“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense...” this is how the magic world of Harry Potter begin. The idea of Harry Potter came to J. K Rowling on a delayed train from Manchester to London in 1990. In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and after several refusals the book was finally published by Bloomsbury in 1997. This was followed by 6 more books and 8 movies that conquered the world.
If you happen to be in London and you are a movie lover you must not miss a tour of the Making of Harry Potter in the Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden. Leavesden, originally an aerodrome for the production of aircrafts during the World War II, was turned into movies studios by Warner Bros. Studios. In 2000 the studios started to be used by Heyday Films on behalf of Warner Bros. and have been the home of Harry Potter movies since then.
As the guide introducing you to the studios will say, a visit to the studios usually takes around 3 hours but it can also take anywhere between 30 minutes and 13 hours. Walking through the gates of Hogwarts you are instantly teleported into the world of Harry Potter.
The visit carries you through two hangars and one outdoor area where you can see anything from rooms, offices, costumes, props, special effects, testing area for wands, special area for flying on broomsticks and so much more.
Everything we see in the movies, from costumes, to tapestry, paintings on the walls, props, newspapers, leaflets, wands was designed to bring to life the words of J. K. Rowling.
What could not be designed in material shape was put together with the help of special and visual effects.
Just to give you some numbers by the time the production ended in 2011 there were 5,000 pieces of furniture, 12,000 handmade books and 40,000 Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes products and packages specially made or purchased for the movie.
More than 3,000 wands were made for the films using combinations of wood, plastic, resin and rubber. Olivanders was the home of more than 17,000 individually labelled wand boxes. If you look carefully, you can see on the wand boxes the names of each and every person that was involved over time in the making of Harry Potter.
What impress about the studios is the fact that you get a chance to get behind the scenes of the movie, to understand a glimpse about visual effects, special effects, set decorations, hair and make-up, directing, producing, marketing and to get a sense of how important is each and every person involved in the making of a movie, from the person that appears in front of us on the big screens to the person that rubs the floors or brings the coffee every morning when the shooting starts.
It is said that 4,000 people contributed to the making of Harry Potter movies. We don’t get to see them on screen and we don’t really get to appreciate their work. But for what is worth, there would be no magic world of Harry Potter without these guys and visiting the studios in Leavesden makes each and every one of them special.
– if you plan to use the metro and trains to get to the studios plan around 1:30 – 2:00 for the trip to cover the metro, the train and the bus taking you from Watford Junction to the Harry Potter Studios;
– the bus from Watford Junction comes every 20 minutes; do check the schedule of the bus for the specific day you plan to visit; the ride takes not more than 10 minutes;
– if you get hungry, in the outdoor scenes you can find something to drink (the butterbeer is really a must try) and to eat;
– save some energy for the souvenir shop; it is full of all you can imagine and it’s a must to take home at least a wand.
J. K. Rowling: “The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”