‘Harry Potter’ tour gives a close-up view of the wizardry of Hogwarts

A new tour of the film studios outside London where the Harry Potter blockbusters were shot is drawing in huge crowds of fans eager to catch a glimpse of the   behind-the-scenes magic that has gone into creating the most successful film series of all time.

“Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter” opened to the public on Saturday, and organizers expect 5,000 visitors to file past the familiar sets, strange creatures and scale models every day.

Making appearances for the grand opening were a handful of the cast members including Rupert Grint, Tom Felton and Bonnie Wright.

The Studio Tour lasts approximately three hours. Only a small part of it is guided, leaving plenty of time and flexibility to explore the attraction at leisure.

Visitors enter through the famous Great Hall, a cavernous room with stone-like walls, real stone floors and graffiti-marked tables where students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry ate their feasts and enjoyed the Yule Ball.

Also preserved from the original films are Gryffindor Common Room, Professor Dumbledore’s office, the potions classroom, Hagrid’s hut, the Weasleys’ kitchen and a section of the Ministry of Magic.

The giant spider Aragog, a version of the animatronic “Hippogriff” Buckbeak and eerily life-like models of the actors allow visitors to study up close the painstaking craftsmanship that every scene involved.

The animatronic Aragog, for example, needed 100 technicians to operate, real goat hair was inserted strand by strand to create Greyback’s werewolf face and Ollivanders shop in Diagon Alley contained 17,000 individually labeled wand boxes.

The attraction is part of Warner Bros.’ redevelopment of Leavesden Studios, 20 miles  northwest of London, into Europe’s largest filmmaking complex, and the site is  is a great day trip from London.

Tickets cost about about $130 for a family of four. Find out all you need to know to plan your visit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.