I had booked the tickets for this so far in advance that I had almost forgotten I had them as the date approached. (I had also unknowingly chosen the worst weekend for travel. Ever. Don't ever try to get anywhere on the Easter weekend!) As I sat on the train I could hardly believe where I was going. Harry Potter was such a staple book of my "YA" days, as many other people my age can probably agree, and my love for it is something like the love I would have for a close friend...or a family pet ;)
As for the films, I think they are one of the few "successfully" adapted franchises taken from books. They brought a world to life that I had already had the chance to create myself, and showed me a different way to see things. Plus the casting was genius!
The tour started with a short film which was a mixture of nostalgia and awkwardness as Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson told us why the studio was special to them and how it was a home away from home/family during their teenage years. I say awkwardness because their interaction with each other was so weird it was as if they had filmed their parts separately and were superimposed next to each other... very strange. Anyways, from the end of the film the fun really started!
For any fan of Harry Potter, it is hard to describe just how worth it this trip is from this point on. By way of proving awesomeness, your first step into the studio itself is directly into the Great Hall. You are then left to your own devices to explore sets such as Dumbledore's office, The Burrow, Hogwarts dormitories and common rooms, Hagrid's hut, Privet Drive, Godrics hollow and looooads more.
Not only this, but you learn how certain things were filmed (such as Hagrid's height difference) and get an insight into the green screen craziness of Quidditch filming. (Big kids, such as me, also get the opportunity to ride a broom and the Ford Anglia using the technology - yes!)
However, the magic really begins (to steal a term used way too often) when you step outside, sample Butterbeer, and enter the creature studio.
The "animatronics" are amazing. The inventiveness and technology that went into creating Lupin's werewolf and even the scuttering Monster Book of Monsters is such an art. And it's really something to see a giant Aragog strung from the ceiling!
Further into this section you walk through Diagon Alley (childhood dream come true!) and then on to an art gallery of the technical drawing, storyboards and models that went into creating the creatures and sets.
The final section is so unexpected that its effect on encountering it is breathtaking.
*spoiler alert!* In a darkened room under spotlights stands a scaled model of Hogwarts Castle, big enough to cover the floor plan of my house. It's simply beautiful and I spent a good 20 minutes gawping at it from every angle. However that's nothing compared to the amount of work that went into it. The highly detailed replica took a whole 74 years of accumulated artists’ time to create.
I whole-heartedly recommend the tour to anyone who is a fan of Harry Potter. It made me realise how much I miss not having a new Hogwarts adventure to look forward to...
I think a re-reading is called for!
Here are some of my photos from the day (sorry if they take forever to load!):