First there was an almighty roar. Then the walls and floors trembled, smoke ascended to the ceiling and the mighty marble columns looked as though they might collapse.
It took a moment to realise we weren’t experiencing an earthquake, but rather the impending doom of some terrible creature. Before I knew, there it was, a Ukranian Ironbelly dragon blasting out flames and vaulting towards us at terrifying speed.
Thankfully it was all just a piece of exceptionally real special effects trickery included in the newest extension to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter in Leavesden.
The magnificent Gringotts Wizarding Bank, unveiled in April, is the latest addition to this thrilling behind-the-scenes glimpse of all eight Harry Potter films made at Leavesden over 10 years.
Aside from almost being eaten alive by a dragon, visitors can gasp at the lavish banking hall, replete with ornate crystal chandeliers and towering marble columns – all made incredibly from just glass, plaster and copious amounts of artistic talent – as well as learn about the laborious, yet awe-making process involved in turning 60 actors into goblins with silicon masks.
There’s even the chance to get up close to Bellatrix Lestrange’s bank vault, teeming with magical treasures and an impressive 210,000 galleons, knuts and sickles (pounds and pence for the Muggles out there).
It’s hard not to walk around this gargantuan homage to J K Rowling’s favourite boy wizard with the lightning scar without gasping at every turn – and shaking your head in amazement at the sheer skill and intricate detail involved behind the camera, from sets, props and special effects to costumes, design and animatronics.
Taking my eight-year-old daughter along for the tour (who really needed little persuading), we began in the Great Hall of Hogwarts and smiled in wonder at the backdrop to some of the film series’ most iconic scenes, including the Yule Ball and the Battle of Hogwarts.
From there, we marvelled at the potions classroom, where cauldrons stirred themselves and more than 950 jars lined the walls, filled with baked animal bones, herbs – and even shrunken heads – before delving into Dumbledore’s office, sneaking into the Gryffindor common room and peeking into the Weasley’s cottage.
Then it was time for a quick broomstick ride over London – thanks to some awesome green screen special effects – before braving a trek into the Forbidden Forest.
Encompassed by towering trees, we caught a glimpse of Buckbeak the Hippogriff, tried our hand at a Patronus charm and came all-too-close to Aragog, a ginormous spider with a leg span measuring more than 18 feet.
That’s one spider I wouldn’t want crawling out my bath.
We hot-footed it over to Platform 9 ¾ just in time to catch the Hogwarts Express and before we knew it, we were in the middle of Diagon Alley, home to Flourish and Botts the bookshop, Ollivanders wand shop and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, complete with a massive Puking Pastilles dispenser!
Taking just over three hours to gape, gasp and gawk at all there was to see, our legs ached a little and my wallet was certainly lighter – but we came away feeling truly spellbound.
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- Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter
- harry potter
- daniel radcliffe
- Emma Watson
- Rupert Grint
- Maggie Smith
- j.k. rowling
- Helena Bonham-Carter
- Jason Isaacs
- Warwick Davis
- Julie Walters
- David Tennant
- miriam margolyes
- Bill Nighy
- Gringotts Wizarding Bank
- Bellatrix Lestrange
- Great Hall
- Ron Weasley
- Hermione Granger
- Diagon Alley
By Joe Millis