Friday, March 07, 2014

Visit to the Harry Potter Studios!

So, a week or so ago the lovely Sunnysweetpea arranged for a group of 10 bloggers to visit the Harry Potter Studios in glamorous* Watford, England.

* Note for non-UK and Northern readers: Watford is not glamorous, it's a dump.  I grew up near there. Even at 7 years of age I knew it was a dump.  Thankfully, the HP studios are not actually in Watford proper.

Sunnysweetpea is a lifestyle blogger, and the other bloggers on the trip were also lifestyle bloggers.  I tell you, it's a side of the internet I'd never imagined existed!  I mean, these ladies run blogs that are overwhelmingly upbeat, pretty to look at, more or less devoid of in-fighting, bitching and self entitlement and on the whole positive and pleasant places to visit.  They take so much care over their blogs.  They craft their posts.  Imagine!  I've clearly spent too long in the comics blogosphere.

Don't worry though, I still brought the comics to the show:

Lantern/Potter mash up FTW. I'm quite enjoying the hand on hip pose I'm striking here.. although I have no idea what inspired it.

Entry tickets for over 16s are £30 each - it's quite expensive, and not something I would usually be able to justify spending, especially with the cost of travel to and from and site.  However, Warner Brothers kindly gave us all free tickets, because we are all bloggers and it's good marketing for them.  They don't appear to do any adverts for the studios, just press releases when it opened and now they rely on word of mouth.  It's a pretty good promotional system.

When we arrived we discovered we also had a goody bag each.  Marvellous!  A goody bag!  What did we get in it?  These delicious things:
Ominous frog:
See him stare you down. *glowers*

I've not eaten him yet.  The peppermint frogs are pretty nice though.

These goody bags must cost near enough £75 in shop.  Too expensive for me to buy, but for Warner Brothers, 10 bloggers is circa £750 for the goody bags, plus £300 entry fees.  Now I say that's darn cheap advertising.  And hey it worked, because I'm impressed!

So is my boyfriend, apparently.  You'll need the sound on for that one.

So, what do you see at the studios?  Well, you start with a short film where the 3 main actors tell you a bit about the filming and how much they enjoyed it and the crew were all one big happy family.  To be fair, it did look genuine although I was surprised by the apparent awkwardness of the Radcliffe/Watson/Grint in doing this presenting thing.

Then you go into the banqueting hall.  It's beautiful.  The walls and ceiling are made of plaster but the floor is genuine stone - they chose stone so it would last the 10 years required for filming.  The wall decorations and the costumes hanging up are beautiful - you really feel transported to Hogwarts!

After the banqueting hall you visit a huge room that is filled to the brim with displays to admire.  Credit to the designers - it never felt crowded, or like a warehouse.  It felt welcoming with set pieces to draw you in and information panels about the creation of the sets.  We saw the Gryffindor dormitory, Dumbledore's office, the potions lab, the Weasley cottage!  The Weasley cottage may well have been my favourite thing.  So homely, so welcoming, so full of love.  Professor Umbridge's office was also there, and if you ever needed convincing that pink is the colour of the devil, there you have it.  So pink.  So, so, so pink.
This isn't Umbridge's office, this is from quite early on in the exhibition and I think is from one of the earlier films.  It's beautiful.

We went at the end of half term which meant that we were there on the last day of the Animal actors visits.  We got to see Crookshanks and Mrs Norris (I think - she's a the giant tabby yeah?), Fang (big drooly dog, not my thing), and some pretty cool insects and reptiles.  The tailless whip scorpion was great.  The big hairy spider a bit creepy but mostly interesting.  The hedgehog alike creature was not a reptile or insect, but was with them because it was exotic.  And uber cute.  Then there was the bloody great snake.

I'm pretty certain it was a yellow python, a-la:
Pretty colours? Yes.  Unassailably freaky? Hell yes.  I don't like snakes.

So, to move away from that horror, I went and looked at the rest of the exhibition:
I honestly don't know what this is but I'm including it because the photo amuses me.

Magic is might:
Nothing like a bit of soviet inspired imagery to brighten your day:

After this section we went outside and had some butterbeer.  As you do.  I would recommend you don't. It's gross.  Seriously foul.  Incredibly sweet and utterly rank.  They even had a barrel you could pour your drink into if you couldn't cope with it, which most people were doing, it is that horrible.  I did buy a n official butterbeer tumbler, which was worth it, but the drink itself is revolting.
This photo was taken by Jenny of Sunny Sweet Pea and she owns the copyright.

My reaction to the butterbeer has been immortalised by Jenny on film:
Go to the 3 minute 50 mark for the butterbeer.  Also go to the 3 minute mark to see me being awkward in front of a mirror.  C'est terrible.

At this point we also saw the Knight Bus, Privet Drive and Hedwig!  Yes the ACTUAL Hedwig. Or at least, one of the owls that played him.  This particular owl was a right grumpy sod.

After the outside bit we headed back indoors, past the chess pieces...
... to the animatronic stuff.

A favourite was the mandrake:
A non-favourite was a giant Hagrid head.  I know they had reasons for making it, but c'mon, a giant Robbie Coltrane head?  It was as big as my torso!

I loved the giant Aragog:
Then it was on to Diagon Alley:

I love this photo and scene so much!  Simple yet magical.  Mushrooms are just cool.

After Diagon Alley we went into Ollivander's.  It was filled with wand cases, all labelled with the names of the actors and workers involved in the films.  Most of my pictures came out terribly, but I'm reasonably happy with this one:
I like the colours and the blurriness of the people.

Lastly we went into the shop, which was full of good stuff but on the whole pretty expensive.  Good quality stuff - the clothes were really nice designed and attractive and made out of good quality material.  They looked like high street designer clothes - think Superdry and Bench.  They also sold cushions:
 I *really* like the cushions.  However, the vests were about £18, the hoodies about £40.  The scarfs were about £20.  A wand or a Hedwig cost in the realm of £25.  This means that with the entrance fee of £30 for over 16s/£22.50 for 5-15 year olds that a trip to the Potter studios is a pretty expensive day out.  That said, the cafe was what I would call normally priced.  The food available was a range of basic salads, sandwiches, jacket potatoes and I believe some other hot foods .  The jacket potato and cheese that I had was about 5 or 6 quid.

Now, was it worth the entry fee?  Yes, I think so.  It is expensive and it's not something I would have been able to afford to go were I paying for it, so I'm very grateful for the free pass, but then again I don't think it's aimed at me.  I'm shortly going to become a one income household and I'm pretty sure Warner Brothers are going for the affluent middle class families/20 somethings with disposable income audience.  Neither of which I belong to.  This is fine - I'm not someone who thinks that everyone should have a right to visit these places.  It costs what it costs and they are clearly doing very well out of it.  It was a great day!  The visitor flow was handled really well so it never felt busy and overcrowded (and I cannot deal with crowds).  There were places to sit down if you needed a rest.  The staff were friendly and courteous.  If you like Harry Potter and have some spare cash then go!  You'll love it.

My fellow visitors pictures and reports of the trip can be found here:

The tea Drinking English Rose
Thursday afternoons part one and part two

Hazel's World of Joy
Stripes and Snapshots
Sunny Sweet Pea

At the time of posting this these guys haven't posted reports yet, so these are links to the home page of their blog:
Sophie in the Sticks
The Cup and Saucer
Thoroughly English (who has a heartfelt post up on the sale of medical data currently being proposed in the UK.  I recommend you read it.)

Do go look at their posts, they all have wonderful pictures and a really lovely turn of phrase.

Thanks to Warner Brother for providing us with the complimentary tickets, and thanks to Jenny for organising it all!

EDITED 14/03/2014 to add in this group picture that Alice of The Cup and Saucer blog has posted:
I think it's a cute picture of us all.  Just ignore my rubbish trainers that really don't go with the dress - I'm all about the comfort these days (ooh my back, ooh my knees etc etc ;)


SallyP said...

This sounds amazing. Expensive but amazing. I am filled with envy over your goodie bag!

Saranga said...

Sally if you ever get to England you should go! It was so much fun :)