Usually, when everyone tells me how good something is, I end up leaving a bit disappointed. Having built it up in your head to be spectacular, it can never quite live up to expectations.
So having been told by at least ten different people that the Harry Potter (sorry, Warner Bros) studio tour is amazing, I was a little apprehensive. Although this didn’t stop me feeling like an excited child when we pulled into the car park.
I shouldn’t have worried. Our whole experience was incredible, and possibly even exceeded my – very high – expectations.
After the initial introduction, this is a self-guided tour. You wonder between the actual sets* to theme-specific exhibits, such as a costume rail, displays of props and (inevitably one of my favourite parts), a section on the animal actors who featured in the films. Televisions also accompany some of the sets, playing short interviews with crew members.
*It’s worth highlightinh that you view the sets from behind a rope, you can’t quite gp through them, understandably!
But what really blew me away was the amount of detail there was everywhere, how much attention was paid to every last thing. Whether it was dressing every inch of a set or how they created some of the more complex sets and props, everyone went to so much effort even for something that would appear for only seconds or just in the background. It made me want to watch all the films again, to take them all in with this additional knowledge in mind – knowing it’s far more than special effects (not that any less effort was went to with the special effects – these too are hugely impressive).
John has only seen a couple of the films (despite having read all the books), but even he was intrigued and absorbed. Being an engineer, the mechanics behind many of the props and sets particularly grabbed him. (I promise I didn’t force him there! In fact, he actually went voluntarily, having bought the tickets for as a birthday present – I’ll be hanging on to him!)
Personal highlights were walking across the bridge, Diagon Alley and the model of Hogwarts at the end. I won’t say much more, partly because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t been and partly because words wouldn’t do it justice, but they were all pretty incredible.
Any downsides? Well, there’s a reason you’ll spot quite a few almost-untouched Butterbeers lying around in the picnic area (though I’d have regretted not tasting it more. I am the sucker the marketing/sales people at Warner Bros must love. On the plus side, we did bring in our own sandwiches (well, Boots meal deal. We’re not that organised), avoiding the large queues and, from what I hear from others, not-cheap prices. So I think that makes it 1-all.)
Talking of prices, if you’re bringing kids (or are a big kid yourself) then prepare to march them through the extensive gift shop very quickly, or for quite a large credit card bill. Seriously – one chocolate frog (albeit huge) will set you back £8. Mugs start from about £10. You don’t even want to know the cost of one of the knitted House Colour jumpers… I was very tempted by the prints designed to advertised Weasley’s sweet products but somehow managed to restrain myself and only came away with a mug.
Also, John was kind enough to get me the ‘Complete’ ticket that, for £10 extra, comes with the souvenir programme and digital tour (these would cost £15 if you bought them and the entry ticket separately). In themselves, these weren’t a downside. Even though the programme doesn’t offer much additional content, it makes for a nice souvenir and contains some great photos – perfect if you realise after seeing all the sets that your camera was on a dodgy setting and none of your own photos have come out.
On the other hand, there is a lot of additional content on the digital guide, from additional interviews with crew members to galleries of images. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, but it was so extensive that John, who opted not to have one, would have read everything about each section and be nearly ready to move before I had got even half way through the extra clips. Admittedly you probably could spend more time looking at the detail than he did, though. But regardless, if you’re going to get a digital guide, it’s worth either finding a way to share it around your party or persuading everyone to get one (they cost £5 if purchased separately from entry). While John was very good and patient (presumably part of the birthday present deal!), I did feel a little guilty about how long I was taking at some points.
Overall though, this was a fantastic, pretty-much-perfect attraction that will appeal to adult and child Harry Potter fans alike. It really is as good as everyone says it is.
Warner Bros Studio Tour
Adult Standard Ticket: £30
Child Standard Ticket: £22.50 (Free for under 4s)
Family (Either 2 adults/2 children, or 1 adult/3 children): £89
‘Complete’ Studio Tour Package (including souvenir programme and digital guide): £39.95 (adult)/ £32.45 (children)
When you book, you’ll be asked to choose a date and time. I’d recommend leaving at least 3-3.5 hours to get round, so pick a time that will allow you not to rush!
The nearest station is Watford Junction, and shuttle buses run from there
Driving is relatively easy and there’s free parking on-site
What I Wore
Skirt & belt: Vintage; T-shirt: (very old!) Topshop; Jacket: Monki