A tour of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley set
Not set to open to the public until March, Caroline had the opportunity to look around the Harry Potter series’ iconic Diagon Alley set. Here’s what she thought…
The Harry Potter film and book series may be over, but in addition to the newly announced LA park and expanding Orlando attraction, residents of Harry's native UK are getting the real thing; the sets of the newly completed film franchise, opened up for fans’ enjoyment from this spring.
We went to see the still under construction set of Diagon Alley, one of the most iconic locations of the series, at the same time as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and got to see the enthusiasm of everyone involved. Restoring the sets is a huge job, but the finished parts of the Diagon Alley look as real as they do on-screen. This is largely down to Stuart Craig, the Academy Award recognised production designer on the films.
It's unsurprising that this particular set will take centre stage when the tour opens in March, but the tour will also include the Great Hall, Dumbledore's Office, the Ministry of Magic, Harry's cupboard under the stairs, Privet Drive, Gryffindor common room, the boys' dormitory, the potion's classroom, the DADA teacher's office, the Weasley kitchen and Hogwarts bridge.
A lot of these sets were either changed or literally blown up as the franchise grew older, and we're told that Diagon Alley was actually converted into Hogsmeade for later films that spent less time in the high street. The one we get to walk down this spring is a later incarnation of the Alley, complete with Weasley Wizard Wheezes.
Those of us who've ventured onto the DVD extras or television coverage have heard Daniel Radcliffe and co-stars talk about the home they made at Leavesden Studios, and those of us who scoffed at those nostalgic notions may find ourselves in understanding once we've walked a mile in their shoes. Judging by the lived-in and realistic feel of this particular set, we're betting that's likely.
The attention to detail is a particular delight, as the windows of Ollivanders and Scribbulus are filled with magical objects from the films and books that were never even caught on camera. This writer has been to the Orlando Universal Studios version of Hogwarts, and authentic detail for the fans was something that was sorely lacking from those attractions.
It strikes me that that authenticity couldn't have been achieved anywhere else, as this is a quintessentially British attraction with nothing in its right place or with the giveaway gleam of just being built. It's been reconstructed by people who understand the franchise, and that will be much appreciated by those currently going through a general Potter withdrawal.
The only thing that's not entirely obvious is how much the tour will appeal to non-readers or casual film viewers, as it really is something for true fans. Kids will probably enjoy living in the world they've read about and seen over the years, and it's a feeling that really can't be achieved any other way.
They tell you that the films brought the magic to life, but the world sans 'magical' special effects feels as real as they come.