LEAVESDEN, England — The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened in 2010 at Universal Studios, has been a smash hit and will be expanding.
The Orlando attraction relies heavily on re-creations.
So now comes “Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter” — due to open March 31 at the Warner Bros. studios outside London — features actual sets, props and costumes from the eight Harry Potter movies. It’s in the hangar-like areas where Daniel Radcliffe (Harry) and Emma Watson (Hermione) filmed since before they were teens. USA TODAY and other media got a sneak peek before opening day.
What do you see?
The Great Hall from Hogwarts wizardry school is impressive, with its high ceilings, stone floor and long tables set with goblets and plates. The tables are overlooked by gargoyles in the shape of mythical creatures.
Diehard Potter fans, both young and adult, will be enthralled by the models for beasts and villains, Hermione’s Yule Ball evening gown, Dumbledore’s scholarly robes and office (where leather-covered phone books stood in for magic tomes). You see complicated sketches for sets, commentary from Radcliffe, other stars, producers and writers.
Visitors walk Diagon Alley, with a wand shop, and view the Weasley’s magical “The Burrow” home, where visitors can manipulate a wand to get the ironing or knitting done. A cauldron stirs itself in a wizardry classroom.
There’s even Butterbeer, the Harry Potter drink that’s hard to describe by a muggle (non-wizard). It’s like cream soda on the bottom with a super sticky-sweet head that tastes like marshmallow and caramel, and magically won’t diminish much as you slurp. The recipe is secret.
It can take hours for the dedicated to examine every costume, room set, fake owl, Hagrid’s motorbike with sidecar. The only ride is mounting a broomstick to be photographed against a backdrop, as if you were flying. Buying a photo costs extra on top of the 28-pound ($44) adult, 21-pound ($33) child and 83-pound family of four admission. That works out to $131 at today’s exchange rate. You must buy timed tickets in advance at the attraction website.
The cost has some Brit writers complaining. (Universal’s Potter park is $85 for those 10 and up, $79 for kids — hardly chump change, but includes one-day’s admission to all of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park). Universal’s Wizarding World boasts coasters and other rides, which are lacking at the London-area attraction. (To get there, you can drive or take a 15-minute train from London’s Euston station to Watford Junction, then a $3 round-trip shuttle bus).
There’s no question the attraction is going to be popular, at least initially. It’s sold out weekends for months.
But will back-lot reality triumph over Orlando wizardry, where visitors expect — and get — chills via thrill rides? Time will tell.
Meanwhile, rumors are flying that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando — which almost doubled Universal Orlando revenue its first year — may expand to where the Jaws ride just closed. Maybe with a Hogwarts train ride? Universal is mum. But HP will come to Universal Hollywood in the L.A. area. No date announced yet, but probably a few years away.