If you’re a fantasy-fanatic (proud or closeted), I am pleased to say that you will enjoy the following finds. I am a huge Harry Potter fan, and although I don’t have much love for The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, I can safely say that I would still love to visit the locations they were filmed at. I suppose this may have something to do with my background in film and media, but I prefer reasoning that I have a creative and inquisitive mind – and who wouldn’t want to get in on the behind-the-scenes action? If you’re willing to join me on this journey to fantasy-land, to discover the best-kept secrets of these award-winning masterpieces, then read on to find two film sets you can actually visit around the world:
Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, London
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, you’ll love The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour set up at the Warner Bros Studio in London. Here you’ll be afforded a unique walking tour where you can learn some closely-guarded secrets and facts about one of the most popular films of all time. You can walk across the iconic Hogwarts Bridge, step inside the actual Great Hall, enter Dumbledore’s office, and walk along the cobblestones of Diagon Alley (featuring the shop fronts of Ollivanders Wand Shop, Flourish and Blotts, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Gringott’s Wizarding Bank, and Eeylops Owl Emporium). You’ll also see props from the film such as Harry’s Nimbus 2000 and Hagrid’s motorcycle, and learn how fantastical creatures were brought to life with green screen effects, animatronics, and life-sized models. Other memorable sets you’ll encounter are the Gryffindor common room, the boy’s dormitory, Hagrid’s hut, the Potion’s classroom, and Professor Umbridge’s office at the Ministry of Magic.
One of the most exciting parts of the tour is the chance to get a 360˚ view of the hand-sculpted 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts Castle. It was built for the first film, taking 86 artists to construct, and has been modified several times over for the remaining 7 films. Interestingly, if all the hours spent on the model were added together, it would take over 74 years to build! The model, over 15m in diameter, was used for aerial photography and was digitally scanned for CGI scenes. It features over 2500 fibre optic lights that simulate lanterns and torches to give the illusion of students passing through the hallways. A day to night cycle will take place every 4 minutes to give visitors the complete effect. It features real-life plants, and miniature birds in the Owlery.
The tour is estimated to take about three hours, and as it is mostly self-guided, you’ll be free to explore at your own pace. Handheld guides are available for purchase, offering facts about the sets, costumes, and props, narrated by Tom Felton (who plays Draco Malfoy). Free Activity Passports for children include an exciting Golden Snitch hunt. After the tour, grab some refreshments from the Studio café and browse the Gift Shop for souvenirs and official merchandise. Top off the experience by trying a frothy Butterbeer at The Backlot, or bring your own lunch to enjoy in the picnic area. Handheld cameras are allowed for personal use, but please note that video cameras and tripods are not permitted. The cost is currently £28 for adults, £21 for children (5 – 15 years). Entry is free for children under 4 years. Click here to book now.
Hobbiton, New Zealand
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films consisted of an amazing combination of CGI graphics and beautiful landscapes set throughout New Zealand. If you’re a die-hard LOTR or The Hobbit fan, you’ll be pleased to know you can do a Hobbiton Tour to view the movie set located on a 1250 acre sheep and beef farm on North Island, Matamata. The set has been entirely rebuilt and will remain as it was seen in the films. While here, you’ll be afforded magnificent views across the Kaimai Ranges from the rolling green hills with small hobbit houses nestled within them.
There are five tour options to choose from, which all include crossing the Kaimai Ranges, stopping off at The Shires Rest Café, and discovering some fascinating behind-the-scene facts from your guide before wandering off to explore the shire on your own. While you’re here, don’t forget to visit the homes of Sam and Frodo, as well as the Green Dragon Inn. As the movie set is located on a real sheep farm, you will be able to cuddle and bottle-feed pet lambs. The cost is currently $NZ75 for adults, $NZ10 for children (5 – 9), and $NZ38 for youths (10 – 14), but prices vary according to each tour. If you’re interested in doing a tour, please note that bookings are essential.
What fantasy film set would you like to visit?
Main Image by Gary Bembridge (Flickr)