A Muggle among Wizards

Whether you are a die-hard fan or not, you will be spellbound by the Warner Brothers’ Tour of the Harry Potter Studios.

The studios and backlot sit on the site of the former Rolls-Royce factory at Leavesden Aerodrome, located 18 miles outside of London.  The tour covers  approximately 500,000 sq ft  of stage and production space, along with an extensive 80-acre backlot.  Here, the Harry Potter sets, props, costumes, makeup and prosthetics are all beautifully displayed and preserved for the public.  In an introductory film, Daniel Radcliffe explains that this place was literally his “home” for the better part of 10 years.

The studios are universal in their appeal, much like the books.  We stood in line with people of every nationality and age, ranging from senior citizens to toddlers… with a few fans in robes, glasses, and striped scarves thrown into the mix!

We first entered through the Great Hall of Hogwarts which reminded me of my many visits to Gothic churches throughout England.  It resembled the famous Westminster Hall of Parliament that I had just walked through last week.  In fact, it was the Christ Church College in Oxford that was its inspiration.

From there we meandered past the Boys Dormitory and Common Rooms in Gryffindor, noticing the tapestries and oil paintings custom made for the film.  The attention to detail and authenticity was amazing:  frayed oriental carpets, worn velvet “squishy” chairs, oil paintings reminiscent of the 16th century masters.  I felt like I had walked into one of the many old homes on the English Heritage tours.

There were too many sets and props to list, but highlights included Dumbledore’s Office, the Potions Classroom, and the Ministry of Magic.  Or course, all the wands and broomsticks were displayed, and if you were willing to wait about an hour in line, you could “fly” on a Nimbus Two Thousand and play a round of Quidditch.

We posed in front of the “cupboard beneath the stairs” and the house at 4 Privet Drive.  We took a seat on the 22 foot tall “Knight Bus”, created from pieces of three vintage London double-deckers.  We walked along Diagon Alley, an amazing compilation of unique stores whose designs were inspired by Charles Dickens’ vivid descriptions 19th century London streets.

Katie stopped for a Butterbeer, the common drink at the Leaky Cauldron.  I liked this caramel flavored concoction with a foamy head of vanilla ice cream much better than the bitter ales at our local pub!

It was fascinating to visit the Creature Shop and see all the prosthetic heads of the Gringotts Gremlins and the many magical creatures who inhabit the films.  Entertaining videos explained the clever robotics behind the remote controlled creations.  It literally takes thousands of artists to envision, draw, draft, graph, mold, sculpt, model, make-up, paint, construct, empower, and control these creatures.  Amazing.

We stood in awe of the enormous model of Hogwarts and learned how small “lipstick” cameras were used to scan the model against a green screen that created “reality” in post-production.  I was completely entranced by the technology of all the visual effects.

I literally felt like a Muggle among Wizards.

Ultimately, the experience is a celebration of the true wizards in the Harry Potter movies.  They are not the actors waving wands, but the countless people behind the scenes who brought the magic to life.

It is impossible not to feel bewitched.

 

 

 

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