It is a good time to be a fan of the boy wizard right now. Earlier in the week, the eBook versions of all seven Harry Potter novels were finally made available through the pottermore.com website, and this weekend the doors of The Making of Harry Potter studio tour will at last be opened with a star-studded red carpet event at the Leavesden Studios where all eight movies were made (you can watch a live stream of the event here).
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There are props everywhere, ranging from huge skeletons to small items of jewelry. Cabinets containing all of the Horcruxes, another with the Philosopher’s stone (Sorcerer’s stone for you US readers), a Remembrall, a Deluminator, etc., plus one more with the Tri-Wizard cup and a Golden Egg. There was a giant cage in the middle, so chock full of golden skeletons, goblets, chandeliers, wands and the cutest suit of armor I’ve ever seen (it was for a house elf), that it looked like the Room of Requirement. There was another huge glass case containing the wands of 24 of the major characters – less than 1 percent of the total number of wands made for the films! Larger items were placed around the edges of the sets and included the Mirror of Erised, the painting of the Fat Lady, and ornate doors to a Gringott’s vault and to the Chamber of Secrets. The level of detail in these last two was just astonishing – many people assumed the snakes moving on the Chamber of Secrets door were CG because of their complexity, but they’re actually real and cast in metal and resin. There was a whole wall dedicated to the paintings produced to decorate the walls of Hogwarts, some of which are actually of the producers and designers of the movies.
Passing by some of the giant chess pieces from the first movie, we enter the second sound stage and I was slightly freaked out by the first thing I saw: John Cleese’s head on a spike! Of course, it was really Nearly Headless Nick’s head sitting up there next to a whole row of goblins and other strange creatures. A series of video screens here show what it was like to work in the creature shop, introduced by Warwick Davies who cleverly leads you from one screen to the next, past models of Fawkes, a snapping Monster Book of Monsters and a giant animatronic head of Hagrid. In the next room is the life size (i.e., ENORMOUS!) model of Aragog the spider and one of three animatronic Buckbeak models. For most of the time he sits there motionless, but occasionally he gently springs to life and looks at you, seeming like he wants to have a little chat.
The Making of Harry Potter makes a wonderful day out for any fan of the books and films, and indeed, any fan of the movie-making process in general. Warner Brothers says the tour should take about three hours to wander around – we were there for four and a half and I could have stayed much, much longer, there was just so much to see. As soon as we got home, we had to dig out the box set and watch the next film – and I wanted to watch all of them back to back, just to try and spot all the amazing things we’d seen.
Here’s the slideshow of my photos from Flickr and I also took some panoramnic photos of the dortmitory, common room, Umbridge’s Office, The Burrow, Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts model. The lighting wasn’t great for them but they’re still quite fun.
Thanks to the good people at Warner Brothers and Emma, Stu and Gemma at Romney Davies for arranging our preview tour. Find out more about the Warner Brothers Studio Tour at http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/ or on their YouTube channel