Monday, 28 November 2016

Hogwarts in the Snow at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - Review

Written by Sarah Abbott - Entertaining Elliot's brand new guest blogger (and family member!)

Warner Brothers have made a lot of films but none as big as the Harry Potter series (yes, even bigger than Ace Ventura: when Nature Calls) so it's no surprise that their studios in Watford have been transformed  into a permanent interactive exhibition of all things Potter related.We were lucky to be some of the first to see 'Hogwarts in The Snow' - all the usual attractions but with an added festive tinge. Walking into the entrance you're met with huge portraits of the film's stars and as it's Christmas, a ginormous Christmas tree which everyone was queuing up to get nice pictures in front of for their mums. 

We had to wait a while for the tour to actually start but nobody seemed to care as everyone was given mulled wine, spiced ginger punch and mince pies. There was also some guests clutching what looked like large goody bags but no amount of hovering near the sign-in table procured one for us. Then we were ushered into the studio's cinema where the tour guide joked we were about to watch all eight films (judging by some of the squeals in the room, I don't think a few of the guests would have minded, however, sadly we had places to be before the next 22 and a half hours had come to an end). The film's three main actors  talked through an introduction to the series along with awkward jokes (bless 'em) and then the evenings first audible crowd gasp happened when the cinema screen was pulled up to reveal the gates of Hogwarts behind.

 Behind the gates is the set for the Main Hall where many of the film's memorable scenes such as the Sorting Hat doing some sorting happen. The realistic banquet food on the long tables had been replaced with yule time fare including spontaneously lighting Christmas puddings and the room (which is as big as it looks on screen) was lined with beautifully adorned Christmas trees each with 'fairys'- that looked suspiciously more like witches to me - at the tops which flew in circles.

Onwards from this section, the tour is self guided so you can take as long or as little as you like. The place is stacked high with props, sets and costumes from all eight films, some of which are really quite impressive in size such as the snaked embelished door to the chamber of secrets or the imposing Magic is Might statue.

For us the absolute highlight was the other half getting to 'fly' a broom stick, or at least mess about in front of a green screen - much to the indifference of the staff whilst I laughed like a woman possessed- then magically get superimposed over a whizzing backdrop of Harry Potter related scenery. Some might say £25 for the privilage is a bit on the extortianate side, but a small USB stick containing twenty seconds of comedy gold says otherwise.

There's so much to look at  including exterior props such as the house on Privet drive, the Knight bus and the Weasley's house that you really could spend all day at the attraction. There was a snow machine on the go during this outside segment which wasn't quite as exciting as it sounds but it's funny how a few bits of foam wafting around in the air makes everything feel that bit more christmassy! 

Another highlight was the Creature Effects Department where you can get up close and personal with Dobby, Buckbeak, Werewolves and centaurs among many others. Take this as fair warning though of the humongous model of the  spider 'Aragog' which boats a leg span of 18 foot which you will encounter dangling from the ceiling when you turn a corner, incase you want to survive the rest of the tour without ruining your pants. This bit was fascinating and makes you really appreciate the time and effort that went into creating that realism that CGI alone can't quite achieve.

Harry Potter fans and fans of luggage alike will love experiencing Platform 9 and 3/4 in real life and no one's going to judge you for making sure you get that shot of you racing 'through' the brick wall with your bag trolly.

 The Hogwarts express is there too and you're able to walk through the carriage section which in reality is just a carriage of an old train with bits of prop scattered around it, but tourists from  outside of the UK probably go crazy for it. Who am I kidding, we did and made sure we got pictures of us hanging out of the Hogwarts express window waving imaginary hankies. In case you were worried, there's plenty of opportunites to splash a bit of cash around tour- Hogwarts Express gets it's own train station related gift shop and there's also a Honey Dukes sweet cart, Butter Beer Cafe as well as lots of opportunites to pay for a professional to take your photo during a famous Harry Potter scene.

There's also a replica of Diagon Alley to marvel over complete with it's owl emporium, Leaky Cauldron and Gringott's Wizarding Bank, but the most awe inspiring 'prop' is left for the end when you walk down a corridor with various Harry Potter concept art and imagery to find at the end, the extremely detailed model of Hogwarts itself, complete with it's sprinkling of 'snow'. Photos of the handsculpted model don't do it justice and you only really get the impact of the sheer size of it (nearly fifty feet in diameter) by walking around the whole thing to the background track of 'Harry in Winter' from the soundtrack- it's lovely. There was also a man in this room explaining how the snow and fire effects were achieved in the films. Much of the time small fires in the film were made with clever lighting and carefully engineered vapour which was good because fire is expensive to make. 

The exit of course, is through the gift shop, however before you get there you find yourself in Ollivander's Wand Shop where individual wand's with thousands of names are printed on the boxes. We found out later that these are all the names of everyone involved in the making of the films, however at the time we assumed that  if you found your name it meant you were a wizard! Luckily a helpful guide is on hand to cross reference her massive book of names against yours...alas we were both merely muggles, which almost ruined the entire evening. The nice lady also said that hopefully everybody elses names would be added soon so when we visit next time I'm looking forward to spending the day scouring  a warehouse of about 500,000 wand boxes out-back. 

Looking for the perfect wand!
The gift shop itself is a treasure trove of everything you might possibly ever want to buy in your entire lifetime if you're a big harry potter fan including finely rendered replica's of all the wands; nostalgia inducing uniforms; gorgeously pretty jewellery; delectable looking sweets and chocolates straight  from JK Rowling's pages; painstakenly detailed illustration books and prints and incredible replicas of many of the props themselves. Us? We parted ways with a crisp five pound note in exchange for a very small plastic keyring, because we know how to have a good time .....and also because we blew all of our budget on a fake broomstick ride (no regrets). 

You should go; it's what Dobby would have wanted!

Ticket Information -

*Disclaimer - We were provided with free tickets for this event in return for this honest review 


  1. Oh I really need a luggage shot! Looks fantastic #triedtested

  2. I love it at WARNER Studios but have never seen it in the snow - I must go back. Thanks for linking up :)

  3. Thanks for linking up with #TriedTested this week x


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