growing up, then listening as my Husband read them at Bedtime, taking off all the voices until they were able to read the books for themselves. We watched the films together, laughing and crying until there were no more films to watch.
Of my two girls, Little Chick is far more into the phenomenon. To say she is a Potterhead is no exaggeration. She has the clothes, jewellery, cuddly toys, collectibles and even 2 tattoos. She is even incorporating it into her University Dissertation.
As both my husband and I love the stories, she purchased tickets for our respective birthdays to visit the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford.
Travelling to the studio’s only took just over an hour and we had a little time to kill so popped into a local Harvester and had something to eat, before arriving for our scheduled time. Little Chick had gone all out like the loyal Hufflepuff she is; Hogwarts Dress, Hufflepuff cardigan and knee high socks and various items of jewellery.
We were ushered into a “holding area” where our host, Laura Mc welcomed us to the attraction and ran through a few things. The room was nondescript apart from large screens above us that showed posters and book covers from around the World.
Laura also held a quick “Potter” quiz. Fastest hand raised was asked the answer and points given.
First question, an easy one for starter……
Little Chick threw her hands in the air – Correct five points for Hufflepuff.
Second question – What dragon did Harry Potter pick out for the Goblet of Fire?
Again Little Chick was the fastest. Five more points.
Third question – What are the three unforgivable curses? Correct again.
Fourth question and this is where it got a little harder. What is Dumbledore’s full name?
Little Chick put her hand up, but was beaten to it by another girl, Catelyn who got it correct.
Down to sudden death. Last question. What does “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus”, The Hogwarts motto mean?
Both Girls answered at the same time “NEVER TICKLE A SLEEPING DRAGON!”
They both got rounds of applause and then it was time. We were ushered through a plain brown door which looked a bit dull, if I am honest. However, it was the doors through to the cinema where we all sat down in comfy armchairs, ready to watch a little film. The exit out of the cinema was a set of identical plain brown doors. I was a bit baffled why they hadn’t been a bit more inventive.
The film was fascinating and as it came to a close, I wondered what would be next behind those plain doors.
SCROLL DOWN BELOW THE PHOTOGRAPH TO MISS THE SPOILER
Whilst I was expecting the brown doors to open like before, they didn’t. In fact the whole cinema front lifted up and there, in front of us were the huge doors to The Great Hall! I was speechless and overcome with emotion (I am a soppy sod at the best of times)
Because Caragh and Catelyn had done so well on the quiz, they were ushered forward and given the task of opening the doors, along with a couple on their honeymoon. What a wonderful opportunity!
We walked through the doors into the Great Hall. The long tables were laid out with plates and cutlery, hogs head carafes and each house was represented. Stone statues of the four house animals were all around, and hand painted murals graced the upper walls, distressed to look old.
Each house had a selection of clothing from specific scenes, and the top tables held mannequins of the teachers, their clothing and also props from the films. It really was as sight to see.
Moving into the next section you could see sets, architecture, costumes and thousands of props. Dumbledores office, the common room, the potions room, Hagrids hut; you name it, you could see it there. The flying car and the vault cart from Gringotts Bank. Brooms, Cauldrons and even more. It was simply wonderful!
Moving along to one of the interactive sections, we were able to don robes and have our photographs taken. Little Chick was Hufflepuff, of course. I got Gryffindor and Leslie, the dreaded Slytherin!
We then went on broomsticks for photographs and a video whilst performing on a green screen. It was great fun and of course we had to purchase some copies.
We stood in front of The Goblet of Fire whose beautiful cabinet magically disappeared in front of us before showing the Goblet. The flames changed colour, meaning a name was about to be cast. Up shot a screwed up bit of paper,a young child picked it up and opened it. It bore the name “Harry Potter”, and her face lit up when she was told she could keep it.
The attendant gave me one too, which I put in my dress pocket only for Little Chick to steal it from me!
Next we came to the Quidditch and Broom riding displays. Of course I had to take even more photographs!
Moving on to Wand classes, Les and Little Chick took part, being shown three moves before putting it all together. Les looked like he was trying to kill Deatheaters; forceful and with meaning. Little Chick however was another story. Delicate and almost balletic, it looked like she was dusting a delicate china cup not killing the bad guys. It was very graceful though.
Now was a new section, The Forbidden Forest! The ground under our feet changed, becoming softer and spongier. Trees, fungi and flora made for a very realistic environment and it was pretty dark. An huge anamatronic version of Buckbeak bowed and genuflected. Mindblowing.
An huge anamatronic version of Buckbeak bowed and genuflected. Mindblowing.
Then we went around the corner and I could see spiderwebs. I knew what was coming, or so I thought! But even I wasn’t prepared and may have said a naughty word or two!
Anyway, I was eager to get out of the forest as soon as possible.
Again moving on, we popped into a gift shop and had a look around before grabbing a bottle of water. Whilst they paid, I walked on ahead. Walking around the corner, the sight left me speechless. There was the bright red shiny Hogwarts Express. Steam billowing from its funnel, right in the middle of Kings Cross.
Luggage trolleys embedded in the wall for the full on experience, we had to take pictures of us all doing it.
Then we entered the train. The carriages were all set up just like in the first film. The Honeydukes sweet trolley was there, along with the frozen windows from when the Dementors turn up. Just Genius.
We then had a change to act on a green screen again, pretending to be in the train carriage. Following the directors commands we acted our way through a scene having more photo’s taken. These were pretty cool and we had to have one.
This meant we were half way through the exhibition now. But there was still so much more to come.
We went into the backlot cafe where you could purchase Butterbeer and also Butterbeer ice-cream. Hubby and I had a goblet of Butterbeer, whilst Little Chick had the ice cream. Whilst it is called Beer, it is alcohol free and very weird tasting. The top foamy section is a little like the cream you get on McDonald’s frappe’s, and the base is a beer/soda weird flavour. Whilst it wasn’t unpleasant, it was a strange concoction. The ice-cream however, was really good.
It was now time to go outside where there was the Knightbus, Privet Drive and also the very rickety bridge. The Ford Anglia and Hagrid’s motorbike and sidecar were also in residence.
Firstly we went on the back of the Knightbus and took numerous photo’s. The shrunken head was visibly present in the front of the three story purple bus.
Then we went into Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s house in Privet Drive. There was a living room full of the Hogwarts acceptance letters. Just so amazing!
We moved onto the bridge. It is really surreal. It is lopsided and rickety and all different angles. You definitely feel like the structure is all over the place, but it is just a miracle of design and engineering.
Then it was time for us all to pose in the flying car and the motorbike and sidecar. Photographs were duly taken and then we moved onto the next studio lot.
This was where we got into the nitty gritty. The first rooms were filled with prosthetic’s, fake limbs, moustaches and so forth. There were phoenix babies and reborn Voldermorts. The attendant in the room, Andrea was amazing!
She asked Littel Chick about her dress and then realised she was talking to a superfan. She donned white gloves and took out some exhibits that were so special. She told us lots of facts and information about some of the exhibits, including a whole fake leg, with veins and toenails and dew on the toes. This was actually a Boot!
Luna Lovegood needed to be barefoot in some scenes which were filmed in real woods and to stop her from hurting her feet, they made a pair of leg boots. Boots that were made to look like her own legs. Freaky as hell, but so clever!
One of the most beautiful things was the Phoenix, Fawkes. It literally was so realistic, that many of the actors thought it was a real bird and had to be told that Phoenix’ are a legendary species that does not exist now.
It was amazing talking to Andrea, and she literally knew SO much about the effects and the props. I could have listened to her for hours and I was sad when we had to move onto the next section. But only for a little while!
Andrea introduced us to George who took us into Diagon Alley. And my mind was Blown.
Wand shops, Owl shops, Joke Shops and more. The pavements were crammed with props, and boards showed everything from the hats used by all the extra’s, to designs for the interiors.
One of my favourite displays was the hat section. Literally scores of hats in different styles and colours. All designed by Philip Treacy. George went on to tell us that the luggage was made by Louis Vuitton, the shoes by Vivienne Westwood and so on. No expense was spared.
One of the favourite shops in the alley is Fred and George Weasley’s. The joke shop with it’s huge girl advertising Puking Pastilles is not one you can forget. Nor is Ollivanders, filled with hundreds of wands, ready for every wizard.
We finally moved on, into the more technical section of the exhibition. This is where all the architectural drawings are. Everything from suits of armour, to bridges, buildings, flying buttresses were mapped out. Then built to scale in paper and cardboard. It is just mind blowing to see the level of details that goes into the drawings, then the actual scale models and then the thing made into reality.
We then went through a Gallery of concept art. These were initial drawings and paintings of various scenes of the books. To get an idea of how a character or scene should look.
The funeral of Dumbledore was heartbreaking. I didn’t think I could become more emotional.
But nothing could have prepared me for what was to come next.
The attendant said, “I know it sounds cheesy, but welcome to Hogwarts”
We walked around the corner, and there laid before us was the most amazing model of Hogwarts and it’s surrounding area. It was massive and so detailed. So, what did I do?
I burst into tears.
Really? A 43 year old woman bursting into tears at a Harry Potter exhibit? Why?
The feeling that came over me was sudden and overwhelming. I was just blown away by the Diorama before me.
But more than that, I was crying for time that has rushed past.
We started reading the books to the girls when they were small, then watched those films, watching the characters grow up on our screens, just as my babies were doing the same.
It literally spelled the end of an era. The end of the film series, and the end of my children’s childhood. They are now women, working and educating themselves. They are no longer my little girls. And that was the main reason I was crying.
At this point Andrea came back to meet us, to see how we had enjoyed the rest of the displays. I could barely speak to her for the emotions running through me. In broken words I tried to tell her just why I was crying.
Thankfully she understood totally, and went on to tell me I was not the first to sob my eyes out at the final exhibit. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I had made a bit of a show of myself.
Sadly, we were then told that the experience was closing in five minutes, so hastened quickly into the final gift shop where we spent a fortune on little bits and pieces for the family. I got a magnet for my collection and a really cute Dobby postcard.
Little Chick got a wand and a huge pink fluffy ball thing with a tiny face, which apparently is called a pygmypuff but I just think of as a pointless waste of time! She loves it though.
We then left the studio’s for our 90 minute drive home. Full of wonders, excitement and an even more renewed love of all things Harry.
All we can say at this point is……
God Bless J. K. Rowling!!!!