Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 18th: My birthday and a trip to the Harry Potter Studios!

On Wednesday (4/18), Jessie and I woke up early so we could walk down to the London Bridge tube stop, take the tube across town, and take a train out to where a bus picked us up to go to the Harry Potter Leavesden Studios. Going to the studios was Jessie's gift to me to celebrate my 23rd birthday! It was pouring rain, but that just added to the coolness of flying around roundabouts on the top of a double decker bus! When we arrived, the lobby was enormous and had huge photographs of many of the actors all around the room. In addition, they had hung several of the huge set pieces from the ceiling!
Jessie and the Harry Potter bus!

At Leavesden Studios

The Lobby

We waited in line and shuffled past Harry's Cupboard and some framed pictures of the Dursleys, hanging on the wall. We joined our 11am tour group and were led into a room with a bunch of screens where we watched a video explaining how the Harry Potter movies came to be (how the director discovered the books and how Harry Potter became a huge hit). Next we were brought into a cinema where they showed a video they'd made about the Studios. It was the three main actors who told us about all the work that had been put into making the 8 movies over the 10 years that they had all worked at Leavesden Studios. It would have been so cool to have been a part of the team that made the movies--props, costumes, sets, whatever!! Just to have been a part of the team! At the end of the video, the three actors were standing in front of the doors to the Great Hall and they opened up the doors and said something like, "Come on and see for yourselves!" With that, the screen in our cinema lifted and behind it were the REAL Great Hall doors! It was beyond cool! Jessie and I just looked at each other and grinned! :)

In front of Harry's cupboard

The Great Hall doors!

Jessie in the Great Hall
Our tour group went into the Great Hall and our guide told us about how the set designers had decided to use a real stone floor because they knew it had to last for 10 years and withstand hundreds of children walking around on it all the time. She told us loads of interesting things and then let us loose to look around and take pictures. It was so thrilling to be walking through the Great Hall! After a little bit of time, we were told that another tour group would be entering the Great Hall and we had to move into the next room.
The next room was massive. It had bits of lots of different sets (tables from the Yule Ball, the Hogwarts entry gates, the Gryffindor common room, the boys dormitory, Dumbledore's office, Hagrid's hut, the potions classroom, the hallway in the Shrieking Shack, the Burrow, Umbridge's office, the Ministry of Magic entry hall, and more!) and also loads of props and costumes. 
The delicious chocolate delicacies! (all fake, unfortunately...)

The Boys Dormitory

Jessie in the Mirror of ERISED
Since Jessie and I had arranged to get one "digital guide" to share, we often stopped to hold the earphones up between us and watch little extra videos they had on the iPod guide that told about different parts of the making of the movies. I was blown away with how much work had gone into making the movies. Seriously. Everything was so detailed and so carefully and lovingly created. In the potions classroom, the props people had found over 1,000 glass jars, which they filled with different sorts of items (the tails or legs of plastic reptiles, boiled bones from meat shops, or other creepy-looking items) and then hand-labeled! So much work that you don't even really notice in the movie! I was so glad we got to check out all the details.
The Gryffindor common room

Jessie and the clock thingy

The entrance to Dumbledore's office

Jessie in the potions classroom

The entrance to the Chamber of Secrets

The Burrow!

Umbridge's office...
After we'd spent hours and hours in the big room, we headed outside to where the large set pieces were: Number 4 Privet Drive (and Number 3, as well!), the Knight Bus, the Riddle gravestone, the chess pieces from the giant game of Wizard's Chess in HP #1, the Potters' house in Godric's Hollow, the Hogwarts bridge, Sirius' motorbike, and Mr. Weasley's Ford Anglia! It was raining when we first got outside, so Jessie bought each of us a butterbeer! It was incredible. SO delicious!! And just like I had always imaginede it--creamy and fizzy and AMAZING! Unfortunately, it's only sold at two places in the world: the Studios and the Harry Potter theme park in Florida.  

Yep, Sirius' motorbike!

In the Ford Anglia

Jessie gets a "ride" on the Knight Bus

Number 4 Privet Drive

At the Dursley's house

The Potters' house in Godric's Hollow
 While we were taking pictures outside, the camera started flashing the low-battery button....nooooo! We hadn't been very careful about keeping it shut off while we'd been in the earlier part--so after this point, we didn't get very many more pictures. In addition, we were starting to run out of time (we had tickets to see a show with Caryn and Jan and needed to be back by 7pm), so we had to move more quickly through the rest of the tour. Next came the section that showed how they did the special effects and how they created all the different creatures in the magical world. I was particularly impressed with Buckbeak--they had created it so that it could be controlled by the special effects guys and it looked just like it was real! They had used real feathers to make it look perfect! We stood there for a while, just watching it move!
Jessie is a DRAGON!!! (or a Thestral)

With Buckbeak, the amazing creation!
Next we walked right into Diagon Alley! That was surely the coolest part of the tour! We were very sad that the camera was basically out of batteries at this point because it was incredible! It was just like the movie--all the shops (which we couldn't go into, but the window displays were excellent!) and the cobblestone street. Very cool.
Jessie in Diagon Alley
 And, finally, we walked into a big room that had the model of Hogwarts Castle--the one they used for all the overhead, sweeping shots. It was so detailed--Jessie and I were wishing we could be little fairies so that we could go wander around the castle! The room was fairly dark, but the castle was lit up and the movie soundtrack was playing. It was pretty moving, actually. We watched our last video on the digital guide (about their last day of filming) and then headed through the "wand shop" (a small room that has thousands of wand boxes, each labeled with a name of someone who worked on the films during the 10 years--and there is a box for every single person!) and into the gift shop. We looked around the shop, but very quickly discovered that it was way too expensive for us.
In front of Hogwarts Castle

In the "Wand Room"
Since it was getting late (4:15pm), we caught the bus back to the station where we caught a train back into London. Since our train came in right next to King's Cross Station, we stopped by to get a picture at Platform 9 3/4!
Jessie at King's Cross Station!

Heading through Platform 9 3/4
Since it was my birthday, Jessie and I decided to go out for an early dinner (well, technically all we'd had all day was a tiny breakfast around 8am and then a butterbeer at the Studios). We found a pub that served veggie burgers, so we had a quick dinner (we inhaled that food!) and then walked over to the theatre to meed Carnyn and Jan. They treated us to Noël Coward's comedy, "Hay Fever"--starring Jeremy Northam and Kevin R. McNally. The show was hilarious! Afterwards, Caryn and Jan agreed to stop by the stage door so we could get some pictures with the actors! Then we walked over to a French restaurant and Caryn and Jan treated us to a late dinner (just something small). To top off a fun night, we got to take a cab back to their flat!! Such a great birthday!

With Kevin McNally (Mr. Gibbs from Pirates!!)

With our lovely host, Caryn!

And, of course, our other amazing host: Jan!!

No comments:

Post a Comment