Small Sets and Large Sets
It’s sort of hard to describe how excited we were to start this tour. Obviously, Tracy and I have been Harry Potter fans since before there were movie adaptations, and the books and films were a huge part of our childhoods/adolescences. It almost didn’t feel totally real, however, that this was the place where the movies were actually made. As we walked through and past all the sets, it would sometimes feel like a theme park re-creation or a traveling props tour (both of which we’ve been to), and I would have to constantly remind myself of where we really were.
It all started (appropriately) with the cupboard under the stairs set. There was a note somewhere about how this was the smallest set made for the movie, and it is crazy to look inside the cupboard and see just how tiny it was.
I’m sad this picture ended up a little out of focus, because I loved seeing these pictures from the Dursely house. My favorites are the ones in the bottom row, with Mr. Dursley in front of Grunnings and with Dudley winning his wrestling match. Both of those are details from the books that never made it into the movies in any other fashion, but it’s awesome that there was even a tiny nod toward them.
Here are several angles of the actual cupboard set, which remains just as cluttered as it was in the first movie.
Seeing the assorted items on Harry’s shelves was my favorite. I vividly remember the closeups of him playing with those little toys, and it’s crazy seeing just how small that pair of glasses was.
Here’s a closer picture of the poster describing J.K. Rowling’s initial idea about the Harry Potter series.
The next part of the tour is the only one that doesn’t allow photography or videography. First, you enter a room with screens on several different walls and watch a short preview of the tour, which includes some information on Leavesden and features clips of interviews with various cast members. After the intro video was over, there were still a few minutes to kill before we were allowed into the next room, so the guide who was bringing us into the tour asked a few Harry Potter trivia questions to kill some time.
Next, she led us into a room with movie theatre seats in front of a big screen. We sat down and watched another short documentary on the making of the Harry Potter films and how Leavesden played its part. Then, because Fantastic Beasts was going to premiere in just a couple weeks, they also showed the trailer for that. Finally, in a reveal that reminded me of the growing magic mirror entrance to Enchanted Tales with Belle, the curtains around the screen opened and the screen itself rose up to reveal the entrance doors to the Hogwarts Great Hall!
There’s definitely a reason why the tour starts with the great hall. Almost no other set that we would visit felt this incredibly complete and immersive. The doors were enormous and imposing, and the walls were absurdly high.
As the doors opened to reveal the actual Great Hall, it truly felt like walking into the films.
While there was no enchanted ceiling, the Great Hall was otherwise exactly how it appears on screen. My one thought was that it was a little narrower than I anticipated, and I imagine that it would definitely have felt tight having the four long house tables (packed wit students) spanning its width.
The set had several costumes lining the walls, as well as a few in the middle of the floor (with an emphasis on characters from the first film because of the aforementioned 15th anniversary celebration). Here’s Quirrell’s robes and turban.
The juxtaposition between real materials and movie magic was very interesting. Folks who worked on the movies are always keen to point out that the floor of the Great Hall is paved with genuine Yorkstone, which gives the room an authenticity that the filmmakers decided it would have been impossible to fake. On the other end of the spectrum, though, all the walls and statuary are mostly made from typical movie-making materials like plaster and fiberglass. Even so, the room feels complete somehow, and it’s easy to believe that you are inside a castle with a history spanning back thousands of years.
There were two house tables set up — though I imagine that they were closer to the walls than they were in the movies. These were entirely laid for a feast and featured assorted plates, goblets, cutlery, and food props.
More mannequins stood behind the house tables, wearing other famous costumes from the series.
Since the tour begins in the Great Hall, we were limited in terms of how much time we were allowed to spend in here before the next group would arrive. After a few minutes, our guide took an opportunity to point out a few of the finer details of the room.
Here is some of that food, which looks good enough to eat (if it weren’t years old and covered in various types of lacquer).
I loved seeing the Hogwarts crest and all the house crests on the enormous fireplace.
There was also a spotlight shining on the Sorting Hat because of the 15th anniversary.
At one end of the Hall, the staff table was also set up for a feast. The mannequins wearing various professor costumes stood in front of the tables. Here’s Argus Filch.
Behind the table, there was also the set of hourglasses keeping track of house points.
Here you can see just how many people were able to mill around the Hall at any one time.
Here’s a closer shot of some of the professors’ costumes, including Snape, Dumbledore, and McGonnagall.
Here you can see how large Hagrid was (this costume was for Robbie Coltrane’s size double).
As things were starting to clear out, we took advantage of being some of the last people left in the Great Hall and I took a picture in front of the huge double doors.
Right after that photo, the next group began to enter.
We could tell we were overstaying our welcome in this first room, so we started to walk toward the next area, taking a few more pictures as we walked.
Here are a few more professors, including Flitwick, Trelawney, and Moody.
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