Dreams do come true! I have been a fan of the Harry Potter Universe since I was introduced to the 4th book “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” way back in early 2003 in Stylus; and then started reading all the old books to get up to speed before the next book released in June 2003! I was such an addict to the Harry Potter series that I actually came to my office during a weekend to read the pirated PDF version of “Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix” as I didn’t have access to any other computer then! I was elated when I won the last book “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in 2007 in Accenture and I again finished the humongous book in just a weekend! So imagine how I would have felt when I reached “The Making of Harry Potter” Warner Bros Studio Tour in London in late March 2014!!
As part of the “Food is Great Britain” long haul food bloggers trip, I landed in London on the 21st of March 2014 and after checking in at the stunningly located Cheval Three Quays right next to the Tower Bridge, started on the trip of a lifetime to one of the most popular new tourist attractions in London – Warner Bros. Studio Tour of “The Making of Harry Potter”. Golden Tours, one of the leading tour operators in UK, runs regular trips all over Britain not just for the WB Studio Tour. The hangars which used to produce fighter planes in World War II in 2000 became home to sets where the highest-grossing film series ever was shot!
As soon as we entered into “Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter”, we saw one of the most unforgettable locations in the Harry Potter film series – The Great Hall! How many of us have not wanted to be sitting in this great hall with Harry, Hermoine and Ron being a part of Gryffindor! It was wonderful to see the original customes used by the actors kept next to the tables and all the 4 houses of Hogwarts represented in the small hall which appeared to be a Great Hall in the movies! The table has some of the graffiti by the cast too as they thought of it as their own school!
The guides at the Making of Harry Potter tour were very knowledgeable and explained to us many aspects of film-making like how make up was done, what kind of props were used for the filming, some interesting anecdotes during the shooting, etc. It was great to see the guides talking passionately about the movies and they looked like Potter fans too! Did you know that the Greyback makeup effects artists developed a seven-piece silicone prosthetic mask for Greyback’s werewolf face? Each prosthetic was made with real goat hair that was inserted strand-by-strand!
One of the best movies I love in Harry Potter series is “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. It featured some really cool sets like this time piece which was constantly being shown in the background to showcase that time is running out on Harry Potter and his friends! It was wonderful to see this along with the customes worn by the lead cast which were significantly different from the other movies as director Alfonso Cuaron (of controversial movie ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’ fame) wanted to give the movie an edgy feel!
The art department designed the Potions classroom to appear as though it were located in a dark, underground corner of the castle. The brass-leafed archways are inscribed with the Latin and English names of potion ingredients and rare minerals, all selected from ancient alchemy recipes. Students brewed their potions using old-fashioned, gas-powered Bunsen burners and among the ingredients kept on the classroom shelves were baked animal bones from a local butcher shop and dried leaves and herbs. It was also nice to see potions master Professor Snape’s custome there, who is indeed the half-blood prince!
I liked the fact that film-making was very well explained through many of the display items in the WB Studio Tour of Making of Harry Potter. Showcasing these vehicles including Hagrid’s motorcycle against a green screen with visuals playing at the back about how green screen shooting happens, helped everyone understand the entire film-making process. It was wonderful to see so much effort being put into creating each of these vehicles exactly similar to the ones described in the books, right down to the detail!
I tried my hands at few of the spells which were taught to me by enthusiastic guides and I must say I did manage to master a few, especially “Expecto Patronum” which is the Patronus Charm! I guess my animal was a HippoGriff cause I saw a moving Buckbeak next!!
In the back lot, I took a ride in Hagrid’s motorcyle which reminded me of Sholay movie and also the 22 foot tall Knight Bus! It seems the Knight Bus was created from pieces of three vintage London double-deckers. 2 versions of the bus were built – one that was motorised and able to be driven; and one which was the ‘stunt’ version which spun around on a turntable! Interior shots of the Knight Bus were filmed on a soundstage though! At the back you can see Number four, Privet Drive which was the house of Harry Potter for 11 years and also during most of his summer holidays!
The Creature Effects section was excellent, specially the life size robots which were created for shooting. Aragog, the giant spider, had an 18-foot leg span and was covered by hand with yak hair, sisal (a fibrous plant of the agave family) and hemp from brooms. The animatronic figure was so complex that it required nearly 100 technicians to operate each time! The head of the Basilisk was huge and could be moved by animatronics too!
Finally the jewel in the crown of the art department was the intricately detailed model of the Hogwarts castle. Built for the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the model’s every courtyard, tower and turret were filmed and enhanced with digital effects to create unforgettably realistic views of the magical school. It was great to see how you can differentiate between day and night versions of this castle by the lights dimming and lighting up across this model. Most of the special effects scenes were shot with this model and not the real set. The work on the model itself was so extensive that if one was to add all the man hours that have gone into building and reworking the model, it would come to over 74 years!
I would suggest everyone going to the UK to definitely make a trip to “Warner Bros Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter” as it is one of the best ways you can spend your 3-4 hours just 1 hour away from central London. Golden Tours operate regular buses but remember that you must book your tickets in advance. No tickets will be available at the venue.