Shortly after acquiring the film rights for the Harry Potter book series, Warner Bros. leased Leavesden Studios and filming of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone commenced there in 2000. The former aircraft factory was ideal for building many of the large sets and was production home for all 8 films in the Harry Potter franchise.
In 2010 Warner Bros. invested 100 million pounds into Leavesden Studios to establish a permanent film production base for the company and it became known as Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden. As part of this redevelopment, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London was planned as a permanent walking tour to provide guests with a unique behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter was opened in 2012 featuring authentic sets, props and costumes while also showcasing the artistry and technology that went into the making of the films.
Following the pre-show, we enter The Great Hall. This is the only area of the attraction where time is limited as the room has to be cleared before the next timed-entry group is allowed to enter. This set was built in 2000 for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and was used in all of the subsequent films except for Deathly Hallows Part I. The set is modelled after the Dining Hall at Christ Church, Oxford.
There are two large tables in The Great Hall which are set for dinner. The room also features the costumes of students from each of Hogwarts' four houses and the Teacher's Table is set at the top of the hall with costumes of a few of the professors including Dumbledore, Snape, McGonagall, and Hagrid. The time spent in the Great Hall will pass very quickly so don't dawdle if you want to get photos here.
Once in the Big Room, we can take as much time as we like and there are staff members on hand to answer any questions one might have. This is the largest space in the studio and where one is likely to spend the most amount of time. The room is filled with props, costumes, and large sets from the film and there is, in fact, so much to see that it is difficult to know where to start or how to tackle the space in an orderly fashion. The sets include Dumbledore's Office, the Potions Classroom, The Burrow, and the Gryffindor Common Room.
As we move around the room we find countless authentic props, costumes and more to look at - many of which have story boards with detailed explanations of what it is and when it was used in the films.
From the Big Room, we exit into a courtyard known as The Backlot where the exterior sets used on the films can be found. No. 4 Privet Drive (the Dursley's suburban home) can be found here as well as the Hogwarts Bridge, the blue Ford Anglia from Chamber of Secrets, the triple-decker Knight Bus, Hagrid's Bike, Godric's Hollow, Tom Riddle's grave and more. We even enjoyed the butterbeer here. An interesting fact is that the Privet Drive homes were shot on location in suburban London for the first film but replicas were built on set for the subsequent movies. Rumour had it that the decision to switch to the studio set was because the owners of the house started demanding more money from producers.
Once finished exploring and refueling in the Backlot, we head indoors again where we learn more about Creature Effects (a showcase of animatronics, special effects and models).
Strolling down the fictional wizarding street of Diagon Alley located by the Leaky Cauldron pub in London has been my dream since forever....and I finally did that!!
The actual magic lies here.....the detailed paper models, the floor plans of every set....spectacular!!!
At the end of the tour, we were treated to a 360 degree view of the piéce-de-resistance - the model of Hogwarts. The hand-crafted model was built on 1:24 scale by a large team of artists and crew members, took 40 days to complete and was filmed and enhanced with digital effects to create realistic images of the school for the movies. The model is nearly 50 feet in diameter with over 2,500 fibre optic lights and a day to night cycle takes place every 4 minutes to show off the castle. At this point I got a little bit teary - walking around the model can be an overwhelming experience for diehard Potterheads.
The most tempting area of the tour, is the exit into the Studio Shop which is located in the lobby but is considered part of the attraction. Every conceivable Harry Potter souvenir seems to be available in the shop including sweet treats like Chocolate Frogs and Bernie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, replica wands, robes, ties, souvenir t-shirts and much, much more.