Ok so one of the things that the military families talk about as a must see is the Harry Potter Studios outside of London. Chopper and I have been fans for years (even waiting in line until midnight for books a few times before kids) and Megan is currently in book 5. We showed the kids the first and second movies before we left (after those two they get darker and they won't watch them until they've read ALL the books) so that they would be somewhat prepared for this day. If you are ever in London, GO!!! We spent just about all day there and loved it. Sorry about the overload of pictures of just "stuff". I'm trying to restrict the number of pictures I post and it's not working.
They of course have a kid's activity in the form of a passport book that you emboss at different stations.
You sit in a theater and watch a short film featuring the three main characters as they talk about making the movies. Then the theater screen rolls up and you are literally standing outside of the main doors of Hogwarts and they open into the Great Hall! It was so cool to have that "first year's experience."
Your time in the Great Hall is limited but once you're through there you can linger in the other exhibits as long as you like. They have tables set along the sides and and then mannequins with costumes of the various characters.
It was fun to see Professor Trelawney and Mad-Eye Moody together. I wanted to take a picture of Chopper and I together in front of those costumes but Megan wasn't doing it and we ran out of time. So we just took them of each other.
Once you exit the Great Hall they have setups of nearly everything you can think of from the movies -- costumes, props, food, doors, etc. They show you how it works or what special effects were added. You just wander around to what you want to see. So Chopper thinks it's not quite the same but that feeling I get when I'm looking at a cathedral and all the artistry and handwork of ages past? I kind've got the same feeling here. There was so much talent on display -- the artistry of putting together this kind of production through costume, props, building, computer effects, etc. is staggering. And amazing. It really is magical.
This is the roof of the Great Hall but it's not life-size. It's miniature and then roof shots are just a camera pointed up. Clever really.
This is a perfect example of the artistry. All of the portraits!! Dumbledore's office, the hall and stairways -- all these amazing painted portraits. There was a sign saying that many of the film workers are actually the faces in the pictures which would be fun to watch the movie and see yourself later! The one on the right is Newt Scamander. He doesn't look anything like the guy who plays him in the movie! Guess they hadn't done casting for Fantastical Beasts when they painted the picture.
Abby outside the boys' dormitory and the common room of Gryffindor Tower.
Another shot of the common room -- the tapestry is amazing!! This is what I mean by comparing it to the churches and castles we see. The attention to detail is extraordinary and someone has MADE that! I'm a little jealous of that ability -- even if it is enhanced by modern machinery!
The fat lady! And a detail from the tapestry of the common room.
The Triwizard cup and the goblet of fire
Dementor! I don't think the kids noticed this one because they didn't ask. I'm ok with that. There was so much to see as it is!
Umbridge's cat office. I thought this would make Megan smile. It did not. It is pretty creepy though. And pink! There was a whole wall of her educational proclamations as well.
The Mirror of Erised. I tried to get a picture of our whole family in the mirror because that's what I most desire but now that I look at it, I don't see William! I think he's behind me. He was not in a hold still for pictures mood either.
Standing "outside" Dumbledore's office. I tried to get the kids to use the passwords but they didn't work.
Pensieve in his office
The potions classroom. This and several other rooms (the Weasely Burrow in particular) had mechanical movements on various objects so that you could wave your hand over a sensor and start a cauldron stirring or Mrs. Weasely's knitting needles going. For the kids especially who don't really think about the mechanical side yet, it was almost like doing a little bit of magic.
Abby and William both tried their hand and getting the broom to go up
You walk through a section of the Forbidden Forest and they do some flashing lights and dropping spiders. The kids know that I hate spiders so they made sure to protect me. But Buckbeak the Hippogriff was there and that made Megan smile finally! I think one of the reasons she didn't seem to be enjoying herself is because of the crowds. She really doesn't like large collections of people and it was packed with people - plus some school groups.
Chopper tried bowing to Buckbeak but he got no response so didn't attempt to touch him. :)
More details: the whomping willow crashing into the Anglia
Professor Lupin's trunk packing itself with Mad Eye Moody's magical trunk in the background
This was a perspective table that they used to make Hagrid look part giant. It's cut in half and the front half is raised. The plates and cups on the front half are larger than on the back half and the chair too. So when you sit in the front, you look bigger and you look smaller in the back. I think it really does work. Abby looks tiny!
Tom Riddle's grave -- does not look like the real thing. Much creepier!
So the sign on this exhibit says that they made I don't know how many thousands of orbs for the Hall of Prophecy in book 5 but then realizing the mess of them all breaking and having to shoot multiple times, they did that with CGI ultimately. So somewhere in a warehouse are all these orbs just sitting around.
They also have a green screen section -- you sit on a broom and they show you flying through several scenes and then you can of course have your picture taken and purchase it as a souvenir. Yeah we did. Abby and William loved it. Megan didn't want to do it but we kind've forced her to take a family wizarding picture.
Abby wanted the death eaters scene!
I love love love William's big grin in this one!
After the main exhibits you walk through King's Cross station where they have several trolleys set up for pictures and the real Hogwarts Express with different cars set up with different scenes from the movies.
Can you see the handprint from when the dementors attack?
And I love that one with the Ron and Lavender heart. I love her character!
After the train they have some displays of books, maps, foods, etc. All the small details that make it real. I would totally read all of these books -- they look fantastic!
Conveniently in the middle of the tour there's a cafe for food. Yes we took advantage. Then there are several things outside (yay for good weather!) and then you go into the part of the tour that's more about the creating of the world -- conceptualizing, putting it all together, etc.
The Knight Bus is HUGE!
The Hogwarts Bridge
The Potter's House
No. 4 Privet Drive
Wizard chess pieces
Megan also really liked the phoenix (Fawkes?) and the thestrals. She thought they were cute. She hasn't seen that movie yet.
William is making Dobby move
The kids favorite part of Diagon Alley
After all of that you walk out to where the complete model of Hogwarts is. Chills!! We had one of the workers take pictures but it was on blue light and they're terrible! We should have waited until the light changed. Oh well!!
And then last but not least (before the massive gift shop of course) you have the wand room. It's a room of wand boxes and every one is labeled with the name of a person who was involved with the film on any level. One of the employees was able to show all the big ones -- J.K. Rowling, the main actors and some of the supporting ones (like the girl who plays Luna Lovegood) but I thought it was a really fun and fitting tribute to all of those who really have made magic.
After we left and went back into London we went down to Kensington Gardens. They have a kids playscape there that was a lot of fun and so the kids played and we had ice cream and just enjoyed our evening. We walked by Kensington Palace and they were preparing for something. The Royal Ascot races were getting ready to begin one of the days we were there I think.
We haven't had any trouble sleeping at night!!