Magic experience

THE books are all written, the films have all been shot, but there’s still one more trick up the sleeve of the people behind the Harry Potter phenomenon.

Monday, 16th April 2012, 8:00 am

A public tour of the Warner Brothers Studio in Watford, London, where each of the eight films were staged over 10 years.

From young Harry’s cupboard under the stairs to a grand, scale model of the Hogwards castle, the Making of Harry Potter truly is a magical experience.

Our day didn’t start at platform nine and three-quarters, but at the more conventional Leeds station, where we boarded an East Coast train service to London King’s Cross.

And from there, it was first class all the way to the capital. We were offered enough cups of tea to keep a Yorkshireman happy, and a sterling breakfast, including salmon and scrambled eggs.

Just under two hours later we arrived at the hustle and bustle of the capital, where we took ourselves off exploring for an hour or so using an all-access rail and bus day pass.

In the afternoon we made our way to Watford Junction train station, where a designated shuttlebus was waiting to take us to the Warner Bros Studio – a 20 minute drive away at the former Leavesden Aerodrome.

For 10 years the studio has been a second home, and school, to actors Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) as they filmed the eight epic tales of the boy wizard.

Inside we were shown into a cinema, where the actors introduced the Making of Harry Potter.

Then, as if by magic, the screen was lifted, revealing the magnificent doorway leading into the Great Hall.

From there we were left to wander the different sets which brought the imagination of JK Rowling to life, from the Gryffindor common room to the Ministry of Magic, and everything inbetween.

Each set is manned by a member of staff only too happy to explain the story behind the artwork, and answer any questions from adorning Potter fans.

Perhaps the best part of the experience came when we were invited to ride a broomstick.

But be warned, they are not as comfortable as Radcliffe makes it out to be.

Despite being secretly strapped in, I was sure I was about to plummet the two-feet to the floor, face first.

The effects were good though, as displayed on a screen in front of you as you twist and dive in front of a green-screen is your own image flying over Tower Bridge, over the lake to Hogwarts Castle and between the red buses of London.

After that it was to the courtyard for a refreshing Butterbeer. Sickly sweet as it was, at least I can say I’ve tried one.

Outside is number four Privet Drive, the bridge at Hogwarts and the Knight Bus, which I was itching to climb aboard.

Back inside we were led, using television screens, around the props and animatronics departments by actor Warwick Davis, who plays Griphook and Professior Flitwick in the films.

The walk along Diagon Alley was amazing. We passed Olivander’s, where Harry was chosen by his wand, the Daily Prophet office, and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes which, again, I was keen to get inside. Alas, the set was only the shop front.

For me, the most fascinating of the whole tour was the design department, where hand sketches decorate the walls and viewing cabinets are littered with scale models of items most people would miss in the films.

I wasn’t able to recall the printing press of Xenophilius Lovegood, and yet there in front of me was a perfect, intricate, scale model of the equipment.

But by far, the most breath-taking of all we saw that afternoon was the 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts Castle, complete with more than 300 working fibre optic lights, used to film aerial shots of the magnanimous building.

It took 86 artists and crewmembers to make it, so it’s no wonder the structure has been displayed in such remarkable glory.

The tour’s final pièce de résistance is a room filled with thousands of boxes, much like the wands at Olivanders, each marked with the name of someone who had any input on any of the films.

Our magical experience ended with a first-class journey back to Leeds from Kings Cross. We reclined our chairs with a glass of wine in our hands, rising only to enjoy a hot two-course meal.