Hogwarts in the Snow

This festive season, visitors to the Studio Tour learnt how special effects experts make snow that never melts, how set dressers transform locations for Christmas scenes, and how flames are created without fire, as we opened the doors on our most magical makeover yet.

Hogwarts in the Snow ran from mid-November for a limited time only up until January 2016 and this special feature offered visitors the opportunity to see the Harry Potter film series' most iconic sets decorated for festive scenes. Eight Christmas trees lined the Great Hall, the Gryffindor common room was dressed for the season and a blanket of filmmaking snow was meticulously applied to the majestic Hogwarts castle model.

Visitors had the chance to spot wreaths and garlands in the Hogwarts Great Hall, which was lined with Christmas trees, decked with golden baubles and topped with witches on miniature broomsticks. A replica feast was also on display with one side of the Great Hall being dedicated to savoury props, featuring roast turkeys, hams studded with cherries and bowls of potatoes, while the other was devoted to sweet treats including flaming Christmas puddings and iced cakes.

For the first time this year, the Goblet of Fire was rigged by special effects experts to emerge from its original jewelled casket, and was 'lit' with flames that changed from blue to red. Featured in the fourth film, the impressive goblet was used as a way to select champions for the Triwizard Tournament. During production, the picture-perfect hero version was sculpted from a single piece of wood by the Prop Making Department, while a special effects replica was moulded in fibreglass and painted to look identical to its wooden counterpart.

The Hogwarts castle model was transformed for the occasion by a team led by Model Effects Supervisor José Granell, who worked on the Harry Potter film series. The snow is hand-sprinkled onto the incredibly-detailed model and is made from a combination of granulated paper and grains of salt – chosen because it clumps like real snowflakes and catches the light like ice. Visitors to this special feature had the opportunity to touch samples of the different types of ‘snow’ used during production, each selected for its ability to float like falling snow, crunch under foot or glisten in the light.

The scale model was first built for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, with a team of 80 model makers working for almost seven months to create the original version. The crew updated it over the years when the story required it (the bridge was added for Prisoner of Azkaban, the Owlery for Goblet of Fire, and the Astronomy Tower for Half-Blood Prince), and the model was used for nearly every exterior shot of Hogwarts seen in the first six Harry Potter films. The specialist work was so detailed that it would have taken one person more than 74 years to complete!

Fireplaces throughout the Tour (including those in the Leaky Cauldron and Great Hall) were especially ‘lit’ with special effects fire, created by filmmakers using a combination of water vapour and lighting effects. The Gryffindor common room and Weasley kitchen was also dressed for the occasion with streamers, Christmas crackers and oranges.

Did you know?

While the film series’ Christmas scenes feel very festive, many of them were actually filmed at unexpected times of year (even during summer) depending on the production schedule.