A mid-term inset day doubles as a great excuse for a day out and one-to-one mother-daughter time. After a hectic first few weeks at secondary school, it was a welcome day off too.
Having booked the Harry Potter Studio Tour well in advance, we set off towards Watford after dropping the other two at school. Be warned, the sat nav doesn’t seem to recognise either the postcode or the street, so we had to head for Leavesden and hope that we would see some brown signs for the Studio’s once we got nearer.
The pre-tour email advised us to get there at least 20 minutes before our allocated time. We arrived half an hour early and by the time we got our digital guide (which I paid an extra £5 for, but thought it would be useful) and queued up, we had timed it just about right.
The first stage of the tour finds you in a cinema, where you are shown a short film of Daniel, Emma and Rupert talking about their time during the ten years of filming. The cast spent most of their days at the studios in Leavesden, even being educated there and came to think of it as a kind of home from home with an extended family.
Next you go through the doors and into the great hall – an impressive full-size hall, complete with Yorkshire stone tiled floors and real fire place. We spent time admiring the displays of House uniforms, as worn by the cast at various stages of their lives, before moving on to begin the rest of the tour.
This was where the digital guide came in handy. It takes you round each set of displays and gives you information and short films to go with it. I let my daughter use the guide, as she is the Harry Potter fan and watched as she absorbed all the information. One thing that is quite clear very quickly, is the level of detail that went in to making the sets and the props. This includes painted portraits, hand written books and wand labels, animatronics and a whole host of special effects. The Harry Potter films are a real testimony to the talent of the British film industry.
After working our way around the boys dormitory and common room, Hargid’s hut, Dumbledore’s office, the potion room and many other scenes from each film, along with admiring the many props, we queued to get a photo on a flying broom.
Then it was on to the train station, with real platform and full size train and outside to see the Knights Bus and the houses at Privet Drive. We had a much needed pit stop at this point, including sampling Butter Beer and then the final stretch of the tour involved costumes, makeup and animatronics, plus a walk through Diagon Alley, leading in to a room containing a huge glass-enclosed model of Hogwarts and a gallery of portraits painted by the artists who worked on the films.
Of course, you finish the tour in the shop! And you should think about saving up to make sure you can afford something in here: I bought my daughter a wand and didn’t get much change out of 30 quid. It is lovely though and definitely a keep-sake item, not a toy.
We had to get on the M25 before 3pm, as being a Friday if you leave it any later, you will regret it. That gave us just enough time to go around everything, although I’m sure my daughter would have loved to stay longer. We were told the longest someone has spent looking around the studios was 13 hours, so to do it all in four wasn’t bad going.
Here’s the confession time: I haven’t read or watched any of the Harry Potter books or films!! However, I can honestly say that even though I only had a vague idea of what everything was, I still had a great time. It’s a very impressive museum, well laid out, full of interesting information about film making in general. I feel that I need to watch the films now though, so I can see where and how all that attention to detail came together.