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Mar 27, 2014

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter (Part 2)

From the looks of it, I've got quite a few Potter-heads for readers! I'm so glad you all enjoyed yesterdays post…and as promised, here's the last of the photos from the HP Studio Tour! Halfway through our tour route, there was an outdoor covered cafe where you could order snacks and…you guessed it…BUTTERBEER! That stuff is beyond delicious. Of course, no actual beer is involved (aw shucks), but it does taste like a butterscotch cream soda with marshmallow on top. Sounds like heaven, right? It was. ;) Just beside the cafe was a whole outdoor set area where you could get a more hands-on approach to all things Potter. After you moved back inside, you could roam through the makeup and mask department…very, very interesting. They even had life-size replicas of many of the major characters so you could see how you stack up to the likes of Harry, Hermione, and Hagrid. 

Next came one of my favorite parts of the tour…a stroll through Diagon Alley! You could peek into each of the storefronts and see wands and owls and all the fun toys at the Weasley's store. The only thing I really didn't love was that the whole place was uplit with red, blue, and purple lighting. I think the idea was to show the alleyway as it changed from day to night, but it made for some really odd photo taking.

The next to the last room of the tour was quite amazing. You could take a 360° view of a 1:24 hand-sculpted model of Hogwarts Castle. It was built for the first film and has been used in all films for aerial photography shots and digitally scanned for CGI scenes. This room also had quite a bit of lighting (to show Hogwarts day to night), but it definitely added to the experience as you could see flickering lights that simulated lanterns and torches and the illusion of students walking the halls. You can get a better idea of the scale of the whole model from the photo where I'm standing below the castle. It was HUGE, and insanely cool. :)

And lastly…you pass through the "Tribute Room" which is what was used as Ollivander's Wand Shop. This room was filled to the brim with wand boxes all labeled with the names of the people who helped to create the films over the last 10 years. There are over 3,000 boxes and if you look close enough, you can find the boxes paying tribute Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, as well as J.K Rowling. We were only able to find J.K. Rowling's box…but we were assured every actor was there!

And with that, we've reached the end of the tour! Of course, like with any good studio tour, you are released into the gift shop where you can purchase all the Potter memorabilia you could stand. We bought wands for family (who are also big HP fans), t-shrits, and my Gryffindor scarf here before making our way back into London. Seriously, guys…this place is every Harry Potter fanatic's dream! Make sure to plan a visit if you're ever in or around the London area. D and I are really looking forward to seeing how the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Florida stacks up to this studio tour. I'm sure it won't quite be the same since everything at the studio tour was actually in the movie and the theme park consists of mostly replicas, but it should be a fun visit nevertheless! After this tour, I think it's safe to say I've officially gone down in history as the greatest wife in the world. Thanks, Harry! ;)

Mar 26, 2014

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter (Part 1)

If there's one thing you should know about my handsome husband, it's that he's a huge, unashamed fan of the Harry Potter series. In fact, I remember him reading one of the books from cover to cover during our honeymoon. Sweet, right? I, on the other hand, have been known to be a major Harry Potter hater. I know, I know…shame on me. I blame the HP honeymoon reading for my disdain. Kidding, kind of. Over the years, I've been one to pick at D and my HP lovin' friends about how silly I thought the whole series was. But, don't lynch me yet, Potter fans…this place might have made me change my tune. (Keep reading!) When D and I took an impromptu trip to London (our second trip) back in August of 2012 (see how far behind I am on blogging our travels?), I knew just the perfect thing to wow! the pants right off my Potter-lovin' hubby. It was just 2 weeks after our 5th wedding anniversary, so I booked us 2 tickets to visit the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour as a little anniversary gift for D. The best part about the trip? D had NO CLUE we were going! I'm absolutely no good at keeping secrets and almost spilled the beans a number of times, but I'm so glad I kept my trap shut, because when D realized where we were going, the look on his face was well worth the secrets! I've never seen a grown man become as giddy as D was when he boarded the Harry Potter decked-out bus to the studio. He then skipped all the way to the front door. SKIPPED, people. I've got the video to prove it. Watching him revel with excitement was so good for my heart. I imagine that is what it feels like to view things through the eyes of a child, because even I was excited to tour HP land with him. 

Now, for some tour logistics. I pre-booked our tickets online (no tickets are sold at the studio) and mapped our visit from the WB tour website. We were staying in the heart of London, but the WB studio is located about 40 minutes outside of London in Watford. To get to the studio, we took the tube to Euston Station, hopped a train to Watford Junction, and then caught the HP Studio Tour Bus (£2 roundtrip per person) to the studio. The bus is covered in a giant HP mural, so you can't miss it! For our afternoon at the WB studio, I made sure D was hooked up with everything he could possibly need to enjoy his tour. The tour itself is £30 per person…but for an extra £9.95, I added the digital guide and paperback souvenir guide to his ticket. I didn't want him missing a thing! Turns out, the digital guide was super helpful in giving extra tidbits of info that weren't on any of the signs throughout the tour. D was constantly spouting off fun facts to me as we wandered through. Friggin' adorable.

Ok, so this is where I tell you how I came into this tour a non-HP fan and came out of it just as big of a HP fanatic as D is. It literally only took me 5 minutes into the tour before I had a major change of heart. No joke. In the beginning of the tour, they take you into a small auditorium where they show a video that flashes through all the hoopla of the whole Harry Potter book and movie franchise. It's definitely designed to get you jazzed up and nostalgic…perfect segway for what they do next. After the video, a studio tour worker pops into the room to welcome you and explain how to the tour works. As she finishes her schpeel, the movie screen retracts into the ceiling and behind her stands the doors into Hogwarts. THE actual doors from the movie. At this point, I'm like "Huh, cool." D is positively frothing at the mouth. The tour woman then asked how ready we were to walk the halls of Hogwarts. D died...I was like, sure, let's do this. Then the woman totally blows my mind. She said something to the effect of, "Just like the first words Harry heard when he reached these doors…WELCOME TO HOGWARTS!!" And then the doors swung open and boom…the Great Hall was right before us. No lie folks…I cried. The sheer magnitude and vastness of this room caught me off guard and I couldn't stop the tears. It was like you were walking right into the movie. Just like that, I was hooked. 

Weeks before our trip here, D and I marathon watched all 8 movies over a long weekend…mostly so I could know what the heck I was looking at during the tour. D had no idea why I wanted to watch the movies, but he was thrilled nevertheless. When he noticed I was teary eyed walking through the Great Hall (THE actual Great Hall set), he said "YOU GET IT!! NOW YOU GET IT!!" I did, I totally got it. There's just something magical about this whole Harry Potter thing and I finally let go of my disdain and went all Gryffindor. I even bought a darn Gryffindor scarf at the gift shop and wear it proudly from time to time. What a difference one tour makes.

For the rest of the afternoon, D and I totally geeked out on all things Harry Potter. From the costumes and props, to the larger than life sets and butter beer…we did and tried it all! These are just the first half of the photos I took of our tour. I have lots more to show you tomorrow…but even then, there's so much more to see for yourself! FYI, you had a specific tour time to start, but could take all the time you wanted to leisurely walk the studio and get your fill of the fun. It took us about 3 hours to take our time and see it all. The tour itself was fantastic and a real learning experience. Even I was shocked at how much movie magic went into making the book series a big screen hit! So many secrets were reveled and now that we know them, D loves to point them out when we catch the movies on TV from time to time. If you were ever wondering whether this tour is worth schlepping out from London and spending some dough, listen to this former Harry Potter hater…it SO is!!! I'd go back in a heartbeat. Who am I and where did this girl come from?!?! Oh, the things you do for love. ;)

Stay tuned for more from this tour tomorrow!!
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