I have been to the mothership and it welcomed me with open arms. I am referring to, of course, the Harry Potter Studio Tour.
It all began this past Tuesday morning, when I woke up extra early to give myself plenty of time to get to the studios. When I purchased my ticket, they said to be there at least twenty minutes before my scheduled tour time, which was 11:30am. Now, the studios are not IN London, so I had to take a train to get out of the city. I chose to walk to the station, instead of taking the Tube (Underground), to save money. Until I bought Starbucks on the way there, so I guess I really didn't save much money. But they don't have Starbucks in Italy, or American-style hot chocolate, so give me a break. I got to the station just in time for the train to Watford Junction, where the studio tour shuttle bus picks everyone up. Luckily I made that train, because the train ride was longer than I expected. I started freaking out that I would be late to my tour and not be allowed to go in. Not to worry though, I arrived at the studios fifteen minutes before my tour was scheduled to begin, so it was all good.
The experience really begins on the shuttle bus there. It is a double-decker, with a great Harry-Potter paint job. Before the bus gets going, the movie scores play. If I guessed right (and I'm quite sure I did), the score of the fifth film was playing when I got on the bus. Once the bus pulls away from the train station, a short film starts playing telling a brief history of the studios themselves. The ride was about ten minutes and then I saw it. I was shocked that I could contain my emotions at that point, when all I really wanted to do was clap and bounce up and down. I had to keep telling myself, "Everybody be cool, it's just another day", which we all know it wasn't. It was a day to remember for the rest of my life.
Once inside, I got into the queue to begin the tour. The studio added a nice touch, which is that Harry's cupboard under the stairs is just chilling there for people to take photos while waiting in line. After a few minutes we finally got to go inside, where it was a room that flashed all the movie posters in multiple languages, while a studio employee ran through a couple of quick rules and reminders. Next was a cinema room, where we watched a short film about the making of Harry Potter, which gave me the chills. At that point I was sitting on the edge of my seat, just aching to see everything. When the movie ended, the entire screen was raised to reveal a door. Not just any door - the door to walk inside Hogwarts. The rest of the experience was self-guided, to give everyone the time they needed to see everything and take all the photos they desired.
A one-of-a-kind sweater made just for Neville!
There was one place that photos were not allowed. A little ways inside the first building is the chance for people to get a photo/video of themselves/their families in the Weasley's old car and riding a broomstick! The videos and photographs are all available for purchase immediately after. I chose to just ride the broomstick and bought a photo to prove it! All while wearing Hogwarts robes. Boom. I would post the picture, but I don't have a scanner to upload it.
After going through the first building, there is an outdoor area with some other cool pieces, as well as a place to sit and enjoy some refreshments. Namely, Butterbeer! Of course I bought one in a souvenir cup. Don't you know me at all?
The second and last building featured the beginning stages of the movie-making process, as well as Diagon Alley. I got to see the original sketches and mock-ups of sets and props. There were the cardboard miniatures, descriptive paintings, and last but not least: HOGWART'S CASTLE ITSELF. The actual castle is not life size, they just used computers. So I have, in fact, been TO Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The last room of the tour was almost right out of Ollivander's Wand Shop. It featured thousands of empty wand boxes, all with the names of every single person who had ever worked on the films. I found the boxes of Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, and JK Rowling! There is a man in that room who can tell you where any person's name is. Literally, he knows it all. Unfortunately, my iPhone decided to pretend to run out of battery. It didn't, it just wouldn't let me turn it back on for an hour. So there are no photos of that last room or the gift shop. I literally wanted to buy everything from that gift shop. You know, if I had an endless supply of money. So I had to resign myself to only buying a Gryffindor scarf. Again, if you know me at all, you know that it was a given purchase.
Almost needless to say, the Harry Potter Studio Tour was easily one the best experiences of my young life. If not the best. Italy and my dolphin encounter are pretty high up as well, but my fangirl tendencies pretty much took over.
A word of advice, it is not enough to simply see pictures of the tour. YOU NEED TO EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELVES. For real though, do it.