THERE was magic in the air as the familiar faces of Harry, Ron and Hermione appeared on a giant screen and then beckoned us forward.
Seconds later, the screen gently lifted and the doors of the Great Hall stood there before us for real. And, with genuine excitement, we stepped into the world of Hogwarts. It was a magical moment. The first of thousands.
There was magic as we walked into the Great Hall. Magic as we strolled up to Dumbledore’s multi-levelled office and the kitchen of the Weasleys’ burrow. Magic as we peered at the hundreds of bottles on the shelves in the potions classroom. And magic as we wandered along the real Diagon Alley repeatedly turning around so we didn’t miss a thing.
This is a very special world. One we all knew so well from J K Rowling’s books and Warner Brothers’ films. One in which you can revel, one where you feel so much at home. And whether you are seven or 70 you will be enthralled, enchanted and completely captivated.
In two giant warehouses, on the site of the hangars just outside Watford where the films were made, is a treasure trove of sets, props, costumes and movie wizardry from the eight Harry Potter movies. Everything you see appeared in the films.
What amazes you is the detail, the endless hours of work that went into coins, bottles, drawings, books and decorations that may have made it to the screen for a mere second or two.
Yet without them the wonderful world of Harry Potter could not have been brought to life so convincingly.
What is often astounding is that things you dismissed as clever computer animation were often made for real.
The battalion of locks and levers on the giant castle doors that intertwine to keep Hogwarts safe from the Dementors are there. So too is Mad Eye Moody’s trunk.
Every now and then video screens let you into secrets of how things were made. But don’t think for a moment that it dispels the magic. You learn how Quidditch was shot and how Harry, Hermione and Ron flew on their broomsticks. And you can have a go yourself. But that doesn’t spoil anything, in fact it lets you into their world. And that is worth its weight in Gringotts gold.
You wander from set to set stepping from the boys’ dormitories to the cosiness of the Gryffindor common room.
Everywhere there are excited cries from youngsters and parents.
You literally follow in the footsteps of Harry, his friends and his enemies. And at every step you will be amazed at the intricacy and the quality around you.
There’s the real Privet Drive, the enchanting pitched-roof wooden bridge and Hogwarts Castle itself. And you get a chance to be pictured riding a broomstick or at the wheel of the Weasleys’ enchanted Ford Anglia.
This tour is a tribute to the skill of the 4,000 people who brought the Harry Potter stories to the big screen. And fittingly, the final room you walk through is a little homage to them all.
It is like Olivander’s wand shop with thousands of wand-shaped boxes on shelves at all heights. All of them bears the name of someone who acted in or worked on the films.
It gives us a sense of the scale of what was involved.
And it leaves you with a sense of wonder.
We stepped back into the Muggle world spellbound by all we had seen and with all of it imprinted in our minds and hearts forever.
Factfile: The Making of Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour London is at Leavesden, just outside Watford. There are train links from Euston and a shuttle bus from Watford Junction. By road it is just off junction 19 of the M25 and is signposted.
Tickets cost £29 for adults, £21.50 for children £21.50 for children and £85 for a family of four. Book your tour in advance at www.wbstudiotour.co.uk.