The Warner Bros. studio, where many of the interior Harry Potter movie scenes were filmed, is located just outside London in a small town named Leavesden. Traveling by tube, from East London to the former aerodrome, is a trek; it's a journey well-worth the hike. The Harry Potter studio tour offers a rare opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look into more than a decade of movie production; there's nothing else like it in the world.
Griffin Stairwell — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
Before I enter the studio doors, I inwardly squeal like a kid. A life-sized chess piece from The Sorceror's Stone sits outside the entrance. "Ooh, I remember that", is what my inner eight-year old voice yells. My excitement for the self-guided walking tour rivals any kid's, and my anticipation for what's ahead makes me feel a little immature.
"Chamber of Secrets" Door — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
The open entrance is filled with hanging props, like the Weasley's flying Ford, as well as over-sized pictures of the series' main characters. The tour starts in a cue for the screening room, adjacent to the Cupboard under the Stairs mini-set. After a brief introduction to the studio by "Harry" himself, the doors to the Great Hall are revealed. It's a jarring experience; one minute you're looking at the Great Hall on the screen, and the next, you're stepping into it.
Dark Knights at Great Hall Entrance — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
From the Great Hall, on, I notice that everything on the tour is larger than I'd expected. Then it dawns on me that I'm walking on all of the actual sets, and seeing the original and authentic costumes, creatures, animatronics, props, and special effects that made eight Harry Potter films. Amazing!
Gryffindor Common Room — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
One of the oldest sets, the Gryffindor common room, is also one of the most popular amongst fans. It's cozy, well-furnished, and easy to imagine sitting in.
Hogwarts Model — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
Another popular set piece, and the crown jewel of the art department, is the Hogwarts Castle miniature scale model. It took a team of 86 artists and crew members to build, drawing inspiration from real-life structures like Durham Cathedral and the courtyards of Alnwick Castle . The craftsmanship is impeccable.
Deluminator and other movie props — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
It's difficult to summarize everything that's awesome about such an expansive tour in just one article. We're talking about ten years of movie-making magic here. The Harry Potter Studio Tour is much more than a simple attraction; it's almost like a museum. You can enhance the self-guided experience with a hand-held audio visual device that gives you details about each set and prop station you visit. In addition, you can pretend to fly on your very own broomstick or in the Weasley's car, in front of a green screen, and take home a souvenir picture of the moment.
Model of the flying car — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
It took me more than three hours to finish it; I could have easily stayed longer. Apparently, one guest took 8 hours to do the tour, the record so far. As a Harry Potter fan, it's nice to know that all of the work that went into creating this magical world has been preserved.