Introducing Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience

Follow a forest light trail and discover illuminated moments from the Wizarding World this Autumn at Arley Hall.


We are thrilled to announce Thinkwell’s newest project with our partners at Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment, Unify, and Fever. Read on for the full launch announcement!

BURBANK, USA and MANCHESTER, UK (21 July, 2021): Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment in partnership with Thinkwell, have announced a breathtaking experience that will take Harry Potter fans of all ages down a light trail inspired by the iconic Forbidden Forest featuring creatures from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series.

Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience will make its debut in the beautiful woodland at Arley Hall, Cheshire, U.K.. As evening falls, mesmerising lights will transform the landscape into a magical outdoor trail for families to enjoy. As visitors make their way through the woodland, and follow the illuminated path, they will discover wonderful surprises, some of their most favourite moments from the Forbidden Forest, and encounter mystical creatures such as Hippogriffs, centaurs, unicorns, Nifflers – and many more.

Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience is suitable for the whole family to enjoy and provides a huge amount for fans of all ages to see and do, giving them the opportunity to experience the magic of the wizarding world in a brand-new way. From discovering the wondrous and beautiful forest come to life, enjoying a wide range of delicious food and drinks at a lively and seasonally themed village; to perusing the on-site shop for Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts merchandise to take home – it promises to be a special evening to remember!

The outdoor experience has been created by Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment in partnership with award-winning theatrical designers and experiential creators, Thinkwell and their partners Unify and leading entertainment discovery platform Fever.

The Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience offers fans a new way to enjoy some of the most iconic and magical wizarding world moments,” said Peter van Roden, Senior Vice President of Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment. “We’re thrilled to be working alongside Thinkwell to bring this incredible light trail to life at Arley Hall & Gardens, a perfect location where the natural beauty of the forest trail and illuminated sets filled with familiar creatures from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series, will make for a magical experience for fans of all ages.”

The trail follows a one-way route and is designed to be accessible to all as well as COVID secure and will adhere to the latest Government safety guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit. Guests will be able to view the most up to date guidelines on our website,

Fans can sign up to join the waitlist at and receive early access to tickets and information about the experience.

Ticket prices will start from £19 and will be available on Fever’s marketplace here.

Press Contact
[email protected]

Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment

[email protected]


About Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment

Warner Bros. Themed Entertainment (WBTE), part of WarnerMedia Global Brands and Experiences, is a worldwide leader in the creation, development and licensing of location-based entertainment, live events, exhibits and theme park experiences based on WarnerMedia’s iconic characters, stories, and brands. WBTE is home to the groundbreaking global locations of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, WB Movie World Australia, and countless other experiences inspired by DC, Looney Tunes, Scooby, Game of Thrones, Friends and more. With best-in-class partners, WBTE allows fans around the world to physically immerse themselves inside their favorite brands and franchises.


About Wizarding World

In the years since Harry Potter was whisked from King’s Cross Station onto Platform nine and three quarters, his incredible adventures (based on the original stories by J.K. Rowling) have left a unique and lasting mark on popular culture. Eight blockbuster Harry Potter films have brought the magical stories to life and today, the Wizarding World is recognised as one of the world’s best-loved brands.

Representing a vast interconnected universe, it also includes two epic Fantastic Beasts films, (the third releasing in 2022), Harry Potter & The Cursed Child – the multi-award-winning stage-play, state-of-the-art video and mobile games from Portkey Games, innovative consumer products, thrilling live entertainment (including four theme park lands) and insightful exhibitions.

This expanding portfolio of Warner Bros. owned Wizarding World experiences also includes Harry Potter New York – a brand new flagship store, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo, and the Platform 9 3⁄4 retail shops.

The Wizarding World continues to evolve to provide Harry Potter fans with fresh and exciting ways to engage. For the worldwide fan community, and for generations to come, it welcomes everyone in to explore and discover the magic for themselves.

WIZARDING WORLD and all related trademarks, characters, names, and indicia are © & ™ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Publishing Rights © JKR. (s21)


About Thinkwell

Thinkwell Group is a global experience design and production agency with studios and offices in Los Angeles, Montréal, Beijing, and Abu Dhabi. For the past 20 years, Thinkwell’s multi-disciplinary team has created compelling experiences for a wide range of clients and brands around the world. Thinkwell has extensive experience in the strategy, planning, design, and production of award-winning theme parks, brand & intellectual property attractions, events & spectaculars, museums & exhibits, expos, and live shows.


About Unify

Unify Productions Global are a UK experiential  and production consultancy with operations and guest experience expertise stemming from their work as senior group leaders at London Olympics 2012. Unify’s principals, Heather McGill and Anthony Norris, honed their skills creating and operating major festivals around the UK., are now helping to create, craft, and bring to life the experience and operations of Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience with Thinkwell.


About Fever

Fever is the leading global entertainment discovery platform. Fever has revolutionised the world of entertainment since 2015, inspiring over 40 million people every month to discover the best experiences in their cities. Through the use of its technology, Fever empowers event organisers to create amazing experiences, and works alongside organisers, promoters and brands. Successful examples of their experiences include the “Candlelight Concert Series” attended by over 1 million guests, the Los Angeles based “Stranger Things: The Drive-Into Experience”, or the “Mad Hatter G&T Party” present in multiple cities across the world.

Thinkwell Produces & Participates in Panel for DC FanDome

Soon after most of the world was shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment started development on an epic, fan-first, 24-hour virtual experience that would super-serve DC fans around the world called DC FanDome.  To provide the best possible experience, DC FanDome was expanded into two global events — the first on August 22nd, DC FanDome: Hall of Heroes, and a second on-demand experience in DC FanDome: Explore the Multiverse on September 12th, where fans can create and curate their own adventure.

Batman Knight Flight BatmobileDC FanDome: Hall of Heroes transported fans into an epic world designed personally by Jim Lee and featured special programming, panels and exclusive reveals from DC films, TV series, games, comics, and more. On Saturday, September 12, fans will be able to enter DC FanDome: Explore the Multiverse.  Fans can curate their own schedule via a scheduler tool. Unique content from multiple “islands” – DC FunVerse, DC InsiderVerse, DC KidsVerse, DC YouVerse,  and DC WatchVerse – will be available for throughout the 24-hour period.

As part of the InsiderVerse experience, Warner Bros. asked Thinkwell to produce a panel discussion focusing on four signature DC attractions at Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi (WBWAD).

Craig Hanna, Chief Creative Officer and co-owner of Thinkwell Group, will be moderating the panel, set to debut on Saturday, September 12. The 20+ minute panel will feature WB exec Jess Priore–Vice President, Global Themed Entertainment; Amir Montgomery–WBWAD Ride Manager for Thinkwell; Taylor Goodrich–WBWAD Parkwide Art Director for Thinkwell; Dave Cobb–Principal and WBWAD Parkwide Creative Director for Thinkwell; and Patrick Flaherty–Vice President, Creative Affairs, DC Entertainment. The panel was produced by Thinkwell Media for DC FanDome.

Find out more information on the event’s website,

Black Lives Matter Inclusion Statement

“You are not obligated to finish the work, but you are not free to ignore it.”      – Pirkei Avot


Let us be perfectly clear. Black lives matter. The work of identifying, addressing, and rooting out systemic racism cannot rest solely on historically marginalized and oppressed people. As community members, as peers and collaborators, and as business owners, we have a duty to not only speak up but also to do the work. We began Thinkwell almost 20 years ago with a vision to make great experiences. What we have realized, over these past two decades, is that our industry has incredible power to shape our communities and our cultures. Our theme parks, museums, theaters, and cultural institutions are places of epic storytelling, heroes and villains, and dreams fulfilled. If those stories aren’t respectful, inclusive, and equitable, then they help reinforce systems of oppression that villainize otherness. It’s not necessarily the way we viewed our work when we began, but this power and responsibility have become clear over the past several years.

To our global team of Thinkwellians, we promise that we will:

  • Continue to push ourselves to be better, to educate ourselves, and make antiracism educational opportunities available to you.
  • Undertake a review of our corporate policies and handbook in an effort to identify areas of bias and correct them.
  • Implement tools with our teams to ensure job postings are free of biased language, application and portfolio review are conducted in an unbiased manner, and antiracism and unconscious bias training are incorporated into onboarding.
  • Commit to diversity and inclusion, to create a Thinkwell that reflects the diverse world we live in and to seek out the inclusive world that we desire.


To our clients, partners, and collaborators, we promise that we will:

  • Behave ethically and transparently. We will listen and look inward if you bring concerns to our attention and take meaningful steps to address them.
  • Be intentional and explicitly antiracist in our work, including taking the approach that we must design with others and not simply design for.
  • Continue to utilize our platforms, in both the work we create and as leaders in the industry, to use our privilege to center other voices and help create meaningful, lasting change.

Change will not come easily or quickly, but come it must. As you engage in this work too, several ‘starter’ resources may be of help to you. We’ve made them available below. We look forward to being part of the change alongside you.

With deep respect,

Joe, Francois, and Craig

“To be antiracist is a radical choice in the face of history,
requiring a radical reorientation of our consciousness.”

– Ibram X. Kendi, How to be an Antiracist


Initial Resources and Highlights:

Being Antiracist, from the National Museum of African American History and Culture: Talking about Race, Being Antiracist at the Individual and Interpersonal Level

Anguish and Action, from the Obama Foundation: Suggestions to Get Informed, Take Action, Get Engaged, and Stand Together

Racial Equity Tools: Racial Equity Tools is designed to support individuals and groups working to achieve racial equity. This site offers tools, research, tips, curricula and ideas for people who want to increase their own understanding and to help those working toward justice at every level – in systems, organizations, communities and the culture at large.


#LightItBlue USA

They stay at work for you, so we can stay at home for them. 

In the face of a global pandemic, when the only thing we can do is stay at home, how can we, as entertainment professionals, still help to bring the nation together and show support for the frontline workers? 

The only way we know how — by creating an event.


New York Niagra Falls - Credit: Andrew Cuomo

Building off of the campaign’s original inception in the UK, Thinkwell Group decided to help bring the #LightItBlue movement to the US. In just two short weeks, Thinkwell brought together a collective of producers across the country and organized over 400 iconic landmarks and venues across 112 cities in 43 states to light up blue at the same time. 

The #LightItBlue campaign invites businesses and venues across the country to simultaneously turn blue on Thursday nights, in order to celebrate, honor, and thank all of our American heroes and essential workers risking their lives on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Utilizing a network of now-empty entertainment venues, stadiums, and landmarks across the US, these spaces have been repurposed to spread a message of thanks for our frontline workers and broadcast it blue across the country.

All #LightItBlue venues and community efforts use existing LED technology to create the spontaneous flash of blue on facades and screens, run remotely or by workers already on site, to ensure the campaign adheres to the critical message from the government for people to stay at home.

The campaign kicked off on April 9th, 2020, at 8 PM local time, when hundreds of national landmarks, sporting arenas, and music venues across the United States — from One World Trade Center to Niagara Falls to the Staples Center — first lit up blue in a spectacular show of support and thanks to those on the frontlines.


“We’ve been so inspired over the past few weeks by the cheers of our neighbors around the world – and we wanted to bring this collective gratitude to an even bigger stage here in the U.S. This is a heartfelt ‘thank you’ from those of us at home to those of us who are going to work each day to keep our country going,” Thinkwell CEO Joe Zenas remarked. 

The campaign has been a huge success, with over 400 venues and associations involved for the April 9 launch, and news stations, publications, and social media posts across the country spreading the message of thanks, reaching over 700 million people online. On the first night of the campaign, the hashtag #LightItBlue even made it to #7 trending on Twitter.

#LightItBlue didn’t end there. Due to the outpouring of support from all involved, the campaign has continued, expanded, and evolved. Every Thursday night, the gratitude continues to spread as more iconic venues and landmarks across the country, and now around the world, are getting involved. 

Over the last few weeks, the campaign has spread beyond the US and the UK to become a global movement. From Tokyo to Madrid to Singapore, other global countries and communities are lighting it blue, with more participants joining every Thursday.

While cities across the globe lighting it blue, the movement has also spread beyond buildings and back to the people with #MakeItBlue.

The #MakeItBlue initiative encourages anyone to join the movement and share in the massive “thank you” to our frontline workers while staying safe indoors, by flooding social media with the color blue. People are invited to create blue-themed images, videos, and content, and share them online with the hashtag #MakeItBlue.

In the face of anxiety and uncertainty during an unprecipitated time in history, the #LightItBlue and #MakeItBlue campaigns aim to show a massive gesture of solidarity and support across the nation and beyond. Even from 6 feet apart, we stand together against an unseen threat to shine brighter and remain stronger than ever. To learn more about #LightItBlue and #MakeItBlue in the US, check out

Thinkwell Group to Design and Produce U.S.A. Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

Los Angeles, CA (March 9, 2020): The U.S. Department of State announced on January 15, 2020, its participation in Expo 2020 Dubai and appointed Thinkwell Group as the turnkey designer and producer for the U.S.A. Pavilion.

Thinkwell is extremely honored to be able to deliver an experience that will welcome guests and take them on a journey into The American Spirit. Inside, they will discover a pavilion that celebrates and explores the exciting future made possible by American innovation, vision, and enterprise during the six month duration of Expo 2020 Dubai, kicking off from October this year. Thinkwell is committed to delivering one of the great pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai. Thinkwell will also be working closely with Global Ties U.S., which will recruit youth ambassadors to serve as guides in the pavilion and program cultural performances that reflect the geographic and cultural richness of America.

“As an American/Lebanese dual citizen working in the U.A.E., it is incredibly exciting to be a part of the United States’ participation that is made possible thanks to Thinkwell’s local presence and global footprint,” says Amin Rashmani, Managing Director of Thinkwell, EMEA, who is leading the project collaboration between Thinkwell’s Abu Dhabi Office and its Los Angeles Headquarters & Studio. “Our teams look forward to sharing the innovation and vision of the United States through the design and development of the U.S.A. Pavilion at this global event.”

About Thinkwell Group

Thinkwell Group is a global experience design and production agency with studios and offices in Los Angeles, Beijing, Abu Dhabi, Montréal, and Riyadh. For nearly 20 years, our multi-disciplinary team has created compelling experiences for a wide range of clients and brands around the world. Thinkwell’s creative, collaborative team brings extensive experience in the strategy, planning, design, and production of theme parks, destination resorts, major branded and intellectual property attractions, events & spectaculars, museums & exhibits, expos, and live shows. The award-winning company has become a leader in experiential design by bringing a unique holistic approach to every engagement. Thinkwell most recently delivered Lionsgate Entertainment World and the award-winning Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest indoor theme park.

For more information visit:

About Global Ties U.S.

Global Ties U.S. is a nonprofit organization that coordinates exchange programs that bring current and future leaders from around the world to communities across the United States.   

Theme Parks Have A Lot To Teach Healthcare Systems About Patient Experience

This article was originally written by Dave Muoio on

Using the best practices in design and operational planning, with inspiration from high-impact areas such as museums and theme parks, Thinkwell Health aspires to help improve guest experiences in healthcare facilities and communities. Read more below on our perspective into designing positive visitor experiences with Thinkwellian Cynthia Sharpe and Thinkwell Health SME Steven Merahn, MD.


There’s no shortage of logistical crossovers between these industries, but so far museums, zoos and other amusements have had much more success when designing positive consumer experiences. Patient satisfaction is a laudable goal for any healthcare provider, but winning high quality ratings and patients’ trust goes well beyond courteous staff and warm bedside manners. Consistent record keeping, robust contingency plans, well-supported staff and strong end-to-end engagement all play a role in crafting the ideal patient experience — and each of these components become harder and harder to handle with the greater size of a system’s operations.

Tackling these challenges requires a kind of strategic thinking that, frankly, many healthcare providers have only just begun dipping their toes into, says Dr. Steven Merahn, chief medical officer at Centria Healthcare. Fortunately, there are other industries further along that road which could offer a model for healthcare systems to follow.

“I went out into the world to find somebody to help me with this stuff, … and I could not, as the CMO of a large national practice at the time, find in healthcare the competencies that I needed to succeed. Nobody could come to me and say ‘Yes, we’ve taken on these challenges before,’” Merahn said.

“So I went searching, and I found that interestingly enough, theme parks have many of the same challenges that healthcare has. Themed entertainment, resorts, destination retail — all of these situations try to create ‘immersive transformative experiences,’ … and I can’t think of anything more immersive and transformative than an episode of healthcare.”

At this year’s HIMSS20 show, Merahn and Cynthia Sharpe, principal of cultural attractions and research at experience design agency Thinkwell Group, will highlight the parallels between these separate industries. Both, as Sharpe explains, are required to handle large quantities of people, coordinate a diverse body of staff with various levels of educational background, and — importantly — build trust among consumers so that they may earn repeat business while imparting valuable knowledge.

“Healthcare, like a museum, zoo or aquarium, is in the game of informal education, because we’re trying to get patients, their families, their caregivers, their communities to learn and integrate some really challenging content,” Sharpe said. “If I’m a parent and I’m terrified in a doctor’s office with my two-year-old who’s not breathing well, and the doctor tells me ‘Your kid has asthma,’ we’re expecting that parent to suddenly learn and assimilate and act on really complicated information.”

Perhaps the single most important takeaway Sharpe has for healthcare is that effective patient experience design need to be holistic. On the one hand, that means thinking about the patient encounter from “the first sneeze” to well after they’ve been discharged. But more broadly, it also need to be focused on four major components of a large scale operation that a patient might encounter: the people, the platform, the places and the processes.

“We look at experience design incredibly holistically … [and] it’s as much as thinking through the operation, the back-of-house facilities [customers] never see,” Sharpe said. “Front and back of house has to work together really solidly to make sure that the experience is 360, and is designed so that you can cope when a curveball is thrown your way, whether that’s the Frozen ride breaking down if you’re at Walt Disney World, or a patient suddenly having a medical device, or a problem with a medical facility. True experience design, as we use that phrase, accounts for those things.”

These concepts are just as applicable to the day-to-day operations of a facility as those emergency breakdown situations. For Sharpe, it’s the personal experience of having a child with severe food allergies — a major theme park like Disney has systems in place where her child is prevented from buying these offending foods, but in a healthcare setting it isn’t out of the ordinary for nurses to casually offer children a potentially dangerous snack (despite that information already being well documented in the EHR). Merahn, meanwhile, recounted the unexpected responsibilities many healthcare workers face when trying to take a breather.

“You’re stepping away from the ICU for a minute and you’re running numbers through your head, because that’s what nurses do,” he explained. “You’re in the elevator, and someone walks in and says ‘excuse me, where’s the gift shop?’ What does that do to the moment that your in as a professional? You have to shut down the work you’re doing in your head, and you’re obligated due to patient satisfaction programs to take that person to the gift shop and make small talk.

“If we designed hospitals with a back-of-house component, then that break would happen ‘on stage.’ Every hotel has a back elevator you never see where they wheel the room service and laundry carts out. Yet in hospitals we co-mingle those things, and that contributes significantly to burnout.”

Using these and other interdisciplinary case studies, Merahn and Sharpe will be sharing their takeaways for healthcare patient experience design at HIMSS20 in a session titled “What Can Healthcare Learn from Theme Parks and Museums?” It is scheduled for Wednesday, March 11 from 2:30-3:30p.m. in room W308A.

5th Annual Guest Experience Trend Report

Did you know that 46% of fans surveyed would be willing to spend up to $1,000 for a fan experience?  And that willingness to travel to such an experience is even higher, with 71% of fans reporting they would travel up to 500 miles for a fan activation, experience, or event? These surprising findings and more can be found in Thinkwell’s 5th Annual Guest Experience Trend Report, which explores guest motivations, success factors, and must-haves when it comes to fan conventions, festivals, meet-ups, and events.

Studios, IP holders, and other enterprises are seizing the opportunity to reach targeted groups of die-hard fans and brand evangelists across a variety of global experiential events, and the demand for fan fests and spaces where people with common interests can meet and mingle is climbing every year.  With this continued growth of fan events around the world — from San Diego Comic Con fan activations to Pokémon GoFest and the Harry Potter Wizard’s Unite Festival — the team at Thinkwell dug into this trend to understand what is driving people to these events and how to make these experiences appealing and unique for fans.  

To find out what’s behind these trends and what makes these gatherings meaningful, fun, and worth the cost, read the full report here.

Inside Gringotts Wizarding Bank: bringing the magic of Harry Potter to life

Earlier this year, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter unveiled the Gringotts Wizarding Bank. This is the attraction’s biggest expansion to date.

Gringotts Wizarding Bank opened to the public on the 6th of April 2019. Visitors to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter can now walk through the iconic wizarding bank. The experience includes the Lestrange vault, a gallery of goblins, destroyed Gringotts and much more. The expansion is a collaboration between the Tour and the Harry Potter filmmakers.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London is a must for Harry Potter fans. Built at the location where most of the films were shot, the tour includes sets such as the Great Hall, Platform 9 ¾, Diagon Alley and the Forbidden Forest. There are also several sets from within Hogwarts, as well as the latest addition, Gringotts Wizarding Bank.

The tour features iconic props and costumes from the movies. There is a chance to take part in a green screen scene, Butterbeer is available to taste, and merchandise is on sale.

Sarah Roots, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Tours, Warner Bros. spoke to Blooloop about the new expansion.

A background in hotels and visitor attractions
Roots has always been drawn to the attractions sector.

“One of the most informative things I did was to take an office job for six months,” she says. “What came out of that was a clear understanding that I did not ever want to work in an office again. So, I started my career largely in hotels and catering. I loved it, but was always intrigued by visitor attractions.”

Roots grew up in Kent. As a child, she often visited Sissinghurst Castle Gardens with her family.

“I was as interested in the people and the set up of the beautiful garden. I remember saying that I’d love to go and work somewhere like Sissinghurst, one day, and I did actually go and work for the National Trust later on.”

Tourism and heritage
Roots moved from hotels and catering to what was then the Tussauds group and Chessington World of Adventures.

“I had a great start there,” says Roots. “Following that, I moved towards the heritage side. I worked for the National Trust and two different stints at the National Maritime Museum.”

It was from the Maritime Museum that Roots joined Warner Bros. “I came from the cultural sector to the commercial one,” she says. “Often, it tends to work the other way.”

“An interesting fact about my career is that I’ve had lots of particularly lovely offices. At Chessington, I was in a fairy princess tower. At the National Trust, I had a meeting room where the Queen Mother spent her honeymoon. Then, at the Royal Observatory Greenwich (Maritime Museum) I had a Wren designed office – the only Wren designed building aside from St Paul’s in London. And now, I sit within the fire-breathing distance of a full-size Ukranian Ironbelly dragon!”

The Making of Harry Potter
Speaking about The Making of Harry Potter, Roots says: “It was a brilliant time to come on board. To be part of the setup of an experience which has become so immensely successful.

“We were in a very privileged position to have these incredible, original handmade film assets. And also, to be working with Harry Potter, which has a global fan base.”

“We were able to create this experience from scratch. There’s a science behind delivering the best possible visitor experience. We were able to plan around that in consultation with the Thinkwell Group.

“Emotionally, the visitor takes a journey that begins with an amazing ‘wow’ moment in the Great Hall. This is when you’re welcomed to Hogwarts at the start. You go right through all the authentic sets and then to the model at the end, which is a very emotional space. We’ve had wedding proposals there, and fans in tears.”

Features and events
“The starting point is a fantastically good, high-quality experience,” says Roots. “It is well designed with a global IP. But the longevity and the excitement of the success is all down to the execution. It is because of our amazing staff and how they bring the films and the sets and props and costumes to life.”

The tours are kept fresh by ensuring there is always something new. The features programme means several events run through the year.

“We usually have something where the filmmakers will come in, perhaps introducing the art department or a behind-the-scenes event, or the talent who actually worked on the film offering an authentic experience of that film making process.”

For the Halloween season from the 27th September to the 10th November, there is Dark Arts. Christmas sees Hogwarts in the Snow.

The expansions, such as Gringotts Wizarding Bank are also a major highlight.

Gringotts Wizarding Bank
“The expansions have really helped to put us on the map, to grow our audience from a PR and awareness point of view. They also give something new for our returning visitors.”

The first, in 2015, was Platform 9 ¾, from which the Hogwarts Express famously departs. In 2017 it was the Forbidden Forest.

The most recent expansion is Gringotts Wizarding Bank, which opened in April. “It is absolutely breath-taking. It’s beautiful,” says Roots.

The sets were restored by many of the film franchise’s original crew using the techniques used in production. The filmmaking talent oversaw the process including Oscar and BAFTA-winning production designer Stuart Craig, construction manager Paul Hayes and head prop-maker Pierre Bohanna. The 16,500 square foot expansion comprises Gringotts Wizarding Bank, the Lestrange vault and destroyed Gringotts.

The Gringotts banking hall features tall marble columns. It is finished with brass leaf and decorated with three enormous crystal chandeliers.

The goblin tellers’ desks are heaped with ledgers, quills and inkwells. They also hold the sickles, knuts and galleons that are the currency of the wizarding world. The costumes and prosthetics of the goblin bankers are also featured.

The Lestrange vault holds the treasures of Bellatrix Lestrange. Here, visitors can find the Sword of Gryffindor as well as a Horcrux – Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup.

A world-class attraction
“We were reaching a point where we were being restricted by the space,” says Roots. “We are very conscious of our customer experience. So, it gave us an opportunity. Not just to add Gringotts bank but also to expand some of our core facilities for our customers.”

The expansion features an all-new lobby, housing the information desk, digital guides and toilets. Owls and Hogwarts acceptance letters decorate the walls.

“It really feels as if you’re arriving at a top-end, world-class attraction.”

The Studio Tour Hub also offers many prime Instagram opportunities. “We’ve got an amazing Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon hanging from the foyer ceiling. It’s stunning; we’re thrilled with it. Our customers hang out there, taking selfies. The filmmakers are immensely proud of it.

“Stuart Craig, the production designer, looked at the early picture of a dragon hanging in the space. He said: no, it needs to look like it did in Gringotts bank; as if it’s trying to escape, and the dragon is too big for the space. It’s a big space, so the dragon is really very special.”

The dragon in the 2011 film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (II) was created with CGI. This sculpture has a wingspan of over 64 feet and dominates the space.

Magical food and beverage options
“We have expanded and refreshed our F&B,” says Roots. “We introduced our Chocolate Frog Café, where we’ve got some exciting treat products. This includes unique ice cream flavours and a really magical hot chocolate.”

The Chocolate Frog Café is themed around the iconic confectionary. Mirrors recreate the moving witch and wizard cards contained in the original chocolate frog packaging.

A worldwide fanbase
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997, and the first film came out in 2001. Since that point, the popularity of the wizarding world has continued to grow.

“Harry Potter fans are so engaged and passionate,” says Roots. “They’re an amazing audience, and also very tech-savvy. So, we can engage with them through our social media channels.

“Harry Potter is more popular than ever. The development of the wizarding world and the introduction of Fantastic Beasts has continued to build the brand. There has been so much activity in the franchise, and we are part of that wizarding world.”

“In the UK, we are the key touchpoint, the physical place where the fans can come and celebrate all things Harry Potter.”

According to research done by Warner Bros., people who grew up with the books and films are now introducing their own children to them.

“Many of those original fans are coming back to celebrate their birthdays, anniversaries and so on at our special events. For example, coming to the Great Hall, perhaps, for a dinner.

“The fans are very engaged, genuine people, and it is a genuine brand. Everything we have is authentic to the films, and to that magical world. I think that’s why the model is so emotional: we’ve had people kiss the floor in the Great Hall.”

The magical world of Gringotts Wizarding Bank
The Gringotts Wizarding Bank expansion is the biggest that Warner Bros. Studio Tour London has done, to date. Roots says it has already proved phenomenally popular:

“The set, with the marble columns, props and hand-applied brass leaf, is stunning.”

“We also have a Destroyed Gringotts, so visitors can compare the sets. It includes digital technology where the dragon thrashes about like it did in the film. This particular entry into the digital world was a new development for us.

“The Wizarding World is continuing to grow. For example, with the filming of Fantastic Beasts at the adjoining studio. This will definitely provide further opportunities. We will continue to develop new features and to think about how we can expand the attractions as the magical world grows.”


For the original article, please click here.

A Light Safari in Wine Country

Public light spectacles by artists like Bruce Munro herald a movement that infuses culture in valleys of viticulture (and blazes new trails in cities, too).

PASO ROBLES, Calif. — This state is rife with roadside attractions, from the colossal drive-through redwood trees off Route 101 to the historic Wigwam Motel on Route 66 in San Bernardino.

But there is nothing quite like the mind-bending spectacle now on display at dusk in the hills of Paso Robles here, a popular wine destination. That is the witching hour when thousands of solar-powered glass orbs on stems, created by the artist Bruce Munro, enfold visitors in an earthbound aurora borealis of shifting hues.

Since it opened in May, “Field of Light at Sensorio” — the 60-year-old British artist’s largest such installation to date — has drawn thousands of tourists and become an Instagram phenomenon. The subtly changing patterns of this light safari, activated by a nebula of fiber-optic cables attached to hidden projectors, seem to inspire a cathedral-like awe among ticket-holders, who pay $19 to $30 for an evening stroll along 15 acres of illuminated walkways. (A V.I.P. dinner on a terrace with killer views will set you back $95.)

“It’s like Pandora in ‘Avatar,’” said Marc J. Zilversmit, a criminal defense lawyer from San Francisco, referring to the lush alien world with bioluminescent species in the James Cameron film. “It’s a beautiful CinemaScope of an alternative universe.”

The arrival of “Field of Light” in “Paso,” as Paso Robles is commonly called, is perhaps fitting. A four-hour drive from San Francisco and Los Angeles, the area has morphed from a folksy cowboy outpost with cattle drives to a grape mecca with some 300 vineyards and perfect rows of lavender spilling down hillsides. Mr. Munro’s work, on view through Jan. 5, is only the first phase of Sensorio — an ambitious, 386-acre attraction on a former turkey ranch owned by Kenneth Hunter III, a real estate developer and founder of an oil and gas company, and his wife, Bobbi. Plans for Sensorio include themed interactive exhibits, a 4,000-square-foot wine center and a resort hotel with a conference center.

With its time-sequence ticketing and Sensorio-branded hoodies for sale, “Field of Light” joins a coterie of art entertainments at wineries and related establishments seeking to infuse culture into viticulture — what has been called the Vine Art Movement. Some, like the Donum Estate in Sonoma, already have serious permanent collections.

It also heralds a global wave of experiential light displays — such as Leo Villareal’s “Illuminated River,” which lit up four bridges across the River Thames in London, and “Vivid Sydney,” an annual extravaganza in which multimedia light projections, sculptures and other installations reimagine the city’s architecture.

Mr. Munro, who works out of a 16th-century barn in Wiltshire, England, has become the Christo and Jeanne-Claude of fiber-optic light environments. He created his first “Field of Light” in 2004, when he “planted” 15,000 stems in the field adjoining his studio. The otherworldly display prompted a Royal Air Force helicopter to circle around to get a better look, at which point the waggish artist turned the “E.T.”-like installation off.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Munro worked in the illuminated sign business, steeping himself in manufacturing and production processes. “I put aside all my artistic aspirations and learned how things got made,” he said. “That’s an important lesson for any young artist.”

Mr. Munro committed himself to light as an artistic medium after his father died in 1999. To commemorate their relationship, he created “CD Sea” in 2010, a shimmering inland ocean of 600,000 discarded CDs. At Salisbury Cathedral the same year, he animated the nave with a “Light Shower” of teardrop shaped prisms that appeared to float in space; it was accompanied by a series of lit “Water-Towers” in synchronized colors crafted from recycled plastic bottles and other materials.

“I’m not trying to make art that’s complex to understand,” Mr. Munro said in a Skype interview. “I want to express what it means to be alive in a genuine way.”

His installations have appeared at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Jegu Light Art Festival in South Korea and elsewhere. “There is a pleasing handmade quality and playfulness to his work,” said Alexander Sturgis, the director of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford, which commissioned “Impression: Time Crossing Culture,” a digitally animated sculpture inspired by a clock dial.

Mr. Munro conceived of his best-known scheme in 1992 while camping near Uluru, a sandstone monolith in Australia also known as Ayers Rock, which is sacred to Aboriginal people. He envisioned a dreamlike work that might bloom at night — like dormant desert seeds responding to rain. “It felt like there was energy in the ground,” he recalled. “Your body picks up on these things.”

Twenty-four years later, “The Field of Light Uluru” opened at the Aboriginal-owed Ayers Rock Resort. The feverish reaction has led to camel tours and “Field of Light by Heli” tours. (The site is open until December 2020.)

Mr. Munro’s installations are temporary, underscoring their ethereal, magic-mushroom quality. Their ephemeral nature “allows the landscape to be itself and recover and hopefully inspire other artists,” Mr. Munro said. His goal is to connect people with nature — a bond he compares to “the root systems of trees talking to each other,” though he is quick to add that he doesn’t want to sound like a flake.

Mr. and Mrs. Hunter had planned to build a golf course on the property, but shifted focus after encountering Mr. Munro’s art in Australia. “I was attracted like a bug in a candle,” Mr. Hunter recalled.

For Mr. Munro, the site offered the opportunity to “light a valley,” as he put it. The existing landscape was redesigned to block views of industrial buildings. During a recent visit, waves of light cast the gnarled branches of blue oak trees into relief. Visitors strolled the trails with hushed voices. “I like how the lights gently go up,” Allison Dufty, a museum audio tour writer in Oakland, observed. “It’s big enough to feel you can get lost in it.”

The stillness is apt to be short lived. The coming Sensorio project is being designed by Thinkwell Group, a Los Angeles-based firm known for immersive attractions like Ski Abu Dhabi, an indoor ski resort, and expansions to “The Making of Harry Potter” Warner Bros. Studio Tour near London. It will include five digital and analog garden zones, tree houses with rope bridges and a light-controlled underground tunnel. Although Sensorio is not a vineyard or a tasting room, it hopes to tap into the region’s wine tourism industry. Some 1.8 million pleasure-seekers visit San Luis Obispo County; Hearst Castle, in San Simeon, is just up the coast.

The melding of wine and art is a hallmark of venerable European institutions like Chateau Mouton Rothschild near Bordeaux, France, which pioneered the artist-designed label craze in the 1940s by commissioning Chagall, Miro and Braque.

Since 2015, the Donum Estate in Sonoma has placed large-scale sculptures in the landscape, including works by Ai Weiwei, Yayoi Kusama, Keith Haring and Yue Minjun, whose bronze “Contemporary Terra Cotta Warriors” commune with grapevines. Allan Warburg, the Danish businessman who owns Donum with his wife, Mei, lives in Hong Kong and works closely with the artists.

“The placement has been quite an obsession,” he said in a telephone interview. “I don’t know how to make wine or art so it’s the only contribution I can make.”

Mr. Warburg added, “Walking around the landscape with a couple of glasses of wine, objects become more beautiful.”

The Hess Collection, on the steep slopes of Mount Veeder in the Napa Valley, was assembled by the Swiss wine producer and businessman Donald M. Hess. It has a museum director and includes works by Francis Bacon, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Goldsworthy, among other artists.

“Art is a calling card,” said Tom Matthews, the executive editor of Wine Spectator. “Can it be commercialized? Yes. But so can museums.”

Some are dubious of the so-called Vine Art Movement. “Equating wine with art flatters the people who buy wine into thinking they’re participating in something larger than they are,” said James Conaway, the author of “Napa at Last Light.” And there have been some spectacular busts: Copia, an ambitious museum dedicated to wine, food and the arts, opened to much fanfare in 2001 then closed in 2008.

But as public light spectacles flourish at places like the Morton Arboretum outside Chicago — where some 183,000 people braved subzero temperatures last winter to experience an interactive light show by the design firm Lightswitch — they cast their spell wide.

Images on social media have difficulty conveying the works’ subtle, hypnotic spells. People assume that “light is about brightness,” Mr. Munro, the wizard of Wiltshire, said. “You just need a whisper of light.”


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