UK theme parks from another point of view!

 
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ponder
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WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Sun Mar 25, 2012 9:14 pm

Hello.

Through a very rare work benefit, I was able to acquire a pair of complimentary tickets for today's soft opening of the Harry Potter Studio Tour at the Warner Bros. studios in Leavesden (near Watford!), so I figured a little trip report might be in order for anyone who's interested. There will be some potential spoilers, so if you're planning on going and don't want anything ruined, you know what to do.

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After exchanging confirmation email for entrance tickets and all that malarky, we entered into a reasonably sized square foyer, adorned with pictures on all four sides of the characters at various ages in the films, with the Ford Anglia prop hanging from the top right hand ceiling. On the left is your bog standard over-priced cafe, a rather large merchandise shop is on the right, and directly ahead is the main entrance to the attraction.

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So after a short queue, which is broken up by a prop of the cupboard under the stairs that Harry lives in 'in the real world' in the first few films, we were ushered in to a small-ish holding room, with portrait style video screens projection the various film posters used around the world for the movies. A short talk followed from one of the guides, mostly around etiquette, and then we were shown a short film about the origins of the Harry Potter series, and how the films came to be made.

The doors opened, and our group of around 30 people moved on into a larger auditorium, this time with seats... possibly the most comfortable seats in the world in fact! All cinemas should have these. So another little guide talk, and another short film followed. This time, on a huge cinema screen, showing a kind of 'behind the scenes' look at the production, which was fronted by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. In what was on of the first simple, but cool effects of the day, the film ended with the 3 actors walking in to the door of the Great Hall. With that image remaining, the screen lifted up to reveal the actual entrance to the Great Hall, and everyone jumped off of their seats to head inside.

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So now we're in the actual set used for the Great Hall, and it's pretty bloody impressive. Like most things seen on film or screen, it's not quite as big as you imagine it, but it's hardly small either! The level of detail on the walls with the gargoyles and the murals is quite spectacular, and WB Studios have installed slightly creepy looking faceless models in particular locations wearing the character clothes to depict where they'd sit/stand etc.

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After a talk from the guide on the Great Hall, including a little snippet on how the actors would celebrate their birthdays with parties in there during filming, we moved on. The next section is like a big open studio, featuring lots of smaller sets that you're free to roam. These included the Gryffendoor dorms and common room, Dumbledore's office, Hagrid's house, potions classroom and the Weasley's house amongst others. There's also a photo/video opportunity where you can 'ride' a broomstick in front of a green screen having your image mapped onto various movie scenes. The queue for this was slow moving, so we gave it a miss.

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As we headed out to the back lot area, there were a few more exhibits to check out, such as the Ministry of Magic fireplace. Out in to the back lot stage, and the beautiful sunshine. Here you can grab some refreshments (and yes, the do sell butter beer), and check out some of the outdoor exhibits such as the Ford Anglia, the London Knight bus, the Potter's house in Godric's Hollow, the house Harry lives in in the first few films, and most impressively of all, the bridge to Hogwarts. On a lovely summer-like day as today was, this was a really cool little area.

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As you head back inside, past the chess figures from 'Philosopher's Stone', you enter a kind of effects workshop, with a big video screen showing how many of the make-up / monster effects were made, along with shelves of props and a really cool glass exhibit in the middle of the room with animatronic props of the freaky Voldermort fetus, a mandrake and that monster book thing.

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Through to the next room, and the really big, nasty props such as one of the spider's, the baselisk's corpse and head, and Butterbeak!

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And that little section leads you in to Diagon Alley...

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Diagon Alley is really cool, and pretty much exactly as you'd expect it to be. You walk from Gringots right up to the top, and then through another concept art section featuring comprehensive drawings of many of the key scenes from the films, and scale models of many of the buildings, including Hogwarts.

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And this leads you through to the grand finale...

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... A 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts. This was created for the various exterior shots for the films, as well as being use to create the CGI model for the various close ups and sweeping shots. Combining the man hours that went in to creating this, it would take a single person 76 years to build this by themself!

So that's pretty much it. You exit through Ollivanders and into the gift shop, which is essentially a bigger version of the one at Universal, but selling pretty much exactly the same stuff, albeit at slightly inflated prices!

To wrap up my feelings in a soundbite: It was good, very good, but short. The entire tour took around 2 hours, and once it's done, there's little else to do other than to peruse the gift shop and buy food. Considering they'll be charging £28 for an adult ticket, I think there should be a little more on offer. Following on from that point, there's nothing to warrant making a return visit. Once you've seen it all, there's no real reason to go back, as it's essentially a Harry Potter museum if you like.

As such, I'd probably recommend it as a must-do for die hard HP fans only. As a more casual fan, I would feel a little aggrieved to have laid out that kind of money for such little return. If you have no interest in Potter, then it really doesn't offer anything for you, simply put.
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DiogoJ42

Re: WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Sun Mar 25, 2012 9:29 pm

Sounds good. Though my interest has little to do with the potter franchise and more to do with work :lol: might have to check it out. Thanks Ponder :)
 
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Adz
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Re: WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:07 pm

Question; Is Butterbeer available anywhere?
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Dormiens-Dave

Re: WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:52 pm

This could so easily be the seed for a great theme park and some competition for Merlin... Looks quite good :)
 
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mrbrightside
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Re: WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:35 am

^ That was the original rumour, but it was quickly put to bed. It's such a shame that the area it's in doesn't really have the space to grow into such an attraction. Although something like that would be incredible for the UK if it did happen. Competition is sorely needed!
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DiogoJ42

Re: WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:44 am

WB wanted to build a massive studio theme park just round the corner from me, (Uxbridge, on the same site once considered for the NEC before it ended up in Birmingham) in the early 90's. It would have been the UK's answer to the American studio parks. Sadly the local NIMBYs (and believe me they are just as bad today) wouldn't let them :roll:
What is it with old women in this country not liking roller coasters?
 
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Re: WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:33 pm

Adz wrote:
Question; Is Butterbeer available anywhere?


Yes. They sell it at the refreshment stand in the back lot area.

This will never become a theme park though for a number of reasons. Space being one, but also due to there being a residential area literally across the road. It would've been cool if they'd built a little dark ride inside or something, but the purpose of this attraction is to serve as a studio tour, and nothing more, which is a shame.
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Themeparksandy1981
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Re: WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Thu Mar 29, 2012 9:04 pm

They also had plans to built this on the old Rover land at Longbridge Birmingham but the Uni was built instead and houses.
 
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haydn!
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Re: WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Sat Mar 31, 2012 12:41 pm

It looks pretty awesome, especially if your a Harry Potter fan! Though it is a bit pricey!

Maybe they'll follow a similar development patter to that which Star Trek Experience followed in Vegas. Opening with just a prop and set tour like this, but later adding a few attractions like simulators and 4D cinema experience. (That said, let's hope it doesn't meet the same fate as Star Trek which closed a few years back)

Also, whilst I get this is more a showcase of film props and sets, it would have been nice to see Diagon Alley made more interactive. Make the different shops all usable with more tastes, sights and sounds from the films. Would have extended the experience massively, and provided more emotive retail experiences.
Last edited by haydn! on Sat Mar 31, 2012 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Sun Apr 01, 2012 11:00 pm

Only seen the first 2 potter films, but if i was in london for a weekend or whatever, i probley would vist out of intrest. How does it compare to potter world at universal? not been yet - hopefully next year.
 
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Re: WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Mon Apr 02, 2012 9:41 am

The expansion ideas i read about were to expand the studio with other film sets and props. The most notable mentioned was the Dark Knight which was filmed there (and presumably this years Dark Knight Rises).

If you look at the buildings signage, it has the ''making of harry potter'' and ''WB studio tour'' separate, which leaves it open to add a ''making of Dark Knight'' sign or another film name.

I'd love to see either, a Diagon Alley being built in London Centre with all the shops and leaky caldron or a massive hotel/holiday park in a full scale Hogwarts built somewhere off the east coast mainline(from Kings cross), such as Derbyshire, Yorkshire or maybe Scotland.
 
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Re: WB Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter

Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:58 am

Great post, looks absolutely fantastic. Should be attending at some point this year, looks brilliant.

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