As you may recall, this past Easter I visited Orlando, FL with the majority of my extended family. The trip was many months ago now, but this summer we found we still had some unfinished business: namely, Harry Potter world. We hadn’t been able to work a visit to Universal (and its Harry Potter land) into the trip, and so in exchange, we had promised my 10 year old bookworm of a cousin Daisy that various members of the fam would take her to the Warner Bros Studio Tour, which my parents assured her was way better anyway.
So, in what became the longest extension of a trip ever, we finally got around to booking a date and on Saturday, my dad and I headed down to Watford to meet up with the rest of the gang. Just a quick warning – if you are going soon and want a total surprise, maybe don’t read ahead because there are a lot of pictures!
We had an evening timeslot (5PM) and the sky was looking suitably forbidding over the enormous soundstage as we arrived.
By the time we got inside and had sorted out our tickets and digiguides, I was pretty much beside myself with excitement. The lobby is lined with pictures of the cast throughout the years, so there is some requisite cooing over baby Ron to be done, and then we were whisked into a queue to begin the tour. There are a couple of rooms with some inspiring videos and montages, and then the real fun begins.
From the beginning to the end, there is just SO much to look at. The whole thing is brilliantly done, with plenty of friendly, Hogwarts-berobed staff around to chat, and there’s no pressure to get through the exhibits – you can take as little or as much time as you want. We all had digiguides but to be honest I abandoned mine early on ’cause I kept getting distracted and missing what was going on. Some of the others with loved it though so I think it really just depends.
Obviously the main thing that hits you is the sheer detail of all the sets. There are some great little things that you’d never notice, particularly in the dormitory & common room. Undoubtedly my favourite part was all the costumes. I don’t know what it is about costumes but they really, really fascinate me – I saw the travelling Harry Potter exhibition in Boston a few years ago and remember loving the costumes there, too. At Watford they have some of the same, with many many more added in. There was a whole rack of Luna Lovegood and Lockhart’s, which was arguably my favourite exhibit of the whole thing!
Another highlight for me were the wand lessons. Having failed to persuade my dad to join me, I recruited my mini-me Daisy and we watched a few of the pairs in front of us for practise before it was our turn. We each selected a wand (out of a choice of Death Eater, Hermione, Harry, Ron or Neville – I think – I chose Neville and Daisy chose Death Eater, so there you go), and then we were taught five moves before having a quick photoshoot and finally a duel. Naturally, Daisy was declared the winner.
Most of the indoor exhibits are behind glass, but in the “exteriors” section there are some great photo opportunities.
The second half of the tour details more of the animatronic aspects, which are creepy and seriously impressive in more or less equal measures. Seeing the “real life” Dobby was another highlight, as well as the inimitable Diagon Alley.
After some seriously impressive artwork displays, the self-guided tour builds to an absolutely perfect and awe-inspiring climax. Hogwarts itself is nothing less than a feat of architectural genius and with the twinkly lights and inspirational music, you are left with a seriously magical taste in your mouth…
…which is good, as, naturally, you exit through the gift shop. By this point I was about ready to deck myself out head to toe in HP gear (I was even ready to admit my secret affinity to Slytherin), but luckily I kept my head. Instead, I was gifted a Ministry of Magic mug and a brilliant pen that is the shape of Harry’s wand – a perfect present for a girl studying an English MA at JK’s alma mater!
If you haven’t been to the Studio Tour and are even remotely considering it, I would seriously say GO. It’s really not all that expensive, and so well done. There is tons and tons to see, and something for absolutely everyone. It was a fabulous end to what has been a turbulent summer to say the least, and I headed back home a very happy girl!