I like the Harry Potter books and films. I’m looking forward to see Fantastic Beasts and where to find them. But up till now, I haven’t visited the studios in Watford. I did visit the exhibition earlier in the year when it came to Brussels, but everyone that has visited the studios has been telling me that this is even more impressive than the exhibition.
From arriving at the Leavesden Warner Brothers studios, you can feel the magic. Since the new “Fantastic Beasts” film is about to release, the costumes were displayed in the entrance hall. Then the queue starts, people are only allowed to enter in a certain amount, this because we were lead to a theatre, and this only had a certain amount of chairs.
Here we get a small film to show us the making of the eight Harry Potter films in a blink of an eye. We were sitting there, seeing the doors on the side and though we’d have to go through them to the next part once the film was done. This was not the case. Once the film ended, we the screen lifted and the door to the great hall is there. This is very impressive!
Here the real tour starts with all the memorabilia and sets. It’s actually very impressive to be dunked into this magic world. It’s really fun to see all the sets, the potions class of Snape for example:
Walking through the many magical objects really gave me the feeling of being at Hogwarts. The first part of the two lots really focusses on all the objects that were collected through the years. There are full sets like the classroom above, Dumbledore’s office, the burrow and the Malfoy scene below.
There are not just the good guys from the films but also the death eaters. One of the best settings they have for this is the set at the Malfoy house.
Moving forward through the ministry of magic and the office of Dolores Umbridge (all that pink and all those cats), we end up in the next room and here we see the Hogwarts express, and there is an opportunity to go through the platform 9 3/4 wall. The train is really impressive. You can even visit the inside where the compartments have been made up in to represent the trips on the train through the many years.
After the train, you enter the backlot area with the café to start. Here is the midway refreshment spot, this means butterbeer everyone. How to describe this, well it’s fizzy with whipped cream and tastes a bit caramelly. You really have to try it if you visit cause description doesn’t do it honour.
We were halfway now, well it seems halfway but really is over the half. Now we had to get outside to get to the second part, the second building. Luckily it just started to drizzle, I say luckily because it had been pouring down all day. Outside are some of the bigger things like the Night Bus, Privet Drive n°4, the house at Godric’s hollow, Chess pieces of Wizard Chess, the Hogwarts bridge, and you can even sit on/in Hagrid’s bike and the Weasley’s Ford Anglia.
After this, it’s time for prosthetics, robotics and animations. Oh My God, seeing Buckbeak move is really moving. Next, we end up at Diagon Alley. If you haven’t been there you can’t imagine how it feels to stand on those cobbled stones and seeing all the details. It really feels like that first time Hagrid took Harry shopping there.
The tour is almost over after this. The concept art department is next. Honestly, I would like some of these artworks as prints to display in my place. It’s really nice to see how the designers went from book to complete sets. Only two more rooms to go now.
Only two more rooms to go now. The first one is the magnificent model of Hogwarts, and really everyone should just go to see this. To see the school grounds in its entirety and all the details that have been put into it. Last room , before the obligatory tour shop, is the wand room. It’s a room set up as Ollivander’s with so many wands you’d be surprised. Actually here are wand boxes for each and every actor, crew or participant on the films. There are so many. You really need to take your time here, look for all your favorite actors. If you can’t find them, there is an attendant who either knows them by heart or has a handy binder to look them up.
We had ordered a bus journey together with our entrance tickets, so we didn’t have to take the Train to Watford Junction and the bus to the studios. On the one side, this seems easier because you only need to get to Victoria station in London and then relax. On the other hand, they only have a 3.5 hours time window in which you need to visit the studios and this is just a little short if you really want to see and experience everything. It was too short for us and we didn’t even do the “fly a broomstick” adventure or any of the other photo opportunities there are. So if you really like to take your time, it’s better to take the train.