Although I grew up throughout the whirlwind of Harry Potter and am aged the same as the leading cast members, I never fell into the universe quite like everyone else did around me. However, I am a film fanatic and love learning about all the behind the scenes tricks so despite going into the Warner Bros Studio Tour with next to no Potter mental trivia I was still prepared to enjoy the visit. What I didn’t realise is how much I would enjoy the visit and how much it would give me an appetite to join in this magical mystical world that I was somehow missing out on.
There are plenty of blogs, reviews and posts out there reviewing the tour itself and it’s probably best heard from someone going in who is already a Potter enthusiast. However, what I will say is that if you aren’t versed in the knowledge of J.K.Rowling’s work you will enjoy being able to look inside the massive scale of these films across two studio buildings, funnily enough Stage J and Stage K. For me the SFX and VFX as always blew my mind and it was brilliant to see behind the scenes footage accompany a lot of the actual props, the highlight (apart from the magical Hogwarts in Snow set at the end, seeing is definitely believing in that case) was the animatronic model of Buckbeak, elegantly perched on a stand moving his head so realistically that I was spellbound by it for a good twenty minutes.
Universal Studios in Florida I assume has a much grander scale with more interactive elements for their Potter world, however there is something welcoming and enchanting being invited to the studio space which was the home of these films for the many years it was in production. Don’t be fooled as there is plenty to see and do, we managed a good five hours of wandering round the sets, riding our own broomsticks and hunting out hidden golden snitches so prepare yourself for a long day if you’re planning on visiting and making the most of it. And the timed slots make a world of difference as although it is busy, the only queue you’re stuck in is the initial entrance, past that point if you’re willing to wait a couple of minutes you get a good view of everything there is to offer.
However, the tour isn’t perfect and the downside is most definitely the cost. At £33 a ticket for entry, plus another good £10+ should you choose to eat out of the cafe (a cup of soup is over £5 in itself!), not to mention the sweets and iconic Butterbeer which we passed on to save pennies. I wasn’t expecting the gifts and treasures to come cheap either but after seeing the infamous Bertie Botts every flavour jelly beans come in at a whopping £9 I knew then anything in the actual gift shop was going to be way out of my price range; and I was right. Although the shop was adorned with beautiful items, thousands of wands, amazingly designed authentic outfits for sale, jewellery and charms galore, I not being a big enough fan was willing to fork out the cost to bring something home with me. But for anyone who is a die hard fan they’ll pay the price because it’s more special in their heart than it is mine (but a warning to parents, it’s probably worth stowing a few extra pounds into your savings in the months before your visit to keep the kids happy on the way out).
All in all, a fantastic experience and it makes you wonder why there isn’t more like it over here with the wonderful history of film we have. Here’s hoping that more studios invest in giving back to movie fans and inspiring young people about the hundreds of different elements it takes to bring these movies to the big screen, and hopefully Warner Bros will bring back the Batman stage because then I will definitely be a kid in a candy store throwing my money at whatever cost the merchandise is. Now I’m off to dive into this glorious magical world and join in all the fun I appear to have been missing out on all these years.