Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter is enchanting, regardless of age
Since giving Roma her first taste of Harry Potter back in June last year, a lot has changed. For a start, she’s a lot steadier on her feet now, whereas then she’d only just started to test the capabilities of where her trotters could take her.
Her entry into the wizarding world came about earlier than it does for even witches or wizards, following an invitation from Warner Bros to visit the then-new Goblet of Fire exhibition that was running in June 2018. This was the first time I’d been since March 2012 when the studio first opened its doors. Don’t judge me for it, judge those in my life who have no interest in the boy wizard – one of whom I live with. I’m not going to call out by name but just know it’s not Roma.
At exactly one-year-old, Roma was admittedly pretty oblivious to what was going on at the studio and who Harry Potter is – think Gilderoy Lockhart after his memory charm backfired – although she was arguably a bit more clued up than J who also came along for the ride.
Seeing her big brown eyes swallow up the tour, dress up for a broomstick ride and taste butterbeer – albeit confusingly – was really something special. So to then be invited back for the festive season to experience the Hogwarts in the Snow exhibition in late November really was as though Christmas came early.
This time it was just Roma and I and that in itself made it all the more profound. Being a Harry Potter fanboy from my first read as a young teenager and having the opportunity to take our time throughout the tour without worrying about any silent impatience from less interested parties present meant we could stroll along at our leisure – when I wasn’t needing to run after her in a desperate attempt to keep her close, of course. You see, for the first visit we took the pram and for this time I didn’t bother. I knew there was no chance of her staying in it for the duration, so I’d have not only had a toddler to shepherd but a buggy too.
But the visit as a duo also meant I only had one pair of hands, however. So when it came to get ourselves some food from the canteen, which was absolutely jam-packed, the worst happened. As I attempted balancing Roma in one arm and a tray of grub in the other, which we’d spent the better part of 20 minutes queuing for, our meals were sent flying across the floor as I lost my grip.
Although I was unable to apparate away from that disaster or throw on an invisibility cloak and shrink into the shadows as everyone’s eyes pointed in my direction – much like the experience Ron endured in the Great Hall when a howler from his mum arrived – I could take some consolation in the fact it was the food I dropped and not Roma.
Given the circumstances, I returned gingerly to the front of the queue where the food was being served, explained and gestured what had happened and the staff were kind enough to reload my tray – and this time I gripped it like a vice.
After eating and treading the cobbles of Diagon Alley, we finally made it round to the model of Hogwarts in the snow itself. The piece de resistance was a sensational sight to behold while Roma looking on in awe was a jaw-dropping, heart-warming view in itself. And that was perhaps the turning point to convince her of J.K Rowling’s magic as we’ve since moved on to watch the films countless times.
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You need only look at our expressions for clarity on how much fun we had at the #HogwartsInTheSnow launch event held at @wbtourlondon tonight. And despite Roma’s Butterbeer moustache, I solemnly swear the maniacal grins aren’t solely down to a sugar rush. I think she summed up the castle’s appearance accurately when she said: “WOW!” Couldn’t agree more, baby girl. Absolutely breathtaking – thanks for a brilliant evening! 🏰🌨️❄️😆 #DADultLife #WBTourLondon #HarryPotterStudios
The most recent visit of all was at the start of this month to attend the launch night of Gringotts Wizarding Bank, which has now opened for visits. This time my mum accompanied Roma and I, largely for tray spillage prevention. Now, the old dear is not a Potterhead like myself but she has seen a couple of the films and enjoyed them, so she was intrigued to see what the tour was all about.
Even though just four months had passed between the Christmas visit and this latest one, it’s incredible how much has changed. The entrance has been moved, refined and redecorated so it feels almost as though you’re walking into a department of the Ministry of Magic itself. But what awaits everyone in the lobby is a truly impressive creation that sets the tone for the grandeur that can be expected from the trip.
The beginning of the tour has been revised to feature of a timeline of facts that we were able to brush up on before being led into a screen-filled waiting room that featured various animated posters from the films. Following that, we were ushered into yet another room with monitors all around the walls and officially welcomed by a host before moving onto the tour, which has the same, but no less spellbinding, setup myself and many others would have witnessed previously.
With landmarks like the Great Hall, rooms within Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic, the Forbidden Forest, the Hogwarts Express, Diagon Alley and more to see, the conjuring capabilities of the set builders at the studio are available for all to see.
It’s not just a matter of feasting your eyes on the surroundings though, the tour is yet more immersive than that with a number of interactive stations dotted around. Whether that’s jumping on a broomstick, duelling lessons, changing the weather within the Forbidden Forest, bringing props to life or jumping into certain scenes for photo opportunities, this put as much of a smile on my face as it did Roma’s and my mum’s.
But the arrival of Gringotts Wizarding Bank is something else.
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Gringotts, the wizard bank – ain’t no safer place, not one… 💱 Just when you think @wbtourlondon has done it all with @harrypotterfilm, the team goes and knocks it out of the park all over again! We were invited along yesterday for the Gringotts Wizarding Bank launch night and inside looks every bit as dazzling as you’d expect. And, despite the reputation of goblins, they were most accommodating with Roma and let her confusion about helping herself to gold slide. Thanks for another lovely evening @wbtourlondon 🗝️💱 #DADultLife #WBTourLondon #Gringotts #GringottsBank #GringottsWizardingBank #HarryPotterStudios
Exactly as it’s described within the books and depicted in the films, the main Gringotts banking hall was polished to perfection and glistening all over. Initially I thought that area was the only addition but there’s also the chance to follow in Harry’s footsteps further and work your way into the vaults – although, sadly, you won’t get the opportunity to go on a wild cart ride to get there. For now, at least.
Having said that, beyond the sight of galleons, jewels and other assorted treasures within, there’s also another red-hot feature that you’ll want to see within the new exhibition, which will make you look on in awe and/or fright.
In my 30s, I love the tour. Having visited three times between the ages of one and two, the venue has more than enough to keep Roma busy. And now my mum, who’s in her 50s and by no means a devout follower of the Harry Potter series, feels compelled to revisit the films and the books. So whether you’re a die-hard fan or have a passing interest in the wizarding world, there’s something for everyone to appreciate.
It’s clearly safe to say that where families are concerned, regardless of age, The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter has the power to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses. Ten points to a house of your choice if you understood that reference.
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Make memories while you can because time waits for no one – unless you have a time-turner, obvs. My dad was a myth, but I remember spending lots of time on days out with both my mum and grandparents when I was younger, for which I’ll always be grateful. So coming full circle and having an adventure with the little lady and the old dear like this was an evening well spent. And Roma need never worry about me not giving her that precious old man time ⏳ #DADultLife #WBTourLondon #HarryPotterStudios #QualityTimes #ThursdayThoughts #ThreeGenerations