How many people know that Zachary was about 3 minutes shy of being named “Harrison” when he was born? Yep, it was a high contender (final 2) until the very last minutes (even after he made his appearance)…. Can you imagine if that close call name choice had come true? As it stands now, with his round shaped glasses and slight zigzag scar on his cheek, our little U.K. living wizard practically dresses the part on a daily basis anyway. Ahh well, HARRY is certainly Zach’s alter-ego, and it fits him well.
Who would imagine that we would end up living a mere 15 miles from where all 7 Harry Potter movies were filmed right outside London. That’s right! The Making of Harry Potter Tour is practically in our back yard. With the tour already fully booked through November, we thought we would take advantage of the American school’s Professional Development day on 8 October. (how ironic this day off for the children happened to fall on Columbus Day!)
As the tour is already sold-out through the November weekends, it worked out perfectly that we were able to attend on a Monday, when nearly all British schools were in session. I booked the tickets on-line and the earliest slot available for that day was 1pm. Our 20 minute drive brought us straight into the massive parking lot of The 200 acre Warner Brother Studios where we arrived about an hour early. How convenient……while you wait (and of course at the end of the tour) the ALL THINGS HARRY POTTER gift shop was alive and booming. It was neat, I must confess!
The (condensed amount of) pictures in the slideshow below will give you a virtual tour of our day, but basically the website says to allow three hours for the tour….we were there for nearly 6! The tour is divided into five sections after the introduction movie and interviews.
The GREAT HALL–one of the first ever sets created for the Harry Potter films, does not have a roof. Next time you watch the movies, pay close attention–you will never see a completed ceiling inside the great hall. (it is scaffold) One of the unique features of the Great Hall is the fact that the floor is actually made of real York stone. It is said that this was very sensible suggestion made by production designer as he realized that although initially more costly, it was the only way the set would stand the test of time and the trampling of thousands of small feet. The Great hall can fit 22 London double-decker buses inside. It’s HUGE!
Main lot (J lot)–this is where most of the sets and props are. You can also try your hand at Quidditch. One of my favorite parts in this section was learning about the animal actors.
- There have been 250 animals used across the Harry Potter film series (not including insects).
- The largest amount of animals on set on any given day was 60 animals for a scene in Professor McGonagall’s classroom.
- Robbie Coltrane, who plays Hagrid, once got a fruit bat stuck in his beard during a scene in Hagrid’s hut.
- The largest animal to be brought on set was a hippo.
- The smallest animal to be brought on set was a centipede.
- After filming 40 kittens to go on moving plates in Umbridge’s office, the kittens went on to be domestic pets, with their new owners unaware of their famous origins.
The “Back lot”– This is where we saw Privet Drive, Harry’s House, Life size chess pieces, the “Knight bus”, The Weasley’s flying car, and Hargrid’s motorbike and sidecar. This is also the section where you can try the infamous “butter beer” (which ironically tastes exactly like a root beer float!)
K Lot (The Creature shop and Diagon Alley) Monsters, makeup, and prostheses spooked the section of the Creature shop and walking the shop lined cobblestone streets of Diagon alley was at least a 40-minute treat in itself.
Hogwarts Castle Model: The final section housed a 360 degree, 1:24 model of Hogwarts castle (60 x 50 x 30 ft high), the jewel of the art department. This model was originally built for Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone and was rebuilt and altered many times for the next seven movies. The detail of the castle are amazing…all the doors are hinged, real plants are used for landscaping, and to make the model appear even more realistic, artists built miniature versions of courtyards of Alnwick Castle and Durham Cathedral where scenes from the first film were shot.
This tour is not part of a theme park like at Universal Studios, Florida. These are the actual studios, sets, props, drawings, you name it…from the filming of the movies. If you ask our little Harry what he liked best about the day he will consistently say “EVERYTHING!” It was truly a “magical day” and we are so glad we did it. For those of you planning to visit us, think about whether you’d like to add this tour to your Bed and Breakfast stay at the White house 🙂 Enjoy the photos!