Tour at England’s Leavesden Studios brings ‘Harry Potter’ movie franchise to life

04/18/2012 6:50 PM

04/18/2012 6:50 PM

Hard-core Harry Potter fans who devoured the books, camped out for the movies and trekked through the theme park now have a new way to relive the boy wizard’s adventures: The Making of Harry Potter behind-the-scenes tour at the Warner Bros. studios in England, which made its debut two weeks ago, will let wizards, mudbloods and Muggles pull back the curtain on the movie-making secrets of the most successful film series of all time.

Twenty miles outside of London, the three-hour self-guided tour will take visitors past sets, props, costumes, models and special effects exhibits from the eight “Harry Potter” movies.

Burbank, Calif.-based Thinkwell Group designed and produced the Making of Harry Potter attraction housed at Leavesden Studios, where all the movies were produced. Thinkwell has created theme park attractions for Spain’s PortAventura, China’s Monkey Kingdom, Movie Park Germany and Universal Studios Florida.

Several of the sets on the London studio tour were re-created for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed land that opened in 2010 at Universal Studios Florida. A similar version of Wizarding World has been announced for Universal Studios Hollywood. The Warner Bros. studio tour in Burbank has featured “Harry Potter” movie props and costumes for several years.

The marquee attraction at the London exhibit is a 50-foot-long model of Hogwarts Castle used to film aerial photography seen in the movies.

A total of 86 artists and crew members worked for more than 650,000 man-hours to create the 1:24 scale model castle, which features 2,500 lights, hinged doors, miniature birds and live plants. The castle display completes a day-to-night cycle every four minutes.

Among the movie sets displayed on the Making of Harry Potter studio tour:

—Diagon Alley, complete with Ollivander’s wand shop, Flourish and Blotts, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Gringotts Wizarding Bank and Eeylops Owl Emporium.

—The Great Hall, which was one of the only sets used in all eight films. The oak and pine tables in the hall were aged with axes and chains and carved with graffiti by Hogwarts pupils.

—Dumbledore’s office, which features the Sword of Gryffindor, the Sorting Hat, the Pensieve memory basin and portraits of past Hogwarts headmasters.

—The Ministry of Magic, the largest set created for the “Harry Potter” films. Visitors will walk past the Magic Is Might statue, which evokes Soviet sculptures of the 1930s.

—The Gryffindor common room and boys’ dormitory, including the beds used by Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom and Seamus Finnigan (which the actors had outgrown by the final movies).

—Professor Umbridge’s resplendent pink office with hand-painted cat plates.

—Hagrid’s Hut, along with his flying motorcycle.

—Professor Snape’s potions classroom.

—The Weasleys’ kitchen featuring special-effects props such as the self-washing frying pan, self-knitting needles and self-chopping knives.

—The Hogwarts bridge, which collapsed in flames during the last movie.

—The Dursleys’ Privet Drive home, complete with Harry’s cupboard under the stairs.

Among the movie props on display:

—The fully functioning triple-decker Knight Bus.

—A selection of flying broomsticks, including Harry’s Nimbus 2000, Draco Malfoy’s Nimbus 2001 and Sirius Black’s Firebolt.

—A sampling of the 160 pairs of glasses and 70 magic wands Daniel Radcliffe went through during filming of the eight movies.

Visitors will also come face-to-face with several supernatural creatures from the movies, including Buckbeak the Hippogriff and Aragog the gigantic spider.

And, of course, there will be foaming tankards of Butterbeer.

Tickets for the Making of Harry Potter studio tour must be booked in advance and cannot be purchased at the door. Tickets cost about $45 for adults, $34 for children 5-15; children 4 and younger are admitted free. A family ticket (two adults and two children or one adult and three children) costs $133. All can be booked online at www.wbstudiotour.co.uk.

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