July 17th, 2022
Jury’s Inn Watford
So we were back in the U.K but we weren’t heading home to our Maui just yet. For those who read our blogs, you will be aware that we usually drive up to Manchester after we land, very tired and sometimes borderline not very safe. Thanks to no restrictions on annual leave anymore, we didn’t need to do this to rush home this time. So, we chose to stay down south one night and drive up north the next day, after much-needed sleep. It also gave us the chance to do something that we have been wanting to do for a long time but hadn’t got around to: visit the Warner Bros Studio Tour- Making of Harry Potter.
We have visited Harry Potter World at Universal Hollywood Studios and both parks at Universal Studios Florida but had not yet visited The WB Studios in our own country! So we checked into the Jury’s Inn Watford on Sunday morning after leaving Heathrow (the hotel kindly let us have a room from 10:30 am so we could sleep as soon as possible which we were very grateful for!), and spent the night there with the intention of going to Harry Potter on Monday morning and then drive up north after. The hotel was modern and clean and our room was spacious with well-working air con. Need air con in England, I hear you ask in surprise? Yes, that’s right, after spending weeks in the high humid heat, we were welcomed home to a heat wave! We had both been looking forward to feeling cold for the first time in weeks and no such luck. The weather forecast for Monday was in the low 30’s: The ‘England’ clothes of jeans and hoodies that I had left in our car for HP were most definitely not needed!!
We woke up on Monday morning feeling jet lagged but a lot better than we felt the previous morning just off the flight. Breakfast was included so we headed downstairs to the breakfast buffet where there was a large selection of cereals, pastries, and cold and hot breakfast items. We both had a hot breakfast from the buffet and then we were off to Warner Brothers Studios!
Warner Bros Studio Tour- Watford
The car journey from the hotel to the Studios was only 15 minutes. The weather forecast was not wrong and even though it was only 11 am, the heat was strong and parking attendants at the Studio were already trying to keep cool with hats and handheld fans.
Luckily, security and the entrance to the tour were both inside and well air-conditioned. Our ticket time was 11:15 am and we arrived just before 11 am as advised on the ticket. Once we had entered the building, we joined a large queue for the start of the tour. This was slow moving and we were probably waiting to get to the start for 20 minutes. This was not the worst attraction queue we had ever been in and was probably not even the longest we have waited for a Harry Potter attraction.
We were both excited, as we both enjoyed Harry Potter. I am probably more into HP than Steve is, as my love for HP began in high school when I read the books while Steve has only seen the movies. We had heard good things about the tour from family and friends who have visited previously so expectations were high! We were open-minded about what the tour would be like as we were aware that this was the location of filming the movies and would not be a fantasy recreation of Harry Potter’s world like Hogsmede or Diagon Alley at the Universal Studios.
First, we were ushered into a ‘welcome room’ where the cast and Studio staff welcome you on the tour via video recording. They tease info from the tour and give you a sneak peek of what your day is going to be like.
The Great Hall
We then all moved into another waiting room (so far, this all seemed familiar!) where a staff member chose a guest to be the first person to open the door into Hogwarts Great Hall. As we all followed each other, we found ourselves standing in the Great Hall, the place of many scenes of the movie. Props from different scenes had been set up to view and the details were amazing. Different outfits for different characters were on display, set up as scenes from the different movies. Even though some probs were clearly fake, the stone flags on the floor were real, adding to the authenticity of the room. Music from Professor Flitwick’s Frog Choir fills the room making you feel really at home at Hogwarts.
As we left the Great Hall and wandered into the next part of the tour, there was a Golden Snitch hanging in the doorway above our heads. There was a game to locate the Snitch in different parts of the tour but there was so much to look at, that we quickly forgot to keep doing this. Steve did try to locate the Snitch that is supposed to be around the boy’s Gryffindor dorm but it evaded him!
The second section of the tour is large. It has several film sets all dressed and on show for you to see. It also has different interactive ‘green rooms’ where for example you can fly a broomstick. This we had done previously at warner Bro’s Studio in Hollywood and as the queues were big, we skipped this particular interactive part of the tour.
Throughout the tour, there are also stamp points where you can stamp your Harry Potter passport which is given at the beginning of the tour. Each page represents a different section of the tour, Steve got almost all of them for his passport.
The Forbidden Forest and Platform 9 and 3/4
To leave the previous section of the tour you walk through the Forbidden Forest. There are 2 routes through the Forbidden Forest to Buckbeak, however, one of them leads you through Aragog’s Lair. This route is mentioned by staff at the beginning of the tour, advising anyone afraid of Spiders to take the alternative route. Luckily for me, my logical brain takes over and despite how good the studios have recreated Aragog and his family, my brain knows that they are not real so the attraction doesn’t bother me.
The animatronic Buckbeak is one of the 3 Buckbeaks created for the films and a beautiful sight to see as is the careful detail used to recreate the Centaurs.
Once we survived the Forbidden Forest, we arrived at Platform 9 3/4. The Hogwarts Express proudly on display is the train used in the movies for close-up scenes. Despite seeing the Hogwarts Express at the Parks in the USA, this was special to know it was used for actual filming and not a replica. We boarded the train to find that the studios had recreated a different train scene in each carriage from each of the films in chronological order. There is also a chance for you to try and push through the magical barrier!
Once we left the platform, we walked through the Backlot Cafe. The Cafe was busy! It was midday at this point so peak lunchtime. The Backlot Cafe is also the only place in the Studios where you can purchase your very own Butterbeer: the non-alcoholic drink that Harry et all drink in the Hogs Head while in Hogsmeade. We had previously tried this at Universal and found it to be very sweet so we skipped the cafe and headed outside.
Exterior Set Backlot
Outside the Backlot Cafe sits the very purple Knight Bus and the walkway section of the bridge into Hogwarts. There are also 2 new attractions in the outside area of the studio. The first is a 1:3 scale version of The Burrow, home of the Weasleys used in the Chamber of Secrets.
Just behind The Burrow is 4 Privet Drive, home to the Dursleys. We headed over to the house and once inside, the letter scene and the Aunt Marj balloon scene have been recreated right down to the smallest detail, pleasing the biggest HP fans. We wandered through the Dursleys kitchen where a member of staff was giving information on the props used in the dinner scenes.
Once outside again in the blistering sun, we walked over to the Studio tour’s newest attraction: Professor Sprout’s Greenhouse where the glass door have been opened for the first time allowing us inside the greenhouse. This is part of the Mandrakes and magical Creatures Experience which is running at the studios until the 12th of September 2022. Whilst the Greenhouse has been part of the exterior lot for a while, you can now enter the greenhouse and pull a mandrake from its pot yourself (no earmuffs needed!). We had fun pulling all the different mandrakes from their pots through the greenhouse.
Just outside Professor Sprouts Greenhouse is the Hogwarts Courtyard fountain. This is the second new exterior set and the studio has confirmed that Professor Sprouts Greenhouse, the courtyard fountain, and the burrow are all permanent additions to the tour.
Once we had explored the exterior lot we headed back inside for the rest of the tour which first takes you through the art department. Here we found many wax models of goblins and of course, Dobby. There is an interactive wall where you can dance along with Dobby. The second of the 3 Buckbeaks is also here, sitting down in Hagrid’s pumpkin patch.
After we left the Art Department we found ourselves entering Gringotts Bank. The Entrance Hall of the bank is breathtaking and the Chandeliers are beautiful. It was really hard to NOT feel like Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix as we approached the bank clerk’s desk. The size and scale of the set really reminded me that we were in fact standing where they filmed the bank scenes, rather than a recreation at a Theme Park.
Just around the corner, we found ourselves at the Lestrange Vault- a replica of the scene where Harry, Ron, and Hermione steal Gryffindor’s sword from the vault. In the distance we can hear the dragon of Gringotts, the sound gets closer as we left the vault. Once out of the vault we found ourselves back in Gringotts Entrance Hall, which had been completely destroyed by the dragon. The interactive fire-breathing dragon makes you feel like you are in the movie!
As we escaped the wrath of the angry dragon, we found ourselves in Diagon Alley. The Alley is just a facade of shop fronts so unfortunately, we could not go inside the shops. But this was the first time I had seen Ollivanders without a massive queue in front of it!
Once we left Diagon Alley, we walked through corridors of paintings of movie stills and found ourselves face to face with Hogwarts. The modal of Hogwarts Castle was built for The Philosophers Stone and is so intensely detailed that if you added all the man hours together that took to build it- it would be over 74 years! Not surprising when you look at the size, scale, and detail of the castle. The model of Hogwarts is truly breathtaking and is a stark example of how much attention and care to detail went into the making of the Harry Potter movies. As with every other set, prop, creature, or costume we had seen that day, the commitment of the team who made the movies can clearly be seen.
<Steve> – I am afraid I got a bit carried away getting some life-size perspective shots f the Castle, I think they look really good but remember it is only a model!
The castle was the grand finale of the tour so after we walked around the castle, admitting its beauty we headed to the exit through the impressively sized gift shop. This Gift Shop would be retail heaven for any HP fan! However, as we had recently bought HP merchandise at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood earlier that year, the only purchase we made was a bottle of ButterBeer to take home with us.
We then headed out to the heat-ridden car park to begin our drive back up North, relieved that our car had good air-conditioning!
And with that, we were done. Another epic adventure ticked off and back t reality, and time to get planning for our next trip