Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is 20 years old. The opportunity for us to take you on a tour of Warner Bros Studios in London. So pour yourself a butter beer and follow us through the settings of the legendary saga.
Twenty years ago, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone landed in French cinemas. The beginning of a long journey of 8 films which ended in 2011 with The Deathly Hallows: part 2. For this occasion, we invite you to discover the secrets of the filming of the saga, with this “virtual” visit . Make yourself comfortable, play the music of John Williams and follow us through the maze of London studios.
We start our visit with the most iconic piece of the saga, and also the most majestic. Inspired by the Great Hall of Christ Church in Oxford, the set is made of real stone and could accommodate up to 400 people during filming. During our visit in January 2020, the studios were still celebrating Christmas and had for the occasion brought together the sets and accessories for the 4th opus of the saga. To give it this winter atmosphere, the walls were covered with silver fabrics which gave the impression that they were gray. In several banquet scenes we can see candles floating above the actors, they were at the beginning real, but have been replaced by computer-generated images, because they often fell. Walking down the aisle, we discover the sumptuous accessories created for the Christmas ball during the Triwizard Tournament. Continuing your visit, you will discover the Gryffindor boys’ dormitory with the beds of Dean, Seamus, Harry, Ron and Neville. The set was built for the first installment, but as the actors grew older, the directors had to find creative camera angles to hide the fact that the beds had grown too small.
We are now moving slowly, and for good reason. Since 2017, visitors to Warner Bros Studios can walk the Forbidden Forest. This life-size setting welcomed the actors from the first opus of the adventures of the little wizard. All the elements that were used in the film are now available, starting with the animatronics. In the first films, rather than using 3D, the directors preferred to create robotic creatures as for Fawkes, the Basilisk and of course Buck, the Hippogriff. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ron and Harry come face to face with a huge spider, Aragog. The magical creature, whose legs are 5 meters long, was covered by hand in yak hair, sisal and broom straw. To find out if the magic was working, the creature was introduced to actors Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe who were genuinely frightened at the sight of this monstrous spider. To illuminate the forest and the characters, the team used different bulbs depending on the time of day to transcribe the natural light of the day.
Now let’s take a look at the costumes and accessories of the 8 feature films. From Chris Colombus to David Yates, the directors have followed one another behind the camera and each brought their vision of the universe. We start with Harry potter and the sorcerer’s stone where the most attentive will have noticed a small detail about Hermione. The character has long teeth in the book, before they are planed with a spell. To stick as much as possible to the novels, Chris Colombus asked Emma Watson to wear a prosthesis. The team then embarked on the filming of the last scene of the film, when our wizards leave Hogwarts at the end of their adventures, but the actress having great difficulty in speaking, they preferred to abandon this idea. They can still be seen saying goodbye to Hagrid on the platform.
In the fourth installment of The Adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione, the characters celebrate the magical collaboration with the Yule Ball. An event inevitably different from that of the books and in particular on the side of the costumes. In the book Hermione wears a periwinkle blue dress to go to the ball with Victor Krum, a color which did not contrast enough with the decor and which was not to the taste of the director. To match the skin tone of actress Emma Watson, the costumers created a pink dress that many young girls have long envied.
In the same episode, Hermione and Ron were plunged into the Black Lake in the second task. In order to be able to film without having to worry about how long it would take, the teams developed life-sized and truly realistic figures. As you walk through the studios you will also see a smaller Albus Dumbledore action figure, it’s screaming for realism.
What would Harry Potter be without his famous scar? If Daniel Radcliffe looks a lot like the character in the novels, he has a big difference with the protagonist on paper. To stick as closely as possible to the intrigue, the make-up artists have developed silicone scars. Over 5,800 scars were made in ten of the shoots and it wasn’t much fun for the young actor. On the mirror, we can read an adhesive note from the makeup artists asking Radcliffe not to take it off at all times. The actor will also have created some torments to the props who have designed no less than 160 pairs of glasses and 80 wands for the interpreter of the young wizard. A huge number when you know that the actor liked to play the drums with it.
We continue our visit outside the building where we can discover Privet Drive. The street is the one that hosts the Dursleys’ house and the little wizard’s room located under the stairs. By opening the door, you discover on your left the living room plagued by a strange phenomenon, many letters have been flying in the air since Uncle Vernon destroyed the first missives. We are now going out to discover the Magicobus. The huge vehicle really drives and was used for the scenes in the streets of London. It is also not the only vehicle of the magic saga since 14 Ford Anglias were painted blue to match the colors of the Weasleys’ flying vehicle. They were all destroyed during the scene in the Whomping Willow.
Our visit ends in front of the mythical Hogwarts Castle. In a darkened room, you will be able to discover the model which was used for the exterior stages. It is 24 times smaller than the actual size. 82 artists and technicians will have been necessary for its conception and as many to maintain it now that it sits proudly in the studios. 2,500 fiber optic bulbs were used to simulate the castle’s torches and lanterns. To decorate the green spaces, the teams used gravel and real plants.
Our visit is now over, but the adventure does not end there. To plan your visit, here are our tips. For our part, we called on a tour operator with a price that includes the outward and return journey and the entrance ticket. We had nearly 4 hours to discover the sets, a period that may seem quite short given the size of the studios. We therefore recommend that you plan more time on site to discover all the filming secrets. If you have more time, you can also take a passport at the entrance and follow the different missions and thus visit the studios in a new way. For example, you will need to search for the few golden snitches hidden in the studios. We also recommend that you allow time in the store if you want to bring back a souvenir. The queue at the checkout is often long.