WE ARE big Harry Potter fans in our house. We have all the books, quite a few of the audio CDs for long journeys and we would book our cinema tickets soon after all of the eight films were released.
It felt like the end of an era when the final book was out and we excitedly fell on JK Rowling’s new website www.pottermore.com eager for more information about Harry, Hermione and Ron.
I was delighted when I heard that the studios near Watford, where the Harry Potter movies were filmed, were going to be opened up to the public for a special tour.
We finally got there at the weekend after a few failed attempts at booking tickets – the available dates all seemed to clash with something so I never managed to get booked.
We watched a few of the movies to get in the mood before jumping in the car for the quick half-hour journey from our Uxbridge home to Leavesden.
The Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour is slick from the minute you arrive. We would recommend the clever digital audio/visual guides that give you a commentary with handheld images and film footage via special MP3 players with headphones.
Draco Malfoy narrates and it really brings the tour to life.
There are no theme park rides, shows or attractions; this is a working film set that takes you behind the scenes – you see everything from the costumes, the sets, the make-up, the special effects to the most amazing artwork, models and props.
It’s the kind of place that makes children (big and small) want to work in the film industry.
It’s a walking tour that takes about three hours from start to finish and you start in the Great Hall where the whole school would gather for meals and meetings (no amazing ceiling unfortunately) and you finish by looking at the incredible miniature model set of the school that was built to film the outside scenes.
My personal favourites were seeing the cupboard under the stairs that was Harry’s home at the Dursleys’ house and the boys dormitory where a lot of the action was filmed.
You can queue up to ride a broomstick in front of a coloured screen and this is then superimposed over some scenes from the film. Wearing school robes you can fly over the school, the London skyline and over water with wind machines blowing your robes and hair.
It took us 45 minutes to queue up and buy the promotional photo and I felt it was a long wait for not much of an experience, but it was the highlight of Alex’s day.
He would have preferred to have bought a DVD rather than a photo but I suppose there are issues with copyright.
We enjoyed walking up the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley, passing all the shops you see in the movies like Ollivanders Wand Shop, Gringotts Bank and the Weasley twins’ joke shop.
You end up in the obligatory gift shop at the end so I suggest taking any robes, hats, wands you already have at home with you to avoid the shop!
It’s not cheap at £83 for a family ticket, but it’s a great special treat for the summer holidays or as a birthday present.
If you fancy going, the availability during the school summer holidays actually looks quite good (no doubt as Olympic fever is taking hold), so I would suggest not hanging about.