I first became aware of Harry before the first book was published, when I worked in the publishing industry, and while waiting for a fax to send, saw one coming in from Bloomsbury announcing the release. I remembered it because as an Indiana Jones fan, the title structure (‘Xxx Xxxx and the…’) was the same, and I wondered if, like Indy, Harry was a young adventurer. I wish I’d bought the book when it came out, as I would have had a first edition! A little while after, I left publishing and went to work for LEGO Software, and found myself as the Product Manager for LEGO’s first game based on an external character, LEGO Creator: Harry Potter. In 2001, I was on the Warner Bros. studio lot in Los Angeles, and it struck me as amazing that the phenomenon that started, in my world, as a simple fax was now responsible for me being in America, working to get a global computer game signed off. During ten years of working on the LEGO brand, Harry cropped up a few more times in my professional life, so visiting the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden book-ended a twelve-year professional journey for me.
I thought the tour was brilliantly put together. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the beginning in the cinema was one of the best and slickest starts I’ve seen at any visitor attraction – a real wow moment. Standing in such familiar and iconic locations as the Great Hall and Diagon Alley were both terrific experiences – it’s the detail that impresses most. There are opportunities to look through the cabinets in Dumbledore’s beautiful office, ride a broomstick (and, inevitably perhaps, have your picture taken!), wander up to the door of Number 4 Privet Drive, hang off the back of the Knight Bus and try non-alcoholic Butterbeer (I don’t think I’m giving too much away if I say it reminded me of cream soda; apparently you can only taste it at Leavesden and at Universal in Orlando, which is a minor coup for Watford!).
Via large screens, Warwick Davis showcases his impeccable comic timing to guide visitors through the special effects workshops, and at the end, the model of Hogwarts, almost the size of a house, is a breathtaking and fitting finale. The whole experience is a tribute to the imagination of the author, and the craftsmanship of the film-makers. Even the shop at the end is a treat, both in terms of its design and its content; it wants for nothing – Every-Flavour Beans, wands, school ties – you name it, it’s there. Definitely recommended if you love the books and films, and I’ll certainly be going back with the family when my children are older and familiar with both.
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