Harry Potter heaven: A sneak preview of the studio tour that will make Muggles happy

It has been a long time in coming. But it is almost here.

The historic Harry Potter film series may now be completed, but Muggles desperate for a wizard fix will soon have something to look forward to again - when a studio tour dedicated to the movies that thrilled us all for a decade brings the wonder of their creation to life in breathtaking detail.

The painstaking process of deconstructing and reconstructing the magical sets of the films - along with their countless inhabitants - has already begun. And by spring 2012, the doors to a living museum dedicated to this film-making feat will open to a highly knowledgeable, passionate public.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

Preview: TravelMail's Valentina Jovanovski takes a first look at the Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour

These massive Harry Potter movie sets - from the Great Hall to the Ministry of Magic - have been housed at the Warner Bros Studios, Leavesden, in Watford for the past 11 years - biding their time as the seven famous films have been produced. And soon, they will be visible to all.

So the question is: Will it all be worth the wait?

After taking an exclusive tour of the site, TravelMail can easily answer this question: Definitely.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

Inside look: The studio in Leavesden was Harry Potter's home for 11 years

Although visits will not officially be available until early 2012, loyal fans of the series will appreciate the authenticity of the Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour - and the glimpse it provides into the films’ epic genesis. The tour is different to Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, because it focuses purely on the film-making and production aspect of the beloved series.

'The important thing to remember is that we are not entering the world of Harry Potter,' says Cynthia Blackstone, a producer at Thinkwell Design and Production, who is working on the tour. 'We are celebrating the great craftsmanship of it. Everything is being set up as if it was for filming.'

This tour is tailor-made for seasoned Potter fans who don't want to be patronised with hippogriff-themed rollercoasters. You won’t find any butterbeer here. Since the wizardly drink of choice was more of a prop than an actual beverage on set, it doesn’t make an appearance on the tour.

Dumbledore's office - Harry Potter

One of a kind: Walls in Dumbledore's office will be lined with portraits

But what you will get to see is as grand as anything you could imagine. J Stage, which I am allowed to inspect - in my hard hat, high-vis jacket and steel-toe boats - houses some of the most memorable sites and props from the films.

One of the instantly recognisable locations that visitors will encounter is the cupboard under the stairs, where Harry slept at 4 Privet Drive.

And from there, past a holding room, I enter the Great Hall - which, although still a construction site, is already imbued with the depth and power that it exudes in the films.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

Behind the scenes: Visitors will be able to see the sets as they were during filming

'Getting the Great Hall here was quite a feat,' Cynthia says. 'Every piece of the set had to be brought down and moved onto a lorry, which took about three weeks.'

The most fascinating parts of the set were the signs of wear and tear from 11 years of filming – the flame bowls on the walls are blackened from the fires they held and the long dining tables are engraved with graffiti left by the young extras, a practice that was encouraged by the crew to make the furniture more authentic.

At the back of the Great Hall, the scaffolding is left exposed - as it would have been in the original studio, revealing the immense effort it must have taken to construct this work of art.

Many of the people who were involved in the production of the films have come back to ensure that their masterpieces are well presented, including production designer Stuart Craig and special effects supervisor John Richardson.

I find John in his mad-scientist lab, working on restoring a turquoise Flying Ford Anglia. He shows me many of the special effects props that will be featured in the tour, including the magical instruments in the Weasley home.

The self-chopping kitchen knife and self-stirring cauldron may have seemed like the work of CGI. But I discover that this was not the case. They are actual props that visitors will be able to activate by waving their hands over a motion detecting platform – possibly one of the coolest parts of the tour.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

In Harry's footsteps: Valentina takes a seat at the long table in the Great Hall

I amble through the Creature Effects Workshop, where many memorable characters are undergoing a last-minute touch-up. Aragog the giant spider, for example, sits dismembered on the floor, while his legs are reinvigorated with a quick coat of paint. Meanwhile, Fawkes the phoenix looks on from his animatronic stand - a device that will bring him to life for the studio tour.

Other guaranteed highlights are Dumbledore’s office, with walls covered in portraits, and the Gryffindor dormitory, with the original beds made for Harry, Ron, Seamus, Neville and Dean in the Philosopher’s Stone - which managed to last the whole series. The massive set of the Ministry of Magic, a favourite of the cast, hasn't yet been reconstructed, but will surely be impressive.

Anyone who goes on this tour will be able to see all the skill and ingenuity involved in bringing JK Rowling's vision to life.

And this has not just been a great film-making achievement, but a great British film-making achievement - as everyone involved in the design and installation of the Harry Potter sets was from the UK.

'It was wonderful to see great British artistry coming through,' Cynthia says.

'We're very proud of that. They are truly artisans. Never in the States have I been to a studio like this was. It's truly amazing.'

This signals a happy moment for the UK film industry. This time at least, production didn't have to move across the Atlantic for a project of such scale.

Once construction on the Leavesden studios is completed, the studios will become the largest in the UK. And here is a legacy of Harry Potter that proves the series has made its mark in more ways than one.

Travel Facts

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour will open to the public on March 31, 2012.

Tickets, which need to be pre-booked, go on sale on October 13, 2011 - and are available through www.wbstudiotour.co.uk, priced £28 for adults, £21 for children and £83 for a family of four.

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