When I decided to move to England for a year to live with Dean, there was one thing I was very excited about. Dean’s home county was Surrey, a.k.a the same county where a young boy with spectacles and an unusually shaped scar began his magical adventure in a muggle world. Yes, I’m talking about Harry Potter. What I didn’t know at the time of moving to England was that before I left I’d actually get a chance to experience the making of Harry Potter, in the flesh.
I’ve lived a pretty interesting life, and been to lots of interesting places, but I’ve never seen it snow before. Over the years I’ve seen hail, sleet and frost, but snow has always eluded me. When I was a child, the vivid descriptions of Hogwarts around Christmas time sustained my imagination as I sweated through Christmas in Australia. But given the chance, and knowing that snow wasn’t coming to Surrey this year, I decided to go and see Hogwarts in the snow myself.
The destination was Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London, specifically the Making Of Harry Potter. We’d been thinking about attending for a few months, but work and other plans (mostly hiking to be honest) kept getting in the way. Then I heard about Hogwarts In The Snow, a chance to actually see some of the sets from the films, including the Great Hall all decked out for Christmas, and the model of the Hogwarts castle and ground covered in a fresh coating of snow. I couldn’t pass it up.
So we booked our tickets, hopped a few trains, and ended up at Watford Junction, where we took a shuttle bus to the studio’s location. A short wait in a line and suddenly, we were inside the world of Harry Potter.
In the Great Hall we saw tables heaving with (fake) food ready for a Christmas feast, impeccably presented right down to the piles of peas on the table. There were turkeys and crackers and hams, as well as an entire table of desserts that looked so good I probably could have eaten then, regardless of the fact they were fake. Along with the food were the stunning Christmas trees, the roaring (also fake) fires in the hearths, the wreaths and mannequins dressed up in their Hogwarts finest. As you can see in the background of the above photo, they even had the school house score counter!
In the first section of the Making of Harry Potter we walked through hundreds upon hundreds of sets from the film, from wands to bottles of Skele-Gro. The minds behind the Harry Potter films were really geniuses, and it’s not until you really see how much detail went into each part of the movie that you know to what extent. The sets of Dumbledore’s office, Snape’s dungeon, Hagrid’s hut, the Gryffindor boy’s common room and so many more were all there. Also on display were the many costumes and other props, the portraits of Hogwarts, and even the door from the Chamber of Secrets.
A brief stop outside between the wings of the Making of Harry Potter allowed us to freeze ourselves a little, and also try some Butterbeer, which was probably the most disappointing part of the night for me. In my head, Butterbeer had become something of an elixir, delicious in every respect, almost like a fizzy butterscotch beverage. Unfortunately, it was more like flat cream soda with a frothy head and not much going on for it. Shame. Still the Knight Buss made an appearance in the backlot, as did the spindly Hogwarts bridge.
Then we were onto the next section where we saw how the fantastic creatures and beings of the Harry Potter universe came to life, including the animatronics and the many rubber prosthetics. Then came the ultimate bit, probably the thing I was most excited about for our Making of Harry Potter experience:
The Hogwarts Castle.
It’s kind of hard to explain the amazing feeling of seeing it for real. Mammoth (for a model) and dusted with snow like icing sugar, it dominates the space with the walkway running in a downward spiral around it. For me, it was so amazing to just see the whole thing in one, instead of in sections like it is in the movies. Definitely a mental picture that made reading the books (which I started again as soon as we got home) much more interesting!
Tips For The Making Of Harry Potter
- Tickets: Our tickets cost around £31 each, and that was at the most basic level. It essentially included a walk through of the entire studio, without any booklets, audio guides or tours. I found that it was easy enough to enjoy the displays without an audio guide, but then I didn’t really know what I was missing. Update 2016: I noticed prices are closer to £35+ for the Hogwarts In The Snow experience now.
- Other Costs: Butterbeer was the only additional thing we purchased. It was about £3 a cup, but we weren’t that impressed. To be honest Dean and I could have easily shared one and been just as satisfied. I’d recommend buying one first and then seeing if you like if before purchasing more. Also the shuttle bus to get from Watford Junction Station to the actual studio was £2.5 return, just show your ticket to the studio to get on.
- Camera: There were no limits in shooting in the Making of Harry Potter exhibits, but it was pretty dark. I’d recommend making use of higher ISOs and RAW if you have it.
- Gift Shop: We were so keen to buy something from the gift shop, but it was massively overpriced and definitely not worth it in our eyes. It’s too bad, because we had such a great experience and the exorbitant prices were a real come down! Still, taking out the gift shop the entire experience was absolutely worth doing and highly recommended.