Studio tour opens up rich world of Harry Potter

Agence France-Presse
"The Making of Harry Potter" is the latest spin-off from the best-selling books.

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) – J.K. Rowling has put down her pen, the films and video games have made a fortune and the actors have moved on, but Harry Potter refuses to go quietly — or at least Warner Bros won’t let him.

“The Making of Harry Potter”, which opens Saturday, March 31, is the latest spin-off from the best-selling books about the boy wizard, promising a chance to re-live his adventures with a trip through the set of the blockbuster movies.

Located in 14,000 square meters of hangar space adjoining Leavesden studios outside London, the walking tour takes visitors through Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, and offers a glimpse of how the magic made it onto the big screen.

Warner Bros hopes to entice 5,000 people through the door each day, with tickets costing £83 ($131, 99 euros) for a family of four, presenting it as a unique, behind-the-scenes look at one of the world’s most popular characters.

The team who worked on the films “really wanted everybody to be able to see these sets, all these treasures, which had so much British craftsmanship going into them,” said Sarah Roots, vice president of Warner Bros Studio Tour London.

For the first time, the tour allows Muggles — non-wizards — the chance to walk down Diagon Alley, the bustling street where Harry and his fellow students go to buy their first magic wands, owls and other school equipment.

About 3,000 wands were made for the eight films, many of them broken by Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played Harry, who used them as drumsticks during down-time on set.

Further along the tour, fans can experience the imposing dining hall at Hogwarts school, the scene of much of the action.

From the soot-blackened chimney, the stone animals on the walls and the benches polished with use, everything is as it was on screen. A closer look also reveals graffiti drawn on the tables by the films’ young actors, with the blessing of producers who wanted to make it as authentic as possible.

Sadly there is no trace of the hundreds of floating candles which light up the hall — an attempt to suspend candlesticks above the tables ended in near-disaster when they fell down, and they were replaced by animated versions.

In the boys’ dormitory, the beds designed for Harry and his friends when they arrived at Hogwarts aged 11 remain. By the later films, some deft camera work was required to make them look large enough for the now lanky cast.

In the classroom where potions are taught, hundreds of bottles and flasks crammed onto dusty shelves line the walls, filled with mysterious substances — in reality, baked animal bones from a local butchers, and dried herbs.

While the scale model of Hogwarts used for outside shots may be disappointing to those expecting a life-sized castle, the level of detail is impressive. The walls were sculpted by hand, and more than 300 fibre optic lights were used to simulate the torches and lanterns.

The tour also gives an insight into the special effects which make Harry’s wand such a powerful tool, allow the students to fly their broomsticks, and make the giant Hagrid tower over his friends.

The British press have given the new attraction a mixed reaction, noting the steep cost of the tickets and the souvenirs, which include nearly £500 for a copy of Professor Dumbledore’s robe.

But fans have responded enthusiastically, with tickets for every weekend day for the next three months already sold out.

“We feel this is a unique experience with the sets and props and costumes there entirely authentic from the Harry Potter films,” Roots insists.

“None of these items, the props or the costumes, have ever been seen before by the public and we’re opening up for the very first time the secrets from behind the films and how the special effects were done.” – Nathalie Auriol/Agence France-Presse

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