Saturday, August 12, 2017

Travelogue: London (part 5) The Making of Harry Potter

Our 6 day trip to London with our 8 year old was permeated with Harry Potter references.


This post is part of the travelogue of our London Trip 2017.
If you'd like to read the posts in chronological order they are below.

Part 1:Travelogue London: Arrival
Part 2: Travelogue London: The Tower of London/Golden Hind/Play That Goes Wrong
Part 3: Travelogue London: Hampton Court Palace
Part 4: Travelogue London:  Buckingham, Hamley's, Posh Tea, and an Old Enemy
Part 5: Travelogue London: The Making of Harry Potter (coming soon)
Part 6: Travelogue London: 48 hours of very hard travel by train.

We of course, visited King's Cross to gaze (along with about a million other people) at the wonders of Platform 9 3/4.  Every Doubledecker bus was a potential Nightbus.  We saw a large black stray dog and wondered if it was Sirius Black.

Even when we went out to suburban London to visit our cousins, my son wondered if we were near where the Dursley's lived.

We unfortunately could not get tickets (or quite frankly spend the money or the 9 hours) to watch the West End show of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (can't wait for it to come to Chicago or New York!) but the be all and end all of our trip was our visit to The Making of Harry Potter.

This attraction, about an hour by bus from Victoria Cross on the outskirts of London, is a tour through the actual studio where Warner Brothers shot all of the Harry Potter movies-- in fact, while we were there, we were informed that in a building we didn't go into they were currently shooting Fantastic Beasts II.

In the great hall, they have models of some of the teachers in their costumes.  (Not real actors!)

The studio has been since turned into a booming tour industry.  We were just a few of the thousands of tourists who attend every day.

My son was so excited to get on Hagrid's
motorbike (with sidecar)
Unlike the Harry Potter worlds at Universal, there are no rides to go on here.  Everything is related to the movies and how the movies were made.  That's not to say there wasn't interactivity.  There was plenty.

You could push a button and see Dolores Umbridge's pink sweater start to smolder.

In another area, you could try your hand at getting a broom to rise up to your hand (SPOILER ALERT:  It's not real magic.

 They have a hydraulic lift cleverly hidden behind the actor, and an operator whose job it is to raise and lower the broom.)

There are spiders that pop out at you in the Forbidden Forest (and for the arachnophobes, there is a spider free route), and you can open and close The Marauder's Map in a very cool visual display.

You can even get (for an additional fee) greenscreened into riding a broom during a Quidditch match!

Here's the video of Umbridge's smoking jacket.

Designs of the Whomping Willow and the Flying Car.
It turns out that the whomping willow only had one arm that actually moved.

The Gleaming Castle. It's a model, but when they shoot it, it looks enormous!

During the course of the tour, you can get a passport to get a stamp through each area of the exhibition, and there's also a number of Golden snitches throughout the exhibition that you are supposed to find.  There's no real reward for doing any of those things, but it's clever and fun.

The Golden Egg.
The thing is that most remarkable about The Making of Harry Potter is the explanations by some of the creatives about how they made all of the objects.  There is a multi-room video tour of how some of the props got made, multiple quotes from people about different areas, a life size version of the flying car and the Gringotts train car, and tons of other stuff.

Understanding how they made Hagrid seem so big for example, or the secrets behind how they staged all those Hogwarts flyovers was astonishing.

We were there for 3 hours, and while we saw a lot of stuff, we didn't see it all.

One of my favorite moments is the reveal of the Hogwarts Exterior


After you enter into the exhibition for the first time, there is a 12 or so minute movie about the Harry Potter Experience.  After the movie, the screen lifts up to reveal the door to Hogwart's Castle.

It's breathtaking when it happens, and it felt truly like a magical experience.  The doors opened magically to reveal the enormous Great Hall.  They didn't have the animated sorting hat, but it was just amazing.  You get about 20 minutes to take in all of the details of the Great Hall before they move you along so that the next group can experience that same magical moment.

They use perspective to make big people look smaller
As you walk through the rest of the exhibit, each of the sets and set pieces are grouped together, so you see the boys dormitory at Gryffindor, one of the magic shops, or even the train station.

If you've been to Universal (as we have) you'll know that the attention to detail there was (and is) superb, and they've kept up that same attention at this attraction.  You really feel like you are in the Forbidden Forest, or at the Leaky Cauldron, or in Snape's Potion classroom.  (Which makes sense, as these are the film sets!)

If you've got a Harry Potter fan in your household, I think that visiting the Making of Harry Potter is a must.  You should definitely book in advance, as tickets are often sold out.  Our bus over there was completely full, so unless you are driving, you should consider booking with one of the bus tour companies.

Buy tickets directly:
Book bus directly:

Occasionally Living Social London or Groupon London have deals on this tour, so check it out as well.

Here are some additional pictures (I took over 150 pictures while I was there, so I am not posting all of them.)

Snape's potion room (where the potions stir themselves!)

Slughorn's chair along with a design for it.

A giant model of Hogwarts allowed them to do flyovers for all of the owl segments.

Placard about the Triwizard cup and what the cup should look like

I have always been in love with all of the various signage of Harry Potter.  They do a great job with posters of the world.  Here are a few.

The actual Philosopher's stone.

The reveal of the Great Hall.  The photo doesn't do it justice.  Keep your eyes open here!

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