Whether by paper or the big screen, the Harry Potter franchise has undeniably been a worldwide phenomenon, capturing the interest of more than one generation and taking imagination levels to the moon and back. I remember having trouble with my marks back in 3rd grade cos I got too hooked on reading the first book. In fact, I also even printed out photos of Emma Watson as Hermione and taped them on my HP pencil box haha. But not having read books 4 and 5, I can’t go on pretending like I’m a hardcore fan. Nonetheless, when I found out they were opening up a tour at Leavesden Studios, there was no way I wasn’t gonna #bookit.
After passing by the “cupboard under the stairs” at the onset, a short introductory film presents the rest of the tour. We were told what to expect with an emphasis on the point that the sets, costumes, and props are genuine and come straight from the films. Compared to the theme park in Orlando, this shit’s the real deal. And if you’re a diehard Potter fan, this might as well be your Mecca. (No, they didn’t say that in the intro.)
After the film, we were then led to the Great Hall at Hogwarts which is relatively empty with only two long house tables on each side and a dozen of faculty and student costumes situated around. It reminded me more of the scene in the last film where Harry suddenly turns up and challenges Snape instead of the rather festive Great Hall moments with candles suspended in the air.
We then walked into the first of two sound stages and were let loose by the tour guides which means visitors are allowed to go at their own pace and spend as much time as they want for the rest of the tour. The first sound stage features various sets like the Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore’s Office, the Burrow, and Hagrid’s Hut. In there, we also saw the Mirror of Erised, most of the horcruxes, and Gryffindor’s sword amongst many others. My buddy Juilliard (or “The Jewelman” as we like to call him) and I spent so much time in this bit of the tour that we unfortunately had to rush through the other parts considering we took the last time slot which is at 4 PM. So make sure to go earlier if you plan to experience the tour in detail. The average tour time of three hours wasn’t enough for us Asian sensations posing as Potter freaks.
The next part of the tour is the backlot where you can find #4 Privet Drive, the Potters’ house in Godric’s Hallow, the bridge at Hogwarts, and other props like the huge chess pieces from the first film. Oh, and don’t forget to try some Butterbeer while you’re out there.
The last portion of the tour is another sound stage which cases the Creature Effects workshop wherein you’ll get a special look at the animatronics and make-up designs behind the different creatures seen in the films like the elves and that giant retarded spider which I especially loathed to see. The second sound stage also allows you to walk through the actual set of Diagon Alley and pass by Gringotts, Ollivanders, and other wizardy shops. But the highlight of the tour comes at the very end when we were presented with a massively massive model of Hogwarts that was used throughout all seven films. It’s so big you have no choice but to walk around the model to fully capture it. In fact, a friend of mine actually cried upon seeing it. Definitely a great way to end an awesome tour.