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.
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.
The Great Hall
Luna Lovegood’s costumes
Fleur Delacour’s costume
Harry’s jacket from the last movie in increasing states of disrepair
The wall of decrees
The gates of Hogwarts
The Gryffindor boys’ dormitory
The Fat Lady
The Gryffindor Common Room
The invisibility cloak
Various props. Look closely!
The Goblet of Fire
Dumbledore’s office (Ryan’s favorite set)
The Potions classroom
Info on every animal actor
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.
Green screen magic
Doors, stairs, and chests, all which actually moved mechanically on their own
Death Eater masks and costumes
The Ministry of Magic
Crystals from the Crystal Cave
The Knight Bus
The Ford Anglia
Tom Riddle’s father’s grave
Giant Wizard’s Chess pieces
Creature Effects Department
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.
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.
What an incredible tour. We’re figuring out how to live there without anyone noticing.
More adventures in London next time!