We have a huge Harry Potter fan in our house. Missa B and I have read all 7 books together, and we have watched the first three movies. So when I learned from my friend, Siobhain, that we would be only an hour away from the studios where the movies were made, I knew we had to go.
One of the coolest things about the studios is that the movies were filmed over a period of 10 years — while J.K. Rowling was still writing the books. So, they had to preserve so much more than is normally saved due to the fact that they weren’t sure what would need to be reused.
It’s critical to buy tickets WAY in advance during summer and holidays. You have to buy tickets in advance regardless — they do not sell tickets on site. But we bought ours several months in advance to go during July which was even before the British schools’ summer holiday. I also recommend getting the audioguides — they gave us a lot of additional information which we all enjoyed.
Hubs had only seen the first Harry Potter movie, and while he really enjoyed the studios, he wished he had seen more before we went. He is determined to watch them now because the sets were so amazing.
We decided not to tell the kids where we were going. We were meeting up with my old college roommate, so that was all they knew. Unfortunately, when trying to find the address in the GPS, we put in Warner Bros. Studios, which Missa B saw, but she still didn’t quite know where we were headed.
So, from the journal of Missa B — our day at Warner Bros. Studios — the Making of Harry Potter:
We get up and have breakfast, and then we drive to meet Mom’s friends. We are meeting them near a Warner Bros. studio. As we drive closer, I see pictures of Harry Potter. Then Mom spills the beans! We are going to the Making of Harry Potter — all the actual scenes. How did she not tell us? This is going to be the coolest thing ever!
We met Mom’s friends. The boy was 10. We got our tickets and watched a short video about how the movies got started. Then we walked into the Great Hall. The floors were actual stone because wanted to be sure they could hold the weight of all the actors! Mom’s friend, Emily, asked if I had taken the Pottermore Quiz. I had. I am in Griffyndor, JJ is in Hufflepuff, and her son is in Syltherin. Anyway, the Great Hall was awesome!
I learned that at first they used wires to hold up the candles, but the wires melted, and the candles fell onto the tables. From then on the candles were added by a visual effects team. J.K. Rowling’s favorite house is Hufflepuff. Go JJ!
We saw all of the wigs they put on the actors. Luna Lovegood’s hair was so long! Then we saw the boys’ dormitory. Awesome! The actors thought so too! Sometimes they just relaxed in the dormitory or common room before and after scenes. The common room was fun too! It was exactly the same as in the movies. We also saw the Fat Lady, the door of Vault 713 in Gringotts, and the snake door at the Chamber of Secrets. All were real!
Then we went to Dumbledore’s office. It was huge! All the books used be phonebooks but they covered them up to make them books in his office. All the portraits were there too.
Next we saw how Quidditch was made! Green screen — that’s all. The actors went on broomsticks that had a base. The broomsticks could move forward, sideways, go upside down — anything! Green screen was all around them. The visual effects team later added in the Quidditch scene.
After that, we saw the broomsticks, costumes, and Hagrid’s hut. There are two Hagrid’s huts. One has large chairs to make other visitors look small, and one has small chairs to make Hagrid look big.
We saw the Burrow where you can wave your hand over a screen to make things magically happen. A knife will start chopping carrots; an iron will start ironing; and a brush will start cleaning a pan.
Then we saw Bourgin & Burke’s, and the Malfoy Manor. We saw the Ministry of Magic, and the Magic is Might statue. We saw Tom Riddle’s grave, and Severus Snape’s potions lab. There were a bunch of labeled bottles all containing different potions — there were over 1000 of them!
We learned how the Room of Requirements was made. Basically, they took everything from every scene and piled it into one room. Then we did a Weasley flying car! We sat on some steps. On the screen, we saw ourselves in the car. We flew to Hogwarts! Me and JJ did it again, but this time on broomsticks! We also learned how to cast a spell!
Next we saw the Hogwarts Express which they just put into the studios in December. I took a picture at Platform 9 3/4! Did you know that the Hogwarts Express was once a real working steam train? We went aboard the Hogwarts Express! We looked into all the carriages, and saw them exactly as they had been in each movie. Then outside the train, we sat in a booth and pretended we were on the Hogwarts Express. For the movie, the actors looked out the window at a green screen. But we got to see real things out the window — a Dementor came to get us!
After that, we went to the café where I got some butterbeer and butterbeer ice cream! It’s one of three places in the world that sells them! They had an interesting taste.
We saw the triple decker Knight Bus which was made from three old double decker London busses. We learned that they blocked off the streets of London for two nights to drive it around! We saw the Dursley’s house, Hogwarts bridge, and McGonagall’s chess figures. The chess figures were HUGE and real! We went into the Weasley’s car and Hagrid’s motorcycle.
Next we went into a room filled with remote controlled stuff. I saw Dobby, a mandrake, the basilisk, a dragon, Aragog and more! Did you know that Hagrid’s head is remote controlled? Or that Buckbeak was not a visual effect? What about that the dragons really moved, and real fire came from their mouths? We also saw the makeup artist, and the sketching place. We saw all the little models of the scenes. That’s how they all start!
I almost forgot Diagon Alley! We walked through Diagon Alley and saw all of the shops. I liked Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes with the vomiting girl. You couldn’t go in any of the shops, though.
We saw more models and walked into…WOW! HOGWARTS! It was a model, but it was huge! Bigger than I expected! Just completely incredible! What I was dying to see! I can’t believe they filmed it there! All the details had to be just right. They even changed the times on all the clocks every time they filmed a scene.
Then we went into the shop where I got Sirius Black’s wand. A great end to a great day.