Recently my children went with friends to see The Making of Harry Potter in a giant studio space in northwest London (near Watford Junction). Visitors can wander around the original film sets of JK Rowling’s brilliant Harry Potter series, and look at spectacular props, models and costumes worn by the real actors!
The flying car greets you at the entrance, along with giant images of some of the main characters from the films (can you spot Draco Malfoy behind the car with his Slytherin badge?) At the beginning of the tour, a film is shown on a giant screen about what you will see inside. The final image of the film shows the huge doors leading to the Great Hall. Suddenly the screen rises to reveal those very same doors for you to walk through!
As the doors slowly open you enter a huge dining hall lined with refectory tables set with copper plates and golden goblets. Statues line the walls and tall windows rise at each end of the room. This is where Harry and his friends ate their meals, while at the Head Table the Headmaster Dumbledore and all the teachers sat surveying the pupils.
At the top of the Great Hall stand figures wearing the costumes of Mad-Eye Moody, Sybil Trelawney, Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore and Rubeus Hagrid, among others.
From the Great Hall you can wander through other sets at Hogwarts, including the potions classroom where a figure of Severus Snape stands menacingly before an array of bottles, jars and cauldrons. (Snape was always my favourite character, so I would have loved to see this room!)
Elsewhere in the Hogwarts section lies the Sword of Gryffindor in a glass case. There are also cases showing different models of broomstick and a wide range of magic wands.
Children under 15 who take the tour are given a special Harry Potter passport, in which they can get stamps for the different areas they visit. They can also get free badges to show they’ve been on the tour.
Visitors can also see The Burrow, where the Weasley family live. The low ceilings and earthy colours give it a cosy and somewhat chaotic feeling, a bit like a rabbit warren.
The style of Dolores Umbridge’s office in the Ministry of Magic couldn’t be more different! You can see her taste for pink and very ornate furnishings. If you look very closely you can see the painted plates with images of kittens hanging on the walls.
One part of the tour has a full street scene where Diagon Alley is recreated. You can see all the shops where Harry and his fellow pupils would have got all their school supplies, including a wand at Olivander’s, quidditch equipment at the sports shop and magical instruments at Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment.
I’m sure I would have spent hours window shopping in Diagon Alley! Look at all the wonderful instruments in Wiseacre’s window…
But the best shop in Diagon Alley has to be Fred and George Weasley’s magical emporium, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. You can see it above – the red shop with a giant man sticking out of the window! I’m sure you remember all the amazing sweets and other clever things available there, including Weasley’s Puking Pastilles and Sticky Trainers.
Elsewhere you can see how Harry and Hagrid rode into the air on their special motorbike-and-sidecar. The actors sat on a model which rose up on a hydraulic lift, and the green screen behind allowed the filmmakers to create an image of clouds and trees far below them.
One of the most impressive things you can see on this tour is a giant model of Hogwarts, which is built to look like a Medieval castle in the middle of the Scottish highlands. The model stands surrounded by craggy hills and fir trees, and in the film it appears both at night and in daylight as the pupils arrive at the school at the beginning of each new year.
It’s amazing to think that all the images of this fantastic building in the Harry Potter films were made using this scaled-down model. My kids had a great time on the tour, and their three hours positively flew by! Maybe one day I’ll get a chance to go there and see it all for myself…
If you want to explore the world of Harry Potter even further you can visit Pottermore, JK Rowling’s website where you can become a student of wizardry at Hogwarts, get sorted by the Sorting Hat and lots more!