Well aren’t we the lucky ones? We managed to find ourselves invited to a personal preview tour of the Harry Potter exhibit at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, London, about a month before it opens to the public. Our excellent tour guide was Craig Hanna, Chief Creative Officer of Thinkwell, the amazing guys and gals behind the attraction (also home to our pal Dave). They’re in soft open mode at the moment, which means they’re running the whole thing for preview guests to help test everything and make sure nobody dies before the real audiences turn up.
The experience isn’t quite what you’d expect judging by how the Harry Potter world has been re-created over the pond in Orlando. Here it’s a slightly more mature approach, and rather than telling the story as if all the magic is real, they are telling you the real story of how the films are made. So rather than entering the real Hogwarts, you explore the actual Hogwarts film sets and the rest of the Harry Potter world.
The place is full of genuinely amazing props and sets, the likes of which you really don’t see so much in films now-a-days. Anybody with a just a passing interest of the craft of film making would be wide eyed at the good old forced perspective corridors, extremely detailed machines and literally piles of animatronic monsters.
The big thing that makes this place special though is the stories of how these people, and especially the kids, have grown up and pretty much lived at the studio for over 10 years making the films – you get a real feel for the passion and pride that goes into the production coming out of such a close knit (and rather large) film making family.
The whole thing is just huge, we can’t mention it all here, but the highlights have to be the Grand Hall in all it’s glory, the stunningly huge Hogwarts model used in all the films, and of course the Butter Beer, which is not of this world, but we’re very glad it’s paying us a visit. Go book yourself some tickets.
One really nice touch is in the very last room of the tour. The room is stuffed from floor to ceiling of wand boxes. Every box carries the name of every single person that worked on the 8 films. There’s no order, no heirachy, they’re all smashed together in one big family. There’s a guy in there with a memory like Rainman who can point out any name you wish… with his wand.
… and Thanks again to Craig from Thinkwell for the tour. What a dude.
More photos here.