What began life as a draughty aerodrome during the Second World War has now become one of the UK’s most popular attractions. The Warner Brothers Studio complex at Leavesden in Hertfordshire is home to the world-famous Harry Potter Studio Tour. Just like the stunningly successful movies that were filmed there, the Studio Tour itself has recently acquired a darker dimension. You may now enter the Dark Arts section, which opened in October 2014.
For those who’ve already taken the tour, it’s probably difficult to imagine how it could possibly get any better. It’s customary for children, teens and adults alike to wander around from start to finish gasping in delight at the sheer grandeur and ingenuity of the sets and wizardry on display. Youngsters can not only have themselves filmed dressed as Hogwarts’ finest atop a flying broomstick (they get to see first-hand how these special effects were created using green screen technology), but they can also visit Harry’s foster-home, 4 Privet Drive. They can climb aboard the Knight Bus; take a snap of themselves on Hagrid’s motorbike; take a stroll down Diagon Alley; and gawp in silent amazement at the magnificently vast, 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts Castle itself (it was actually used in the movies for all the exterior shots of the school – the level of detail will take your breath away).
The Great Hall is the gateway to the tour, and stunning though it is, the experience gets progressively more joyous and enchanting with every additional step, whether you’re looking at Harry’s dorm, climbing aboard the carriage set for the fabulous Hogwarts Express on Platform 9 3/4, gazing at Hagrid’s Hut or the Wand Room, or visiting Dumbledore’s Office or the Gryffindor Common Room. Visitors can get up close and personal with the Cloak of Invisibility, the Weasley Kitchen, and the magnificent Chamber of Secrets door (yes, that snaked door really does work) – and if refreshment is needed, why not pause to take a snack rinsed down with some Butterbeer?
After coming face to face with a gaggle of goblins, the Monster Book of Monsters, and an 18-foot animatronic spider, visitors can now experience the Dark Arts – the headquarters of the Dark Lord himself, Voldemort. If the Force has its Dark Side in Star Wars, wizardry has its Dark Arts in Harry Potter. The Malfoy Manor fireplace has now been extended to display the entire set for the lair of the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters, which first appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. This splendidly sinister drawing room is replete with grandly gothic chandeliers suspended above the vast table, around which Voldemort, the Malfoy family, Bellatrix Lestrange and the Death Eaters themselves sat and plotted. Hovering eerily above the table at Voldemort’s mercy is a life-size mannequin of the unfortunate captured Muggles Studies professor, Charity Burbage, while resting menacingly atop it is the fearsome Nagini – a 20-foot model of Voldemort’s blood-freezing snake.
This tour astounds not only devoted Harry Potter aficionados but also people who’ve never even seen the movies or read the books, and with the stunning addition of the Dark Arts set, it’s going to wow them even more.
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