Although the primary purpose of my trip to England was to see family, my wife and I had a special incentive too - as a birthday present, my cousin managed to procure us tickets to the UK Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Watford, just outside of London. Now, unlike studio tours here in Hollywood, this was a show-and-tell with exactly one topic: Harry Potter. But on that one topic, it had every damn thing you can imagine short of a personal greeting from Alan Rickman. The studio isn't allowed to have anything that be considered a "ride" - that would infringe on Universal Studios' exclusive international rights to same - but it does have as many props, costumes, miniatures, wigs, effects and other doodads as could presumably be secured, and it presents them in a way that puts most collections of far more acclaimed artworks to shame.
You can probably picture some of what's there already. But I'm here to show you the best things you might not have expected...
14. Hall Together Now.
After the first room of the tour, which displays movie posters in multiple languages, you move into a movie theater to watch a short film in which Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson stand in front of the entrance to the Great Hall of Hogwarts and tell you what you're about to see. As the movie ends, the screen retracts into the ceiling, and...HOLYSHITTHE ENTRANCEIS RIGHT THERE!
Sorry, no photos were allowed in the theater. But right behind those doors...
13. Brush With Greatness.
Though the exhibit lacks rides as such, you can get astride a broomstick in front of a greenscreen to get a goofy-looking photo taken. They even dangle an honest-to-goodness golden snitch up above the frame so that your eyeline will match the background correctly.
(Alternate takes before this one was selected included one of me doing the Daniel Bryan "Yes" gesture.)
12. Your Money or Your Lupins!
At the touch of a button, Remus Lupin's luggage auto-unpacks itself right in front of you. Which is considerably more surprising than the fact that a character in fantasy named "Remus Lupin" turned out to be a wolf.
11. The Claws Are out.
Honestly, the way the media digs into the behind-the-scenes dirt on the movies' costars is shamefully catty sometimes. Mee-ouch!
10. I Call This the "Wife-Confuser."
Julia is devoted to the world of Harry Potter, and dutifully boos the villains. Yet she also loves all things pink, cute and kitten-bedecked. Thus, Dolores Umbridge's room is like the ultimate paradox.
9. Come and Knock on Their Door...
The Dursleys aren't home, and with the real-life Uncle Vernon having sadly died, they never will be. But you can walk right on up to their doorstep anyway.
8. Nick of Time Passing.
Well well well, NEARLY Headless Nick. Guess it's time to revise your name.
7. Nothing Here but, er, Beer.
Currently available only here and at Universal Studios Florida, butterbeer is basically cream soda with a butterscotch froth head on top. To my tastebuds, it was quite enjoyable, but there has clearly been a sizeable contingent who've disagreed with that assessment.
Hence the need for this:
Yes, bad beer can have you over a barrel sometimes.