A guide to the Hogwarts Experience at Warner Bros. Studios
Published: January 21st 2014
Located in Leavesden, a short shuttle bus journey from Watford Junction station will take you to the Warner Bros. Studios and the magical world of Harry Potter. As the memorable music rings out above your head, it is difficult for even those who have not watched all the movies to not begin to feel an increasing sense of excitement and anticipation.
Having wandered under the famous WB logo and stylised Harry Potter writing, you are welcomed into the large foyer by staff standing with a beaming smile. A great meeting spot for school groups, the foyer acts as the central hub leading off to the restaurant, toilets, ticket enquiries, shop, main entrance to the tour and audio-headset counter. It is well worth picking up a headset for a small fee as this is packed full of additional content such as videos, images, and more information about the various areas of the tour voiced by Draco Malfoy himself. The touchscreen handset is easy to use and you will do well to tap through every extra during your visit of the Harry Potter set.
Your tour begins in a room lined with screens offering you the chance to see posters of the Harry Potter movies from around the world. Already students begin to understand the global reach of this movie franchise as you see text ranging from Greek to Arabic. Making your visit to the Harry Potter tour a fun, memorable and educational experience is of paramount importance to Warner Bros. and the staff share this ambition. Enthusiasm radiates from the staff as they point out artefacts from the movies, including Harry’s glasses in his ‘room’ under the stairs, and they are keen to ensure that smile on your face remains.
Having watched scenes of jubilant fans attending promotional events around the world, you are guided into a cinema setting. Unfortunately, you won’t be sitting in the unbelievably comfy seats for long as the cinema screen will not be showing you the 8 movies back-to-back! What you will see is an introductory presentation by Harry, Hermione and Ron of what the tour will aim to achieve and the impact of 10 years work at Leavesden on the their lives. The footage ends with the trio entering the Great Hall followed by a feat of mastery, which provides students with a truly ‘wow’ moment to kick-start the tour.
Entering the Great Hall, an education in all things Harry Potter begins as the staff, known as Interactors, introduce you to one of the grandest sets to appear in the films. Many of the Interactors appeared in the films themselves and are happy to provide the group with stories of production and the intricate set-details you may have failed to see on film. As you enter the unguided areas, you can either turn on your audio-guide or approach the many Interactors dotted around the different exhibits. You will find that the Interactors are bouncing with energy and an eagerness to interact. They don’t just answer a question, they have a conversation with you to provide you with background to every aspect imaginable. It is this focus on learning that is inherently apparent throughout the tour and whether you are interested in art, textiles, electronics, literature, media or performance you are going to be bold over by the number of exhibits that will cover the various facets of the subject while ticking the big box Warner Bros. has created for themselves – to educate.
From the producers, screen writer and directors an amalgamation of views and angles for the films begins to come to light. The vision that JK Rowling wanted to achieve through her stories comes to life and students are introduced to all the complexities of set-design and new technologies created to make the sets and cinematography work in harmony. Whether you are peering into the office of Dumbledore or knocking on the door of No.4 Privet Drive, the attention to detail and scale of the project, led by an army of designers, pushes beyond impressive. Learning comes quite literally to life, as you press buttons to trigger the movement of stage props such as Dobby’s chest mimicking heavy-breathing, a Whomping Willow miming or the science behind how the cars, motorbikes or broomsticks were made to fly using green-screen technology.
The tour quite simply gets better and better as you continue around the set. From tasting the famous Butterbeer and walking on the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley, to glancing through the window of Ollivander’s Wand Shop, the feeling of being somewhere completely new and unique is awe-inspiring. Before the piéce de résistance, you enter the designers’ workshop where the walls are covered with the detailed drawings of the many buildings, structures and artefacts that inhibit the set’s space. Measurements are marked out and notes highlight that the piece of art is 1 of 40 other designs. The amount of time and man-power implemented within this project is quite unbelievable and the images and models that line the final leg of the tour are a tribute to the masterful work achieved.
The finale stands as one of the most impressive sites the students will see on site - the model used for shots of the outside of Hogwarts. Seen under their new Hogwarts in the Snow theme, snow only goes to accentuate the immense detail put into the design of Hogwarts. Snow sits on the tiniest of window ledges and in the crevices of the sheer-drops. The pride and joy of Warner Bros., this exhibit is the cherry on the top of a gigantic cake that is the Hogwarts experience. If you’re organising a school tour of the UK, the Harry Potter tour will cover multiple subject areas, combine fun and learning, and provide the students with an educational tour they will remember for a long time to come.
To find out more about including the Hogwarts Experience into your tour and how your students can benefit from an educational tour to the UK feel free to contact our team of international school travel experts here.