One of the most exciting days out for fans of Harry Potter has to be a trip to visit the Leavesden Studios of Warner Bros where every one of the films between 2000 and 2010 was made.
Leavesden is situated between Watford and Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire, and in 1940 Leavesden Aerodrome was created by the Air Ministry and the de Havilland Aircraft Company as a base at which to build what would become the Mosquito fighter plane. Leavesden was also used to build the Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber and by the end of the war it was the largest factory in the world. Later, the airfield was used to produce Rolls Royce aircraft engines, but they left the site in the early 1990’s and the aerodrome became disused.
In 1994, Eon Productions was looking for a site for its’ production of the James Bond film GoldenEye, as Pinewood Studios was fully booked, and they leased Leavesden, converting the hangars and factories into film studios, offices, and workshops. Subsequently, in 2000, Heyday Films acquired the site on behalf of Warner Bros in order to make Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Warner Bros finally bought the site in 2010 and subsequently invested more than £100 million developing it further.
As part of its’ development, Warner Bros created two brand new soundstages in order to house a permanent exhibition known as Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, which opened in 2012. The studio tour usually takes about three hours and the attraction can handle up to 6,000 visitors a day. The tour is styled like a theme park, and the standard tour is self-guided, but there are also options for various guided tours.
Here you can step inside the Great Hall, look inside Hagrid’s hut, and explore the Wand Room. Take a trip down Diagon Alley, wander through Dumbledore’s office, and admire the antique furniture in Gryffindor Common Room. You can also see the Chamber of Secrets, have fun with the special effects in the Weasley Kitchen, and see the Invisibility Cloak.
Next up is the triple decker Knight Bus and the Dursleys’ house on Privet Drive, and you can also buy Butterbeer! No trip to Hogwarts would be complete without a look at some of the many goblins and elves that were created by the Creature Effects department over a period of ten years.
The Forbidden Forest
The latest part of the attraction to open is the Forbidden Forest which opened on March 31st, and here you are in for a really frightening experience. There are 19 very life-like trees with realistic bark and entwined roots hiding a number of creatures, including the hippogriffs, in the dark. There is also a full size working model of Buckbeak which has had every feather put in place individually by hand. Hagrid also makes an appearance, but further into the forest lurks the acromantular, Aragog. The spider has an 18 foot leg-span and was hand-fitted with sisal, yak hair, and hemp from brooms. It emerges from its’ lair when you are least expecting it and sends lightning and thunder through the forest. In the film it took 15 people to operate it.
Of course, you can see the Hogwarts Express steam engine which is actually the GWR 4900 Class 5972 Olton Hall dressed up as 5972 Hogwarts Castle, and you can visit the railway shop at Platform 9¾. Here you can have your photo taken while you push the trolley through the wall. You can sit in the carriage that was used as the original set and look through the “windows” at the Dementor attack and the escape of Harry’s first Chocolate Frog.
See the Memory Cabinet, the Time-Turner, and an array of beautiful hand-made wands personalised for each character. Wander among the spooky ghost costumes, admire Hermione’s Yule Ball gown, and view the Quidditch robes.
There is certainly a lot to see at the Warner Bros Studio Tour London and it is well worth a visit for every Harry Potter fan. You can call into the Studio Shop before going home and buy replica wands, clothing, and other souvenirs.