A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive an invite from Warner Bros. to attend the exclusive preview of the Forbidden Forest, their latest addition to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, nine days before opening to the public. I'd been twice before - the first time was on my 14th birthday with my parents and a friend; the second time was with my blogger hat on as I attended their September Screenings event.
I was very excited to be going a third time. Somehow, I always end up with a two-year gap between each visit, which gives Warner Bros. plenty of time to add new things like Platform 9 3/4 and the Forbidden Forest, so it never gets boring. I mean, obviously - it's the wizarding world.
I messaged Holly, who also came with me to the Fantastic Beasts premiere, and asked if she wanted to be my +1. A couple of weeks later and we were back home to Hogwarts...
Unfortunately, the day of the event was also the day of the Westminster terrorist attack in London. It was happening whilst we were still in the city, but we were none the wiser until we were waiting for the tour to begin when I was scrolling down Twitter and saw the #PrayForLondon hashtag. I don't want to ignore it and pretend it was a flawless day where nothing bad happened, because it wasn't, so I'm acknowledging it here. Three days later, I was in Parliament Square with an estimated 100,000 other people, so if the attacker wanted to bring London to its knees, he did a rubbish job of it.
Hogwarts was a good place to be, that day. As Dumbledore said, "happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light."
The Forbidden Forest is incredible. As you'd expect from a film studio (I can't believe we were probably really close to a Fantastic Beasts set that is either already in use or will be soon...) the lighting created the perfect atmosphere for an eerie forest. Pretty hard to do, I imagine, considering it's in a massive building. The floor is spongy like a real forest, and the trees (not real, but they sure look it) are so tall you can't even see the tops. Tree roots twist and turn on the floor and above your head, because once you're in, you're more consumed by the forest than simply stood in it.
As awesome as the lighting is, it was very difficult to get good photos. I'll include some anyway, but for a better idea of the forest you should watch my vlog of the day.
There are lots of interactive features, too - you can change the lighting from day to night with the flick of a switch, you can create thunder, you can make Buckbeak bow, you can make spiders descend from the ceiling... again, watch the vlog, because I was NOT expecting that to happen and I think my surprise is pretty funny. I wouldn't pick up a spider but I'm alright with them - however, if spiders aren't your thing, there is an alternative route which skips out that bit entirely. I think that was a really thoughtful addition.
This is what the inside of a tree looks like, for any technical people who may be interested...
Another amazing part of the day: we got to go in 4 Privet Drive! I had no idea it was still open to the public, and I was so excited to finally go inside.
And, of course, no blog post about the tour would be complete without a photo of the constantly impressive Hogwarts castle.
As always, regardless of whether you've even read Harry Potter or not, I highly recommend taking a trip to the studios one day. It's such a fun day out, and the fact that they're constantly changing things around and adding new expansions means that I'm still not bored of the place after three visits. The Forbidden Forest is seriously awesome (not least because it's meant to be forbidden, and yet you're allowed in... #rulebreaker) and I can't wait to see what Warner Bros. add next!
Watch my vlog of the day to see a duel between myself and Holly; a dementor cause Holly to jump out of her skin; and a guest appearance from Ryan Gosling.
Are you going to see the Forbidden Forest?