Once upon a time, not very long ago at all there was a bus. It was covered wheel to top in Harry Potter images and had the words Warner Bros. studio Tour London sprawled across it. It had the very important job of picking up passengers and carrying them 15 minutes aways to the Leavesden Studios that hid a magical world.
This magical world was full to the brim of sets and props and behind the scenes secrets of the hugely successful Harry Potter series. When it first came into view it made people feel like they had won the golden ticket to see the inner workings of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Even the foyer had people looking around in awe. The walls were decorated with pictures of the cast and the windows of the souvenir shop looked like they belonged in Diagon Alley.
Now, after picking up all the essential equipment needed for the tour people were ushered into an almost empty room. On the walls were several digital frames that showed promotional posters from all over the world until eventually the story of Harry Potter was shown. It wasn’t until after this that doors were opened and a cinema was revealed and an introduction to the tour was given.
Then the magic started.
Of course it would be rude to ruin the special beginning so we’ll just head on right into the tour. Excitement running very high the people rushed into the Great Hall, children and adults alike. (Fake) Flames were flickering in each flambeaux and each of those were shaped as either a lion, a snake, an eagle or a badger. Magic was in the air even though the ceiling was missing. There were things there that were hard, if not impossible, to see on the screen such as the paintings on the walls and the crest in the fire-place. Robes from all houses were displayed while cutlery and crockery were laid upon the table.
Around the corner the adventure continued. Costumes were displayed, videos played and all the while heads were turning this way and that way in an attempt to lay their eyes on everything in the room. It’s evident that everyone who had a hand in making it were dedicated, the detail is incredible.
Even food which had hardly any screen time at all was lovingly rendered and prepared. This is just a glimpse of why Harry Potter is the most successful film franchise in cinematic history.
Following the path round the people were led to the innards of the castle, on one side was the boy’s dormitory(the girl’s one had never been made) an on the other was the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.
Beside it was the door to a Gringotts Vault. Yet perhaps one of the most impressive things about the studios is what nobody could see. For ten years it was a home away from home for the young cast. They grew up there and worked there and shared so many memories there and now fans and tourists get to see it and have their own memories. The people who work there have the same attitude, they’re not just after a job, they love it. One was an extra in a couple of the films and another had been sorted into Hufflepuff on Pottermore.
Now, it is often the wish for many people to be able to fly and this magical world grants it. Tucked away at the back is a room decked in green and housing three broomsticks. Each person who wishes to give it a go is given a robe to wear and it is sent off on a whistle-stop tour of London and Hogwarts.
After admiring the Burrow’s kitchen, Hagrid’s Hut, the Potions Classroom and Dumbledore’s Office there’s a refreshment area. The first thing they all saw was the towering purple, triple-decker Knightbus. Cutting an impressive figure in the backlot it is a while before the Great Hall style benches are noticed and even longer still before the sign butterbeer enters the conscious. It is here that the bad side of this wonderland is exposed. No matter where anybody goes money is and always will be the most important and everybody started to wish they had brought a packed lunch.
But the sun was shining and they would not let this blight tarnish it any longer. Instead they washed it away with a cup of glorious, golden, sweet, frothy butterbeer. If Felix Felicis was real it would taste like that. Although sickly it is one of the nicest drinks to have been made, it caressed the taste buds with a peculiar goodness.
Beyond this is an odd place with heads in every corner and on shelves, weird specimens encased in glass and limbs strewn across tables.
Again the detail of everything here is astounding the mandrakes move, Hedwig looks around and icky Voldemort looks out through the glass while Charity Burbage hangs above, forever tortured. Then it’s on to Diagon Alley which is amazing but after this is an odd white world of the art department. Everything is in miniature and the drawings are so intricate it’s hard to make sense of them.
Yet it is around the corner that most of the magic resides. What everyone sees is absolutely captivating, it catches breath and it is overwhelming, utterly overwhelming. Some people even teared up. Around the corner is the to-scale model of Hogwarts Castle.
It is this model that truly highlights the dedication. The boathouse has ivy, several areas are based on different British buildings, the lighting is set to go from dawn to night and if someone was to look through a window they would see the room as it was supposed to be as the interior was decorated too.
After a wonderful experience it’s time to exit but not before honouring everyone who has taken part in the films. There is a room that is stacked floor to ceiling full of wand boxes and on each of them is written a name of a person who has been a part of the franchise, there are about 4,000. Projected onto one of the walls are the words that J.K Rowling used to say goodbye to Harry in July: ‘Whether you come back by page or by screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.’
It does feel like home, because the most wonderful thing of all is that this place that has been on the screen for so many years might be all new and exciting but it is also very familiar. Many years ago children were introduced to Hogwarts and the wizarding world and waited for their Hogwart’s Letter and now, finally, they can go. They might be older but their desire has come true, they get to be in the world they’ve loved for so long. They don’t need to look into the mirror any more.
The exit leads to the gift shop, which is also decorated with original props. It is like the Room of Lost Things, so much piled everywhere from a Firebolt broomstick to magnets of each house crest.
Although it is vast and cavernous and the tickets may seem endless when they go on sale, they must be booked in advance. They will be snatched up quicker than Usain Bolt can run 100m or Viktor Krum can catch a snitch.
Unfortunately it came to an end, but next week the adventure happens all over again but with a red carpet thrown in. For now though it’s time for the bus to come back and for the people to live happily ever after.