Woolly Potter and the Chocolate Frog – The Making of Harry Potter, Leveson, Watford

Never has a day been so full of expectation and excitement.  As my small furry friend bounced round the train carriage assaulting people’s ears with the words….

Woolly says – ‘CHOCOLATE FROGS’

……. I just hoped that our destination would live up to his levels of anticipation, as a further three people’s ears were blasted with the screech of ‘chocolate frog’, I attempted to settle him down with a snack allowing him to fill our ears with information on our day out.

Woolly says – The Making of Harry Potter is a public attraction in Leavesden in south eastern England, not far from Watford. The Warner Brother’s Studios Tour London is quite possibly the only permanent filmmaking exhibit of its size in the world, opened to the public in 2012 it has since welcomed up to 6,000 visitors a day and today I would be one of them.  All three of us are huge Potter fans having read the books copious numbers of times and watched all of the films on numerous occasions, I was a font of knowledge on all things Harry.  As all Hogwarts’s fans will know the house that you are a part of is a vital part of life, I am obviously in Gryffindor and known for my wise and brave decisions, Zoe is in Ravenclaw which is obvious given her levels of intelligence and creativity, while Jo is a humble and hardworking Hufflepuff, although I’m not sure the hardworking really applies.  Today would allow us to see the sets used for filming and get a better idea of how the costumes, props and creatures are all brought to light on the silver screen.

Alighting from our train I dashed along the concourse arriving at the bus that would take us the last couple of miles within seconds, the slower humans finally joined me just as the driver and I had concluded our discussion on chocolate frogs.

If I had a wand, I’d turn him into a chocolate frog at the rate he was going!

Woolly says – Even with a wand I’m not sure that Jo would be any good at magic! As we pulled up at the entrance to the former airfield, I could hardly contain myself and felt the need to shout ‘CHOCOLATE FROGS’ several more times before receiving one of Jo’s hard stares.  The entrance hall’s ceiling was filled with the Gringotts’s dragon that had helped Harry to escape, the modelling was incredible and I almost expected it to fly straight out of the building. 

As the tours are done by timed entrance we shuffled along hundreds of others into a dark cinema, I settled myself down to watch the brief introduction to the World of all things magical.  As the screen rolled up and the doors to Hogwarts were revealed my heart leapt in joy and my paws raced into the grand hall.  Taking in the place settings, the huge fireplace and the different areas for each house I charged to the front of the hall to get a better look at the costumes displayed that the actors had once worn in their roles of teaching staff.

The set was great and the only thing missing were the candles floating from the ceiling. Having caught up with my companion, the three of us moved into the next area which gave a wealth of information on the directors, producers and back stage work that no film can manage without.

Woolly says – Costumes and wigs were everywhere and it was fascinating to realise that nearly every character had some sort of wig attachment during filming. 

A large crowd surrounded the Gryffindor bedroom which left Jo and Zoe on the outskirts but allowed my small stature to weave between the legs to find a place at the front.  The small beds with their red curtains surrounded a wood burning stove which must have made it nice and toasty in the winter months, as the women reached the front I swiftly moved onto the set for the common room which looked in need of a tidy and some dusting which I’m sure Jo would be happy to do.

The detailing and attention to everything was wonderful and as we moved through the crowd, I followed the screams of ‘CHOCOLATE FROG’ which was coming from Dumbledore’s office to find the small furry one jumping up and down in excitement as he admired the set.

Woolly says – Passing the Triwizard cup, a number of broomsticks and Hagrid’s motorbike, I had a quick look into Hagrid’s home before racing towards the interior of the ministry of magic with its distinctive green tiles and gold highlights, before entering the forbidden forest. 

A mist swirled around my paws as I crept through trying not to wake the whomping willow or the spiders, as I rounded a corner my heart was in my mouth as I realised that high above my head the mighty Aragog was dangling, I raced towards the brighter lights and safety.

The forest was very atmospheric as spiders moved around and lights from Patronus’s guided us through.  An information board told us how the Patronus had been achieved which in reality was no where near as good as when shown on film.

Woolly says – Turning a corner I came to an immediate stop whilst my eyes took in platform 9 ¾ and the Hogwarts express, could the day get any better?!  So many photo opportunities, even Jo got into selfie mode.  A short queue to board the train and I was able to see into the carriages, ‘CHOCOLATE FROG’ I screamed as Jo’s gaze looked towards me, I pointed my paw at the carriage to prove that there was indeed a chocolate frog. My excitement knew no bounds when the final carriage revealed the Honey dukes’ trolley with a whole mountain of chocolate frogs.

With the idea of stopping any further shouting out I directed my companion into the backlot café and plonked on a table to wait while Zoe and I set about acquiring some food.

Woolly says – the hot dog and home made chips lasted mere moments in my desire to continue the tour, as the girls seemed to need to chew, chat and glug from bottles I left them to it and set off into an outside area to investigate the Knight bus and Privet Drive, Harry’s former home with his cousin Dudley, Dudley always makes me perplexed as how can someone be a town and a person!

The living room of the house was filled with Owl’s addressed to Harry and it was hard to resist trying to catch a few which is when I felt my tail being yanked as Jo pulled me out and carried me outside. 

The next stage set was fascinating as it showed us how the creatures, masks and props had been made, the goblin costumes lined one wall, the detail was incredible and each pinstriped suit was made specifically for its actor. 

Just as you think things can’t get any better, here they seemed to.

Woolly says – The newly opened Gringotts area was even more stunning than anything else we had already seen; it was exactly how it is portrayed in the films down to the last ink well. 

As we admired the fake marbling and floors it led us into an area that was devoted to the underground vaults, piles of gleaming wealth stood before us, sadly nothing was worth a Knut, a Sickle or a golden Galleon, as everyone of the 38,000 pieces were made of rubber.  The Lestrange vault was packed to the ceiling with gold and silver, I almost expected a niffler to be scurrying around grabbing the treasure. 

A loud roar erupted and I raced towards the sound, had they really got the dragon there?  Smoke filled my trunk and eyes as I peered through the destroyed set of the bank to see the mighty animal breathing flames amongst the debris, a quick nod in his direction and I scampered onwards.

The scene was perfect but even more awaited us as we turned a corner and found ourselves in Diagon Alley, the mammoth raced from shop front to shop front pausing to looking into the windows, his cries of ‘CHOCOLATE FROG’ filled the air. Passing through we found ourselves in an area that showed the plans and mini paper buildings that had formed the basis for the buildings and structures used during filming, the detail was incredible.

Woolly says – Sadly none of the shops were open and having waved at several owls in cages, I left the women looking at the plans and moved onwards.  I found myself in front of the most incredible place yet.  A miniature version of the castle lay before us, minute by some standards it was the perfect size for me, I couldn’t wait to get to the dorm and have breakfast in my very own great hall.  I feasted my eyes on the amazing display as lights twinkled and I found more and more detail in the workmanship, it had taken over 8 weeks to build and given the finish I could understand why.  With paws aching and the tour finished I wondered if there would be time for a snack before starting our journey back, Jo appeared to have read my mind and led us towards a café area where golden cakes and brownies filled the displays, my tummy rumbled as I carefully choose…….

It didn’t take much to work out which cake he would go for, I smiled down at him and nodded.

Woolly says – ……. The one with the ‘CHOCOLATE FROG’!