Turns out the magic is real. Exploring the Warner Bros Studio Tour it soon became clear that the 4,000-strong team behind the Harry Potter films always preferred to create the sets, spells, characters, costumes, creatures and wizardry, and only turned to CGI when that proved impossible. Even a muggle would be impressed by the attention to detail. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be bowed to by Buckbeak (and only felt slightly betrayed when I spotted the ginger wig labeled ‘Ron Weasley’).
The sets have undergone a festive makeover. During filming, snow was created by covering shredded plastic in dendritic salt for that realistic underfoot crunch; the temporary snowdrift currently covering part of Diagon Alley is deep enough to stop TFL running buses. The Great Hall is lined with Christmas trees topped by ‘malevolent fairies’, and its long tables bear giant plum puddings and crackers in house colours. The Gryffindor common room and dormitories have been festooned with tinsel. Meanwhile, at the Burrow, the Weasley’s Christmas dinner appears to be preparing itself, knives, irons and scrubbing brushes working away unassisted.
Out in the backlot, where the exterior sets are housed, I tried butter beer, a fizzy butterscotch mix topped with thick foam, and had a sit down in Mr Weasley’s enchanted Ford Anglia.
A 12-year-old girl excitedly dragging her brother into the last room prepared me for the finale of the experience; a 1:24 scale model of Hogwarts covered in snow. The not-so-miniature castle, filled with tiny twinkling lights, was used for the sweeping shots of the school’s exterior. The magic continued right out into the car park where snowflakes began to fall. Merry Christmas Potter; mischief managed. Katy Dillon