I’m sure you’ve no doubt heard of, and perhaps even been to see, the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford, Herts. As we live only 20 minutes away, and half of our household are fans, we are one of those lucky families who have had the chance to go. However, we’ve never been at Christmas time and I’ve heard from several people that this is a very special time to go. So when I got invited to bring the family to the preview of #HogwartsinTheSnow last night, I said “Yes please and thank you!” as did my kids 😉
The Studio Tour really is quite something. You don’t need to be a Harry Potter fan to appreciate it; you simply need to be someone who loves seeing what happens when you throw the best talent in every field at a project. The creativity, ingenuity and sheer hard work is inspiring. If you’ve not been before, it might be worth your while reading my post about our visit in February 2014 before reading on. This will get you up to speed on what is there and what you can expect as I’ll only be talking about what is different in this post.
Launching today on Friday 13th November till end January, Hogwarts in the Snow offers visitors the opportunity to see the Harry Potter film series’ most iconic sets decorated for festive scenes. By this they mean the Great Hall (which was the most Christmassy of the lot and very beautiful, complete with gas flamed Christmas puds), the Gryffindor common room, and a blanket of filmmaking snow applied to the majestic Hogwarts castle model. But this is it, I have to warn you. There really isn’t much else that is Christmassy, so if you’re tempted to go again for that feel, its probably not worth it. But I would say that there is quite a bit more there that does make a second trip worth it.
First, there’s the majestic, red beauty that is the Hogwarts Express, set within its very own Kings Cross-style station on ‘Platform 9 3/4’. The sheer size and grandeur of it is quite breathtaking, and the chance you get to go on board and amble down the carriage is quite fun. Its probably more fun for adults over a certain age such as myself who remember going on train carriages like the one they used (even the smell brings back memories of trips to Granny’s), but my two still enjoyed it (now aged 9 and 11). This is, of course, a permanent part of the tour and wasn’t there just for the Hogwarts in The Snow event.
Then there’s little extras like the first showing this year of the Goblet of Fire that rose and fell from its original jewelled casket, ‘lit’ with flames that change from blue to red. It spat out the odd paper with Harry Potter’s name on it, as in the fourth film, which visitors can keep. The explanations of how film snow is made, and how they developed it over time as they learnt what worked best, was also interesting. And then there is, of course, the wonderful, spell-binding (forgive the pun) vision of the incredible Hogwarts castle model made extra special by being covered in a thin layer of ‘snow’. I won’t give too much away here about the model, as it is one of the best tour ‘surprises’, but suffice to say you will never see a model quite like it anywhere else.
One of the advantages of returning to something as big as this tour is picking up the gems that you missed out the first time as there was simply too much to take in first time round. Listening to the story behind the making of Buckbeak, the Hippogriff, in the Prosthetics section, was a case in point.
But probably the most amusing aspect of the evening was trying to shake off Rod Stewart and family. About half way through we noticed a man looking distinctly like Rod Stewart (it seems he hasn’t changed his look in 40 years) admiring a set with a 10 or 11yr old boy. A very tall and strikingly blond woman was near him with a younger, also blond boy. They were being shown around by a member of staff. Yep, that was them alright. I whispered to the kids about there being a famous old rock star “over there, but DON’T stare” after which, of course, they promptly did. As we moved around the rest of the tour, we kept finding them nearby. I even had the unnerving experience of looking at the most disturbing set (Malfoy Mansions where the giant snake, Nagini, is slithering along a table with all the death eaters sat around it, toward a poor woman hanging in terror above the table – can you see why I’m not a fan?!), and realising that Rod himself was peering at the same set, only 2 feet away.
We bumped into them again at the train, and found them sitting in the pretend ‘carriage’ set next to us. Just another family of four having their photo taken….
And then again in the Platform shop (yes, there’s another shop, aaggh). I hate the idea of being seen as a celebrity stalker, but how was I to shake them off?!! We lost them at the newly covered cafe (great improvement) where they were serving free Butterbeer (they must’ve got wind how disgustingly sweet it is), so that was a relief 😉
Hogwarts in the Snow will run from Friday 13th November – Sunday 31st January 2016. Tickets must be pre-booked and all extra activities are included in the ticket price. Book fast to avoid disappointment as it sells out fast (that’s me speaking, not Warner Bros!)