I’m just going to come out and say it. I did not enjoy the Warner Bros. Studio Tour of Harry Potter.
I’m not afraid to say I love the Harry Potter books. They helped me through some pretty tough times and I consider them a truly magical adventure.
Yet, I wasn’t ever the biggest fan of the movies (apart from Prisoner of Azkaban which is a work of art – thank you Alfonso Cuarón) and the Studio Tour just wasn’t… great. This wasn’t the first time something related to Harry Potter has left me feeling disheartened, either.
In early 2015, I flew to Florida with Sarah for the sheer purpose of feeling the sun on my skin and visiting Harry Potter’s Wizarding World. The whole experience was in a word, surreal. Growing up in country Australia meant that there wasn’t a huge fanfare with the release of the books and movies – at least not like the scenes we saw on the news of what went on in Britain and the US.
I’d forgotten that my beloved childhood book series is in reality, a huge money making machine. A bit of a slap in the face it was, to experience that in the flesh.
This was the reason I hadn’t rushed to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour upon moving to London. It was the books that got my jollies rolling, never the films, which used to annoy me with their inconsistencies. Some of the best characters were cut out, the last book unnecessarily extended into two films, Ginny wasn’t at all kick ass and even as a kid, I was irritated by the fact that Warner Bros. didn’t allow Terry Gilliam to direct the first movie.
I think they would have been completely different films as a result. Less blockbuster-ish for sure and possibly really, truly good.
However, that is just one person’s opinion (as blogging ever really is). I do still feel it is best to consider avoiding the Warner Bros. Studio Tour if you like spending your money wisely.
I had initially bought two tickets to the tour for Sarah’s birthday. Unfortunately, sucky circumstances meant she’d be unable to join me in London, so I took my boyfriend instead.
Tickets are a bit pricey to start with at £33 pounds each. Then, you need to factor in the cost of getting out to Watford Junction along with a £2 shuttle bus to the studio itself. So, you’ve spent a good fifty quid before you’ve even stepped through the front doors.
Once you arrive at the studio, you’re required to submit to a bag and security search, because this is the world that we live in now.
All that done, you line up for a further ten minutes or so. From there, you file into a room one room with a video introduction from the film’s producers and then it’s on again to a cinema. Here everyone files in and sits down to watch another video where the movies three star’s – Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint introduce themselves and give you a quick rundown on what to expect. Then it’s through the Great Hall doors and into the hall itself.
For the better part of an hour, we walked through the studio, examining the various sets and costumes.
This bit was cool. Where films are concerned, it’s quite easy to forget about the hundreds of people working behind the scenes, who all contribute in making a movie a success. From make up artists, Visual Effects editors, set designers, concept artists, runners, animal trainers, even caterers – they all play an important part in the production process.
It was nice to see the tour recognise and pay homage to this.
However, there were pockets of tackiness, that you just couldn’t avoid. You could ride a broom in front of green screen and pay out your nose for a copy of the photo. There was a gift shop at the end of this part of the tour and adverts on the walls for products that had nothing to do with the franchise, such as perfume.
We walked onto “Platform 9 3/4”, checked out the Hogwart’s Express and walked into the restaurant. It was time for a rest.
I’d tried “Butterbeer” in Orlando and had liked it a lot – you can’t go wrong with butterscotch, really. So, we lined up to purchase a small plastic cup of the drink for a reasonable £3.95 (You could get a commemorative plastic tankard for £6.95, what a bargain!). I was starving by this point and decided I may as well get a hotdog for an equally upsetting price. However, food at these sort of events aren’t ever cheap, as a rule.
So, we lined up again and I asked for a hotdog with onion. It said £5 on the digital price charts above our head, which is over ten Australian dollars, but now is not the time to start converting.
“That will be £5.50,” the boy at the till said.
My boyfriend and I stared at him.
“It says £5 on the sign,” my boyfriend pointed out.
“You can wait for your food to the right,” he replied, completely ignoring my boyfriend’s comment.
The hotdog being a hotdog, took mere moments to come out. I asked another employee why there was a discrepancy between the price advertised and what we’d actually paid.
“Oh, the price up there and the price on our till is different,” he said, as if this was a reasonable explanation. “But if you want I can refund the fifty pence.” All this was stated as though it was a matter of inconvenience to them, rather than us.
My boyfriend grabbed the tray and told him what he thought of the restaurant experience, none of which was complimentary. I like that about the British. They’ll passive aggressively complain about things under their breath, so that on the rare occasions when they do explode, you know it’s well-deserved.
The experience soured the taste of the Butterbeer, but we did our best to try and enjoy the rest of the tour.
We found ourselves outside, ogling the Knight Bus and number 4 Privet Drive, then moved indoors to check out the “creatures” section and amble up past the concept art, which was one of the more impressive aspects of the tour. It ended with the model of Hogwarts that was used in the film.
No, that’s not right. The experience ended with “Olivander’s shop”, where you could buy a generic plastic wand and a massive gift shop, which you had to pass through in order to leave the studio.
Now, I’m not saying the tour is completely awful. It was interesting reading about the many inventive ways the crew tackled the issues involved in bringing the magical world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts to life. The set design and costumes are truly fantastic and it’s good to see that they’ve been given a new lease in life.
I just wish that it didn’t feel like the company was trying to relieve you of your cash at any given opportunity.
However, that’s what Harry Potter is – a money spinner. And if you’re like me, a fan of the books but not so much of the franchise, then consider avoiding the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.
Let the magic live on in your head and heart instead.