**THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS**
During my recent fall trip to London, I made the Potterhead pilgrimage to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour London, which ended up being more than appropriate since I recently visited its American sister tour in Hollywood. Just like many millennials, I grew up glued to the Harry Potter books, long before there was ever a thought of films. I looked forward to every release, buying my book at midnight and staying up as long as I could to read as far as possible. I even passed out on my book once, mid-read! Of course, upon visiting London, I knew I just had to try to see the studio tour. Thankfully, I was able to visit for the first time in 2015, so this most recent trip was not my first.
First, what exactly is this tour? The Studio Tour brings you through two soundstages, J & K (see what they did there?), where you will be able to learn about the incredible details that went into all of the Harry Potter films. These details include sets, costumes, and everything you can imagine. Informational plaques will teach you about the usage of props and how each scene was crafted. The tour is not guided and not chronological, so it can be a bit overwhelming.
Important note: don't be deceived by it's London moniker - the studio is actually not in the London you're thinking of; it's actually located in Leavesden. To try to make the best of our time, I scheduled the earliest tour possible, 10:30AM, meaning we had to leave central London early.
PRO TIP: LEAVE EARLY! IT TAKES A WHILE TO GET TO THE STUDIO. PLAN YOUR SCHEDULE ACCORDINGLY. NEED BREAKFAST? TRY EATING AT THE FLAG IN WATFORD JUNCTION.
Unfortunately we had a mishap with Google maps (even though I'd already made this trip once before), so we had to nix our Full English breakfast plan and hightail it to the studio. I started to panic, since I don't function well sans food. The good news is we found a cab to save time, got dropped off at the studio, and ended up grabbing a light breakfast there, at the cafe. If your OG plans don't work out, never fear! You will find light fare and even Starbucks in the main lobby before you enter the tour.
PRO TIP: WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. YOU WILL BE WALKING AND STANDING A LOT.
After our morning fuel, we hopped in line to enter the tour. The line can appear intimidating at first, as it snakes through a small portion of the lobby, looking much larger than it actually is. The good news? You pass right by Harry's cupboard and right into a small theater for an intro film.
I won't mention what happens next, as it is my favorite part of the whole tour.
After you are inside, you will find a plethora of props, sets, wigs, clothes, and anything you can imagine that was used in the making of the Harry Potter films. In my opinion, one of the most impressive parts of the tour is seeing the details up close - many items you probably thought were CGI are actually very real, very physical items. While there is no limit on how much time you spend during this self-guided tour, it's a good idea to pace yourself. The surprises are unending, so it's best not to burn yourself out before you're even half done.
Photos and videos are gloriously allowed, which is the best news for any Potter fan. I snapped a selfie or two in the Mirror of Erised, Boomerang-d a magic broom and got a polaroid of myself bowing to Buckbeak. On a practical note, make sure you go with someone who not only loves Harry Potter, but also has the patience to take photos and really soak in the scenery. I was fortunate to be joined by someone who took the time to admire the details, so neither of us felt rushed at any time during the tour.
I don't want to give too much away, but expect a very immersive experience. You will walk the main street of Diagon Alley, admire the giant pendulum from Prisoner of Azkaban, and even walk into Number 4 Privet Drive. It is a very special experience for Harry Potter fans, and Warner Brothers spares no details for the holidays either. Since we were visiting during October, the entire tour was in its most spooky form of the year - eerie lighting, Death eaters appearing around many dark corners (LITERALLLY). Jack-O-lanterns decorated the Great Hall, and some of the darker characters' costumes were prominently on display.
PRO TIP: DRESS APPROPRIATELY - YOU WILL BE GOING OUTSIDE DURING A PORTION OF THE TOUR.
At one point, I thought I would struggle with deciding whether or not this tour is worth the time and money. My verdict? It absolutely is, if you consider yourself a fan of the Harry Potter franchise. Yes, the studios are absolutely out of the way and can eat into at least half of your day, but I have not regretted either of my visits. In fact, much was added in the 2-year gap since I'd first visited!
Until next time,