many many moons ago as far back as 1997, back in the olden days as ronnie might say, a book was released that literally changed the world, harry potter and the and the philosopher’s stone. at the time i was travelling into london from sunny essex and reading was a must to get through the chore of the daily commute. essentially it was a children’s book, but it attracted a wide adult readership too, and soon harry potter was a world-wide literature phenomenon.
now i’m sure i don’t have to tell you about the story but just incase you haven’t heard harry is a wizard. the books tell the journey of harry and his friends hermione granger and ron weasley, through their years as students at the hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry.
at first harry was unaware that he was a wizard, as for the last ten years harry had lived with his aunt and uncle the dursleys and their son dudley, following the death of his parents. he was treated much more like servant rather than a member of the family and was forced to live in a small cupboard under the stairs. just before his eleventh birthday, a series of letters arrive for harry, but his uncles makes sure that they are destroyed before harry gets a chance to read them. this leads to more and more and more letters arriving and to evade the arrival of more of these letters the dursleys leave the house. however at midnight on harry’s eleventh birthday, hagrid, a half giant, bursts through the door to deliver harry’s letter personally and tells him all about his magical heritage, and that in the wonderful world of wizardry harry is famed as ‘the boy who lived’.
now i will leave the story just there as if you haven’t yet read the books, you must, and if you have, well you know the rest.
in november 2001 the first book was released as a movie and instantly becoming a top-rank box office hit and instantly taking a place on the list of highest-grossing films worldwide. the films were made here in the uk, just outside of london in leavesden. once filming finished in 2010, the production crew left behind what can only be described as a treasure trove of sets, costumes and beautifully made props. warner brothers wanted to preserve and showcase these icons pieces so that harry potter fans could share the experience and magic of the harry potter filmmaking first-hand. in march 2012 the studio tour opened it’s doors for the first time.
this easter we were invited as a family to visit the wb studio tour and to experience the special three-week feature revealing the secrets behind creating the famous groundskeeper – rubeus hagrid, and bringing this half-giant to life on-screen.
from march 25th through to april 17th 2016, visitors to the studio tour will see the costumes worn by harry’s gargantuan guardian and find out how they turned 6’1” robbie coltrane into the half-giant hagrid. during production two costumes were created for hagrid, one which was worn by coltrane and the other which was made 25 per cent larger and used by 6‘10’’ england rugby star martin bayfield who appeared as hagrid in scenes where he needed to be bigger than the setting around him.
in order to exaggerate bayfield’s already significant frame, his suit was adapted to increase his size. as well as his complete costume, a deconstructed version will be featured at the studio tour showing the techniques used to create the gigantic character. as bayfield had to wear the outfit for extended periods a special cooling system was incorporated to help him cope with the heat. tubes were stitched into the fabric which had cold water running through them to bring down the temperature.
as fans of the first film will remember, hagrid wears an oversized coat made from moleskin. as the costume department wanted to stay true to the description, they cut imitation fur into mole shapes and sewed them together, each complete with tiny ears and tails.
in addition to hagrid costumes, filmmaking experts from nick dudman’s team will be working in the creature effects department. one of the early encounters that harry has with hagrid is a trip to the vaults of gringott’s and the team will be demonstrating techniques used to create the prosthetic masks worn by goblins at gringott’s bank. made from silicon, each one was given a particular personality to ensure they all looked different.
now there is much much more to the tour than hagrid and his costumes, and i have taken many photos, a selection you will find below. we certainly had a wonderful wonderful time. Mr HPMcQ and i had both read all the books and only just recently ronnie had watched all the films, so to see behind the scenes was absolutely mind-blowing.
a few tips…
take your time, not easy i know with the smalls in tow as they don’t have the longest attention span and are super exited to see everything at once! there’s just so much to see, so if you can go back without the smalls and really drink it all in i definitely would do that!
the digital tour guide was great and really gave some insightful information about the exhibits, well worth it.
take a packed lunch there are areas to eat and you can save a quid or two, food is available but expensive.
the gift shop is far from cheap, so be prepared if you have promised the smalls something or get them saving their pennies far in advance. wands cost twenty-six pounds.
so here we go, now i warn you there’s a lot of photos to follow and this is an edit!
introducing hagrid the half giant
whilst you are waiting to go into the cinema for a short introductory film, you happen to wander straight past the infamous bedroom under the stairs. oh man it’s small, but i believe in london it might even get labelled as a studio apartment!
on leaving the cinema you enter into the great hall, a fabulous large room, with costumes flanking the walls and fully laid out tables and benches leading you down towards the sorting hat and the teachers as if you were entering the hall for the first time as a new student of hogwarts.
after leaving the great hall you enter a huge room full of the indoor sets, costumes and props. the detail in this room is incredible, so much to see, and so much we probably didn’t see, you could spend days in here, it’s truly incredible.
the costume department
the gryffindor dormitory – the beds were so so tiny, you forget the cast were only 11 & 12 when they started
the gryffindor common room
the great hall clock pendulum
the oil paintings on the great stair case are actual oil paintings mainly of the cast and crew!
the home of the weasley’s – the burrow
the chamber of secrets
the ministry of magic
toot toot! all aboard the hogwarts express, you are on platform 9 3/4
and from one mode of transport straight onto another! the knight bus
let’s throw in a third! the weasley’s enchanted car
4 privet drive
godric’s hollow – the birth place of harry potter and also where his mother and father met their fate.
the wooden bridge of hogwarts
all the creatures great and small
diagon alley – this set is incredible, i know i know i said that before but this truly is fantastic. the detail, the colour, the props, the everything! exceptional.
but before all this wonderful world full of colour and madness can be created, someone somewhere would have thought about it, drawn it, then built it, and tweaked it over and over again. what a fantastic insight of everything that goes before the after.
to end of the tour there is the model of hogwarts. now i had heard things about this model, that it’s amazing, that it’s huge, that the detail was incredible, yeah yeah yeah it’s a model i thought. oh my giddy aunt, it’s not just any model it’s the mother of all models ever made, it is around 50ft wide!
i could have stayed in this room looking at this model for an absolute age. i can’t describe to you how magnificent it is, because like me you will probably think ‘yeah alright, calm down, it’s just a model’ but my word this is like nothing you have ever seen before. it took 86 artists to build this magnificent beast and my instant and gut reaction was what i would have given to have been able to be part of the team working on and creating this model. it took them 7 months to build the original, and then with every film they re-worked and added new parts on. the photos do not in any way give it it’s true justice, you will just have to go and see it for yourself…
as you leave the model room, you enter a room full to the brim with boxes of wands, around 17,000 i was told. on each wand you will see a name. the person on that box was either a cast or crew member that would have worked on one or all of the films. how lovely to finish our day hunting out our friends box, sunny rowley. sunny was part of the costume department on all of the films. what an incredible 10 years she had.
of course we spent the next few days watching the films over again, and i don’t think that will be the last time either!
opening times and prices :
times may vary so please check the website
adults – £35.00
child (5-15 ) – £27.00
child (under 4) – free
family (2 adults + 2 children) – £107
family ( 1 adult + 3 children) – £107
disclaimer : we were invited as a family to visit the wb studio tour london, to experience the hagrid half giant installation free of charge. we were asked to review and to cover our visit both on social media and on this blog. it goes without saying i am always honest and my views and opinions will always be my own.