Wednesday was Harry Potter day. First, a note about Megan and my relationship to the Harry Potter franchise. We are what you might call the most dedicated fans. I absolutely devoured the books when I was younger, but after the last one came out I have just let them collect dust. As for the movies, I've never been a huge fan. I saw the first three and then just stopped going to them. I'll be correcting this soon, I've been told, but as of this week I haven't seen more than three of them.
Megan thinks she's seen all of the movies. But maybe she missed one. And she knows the third was the bad one, because it has the director that only did one of them. Or was it the fourth? Yeah, maybe it was the fourth. She has not read the books. Or at least most of them. Maybe.
So naturally when we heard there was an overpriced tour of the Harry Potter studios we signed up right away, and that is how we found ourself on a 12:30 train from Euston station to Watford Junction on Wednesday.
We arrived at the tour with a bus load - the tour has a direct route from the train station - of Harry Potter fans from the people in front of us who could name obscure actors from the movies to, well... Us. We picked up our tickets and were soon in line for the tour. It started out with two videos reminding us that Harry Potter is a Big Deal. Oh, an then there was a solid ten minutes of sucking up to the crew by the three main actors. Having been told by one employee that Emma Watson is a complete diva I did not find this part of her performance believable.
At the end of the video the curtain was raised to reveal the entryway to Hogwarts. It was pretty cool. We walked in the front doors to find ourselves in the great hall, still fully in tact from the when they were filming the movie. After that we wandered around the two sound stages looking at original props, sets, costumes, etc. They explained how they did some of the special effects - be sure to ask Megan for the green screened photo of her riding a broomstick - and how they created all of the monsters and other creatures in the movies.
The attention to detail was amazing. Every set had little bits that are even seen in the movies. The Hogwarts crest, for instance, is carved into the back of the main fireplace in the great hall. You wouldn't know that, however, because there's always a fire in front of it.
Even the truly monotonous tasks, such as making labels for the thousands on wand boxes in the first movie were taken seriously - every last label is handwritten. The enormous monument placed in Ministry of Magic in the middle of the last book was hand carved - and it's amazing by the way. I'm sure they could have easily done that with CGI for a less impressive effect.
During the tour I tried - it's not alcoholic - for the first time and it was pretty good. It's very sweet so I'm not sure I could drink much more than the small cup I had. Certainly I could not have afforded more.
One of the coolest parts of the tour comes toward them end when you turn the corner and find yourself face-to-face with a two to three story model of Hogwarts. It's pretty amazing. This is the model they used when filming flyover shots or any of the scenes where a character was flying a broomstick around the school grounds.
After the tour we took the train back to London and had dinner at an Italian restaurant. After that we headed back to our hotel to get some sleep so that we'd be ready for our early morning flight.