Tonight TF1 will broadcast the third installment in the adventures of Harry Potter, the opportunity for us to embark on a tour of Warner Bros Studios in London. So have a butter beer and follow us through the settings of the legendary saga.
While we’ve been confined to our apartments for more than a month, visiting London’s Warner Bros. studios isn’t exactly on the agenda. Regardless, we invite you to discover the secrets of filming the saga, with this “virtual” visit. Get comfortable, play the music of John Williams and follow us through the mazes of London studios.
We begin 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 decor is made of real stones and could accommodate up to 400 people during filming. During our visit last January, the studios were still celebrating Christmas and for the occasion had gathered the sets and accessories of the 4th installment of the saga. To give it this winter atmosphere, the walls were then covered with silver fabrics to give the impression that they were gray. In several banquet scenes we can see candles floating above the actors, they were at first real, but were replaced by computer graphics, because they often fell. As you walk down the aisle, you will discover the sumptuous accessories created for the Christmas ball during the Goblet of Fire. Continuing your tour, you will discover the boys’ dormitory of the Griffondor house with the beds of Dean, Seamus, Harry, Ron and Neville. The set was built for the first installment, but as the actors grew up, the directors had to find creative camera angles to hide the fact that the beds had become too small.
We are now walking slowly, and for good reason. Since 2017, visitors to Warner Bros. studios have been able to explore the forbidden forest. This life-size setting welcomed the actors from the first installment of the adventures of the little wizard. All the elements that were used for the film are now available, starting with animatronics. In the first films, rather than using 3D, the directors preferred to create robotic creatures such as for Fumseck, the Basilisk and of course Buck, the Hippogryph. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ron and Harry find themselves facing a huge spider, Aragog. The magical creature, whose legs are 5 meters long, was hand-covered with yak hair, sisal and broom straw. To find out if the magic was working, the creature was presented to actors Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe, who were really scared of the 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 for the 8 feature films. From Chris Colombus to David Yates, the directors have succeeded each other behind the camera and have brought their vision of the universe. We start with Harry Potter at the Wizarding School 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 novels, Chris Colombus had asked Emma Watson to wear false teeth. The team then embarks on the shooting of the last scene in the film, when our wizards leave Hogwarts at the end of their adventures, but the actress found it very difficult to speak and they preferred to abandon this idea. They can still be seen when they say goodbye to Hagrid on the dock.
In the fourth installment in the adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione, the characters celebrate the magical collaboration with the Christmas ball. An event necessarily different from that of books and especially in terms of costumes. In the book Hermione, wear a periwinkle blue dress to go to the ball with Victor Krum, a color that did not contrast sharply with the decor and that was not to the liking of the director. To more closely match the skin tone of actress Emma Watson, costumers have created a pink dress. In the same episode, Hermione and Ron were plunged into the black lake during the second task. To be able to film without having to worry about the time it would take, the teams developed life-size and really realistic figurines. As you walk through the studios, you will also see a smaller figurine of Albus Dumbledore, which is blatantly realistic.
What would Harry Potter be without his famous scar? If Daniel Radcliffe is very similar to the character in the novels, he has a significant difference from the paper protagonist. To add the most intrigue, the makeup artists have developed silicone scars. More than 5,800 scars were made in ten shoots and it was not really a pleasure for the young actor. On the mirror, you can read a post-it from the makeup artists who asks Radcliffe not to take it off at any time. The actor will also have created a few torments for the props who designed no less than 160 pairs of glasses and 80 wands for the young wizard’s interpreter. A huge number when you know that the actor liked to play drums with it. We continue our visit outside the building where we can discover Privet Drive. The street is the one that houses the Dursleys’ house and the little wizard’s bedroom located under the stairs. Opening the door, you discover on your left the living room in the grip of a strange phenomenon, many letters are twirling in the air since Uncle Vernon destroyed the first missives. We are now going out to discover the magicobus. The huge vehicle is really rolling and has been used for scenes on the streets of London. It’s not the only one since 14 Ford Anglia were painted blue to match the colors of the Weasley’s flying vehicle. They were all destroyed during the scene in the hitting willow.
Our visit ends in front of the legendary Hogwarts castle. In a dark room, you can discover the model that was used for the outdoor scenes. It is 24 times smaller than the actual size. 82 artists and technicians were needed for its design and as many to maintain it now that it proudly sits 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. If the studios are closed due to the current pandemic, there is no doubt that they will reopen in the coming months. To plan your visit, here are our tips. For our part, we hired a tour operator with a price that includes the return trip and the entrance ticket. We had almost 4 hours to discover the sets, a duration which may seem fairly rapid in view of the size of the studios. We therefore recommend that you allow more time on site to discover all the secrets of filming. 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 have to look for the few gold sneaks hidden in the studios. We also advise you to allow time in the shop if you want to bring back a souvenir. The queue at the checkout is often long and you won’t have to hang around. Until you can visit the studios, you can see or review Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, tonight on TF1.