Harry Potter Studio Tour – Emma’s Fabric Studio ‘Creative Outing’!
Posted on 18 April 2012
Yesterday I went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Leavesden Studios, just north of London. I took my sister with me and classed it as an Emma's Fabric Studio 'Creative Outing'! Wow, we didn't expect to be there for five hours and to have been engrossed every single moment of our time there. I'm going again in June and I cannot wait to go back. So, if you have a trip booked and don't want the details then please don't read this post, leave it as a surprise. If you want the details, here they are:
We arrived late and were panicking... we shouldn't have worried. You go through in a group of about 150 through to 3 different areas (make sure you view the Cupboard Under The Stairs as you queue up to go in!). After this, you are free to mingle with the other people and do as you wish. This 'phased' approach meant we went through in manageable groups, first to a room of our own, secondly to a luxurious cinema with lovely leather seats and then to the Great Hall.... and what a great Hall it was! Here you will find a really big space with tables to the sides and of course an open ceiling. You'll find out the secrets of the floating candles, you'll realise the stone floor is indeed stone and you will be able to see the Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff uniforms on manequins. At the end of the room you'll see the Professors, the House Point counter and Dumbledore's podium. Whilst there are ropes across, you can easily get great pictures, which are positively encouraged by the staff.
After we left the Great Hall, you were then free to meander through the various parts of the Studio tour. We looked at props and costumes that were used as part of the Yule Ball, wigs/masks/clothing that were used throughout. I started to realise I needed to focus this blog post a little bit on the costumes and the fabrics, so I took many images of things like Ron's Yule Ball home made outfit, Luna Lovegood's outfit and shoes and the Beauxbatons outfits and hats (with wooden mould!):
After this we moved onto various sets, the Gryffindor common room and boys dormitory where I found the most fabulous home made knitted patchwork blanket on Ron's bed (another Mrs Weasley item to be treasured!):
Throughout this tour, every detail was amazing, every single thing you see on screen had been made to perfection, as required for the scene. The knitted patchwork blanket was pulled together with a darker yarn which really gave it a home made feel and put together out of whatever colour wool was to hand! The walls of the Gryffindor common room were somehow decorated with this fascinating tapestry type heavy fabric. I couldn't touch it of course, but this is what it looked like:
The Guide Book states that the Set Decoration Department chose tapestries for a medieval look with prominent use of scarlet and gold which are the Gryffindor colours.
Whilst I said everything was done to perfection, I didn't necessarily mean that every piece was indeed leather bound, silver, gold or real brick and stone. Some things, like the books in Dumbledore's office were the poshest 'bodge job' I've ever seen. They are phone directories, leather bound!
For info, the lighting differed throughout the tour and I found it really difficult to get good images of everything which is where my official guide book comes in handy, but the photos in this blog are my own. I only took my compact digital camera and realised lots of people took their SLRs, so next time I'm taking the big guns with me! We looked at the Potions classroom and got a great understanding of how they developed all the jars and what was in them. Such effort went into every single one of them. The same with Hagrid's Hut, which was small, dark and cluttered (there were two different versions of this set depending on what the crew were trying to achieve with the scene they were shooting):
We looked at all the green screen work and avoided the queue to be photographed riding on a broomstick. Whilst it looked fab, my sister and I decided to move onto the Ministry of Magic (we were both a bit dishevelled after getting caught in the rain, didn't want our photos taken!). When I say there was a queue, we're not talking Alton Towers at the height of summer... no no no... everything flowed really well because of course you are introduced to the tour in large groups of about 150, which paces things. There are however loads of people using the audio tours who seemed to linger for ages and were in worlds of their own. And naturally there were a few boisterous children but on the whole both the children and the adults were totally transfixed.
We moved onto the Ministry of Magic and learned how things were done and how the porcelain looking tiles were in fact wood covered in a special coating and shaded to look more 'tile' like. It was such an impressive sight, as was Umbridge's office and various costumes, a bit like being slapped in the face by a big pink ball of bubblegum and sickly sweet as was her horrid character!
I must mention The Burrow, the Weasley's house. It was amazing, with an iron that controlled itself and knitting that knitted itself, my idea of a fabulous invention!
We finished this huge section of sets by walking around the amazing Ministry of Magic sculpture, looking at the Malfoy family and Death Eater outfits and reading some letters and Quibbler editions. Once you leave this part you cannot re-enter it, you then move on to the Back Lot and the next indoor section:
By this point, Lucy and I had taken in so much information that we realised we'd been in a relatively small area for a couple of hours and needed a drink, so off we went for a Butterbeer. We were advised Butterbeer tastes likes butterscotch and shortbread, but we only ordered one to share, topped with cream. Wow... sugary and nice, but it then got a little sickly. The food and drink weren't vastly overpriced like many other places are. A sandwich was about £2.95. Better than the £6.00 I paid in Dublin at the Guinness Factory! We looked at the outdoor sets and large props and then made our way through the creature area. The detail on Hagrid's face was unbelievable, check out the thread veins if you go, and the pores too. Poor old Dobby was there. I swear my sister wanted to chuck her sock at him, revive him and take him home. Throughout this part of the tour one of my favourite people, Warwick Davis, was doing some of the TV presentations which were great to watch.
And then onto the much anticipated Diagon Alley, which was a little smaller than expected but the detail, again, that was in these sets was incredible. We actually only saw the outside shop fronts, we couldn't go in. Gringotts was there too. It was a relatively short (in length) set so I found it really hard to take photos, this was the best I got:
After moving through to look at architectural drawings (mind bogglingly amazing) and white card models, we then went through a gallery and ultimately onto the end of the tour, which was the most spectacular. As we walked round the corner I kept hearing gasps and 'wow' noises. It was a large scale model of Hogwarts with the most intricate detail. I had seen the images of the model in the newspapers in the weeks before the tour opened, but it was more spectacular in real life. My photos don't really do it justice, but take time to look round this entire model, it's well worth a second look!
Now, I do apologise to the 'Couple in the Photo' but so many people were taking these photos it was impossible for me to take one without people. Plus, they add perspective to the size of the model!
All in all, a truly fabulous experience, good value, good facilities whilst we were there. The shop was expensive, but we expected that didn't we?! The staff were excellent and so helpful and enthusiastic. I definitely want to do some sort of dressing up when I go again in June, not the full monty but maybe we'll all get Gryffindor ties or something. There were lots of people in costume, mainly under the age of ten...
I'm off to re-start Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - toodle pip and goodnight!