Warner Brothers Harry Potter Leavesden Studios Tour.

As you will frequently hear me say- OH-MY-EVER-LOVING-EAGLE-OWLS!!!!!!

So you are aware of my oddities and my real addiction (which is extremely well hidden in the presence of other Muggles) to all things magic and especially all things Harry.

Last Sunday I packed up my little black Corsa and set out on my pilgrimage to Watford, the home of Harry in movie form. The drive was fairly unspectacular as myself and several thousand other Muggles decided Sunday night was the best night to hop on the M3 North. Lovely.

Despite this crawling journey I made it to our overnight stop at the fabulously simple, occasionally decrepid and trashy Premier Inn. I think ever since Lenny Henry put his face to the brand they’ve spruced their hotels up a tad. This one was small, clean and comfortable. But first, I met my Dad, who’d driven from Yorkshire and had still managed to arrive before me and who was also sitting at the bar in the nearest TGI’s. Luckily this was less than 20 meters from where I’d accidentally parked. Beer drunk, burgers eaten, we retired for the night. I will recommend the Premier Inn in Garston for anyone getting to Watford the night before their tour, it’s easily found (sort of) and next to an eatery (try the blue cheese burger) 1.7 miles from Leavesden Studios and the SatNav didn’t have any problems getting from A to B.

I was so excited about the tour, I didn’t sleep a wink.

WARNING!! IF I’VE DONE MY JOB CORRECTLY THERE WILL BE SPOILERS (of some kind) WITHIN THE NEXT FEW PARAGRAPHS. AS WELL AS PHOTOS. OMG.

The area is empty looking but a very new and expensive industrial park. The roads and signage are all still brand new and sparkling (or it could be the Impervius charms they put on all of it…) the free buses they put on from Watford train station pull into the compound frequently and the car park is run in an extremely American fashion. Men in Hi-vis direct you from the front gate to the next empty spot, moving down the rows so people don’t go crazy and start parking in all manner of ridiculous ways. Wonderful.
I bet you’re practically yelling at me right now to ‘just get on with it!’ Well, I will…

The building is a low hangar with new frontage and giant chess pieces in front (HPCoS). Here you go, have a look.

I bet you’re all screeching for more. Shall we go in?

The atrium is typically American in set up (after all, this is all Warner Brothers dosh) with large format images of the highest ranking cast members from the various films around the top of the room. The cafe is to your left, the gift shop to your right. You guessed it, at two hours early for our tour we made a B-line (broom line) for the overpriced, ridiculous array of Harry Potter merchandise.

And we LOVED it.

Chocolate frogs, Every Flavour Beans, Gryffindor scarves, quidditch robes, brooms, horcruxes, diaries, owls (stuffed toys only) key chains, mugs,  t-shirts, sweatshirts, jumpers, hoodies, socks, ties, hats, caps, posters, fridge magnets, badges, earrings, Dumbledore replica costumes (pricey… Pricey.) the list went on and on and on and on. Warner Brothers have not missed a thing.

After that (and after spending a small Gringotts fortune) we made our way over to the cafe for a Starbucks coffee and a nice rest.

At 11:35am we decided to get up and collect our audio guides (more on these later) and our guide books from the booth under the flying Ford Anglia.

A little pause here to reveal that the audio guides were, for us, a complete waste of time. They were over complicated and took too much fiddling with to get not much information from in the end. We decided to hang them round our necks and take them for a good long walk and not use them for fear we’d miss something actually interesting while trying to figure the damn things out. For the kids around us, they seem pleased with them but for me and my Dad, like I say… Pretty much a waste of time.

So, after dropping bags in the cloak room we gathered ourselves up and got straight to queueing. We Brits don’t half queue well, although the same could not be said for our European friends (well, a lot of them there anyway…)

We tootled past another icon of the magical series…

We were then taken into a small room as a group of about 40 or 50, chatted to by a lovely guy while the theatre beyond the doors in front of us emptied out and then we carried on into this and took our seats.

The cinema we sat in was as wide as the huge screen in front of us. We settled into huge seats and watched an intro to the tour, filmed by the stars of the series; Harry (Dan), Hermione (Emma) and Ron (Rupert).

After that and the almost cried, tears of joy I nearly shed, came the fun part. The female guide asked if there were any birthdays being celebrated and I yelled a bit and pointed at my Dad, celebrating for the next day. He was asked to come forward and open the doors to the Great Hall (along with some help from a couple of others).

I was jealous, I can tell you but I know I take better photos so I was glad I was the one watching!

And now, for the really good bits!

Note the beautifully hand painted and ancient looking symbolic murals on the back wall which were hardly ever seen on screen…

A technique called ‘Forced Perspective’ was used on this 6ft long model to recreate the appearance of a fifty foot long corridor when the cameras rolled…

There are many many hundreds more to come but my poor post can’t cope with the volume and still publish properly so I will get round to adding the rest…

Happy looking!

Leavesden Studios.

As you’ve probably all guessed by now; I love design, I love the making of it, the construction (hence my own degree in Jewellery Design & Silversmithing) but alongside this curiosity is the ‘I don’t want to believe it isn’t actually real’ feeling that my newly booked tickets and the subsequent Leavesden Studios Harry Potter Tour is making me feel.

This is going to be a bit emotional for me.

Like many millions of others I am a Generation Harry. I was read the very first book just after it’s release; sat on the thin velvety-feel carpet tiles in the reading corner in my tiny Primary School class room. Mrs Grey read it to us. We were all hooked. That one thing, that one story linked us in ways nothing else could. Twenty or so ten-year olds who had not a single thing in common would all feel the same, gasp the same, almost cry the same on that thinly carpetted floor.

That’s the power of a good story. For me, it has always been a struggle to recreate that awe-inspired, deep seated, so amazed I could cry feeling of stepping onto the cobbles in Diagon Alley for the first time with Harry, fresh from the ‘You’re a Wizard Harry’ comment and bursting at the seams with excitement.

Until now.

Leavesden Studios offers me just that. The reason I didn’t grab a broom and speed over there as soon as it opened this March is simple. I didn’t want to go alone. Dispite the many millions just like me, I don’t live with any of them. Other Half (as he is known on here) can’t abide fantasy telling me he’d rather poke his own eyes out with prickly sticks. The comment cut surprisingly deep. This is something I have a lot of time for, the world in which I grew up in, with the characters I’ve known for years. WWHD was a little phrase that practically got me through my GCSE’s. What Would Hermione Do? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in robes with a Hogwarts scarf  on but damn, sometimes just escaping to that world brings me comfort. When I’m stressed I read. When I’m lonely I read. Comfort in the form of old friends and familiar places I can access in seconds within these books.

So after my Aunt took her family to Orlando, Fl. and visited the Harry Potter World park-within-a-park at Universal Studios, I asked my wonderful Dad if he’d go with me on a slightly shorter trip to just outside Watford. Luckily not even leaving the country. He jumped at the chance, being almost as much of a kid as myself and even offered to pay for our tickets in. Leavesden has now become a possibility for me.

It’s not until October that I can get the time off to drive up to Watford and Dad can get the time off to drive down so we can meet in the middle. I thought it would be nice to go for some sort of occasion and since my birthday month is full of maybes and possiblys I thought we could do it for Dad’s.

The thing now is the wait. Having researched fully what we’ll get to see there I teared up a little when I saw the grand finale item. A 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts itself. This is definitely going to be worth the wait and I am even demanding a new camera for my birthday just to take high quality photos with on the tour (yes, it’s allowed) and now have to calm my breathing when I think of the very first moments after the curtain has lifted and I walk into the Great Hall for the first time…

Yes everyone, I LOVE THE HARRY POTTER WORLD.