As excitement builds towards the Grand Opening of Warner Bros Studio Tour London at Leavesden, this Saturday, where we will have staff on site to cover the red carpet opening, I have a first report from inside the Tour for you.
We were lucky enough to be invited to experience it for ourselves, last week, and I think I have gathered together more words than a stammered, “It’s perfect…” to actually post.
I’m not going to give away too many spoilers, because I hope as many of you as possible will get to experience it for yourselves, but I do want to let you know what to expect on a practical level.
The excitement starts… well, obviously, the excitement started when they announced… actually, in 2001… 1997…
When you arrive at Watford Junction, just twenty minutes from Central London by train from Euston Station (and even trains from The North stop there…), you look round nervously for the shuttle bus, hoping you don’t take a local bus to Rickmansworth or Potters Bar, by mistake… and you look to your left and you realise that you needn’t worry, because the special buses have been completely smothered in Harry Potter. The shuttle costs £2 for a return journey and the details of the timetable are available here.
They whisk you past bus stops inhabited by confused locals (or possibly tired wizards on their way to Machynlleth) who try to flag you down (surely Watford is used to Harry Potter, by now), and you arrive at the studio in about ten minutes.
I know you frowned and muttered when you had to book tickets in advance, and for an exact timeslot, but can you imagine the chaos if it was a free for all? Can you imagine the crowds ten deep in front of everything? When you arrive with your timed tickets (or your booking confirmation, if you need to collect your prebooked tickets from the window to the right of the main entrance), you will have to somehow walk past the gift shop and queue up in a very small queuing area.
A very controlled number of people get in at any one time, because the first thing you do is sit down in a small cinema, and that automatically limits the number of people entering with you.
The short presentation you see is a charming film of Dan, Rupert and Emma talking about the huge family that made the films, because the tour is all about The Making Of, and when they have finished rhapsodising about the various departments, they invite you to enter the exhibition.
I am going to be awful and not tell you what you will see, but I have to utterly flail at how beautifully everything is done. The sets and props you’ll see will Exceed your Wildest Expectations. The staff… oh, the staff! The staff in a museum usually consists of large men in uniforms, shushing you; the staff in a stately home a never ending stream of cloned little old ladies.
The staff at the Warner Bros Studio Tour London are young, local Harry Potter fans.
Many worked on the films – I kept boasting at that my daughter was a Hufflepuff in Deathly Hallows, only to find out that they had been an extra in several films. They have fascinating things to tell you – some of which I didn’t actually know… They are so happy to be there, and to share in your excitement.
You know that feeling in real life, when something Harry Pottery happens and you have to bite your tongue, because no one will understand? Here you can below DELUMINATOR and run across the room… here you can flail because there is a portrait of a woman called Selina, and you’re called Selina, and NO ONE is ever called Selina… and everyone will sigh over how lucky you are.
You are left to walk round entirely at your own pace, and we took a little over four hours, including the gift shop… make sure you have time for the gift shop, and don’t worry about the Chocolate Frogs – they are British chocolate, and much tastier than the ones in Florida.
And the Butterbeer is better, too.
The whole place could not have been put together with more love for the Wizarding World.
It is pure joy.
And you will cry.