Will the Harry Potter experience be as stunning in person as it was on the big screen?
Fans of the movies will find out starting this Saturday, when Warner Bros. opens up the studios in Hertfordshire, England, where the series based on the J.K. Rowling books was filmed, for public tours.
Nearly all the original models and props are there. An 18-foot wide Aragog suspended from the ceiling? Check. The full-scale Great Hall at Hogwarts? Check. Harry’s broomstick? Hermione’s cloak? Hagrid’s motorcycle? Check, check check.
There’s plenty more, too – scores of sets, from Diagon Alley to Dumbledore’s office; the fantastically intricate model of Hogwarts Castle, built to 1:24 scale and used in the exterior shots of the films; and videos that explain the digital wizardry behind the franchise’s renowned visual effects.
Sets from the Harry Potter series (top and bottom), on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour
The tour should prove just as popular with Potter fans as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, which opened in 2010 and reproduces the snowcapped village of Hogsmeade with its winding cobblestone streets.
Without the amusement-park rides of Orlando, the tour of the Leavesden Studios near Watford will still set you back a pretty penny: $33 for children 5-15; $45 for adults; or $130 for a family of four.
There is, of course, a gift shop, too. The most expensive item on sale? A gorgeous replica of Dumbledore’s robe, going for a cool $800.
Warner Bros. expects 5,000 people a day to visit the attraction when it opens this weekend.
By Tim Nudd