I'll start this post with a confession: I've only read the first two Harry Potter books. When the Philosopher's Stone blew up the entire country (and eventually the world) in 1997 I was more in to Jacqueline Wilson stories. However, I've really enjoyed all of the movies and when my Aunty was stuck for Christmas present ideas for Ash and myself I was glad I thought to recommend gift tickets for the studio tour. We'd both booked a few days off to celebrate my birthday and redeemed our tickets for today! (If you haven't been to the tour or don't want to see too much, click off now! This is a very photo-heavy post.)
We drove for two and a half hours to Levesden Studios. From when you drive in to the car park you can sense the magic inside - there's huge posters of the films and chess pieces from the wizards chess in the first movie right outside the front door.
|The Cupboard Under The Stairs|
As well as the sets, there were a lot of props which had been moved for display inside the studio, like the door to the Chamber of Secrets, the ice sculptures from the Yule Ball, the Sword of Griffindor and the Philosophers Stone. It was really fascinating seeing it all in the flesh, like a museum. There were even real life Deatheaters.
The visual effects and special effects section was just as fascinating as the sets. So much of the movie was perfectly computer generated and I had no idea. For example, Harry walking in the snow in the grounds of Hogwarts was actually Daniel on a treadmill infront of a green screen. That's proof of how magic the movies really are. I didn't even realise that Hagrid wasn't Robbie Coltrane all the time - it was actually his double, ex-England rugby player Martin Bayfield, who wore a robotic mask of Robbie's face as Hagrid. The producers had decided Coltrane wasn't quite tall enough for the full length shots - after all Hagrid is a half-giant - and that 6ft 10 Bayfield was a better suit. Well, it fooled me!
The outside part of the tour was awesome too! We got ourselves a couple of Butterbeers (wouldn't recommend - tastes like creamy but fizzy coloured soda water, with sugar.. it's weird!) and wandered around the props. There was Tom Riddle's grave, 4 Privet Drive, the Knight Bus, the Weasley's Ford Anglia, several more chess pieces and my favourite, the Hogwarts Bridge.
The next bit of the tour was hilariously narrated by Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick/Gringott's bank teller/Griphook) on big screens in each room. These rooms shared the secrets of the animatronics and prosthetics. It was bizarre seeing Nearly Headless Nick's head, goblin masks, Fawkes and Dobby. The ones that really blew me away were the scale models of Harry, Dumbledore and other key cast members which were used in physically challenging scenes.
If you check out my Vine (username: Rosie Wollacott), there's a video of the animatronic Hedwig, the Monster Book of Monsters and a mandrake.
Up next were the creatures. On a flipside to earlier, it's incredible to think Buckbeak wasn't completely computer generated. They made a real, working robot for Buckbeak's easier scenes and then just smoothed it out in post-production.
The final part of the tour was just breathtaking. The science behind it was revealed, with architects drawings plastered on the walls and white card models of the sets behind glass. Obviously, we all know Hogwarts isn't real, but watching the films, you just don't question it. We walked into a massive room and before us was, there she was... the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (Well, a 1:24 scale model.) I definitely gasped.
The model took 40 days to construct for the first film. Here's a video from the WB Studio Tour Youtube showing the building of the model.
And, as always, we exited through the gift shop. I would have loved a Gryffindor scarf (£24.95) or some Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (£8.95) but the prices were so steep. Possibly the only negative of the day.
All in all, the Studio Tour was an amazing day out and a complete eye opener into the behind the scenes of the Harry Potter franchise. It took my breath away several times and made me appreciate the magic in a whole new way.
For more information or tickets, visit http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/
All photos taken on a Canon Ixus 95 IS by myself or Ash.