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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Muggle Monday: Harry Potter Studio Tour Recap

It's time for Muggle Monday, in which I highlight something from the Harry Potter world. This is somewhat inspired by the Mundane Monday posts by The Mundie Moms.

But let's be real as to why I made up this feature: I just want the opportunity to post something about Harry Potter.


When I was in London at the beginning of May, I had the great opportunity to finally see the Harry Potter Studio Tour! Or as it is called by its official name: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter. I prefer my name for it though as it is much less of a mouthful.

Anyways, this tour takes place at Leavesden Studios, about an hour outside London, which previously hosted the cast and crew for the filming of the movies, but now is open to the public for visitors to tour the original sets and props. The tour is a bit pricey, but I was so impressed with the actual volume of things you got to see! There are two huge studios to make your way through, filled with props and sets, as well as an outside portion of the tour. I thought I would share a few of my pictures and my experiences for anyone who is interested:

The first big set you get to see is the Great Hall. I WAS SO EXCITED!!

The level of detail that went into every set item is insane. The pictures in this post will show only a very small fraction of what you actually get to see on the tour.

Here, upon glimpsing into the Mirror of Erised with my boyfriend, we see a boy in a stroller next to us. This must mean our true heart's desire includes children! Or something.

A lot of what some people might assume are special effects on screen are actually very complex and very cool robotics.

I didn't have time for this in my schedule while there, but you can actually get dressed up in robes, hop on a broomstick in front of a green screen, and try your hand at playing out Quidditch scenes! Would have been good for a laugh!

All aboard the Hogwarts Express!

(click on photos to embiggen)
Have I mentioned that the amount of detail that went into each and every prop and set is INSANE?! I never understood how none of the movies ever garnered a nomination for Best Art Direction at the Oscar's, and after seeing it all in person that fact is even more baffling to me.

Mmm, Butterbeer! That is, "Mmm, Butterbeer" in small doses only. For the love of god, do not attempt to chug this sickly sweet drink.

Where it all began.

Dearest Dobby.

In Diagon Alley! Also featuring Mr. Devil Eyes to the right. Full sets that can be seen on the tour also include the Gryffindor Common Room, the Gryffindor Boys' Dorm, Dumbledore's Office, the Potions Classroom, the Burrow, and Ollivander's (among many others).

And for the pièce de résistance, a huge intricately detailed model of Hogwarts. This thing is GLORIOUS. And none of my pictures really do it justice. You'll just have to see it for yourselves!


Some tips and advice:

1. You must buy your tickets online in advance; you cannot purchase them onsite (thanks to Alison for this tip!)

2. Try to go at non-peak hours/days/seasons because there was a ton of people and a lot of waiting time for photo ops.

3. Plan to spend a healthy amount of time while you're there. They were telling everyone that it would take about 3 hours to see the entire tour, but this must only be if you're there with an impatient child or are not an über Potter fan?? Because I could have EASILY spent 5-6 hours there just taking it all in.

4. Go with a backup camera or portable phone charger. I was taking SO many HDR photos on my iPhone that it ran out of battery halfway through the tour despite being almost full upon arrival! Thank goodness I still had the bf's camera or I would have been pretty upset as I would say the second half of the tour contains some of the most exciting things!

5. Do not go with a touring company. I chose to go see the studio through Golden Tours because I thought it would be a convenient and relaxing way of getting there (otherwise you have to figure out the public transit to get outside of London). I definitely regret making this decision. Not only was the experience vastly more expensive than it needed to be, but the tour company only scheduled in the 3 hour time minimum that the studio organizers suggest. Like I said, I could have easily spent 5-6 hours there so to have felt so rushed through the whole thing was a major disappointment for me because it really felt like I was not being able to appreciate all the little details like I would have liked. At the end, I had to sprint right through the gift shop, out the door, and down the street just to make it to my bus on time. If you're anything like me, then you will want NEED more time and it would be worth figuring out what transit to take to make it happen.


Alright, enough of my ramblings! I hope I was able to give a good overview of the studio tour as well as some helpful tips so that you might know what to expect if you ever visited yourself. Of course, this recap pales in comparison to the real thing, I assure you!

34 comments :

  1. Lol, the captions for some of your photos made me laugh.

    I liked your advice section. Why can't you purchase tickets on site? I know people go with touring companies because they think it's more convenient but the drawback is always that you're on their time. It's too bad you couldn't dress up and play Quidditch!

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    1. :):) Thanks, I had fun putting this post together. The only thing I can think of for why you can't purchase tickets on-site is that there are specific entry times, so maybe that's why they want you to book in advance?

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  2. That looks AMAZING! Wow, I never realized it was this cool! This is definitely on my bucket list, and those tips are great to know! Glad you had a good time, even if you had to hurry through.

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    1. Thanks! I hope I was able to help in some way.

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  3. Thanks for those tips! It's definitely a goal to see this tour and I'm actually hoping I can visit it next year. I'll keep in mind to order the tickets & I'll definitely not go with a company. I hate feeling rushed :) great pictures!

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    1. Excellent, I would love to see your recap too! Thanks, Mel :)

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing tips for us hopefuls LOL! I will certainly keep all of that in mind for myself if I can ever make it there! Feeling rushed would be a huge bummer, I completely understand you being turned off by the entire thing. And of course, I can TOTALLY see wanting to spend 5-6 hours roaming through the entire thing XD I thoroughly enjoyed all of the pictures you shared ♥ You're adorable and the pictures of the HP items were fantastic! The House Point Hourglasses, Mirror of Erised and the door to the Chamber of Secrets look amazingly detailed and I'm sure the photos are nothing compared to the real thing! Of course, Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Castle made me swoon. I've heard SO MUCH about our Muggle version of Butterbeer being way too sweet and it bums me out a bit because in the books/movies it seems like it would be a bit salty and just all around yummy. *shakes head at Muggles* heheh Glad you had such a blast all the same Aylee! x

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    1. Oh, I do hope you make it out there for your own experience someday, Micheline! I know you would get as much out of it as I did (or more!). Especially because my photos really are NOTHING compared to the real thing.

      And yeah, that bums me out about butterbeer too! There is no way I would want to drink more than a little bit of that drink, and only once in a while. Ah, oh well. Thanks, Micheline!!

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  5. This is so gorgeous! It may be a bit pricey, but I think it's definitely worth it. I would likely faint upon entering this magical world. And since I'm not too far from London, I really appreciate the tips. I plan to take my kiddo there as soon as I possibly can.

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    1. It definitely was worth it to me! That's exciting for you and your kiddo!

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  6. Ahh Aylee this must have been THE DREAM for you!! Looks like you had so much fun. I'm dying to try butterbeer! And Dobby looks so adorable :) Glad you had a great time, and I'll be sure to keep those tips in mind when I go in the future someday!

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    1. It really was! As I am sure it would be for you, too. Thanks, Jen!

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  7. YAY! I'm so glad you got to go to this, Aylee (though by the sounds of it the Butterbeer was kinda disappointing? Not to mention the tour, which sounds like a real let down) and I really enjoyed getting a little insight into this amazing "world" through your post! You know, I haven't ever been all that interested in visiting, but... well maybe you changed that.
    I adore the amount of detail that went into these films, and so much of it you don't even realise, watching them. I watched a behind the scenes series of clips on one of the DVDs, where each main cast member spent a day with a film department- Bonnie Wright went to the art department and it was incredible, so much detail and so gorgeous.
    I love the look of the house point keepers- they don't look at all what I imagined they would, but so neat. xx

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    1. Well, I knew that about Butterbeer already, that it was ungodly sweet. And I guess I should have known that about the tour group on my own. But the tour itself was amazing! I would definitely highly recommend going - I think you'd love it too, Romi!

      I remember that feature on the DVD :) It really was so cool to learn about the processes behind the making of the movies. Thanks, Romi :)

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  8. Looks like the weather was nice when you were there. It was so cold for me! I still insisted on having butterbeer and you could only drink it outside, which was unfortunate. I wish they had the warm butterbeer - it's ironic that they have that in Florida but not in England.

    Definitely too bad about the 3 hour limit. I think I was there for about 5 or 6 hours. Can't remember exactly. I took at least 1000 pictures.

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    1. Heh, well you can't tell but it was actually raining a bit. But yeah, now that you mention it - that is pretty ironic.

      Ooh, yes 5-6 hours was what I needed! And I think I must've took that many pictures as well.

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  9. Looks like so much fuuuuunn, and I love your pics! They are awesome :D
    The details look amazing.

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  10. There is so much that I recognize from Universal in Florida and so much I want to experience! I mean Privet Drive. Come. On. That's so awesome.
    Too bad about the tour company. I will try to remember if I ever get to go to London and see this amazingness.

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    1. I still need to see Universal Florida - someday, hopefully! That would be a super cool experience in its own right.

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  11. I always wondered if the door to the Chamber of Secrets was computer graphics or machine and now i know! That's so cool!
    The place looks so amazing! If I'm ever in London (I hope so!) then I'll have to check this place out despite how expensive it is.

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    1. Isn't it?? I was so impressed :) I hope you can make it someday!

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  12. Ah, I need to go! Thanks for the tips - I'll have to keep them all in mind whenever I make my way to London. I will DEFINITELY need a lot of time to ooh and ahh over things. Sorry you didn't have much time there; that Quidditch aspect of the tour would have been fun.

    And yes, your heart's desire is a wedding and children. ;) Congrats (again!)

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  13. Such amazing stuff! This post is so magical in such a real way. And thanks so much for the tips. I'll be bookmarking this for when I get the opportunity to live what you did. Yay! I'm so excited for you. Brilliant stuff, Aylee!

    Sarika @ The Readdicts

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    1. Aww, that's nice! Thanks, Sarika :)

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  14. That is awesome!

    I'll probably make my way to the Universal Studio one in Fl one day since i live here.

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  15. AAHHHH, AYLEE, YOU LUCKY GIRL!!!

    Last year, a bunch of friends of mine visited the HP studio tour as well, and they enjoyed it even though they weren't big HP fans (they never even read the books, smh), so I can only begin to imagine how happy you must have felt! I know I'm super jealous here, though. ;)

    Gossshh, the house hourglasses look so cool. Do you get to see the gems fly up or fall down, too? But haha, why am I not surprised that Gryffindor has the most points? (At least Slytherin's second -- I'm in that house on Pottermore. xD) And whoa, I actually did think that the door to the Chamber of Secrets was just some really good CGI, but looks like it was real.

    Seeing Dobby -- especially with that blood stain over his heart -- really got my emotions going. Gaaahhh. D:

    And thanks for those tips! Whenever my family and I travel, we try not to go during peak seasons too. Otherwise it'd just be a waste of money and time and no fun at all. :( And ugh, it sucks that you only got to spend 3 hours in there. I would probably be able to spend the entire day in the studio just marveling at all the props and creations. But like you said, those people were probably not crazy Potterheads like us. ;D

    Anyway, it looks like you had a great time and eeep, I'm really hoping I get to visit it one day! Have you been to the HP theme park in Orlando, by any chance? That's one place I need to go to as well!!!

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    1. Tee :D:D I am pretty lucky. It's impressive that friends of yours that had never even read the books were really into the tour! I assume they were fans of the movies at least.

      And no, the gems are stagnant in the cylinders - at least for the tour. It wouldn't surprise me if they had rigged something up to make them move up and down. So many things are complicated mechanics or puppetry and NOT CGI!!

      Aww, poor sweet Dobby. I also have a picture with a not-dead Dobby.

      An entire day, yes!! I mean, because there's a cafeteria and a Starbucks and everything there, so you could totally spend a day and just take your time. I wish it had been like that for me!

      I haven't been to the theme park in Orlando yet. I wanted to wait until at least Diagon Alley was sorted out to make sure it was worth my while. But someday!!

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  16. This tour looked amazing!! It's too bad that the tour company rushed you though, you would've looked KICKASS on a broomstick! ;D

    The details are just amazing!! And it's pretty neat to hear that it's robotics that helped with a lot of the effects! That surprises me! You'd think they'd go with CGI, but I guess it does make it easier on the actors if they see something actually happening, and it would look a lot more authentic, too...hopefully this means Harry Potter will never look outdated like older movies that tried using CGI years before it looks realistic. :P haha

    It looks like the house tables in the Great Hall were blocked off...that's too bad! I totally would've wanted to sit at them...or pretend to try on the Sorting Hat or something. :P haha And I wonder why Ravenclaw has so few house points! They're wayyyy behind the other houses. :P

    I would love to see this sooo much...and I'd definitely agree with you! 5-6 hours for sure!!!! I'll have to make a list of "must see" places...and put this at the top!!! ;)

    *SPOILERS* <--- I sure hope anyone on your blog would've read (or even watched) Harry Potter...but just in case. :P Dobby makes me sad...why did they have to have him on display when he's dead. The bloodstain makes me so sad!!! How are you not crying in that photo?! :P

    Oooh...and did you get any souvenirs before you had to book it to your bus? :D I'd love to see what you got! :D

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    1. Heh, don't know about that... pretty sure I would have looked quite ridiculous on a pretend broomstick! But at least it would have been fun to try.

      And yes, it was so fantastic to finally get to see all those little details up close! I think you're right - just as LotR stands up well over a decade later is because of the miniatures they made, instead of relying solely on CGI, the same will be true for those things in HP.

      Most things were blocked off unfortunately (and understandably). Also, I was actually quite surprised that at no point could you try on a talking Sorting Hat!

      Aww, it was quite sad to see him like that. Poor wee Dobby!!

      And no, because of the rush there were absolutely no souvenirs to be had sadly! How I would have liked to browse and purchase some key items... alas, no. Which is why you should make sure that you have plenty of time as well.

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  17. Allow me to repeat myself: I'M SO JEALOUS. Lol. Thank you so much for taking the time to post all the wonderful pictures! I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to go here, so I love having the little glimpse :)

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