Taking a break from the Olympic festivities today, we headed up about 20 minutes north of central London to Watford Junction and the Warner Brothers Studio London - Making of Harry Potter tour.  This is the location of the original soundstages used for filming all 8 productions and is now the home of select complete and partial sets, wardrobe items, hair and make-up essentials, and props from the films.

The tour starts outside of a huge memorabilia store, where you queue up to watch an introductory film on the origins of the film franchise and the fan excitement.  Then, a guide leads you through a set of large, arched double doors along a wall of stone statues into the authentic set for the Hogwarts Great Hall.  Filled with two of the long tables, mannequins in costumes and other props from the movies, you get a feeling of what it was like for the actors to work on the soundstage set, and you got to observe not only the level of detail that was used to decorate the sets but the amount of post-production CGI that was needed to complete the whole film effect (e.g., no floating candles or starry ceiling).  Next, the tour guide escorts you into the main part of the first soundstage filled with various authentic movie items.  The key set pieces included the Gryffindor Common Room, Gryffindor Boys' Dormitory, Potions Classroom, Dumbledore's Office, and Delores Umbridge's Ministry of Magic Office (no moving cat plates).  You even had an opportunity to watch the magic of the green screen, boarding a mostly stationary broomstick and watching yourself as you are inserted in various recognizable flying sequences.  Right now, you're unable to take advantage of an option to purchase the film because of international copyrights but have the option to purchase a photo on four backgrounds.

In between the soundstages is an outdoor area containing the Night Bus, Hagrid's motorbike, Weasley's flying car, part of one of the Hogwarts entrance bridges, Privet Drive houses, Potter Godric's Hollow house, Riddle family gravestone, and some of the Wizard Chess pieces.  You can take photos in the car and riding the motorbike with sidecar.  There is also a small refreshment stand where you have the option to purchase some Butter Beer.  Inside the second soundstage, there were rooms that contained props, masks, and creatures created for the film, plus a section devoted to the art department's paintings of scene staging and detailed set models.  The most detailed model is, of course, the 8 meter tall model of Hogwarts that was used to film some exterior scenes.  There's an interactive guide available to walk you through some of the special features of the Hogwarts campus - like the location of Dumbledore's office and the use of real ivy roots, dried, to create the exterior details.  The last stop on the tour is a shelved room modeled after Ollivander's Wand Shop filled to the brim with wand boxes labeled with the names of every cast and crew member from the film series.  Once you are finished, the tour dumps you out into the merchandise store where there's another opportunity to produce a souvenir photo with the background of "No.1 Most Undesirable" or "Have you seen this wizard?"  Here are some photos from our experience!!

Great Hall
Neville Longbottom's Cartigan from HP #8 Part 2
Other side of the Great Hall set
Demo of how the candles floated

Yule Ball Drinks Set

Harry costumes for various stages in the film - HP #8 Part 1
Harry's Bed in the Dormitory
Wand storage in the prop room
Gryffindor Common Room

Dumbledore's Chamber 
Elaborate Props - case of all the horcruxes
Deatheater Costumes
Floo Network into the Ministry of Magic 
#4 Privet Drive
Potter House in Godric's Hollow
Wizard Chess Pawn
Diagon Alley
Inside Weasley Joke Shop 
Hogwarts Model Built for the Films
Cast and Crew from ALL films have a wand box located at an Ollivander's-like room at the end of the tour (Daniel Radcliffe and Gary Oldman in the center of this photo)

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