The Warner Bros Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter is a one-of-a-kind experience. Though the IP adorns other well-known attractions, with more on the way, the Studio Tour is the only place to house a vast collection of props, costumes, sets and gadgets from the movie franchise, and all in the location the films were made.
In essence, the Studio Tour is the world’s only Harry Potter museum, and it has grown even bigger with the addition of the 20,000sq ft (1,858sqm) Platform 9¾. The crowning glory is the Hogwarts Express, which is stationed inside. It’s an authentic British steam train, no. 5972 and once named Olton Hall. Today, the 78-year-old engine is probably the most famous train on the planet.
The tour lets you explore behind the scenes of Harry Potter. Following an impressive reveal when the Great Hall is unveiled, guests enter the studios and browse an array of Harry Potter props, costumes and sceneries, including Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, the potions classroom and the new dark arts section.
The entire tour is designed to demonstrate how much work and care went into producing the Harry Potter films.
The new part of the attraction, Platform 9¾, creates another fantastic reveal as guests turn a corner to the sight of the Hogwarts Express billowing steam on ‘King’s Cross station’, recreated by three-time Oscar-winning production designer Stuart Craig.
The attraction is participative. Guests board the Hogwarts Express and walk the carriage. Each passenger compartment represents a different film in the franchise. A modified version of a compartment, designed to accommodate a film crew, shows how the train scenes were shot.
Visitors can also experience one of the interactive carriages, equipped with false windows that demonstrate the process used to create scenery and action outside the train, such as movie scenes with the flying Ford Anglia or the dementor attack.
There’s a new photo opportunity, similar to the one at (the real) King’s Cross, in which visitors “push” a luggage trolley through the wall of Platform 9¾, as happens in the films. Guests can use their own cameras rather than having to have a professional paid-for photo, though that option is also available.
The Warner Bros Studio Tour takes between 90 minutes and three hours. With added attractions such as Butterbeer sampling and green-screen broom riding – expertly supplied by Picsolve – the experience can be lengthy, and potentially more costly if you do buy the extras.
BOOKING AND TICKETING
The incredibly popular tour must be booked in advance through the Warner Bros Studio Tour website. Visitors are booked in for specific times and can then explore the attraction at their own pace. Discounted rates are offered to groups of 10 or more and to school trips. Platform 9¾ and the Hogwarts Express are included in the Studio Tour ticket price.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
Food at the Backlot Café is reasonably priced, starting at about £3.50 ($5.19, €4.75) for soup. A burger costs upwards of £7.50 ($11.12, €10.18). The quality is excellent, and the menu has wide appeal.
The attraction offers the franchise’s signature Butterbeer – which seems to be cream soda topped with a marshmallow foam. The foam creates a Butterbeer moustache and another photo opp for visitors. Definitely one for the sweet tooth, the non-alcoholic drink enjoyed by the characters in the book can be purchased with a souvenir cup (£4.95, $7.33, €6.72) or tankard (£6.95, $10.30, €9.44).
The staff are very well presented, friendly and extremely knowledgeable about Harry Potter. You can tell from speaking with them that they’re fans, which comes through in their words and actions.
The Studio Tour offers two shops. Most of the items are exclusive to the Studio Shop and you pay extra for that privilege. However, the products are very high quality. For collectors, high-end versions of many of the products are on sale, with Harry Potter-themed jewellery, for example, available for several hundred pounds. Merchandise can also be bought via the online store.
The tour feels more like being in a museum than the monster-sized aircraft factory you see on arrival. Thinkwell returned to design the new addition, having also collaborated on the existing Studio Tour.
The arrival of the Hogwarts Express adds to the magic of the Studio Tour. The attention to detail to faithfully recreate the new section as it’s seen in the films is clear for all to see. The attentive staff and special effects only add to the experience, which is world-class. The attraction really has no rival; it’s a unique experience that a Harry Potter fan in particular, or any visitor, would remember for a long time to come.