Warner Bros. Studio Tour Preview: A Day on Set for Everyone


Oct 03, 2011

Posted by: Melissa Anelli | Comments


We hear it over and over again about behind-the-scenes stuff with Harry Potter: It’s the detail, it’s the detail, it’s the detail. Right? Probably kinda boring right now to hear it again.

The thing is? It is the detail that makes this set of movies special. Take it from us: We have visited set for every film since the Prisoner of Azkaban days, and the WB Studio Tour (opening in the spring of 2012) is going to showcase the details that went into the Harry Potter filming to a level that hasn’t previously been reached.

We were lucky enough to see a preview of the tour a couple of weeks ago. Tough the area is very much under construction, the basic layout has been set and the pieces are starting to come together. The tour, which is on stages J and K (pure coincidence, everyone swears) at Leavesden and were built specially for the experience, and take a visitor through the settings of the Harry Potter films as though they are actually part of the cast/crew. That is, there is no effort to hide the magic keys, the hows and the whys. This is not the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is an attempt to make you feel a though you are part of the books. This tour focuses on the actual creation of the Harry Potter films as films, not on the creation of the Harry Potter world as a fictional setting. It shows the process, (Hog)warts-and-all: the scaffolding, green screens, plaster casting, machinery, scratched tables, prop cages, etc. It’s a tell-all biography of how to make a Harry Potter movie.

Below is a rendering of what the J and K stages will look like when it’s time to open the gates:

Right now, however, it looks like this:

While everything we saw is still months away from completion, here are a few key details:

  • Its full official name is Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.
  • Tickets for the exhibit will be on sale as of Oct. 13.They are £28 for adults and £21 for children. A family of four gets in for £83.
  • Leavesden is slightly outside of central London, a short train ride from London Euston (which is, trivia alert, actually what J.K. Rowling was thinking of when she wrote about King’s Cross).
  • You cannot buy tickets onsite. You must pre-book at wbstudiotour.co.uk.
  • The soundstages being created are fully functional: that is, filming can and perhaps will occur on them in the future. The rest of the area of Leavesden, including stages A through H, are being converted into one of Europe’s largest studios and will be in use for other films in the future.
  • The tour starts with a featurette about the Harry Potter films, which will involve all the primary actors and be entirely new content shot just for the experience (in other words, no retreads of, “Yeah, it’s much darker this time!” :)
  • The Great Hall area will be the only guided part of the tour; the rest is designed to let people stay as long as they want (although it is typically described as a three-hour experience.)
  • Here is just a sampling of the things that will be on display:
    • The Great Hall

      The Great Hall in its plastered glory
    • Elements from the Burrow(the set was too precariously built to display)
    • Cupboard under the stairs
    • Ministry of Magic (Magic is Might statue)
    • Dumbledore’s office (the pic below is of the back!):
    • Gryffindor common room and boys’ dormitory
    • Potions classroom, Hagrid’s hut
    • The gryffin that serves as the entrance to Dumbledore’s office
  • From the creature and effects workshops:
    • Aragog (enormous)
    • Charity Burbage
    • Viktor the half-shark
    • The models of mermaids
    • Fawkes
    • The Monster Book of Monsters
    • Dead people from movies seven and eight
    • The Ford Anglias
    • Sirius’ motorbike (at least three of them)
    • The Chamber of Secrets entrance
    • The Quibbler printing press
    • Remus Lupin’s trunk
    • The (fully functioning) Gringotts cart
    • The Gringotts vault door
    • Umbridge’s office (cat plates and all)
    • The brooms (Nimbus 200, Nimbus 2001, Firebolt)
  • The front of the Great Hall is decorated as in the beginning of DH – as in the Knights of Hogwarts are framing the door (they weren’t in movies six and before)
  • The exhibit expects to hands 5,000 per day: there will be about 120 per group.
  • You cannot buy tickets at the museum. They are pre-book only online.
  • There will be no effort made to hide the “set” details of the ceiling in the Great Hall: it is as though you are an actor who has walked onto set, not a character in the Harry Potter novels.
  • After you are guided through the Great Hall you can wander by yourself, though there will be some area of the set pieces that will be roped off.
  • You will be able to take pictures at the Hogwarts gates (as seen in film six), and several other set-up photo opportunities (including in one of the Ford Anglias used for filming).
  • Dumbledore’s office will be fully dressed: the portraits, the desk, the bookshelves, the memories, the pensieve, etc.
  • To show how the mechanics of certain items worked, the crew are creating a special “magic” effect that activates the items from the burrow (the self-stirring cauldron, the self-scrubbing washpan and the self-knitting scarf); you point an IR-beam wand at it, which activates the machinery so it looks like the object has been spelled to life.

Even after several visits to set we found quite a few new pieces of info on one walk through this half-finished tour, such as:

  • Some of the Knights of Hogwarts are holding Quidditch equipment!
  • You can see House crests all over the Great Hall: on the back of the doors, on the stained glass, on the tops of the fireplaces. There are even Hogwarts Crests at the very top of the brackets for the flamboes, which would have never been filmed.
  • The Great Hall was actually moved piece by piece into its new location. It only bumped a wall once.
  • In the Great Hall, the room will be fully dressed as though for filming: place settings, etc.
  • You don’t see the full beds in the boys dorms in the later films because the original beds were built for the actors when they were 11. They were too big for them by the time the films ended!
  • There’s a green screen panel in the bottom of the pensieve
  • There were 15 Ford Anglias used in filming; the one that had gone wild in the Forbidden Forest was nicknamed “Rambo”
  • The detail on some of the mannequins is absolutely insane: the skin on Charity Burbage’s mannequin was so lifelike it was downright scary. Every last freckle and each tiny wrinkle has been etched in; her hair is real human hair (that was being shampooed with Pantene the day we were there.) Aragog takes up half the room and was getting a bit of a touch-up for his new closeup (most of these items have been in storage for months, if not years, and it seems a lot of effort is going into making sure they are camera ready).
  • The Chamber of Secrets door is roughly one and a half times the height of the average person and must be a few hundred pounds. It functions without movie magic: the snake can run around the edge the same way it does in the films. They aren’t yet sure if it will be working when the site opens, but you will be able to see how it does either way. You too may be able to take a goofy picture like this one:

All our lists aside, the most remarkable thing about the tour is how surrounded in Potterania you really are. It’s everywhere: above and below and to all sides, poking out of boxes and the untidy corners that come with a decade spent filming a blockbuster. Until you see this kind of unbelievable detail up close you don’t really believe what everyone has been telling you all this time. The dragonheads that support the office in the Ministry, which were perhaps in the very back of one long shot, but are heavy, scaled and gilded as though the employees really do have to look at them every day? The numbering of each tile of the Ministry floor and walls? The scratchings the students have made into the Great Hall tables? The clear plastic teeth on each mermaid?

It’s all been there, all these years: now we all get to see it.

You can check out WBStudiotour.co.uk for the official stuff, or just stick to The-Leaky-Cauldron.org and LeakyNews for all the latest as we approach the opening!

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.