When J.K. Rowling sat down to begin writing her first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which was published in June 1997, little could she have imagined what a global phenomenon she was in the process of creating.
By July 2007, when the seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, began to fly out of the bookshops, the first five books had already been made into incredibly successful movies.
It is estimated that in total, the brand, which includes films, books and merchandising, is worth some £9.5bn.
Though the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, was released in 2011, interest in the boy wizard remains as strong as ever. One of the key reasons for the success of the series is that despite being aimed primarily at children, it also appeals to adults.
For example, if you started reading the Philosopher’s Stone as a 13 year old, you could easily have become a parent by the time the final book was published.
If you and your kids are eager to learn more about how the films were made and how the special effects were created and even take a stroll around some of the actual sets and sound stages, why not spend a day at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour at Leavesden, just outside Watford.
Opened in 2012, the studios are conveniently located just three miles from the M1 and M25, and a shuttle bus operates from Watford Junction railway station. If you are staying overnight, there is a wide range of accommodation options available in the immediate area.
The Studio Tour really does have something for everyone, and kids can drive a flying car or learn how to ride on a broomstick and take photos, USBs or DVDs home with them to show their friends. There is non-alcoholic butterbeer to sample and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans to try.
Grown-ups are able to spend some time discovering the secrets behind the incredible special effects used in the films and how the goblins, elves and Aragog, the 18ft animatronic spider, were created.
Be sure not to miss walking along platform 9 ¾ to the Hogwarts Express and sit in a railway carriage used in filming. One of the most impressive sets has to be The Great Hall, which features in seven of the films. You will see tables set for dinner, the costumes worn by students in the various Hogwarts houses as well as the House Points Counter, which contains a huge number of Indian glass beads.
You are sure to be astounded when you first set eyes on and then go on to Explore the Hogwarts castle, a 1:24 model created by the Warner Bros. Art Department. It took no less than 40 highly skilled artists and technicians to build the structure, which is incredibly detailed.
The outdoor back lot area is packed with props and sets, including the triple-deck Knight Bus, Hogwarts Bridge and the Dursley’s home, 4 Privet Drive, where Harry grew up following the death of his parents.
When planning your visit, be sure to book a timed ticket well in advance; the number admitted per hour is limited in order to avoid over-crowding. Finally, don’t forget to grab a free Potter Passport for each of the kids. They feature a treasure hunt and are stamped at various points throughout the tour.
If you are a fan of Harry Potter, then the Warner Bros. Studio Tour is not to be missed. It’s a great way for everyone to enjoy an out of this world, magical experience.