Leavesden Studios

The first thing we did upon our return to London was to leave it again, heading outside the city to Abbots Langley, where Leavesden Studios are to be found. The official name of our adventure there was: Warner Brothers Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter, and until an unexpected event two weeks later it would be the shining highlight of our trip already ablaze with shining highlights. If it sounds like our experiences keep getting better and better, that’s because they simply do and we simply can’t help it.

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The tour is comprised of two giant studios named J and K (get it?) with an outdoor backlot in between, and pretty much everything that went into the movies, save the actors themselves, is on display. Sets, costumes, props, concept art, scale models, robotics, and infinitely more are here for your casual perusal. We spent seven hours wandering the wonders, and more than once my jaw actually dropped as we passed into a new room and were confronted by some new icon from the films materializing before our very eyes.

Just a little more gushing before we treat you to the best of the 400+ photos we took. The tour wasn’t anything like an amusement park attraction, which I had feared it might be. Before we entered, I worried we’d get to see maybe a couple sets preserved behind a glass wall, a few displays of costumes and props, and be spit out into a gift shop at the end. Fortunately, I grievously underestimated the scope and purpose of this place. Rather than an attraction, it is a celebration. Everyone who attended, everyone who worked there, and, as became evident as we made our way through, everyone who worked on the films, was a fan first and foremost. We were treated like intelligent humans being let in on the secrets of filmcraft. We walked through the sets themselves, sat in the actual vehicles used in the films, and even after seven hours of exploring, still hadn’t read every paragraph on every sign, seen every prop, or watched every behind-the-scenes clip. It was a wealth of movie magic stacked, heaped, arranged, and explained by the people who very genuinely loved making the films and now had the chance to show us how they did it. All the sets, props, and costumes are endowed with far more detail than anyone would ever notice in the films, from the thousand individually hand-labeled potion bottles to the cameos of crew members in the moving portraits to the dials on Dumbledore’s telescope. It was almost as if they’d planned on eventually showing it all off in a tour from the very start. But I think there was a different reason. Jo Rowling’s magical world is just so fun to create within and inhabit. And for a day we got to inhabit it too. Here’s what we saw.

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The Great Hall

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Luna Lovegood’s costumes

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Fleur Delacour’s costume

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Harry’s jacket from the last movie in increasing states of disrepair

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The wall of decrees

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The gates of Hogwarts

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The Gryffindor boys’ dormitory

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Wands!

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The Fat Lady

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The Gryffindor Common Room

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The invisibility cloak

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Various props. Look closely!

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The Goblet of Fire

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Dumbledore’s office (Ryan’s favorite set)

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The Pensieve

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The Potions classroom

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Info on every animal actor

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Hagrid’s Hut. This entire set was actually airlifted to the spot we visited in Glencoe! It still smells musty from the rainy weather it experinced up in those hills.

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Green screen magic

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Doors, stairs, and chests, all which actually moved mechanically on their own

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The Burrow

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Death Eater masks and costumes

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Voldemort’s robe

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The Ministry of Magic

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Umbridge’s office

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Crystals from the Crystal Cave

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Graphic design

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Yum, butterbeer!

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The Knight Bus

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Hagrid’s motorbike

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The Ford Anglia

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Tom Riddle’s father’s grave

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Privet Drive

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The Bridge

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Godric’s Hollow

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Giant Wizard’s Chess pieces

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Creature Effects Department

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Diagon Alley

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Paper models

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The grand finale was the scale model of Hogwarts, filmed in all eight films for every exterior shot. It’s much bigger than it looks in these pictures, but every brick was hand painted.

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At the end was a room of wand boxes from floor to ceiling labeled with the name of every person who worked on the films.

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What an incredible tour. We’re figuring out how to live there without anyone noticing.

More adventures in London next time!

-k&r

4 thoughts on “Leavesden Studios

  1. I cannot express enough gratitude for this post. It truly touches my heart that from Jo’s imagination, an entire world was built by people who not only are passionate about their crafts but also passionate about the world of Harry Potter.

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