It was hard to believe but in one month, I was able to visit both the opening of Diagon Alley AND the studio tour at Warner Bros in London. The stars just seemed to align for us this summer. If you missed my blog about the opening weekend, you can find it here http://tinyurl.com/q8a9vmx.
If your travel plans take you to London, this is a great option for a movie fan, a Harry Potter fan or anyone wanting a unique experience. If you happen to be going on an Adventures by Disney trip, a cruise or a Disney cruise that is leaving from Dover or visiting London, this is a fun option for a pre- or post adventure.
The studios and tour are not near downtown London but you do have choices about getting there. If you’re brave enough to drive, go for it! If not, you can use the Underground and shuttle bus or consider one of the tour options offered that comes with transportation from central London included. Your Magic For Less Travel agent can even book it for you! http://tinyurl.com/a7u3kmv. We opted for the Underground and shuttle option since we were already using public transportation quite a bit on this trip.
It’s exciting to arrive at the studio and know that you are going to get to see the original sets, costumes and props used in the making of the film but nothing prepared me for the excitement that I was going to feel as a real Harry Potter fan. There were several guests dressed in their cos-play (costumed) outfits, my daughter included, and their excitement was also very evident.
You enter the lobby and if you’ve purchased an audio tour guide, you can pick it up there.
There were many languages available and so many extras to listen to along the way. Once in line for our timed tickets, we could look around and see the photos of the actors at various ages in the films, the Flying Ford Anglia and the room under the steps from Privet Drive. The doors open when your tour is ready and you are seated in one of those large auditoriums where you are asked to fill in every available seat (in a lovely British accent). The movie is short but certainly helps to build the excitement and then the magic begins! The movie screen rolls up toward the ceiling and you are staring at the doors to the Great Hall. I nearly thought I was going to cry at this point. My girls were totally embarrassed.
Two birthday guests were invited to come and pull open the doors and you find yourself looking at the Great Hall just impressively as you might imagine it to be. The only thing missing are the movie magic candles hanging from the ceiling. I really do think that every person on our tour was holding their breath at this point. It reminded me so much of the scene in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” when they first enter.
After a brief overview from one of the staff, you are invited to walk at your own pace through the props, costumes and set displays of Building 1. Everywhere you look, you’re taken back to a scene in one of the movies (or more) and the size of some of the items is either surprisingly big or surprisingly small.
Once you’ve finished with Building 1, you step outside on your way to Building 2 and can stop for a quick Butterbeer refreshment if you’d like. It’s not as sweet as the one that is offered at Universal Studios and that might be to account for a more international palette. You can also check out 3 and 4 Privet Drive, the triple decker Knight bus, the Hogwarts bridge and even some of the chess pieces in this outdoor courtyard!
Building 2 begins with some of the many characters including Dobby the Elf and Buckbeak. Look up, look down, they are everywhere. Some of the many prosthetics that were used are also on display. From there, you can walk down the Diagon Alley movie set and finally, you can explore the many art models of the sets that were created during the movie making process. Finally, the Hogwarts miniature in all its glory as it fills up an entire room is set before you. With the blue lighting, it truly is magical to walk around and explore this world in miniature.
The tour averages about 2 ½ – 3 hours and you aren’t limited to how much time you can take except for the last tour of the day. If you’re getting a shuttle bus back to the train station, you’ll want to pay attention to the final calls. Of course, there is a large gift store at the end of the tour but not before you walk through what looks like a replica of the wand shop. Pay a bit closer attention and you’ll see that the names of everyone that worked on the film are scripted onto the ends of the boxes. It’s a great tribute.
So if you’ve been to Universal, what might you think of this tour? I asked my girls. We all really enjoyed it and since we were there, we all agreed that it was really worth doing and we were glad we hadn’t missed it. My older daughter summed it up well, though I thought. She said, “If you want to learn about how the movie was made and see the actual pieces, this is the perfect place. Universal Studios makes you feel as if you’re actually there.”
Enjoy these few photos from our studio tour. If you want to see more photos, you can check out the MouseForLess Flickr link at https://flic.kr/s/aHsk1H8p3H