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UK studio tour aims to conjure Harry Potter magic

Oct 2, 2011, 4:14 p.m.
Cast members of the film "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" post for photographs at the Leavesden Studios in Hertfordshire. REUTERS

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Wave a wand and a ladle across the room turns in a cauldron. Move your hand and a knife starts to chop.

Warner Brothers aims to recreate the magic of the Harry Potter movies with a major tour at its newly renovated Leavesden Studios on the outskirts of London, with the attraction due to open next spring.

The Hollywood studio behind the record-breaking franchise has relocated the original Great Hall at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and visitors will be treated to a surprise entrance into the towering set.

There they can admire the attention to detail in which the production crews on the eight movies took great pride -- from the elaborate "stonework" of the outer walls to graffiti carved into wooden tables by students.

There will be no floating candles -- that particular piece of magic was conjured by computers, but many of the characters, props, costumes and settings were real-life.

Among the highlights will be the giant spider Aragog suspended from the ceiling, and fans will be able to pose for photographs in one of the "flying" Ford Anglia cars used in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."

The sharp-toothed "The Monster Book of Monsters" has been dusted off, and Buckbeak the "Hippogriff" is getting a meticulous makeover for when the doors of the attraction open.

The studios and neighboring tour space are currently little more than a giant building site, with only a few of the main attractions in place including the shell of the great hall.

Journalists were shown around the site recently as Warner cranked up the publicity ahead of tickets for "Warner Bros. Studio Tour London -- The Making of Harry Potter" going on sale on October 13.

They will cost 21 pounds per child, 28 pounds per adult and 83 pounds for a family of four, and up to 5,000 visitors are expected to be able to take the three-hour tour each day. Tickets must be ordered in advance.

The venture underlines how the Potter phenomenon looks set to go on generating revenue long after the July release of the eighth and final film.

Author J.K. Rowling has also launched the Pottermore website which will allow people to navigate the Potter world and shop for merchandise including, for the first time, e-book versions of the adventures.

A posting on the website said the Pottermore Shop would not open until the first half of 2012, later than expected.

BEHIND-THE-SCENES INSIGHT

John Richardson, who won an Oscar for his work on the 1986 movie "Aliens" and was special effects supervisor on the Potter films, demonstrated the wand and hand "tricks" and a number of other devices he developed.

"There are so many kids and so many adults who have grown up with Harry Potter, it's an opportunity for them to be close to all things Harry Potter and at the same time give the public the chance to see what goes into making a movie," he told Reuters.

While famous sets like the Great Hall, Dumbledore's office, the Gryffindor common room and Potter's cupboard under the stairs are being rebuilt, the outer shells will be kept as they were during filming -- scaffold, wood and plaster.

And despite stressing the craftsmanship that went into making the sets, props and costumes for the movies, there will be an area demonstrating the possibilities of green screen technology.

Outside the cavernous warehouse will be a reconstruction of 4 Privet Drive where Harry grew up and of the bridge at Hogwarts.

Visitors will enter the site via a small cinema where they will see a short film about the facility before moving on to the main attractions.

Those tempted to walk off with the cutlery or crockery from the dining tables in the Great Hall beware. As if by magic, weight sensors will trigger an alarm.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

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