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You may want to dip into your savings at Gringotts, because LEGO just announced the arrival of a new Harry Potter-themed set inspired by the wizarding shopping district, Diagon Alley. Going on sale tomorrow (Tuesday, Sept. 1 — just in time for Back to Hogwarts Day), the latest magical creation from Denmark's colorful brick company allows you to create several storefronts seen in the Potter films: Ollivanders Wand Shop, Scribbulus Writing Implements, Quality Quidditch Supplies, the Daily Prophet, Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, Flourish & Blotts bookseller, and, best of all, the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes joke shop.
"We’re big LEGO fans anyway, but when we actually saw it for the first time, the detail that’s gone into it is just unreal," James and Oliver Phelps, the brothers who played Fred and George Weasley in the movie adaptations, tell SYFY WIRE. "Even the fact that there’s Daily Prophets where you can read the headlines off them or wanted posters in a place which you don’t even see until you move things apart. The detail is just out of this world."
Working off the visuals established by the first, second, and sixth film installments, the LEGO Harry Potter team (spearheaded by lead designer Marcos Bessa) worked hard to create something that combined the different versions of Diagon Alley seen onscreen. While the company's overall brand partnership is with Warner Bros., the team does try to pay homage to J.K. Rowling's beloved novels when possible.
"We do take what we know from the books into consideration, because we are fans of the franchise," Bessa says. "Whenever there’s space for a connection to something that we know from the books that doesn’t jeopardize what’s shown in the movies, we might also sneak in a little bit of a reference here and there."
"It’s a very unique situation where the whole design team is [made up of] really big fans of Harry Potter and we all read the books at some point," adds Djordje Djordjevic, the designer in charge of minifigures, stickers, and other decorative details.
Speaking of minifigures, the set comes with 14 characters: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley, Molly Weasley, Mr. Ollivander, Fred and George Weasley, Gilderoy Lockhart, Lucius Malfoy, Hagrid, Florean Fortescue, and a Daily Prophet photographer.
"We would look at the most memorable scenes from the movies that we were trying to depict in a model, and, of course, we have to have some key players," Djordjevic says. "What’s building the magic are these background characters, and we also tried to put in some of the more obscure and less-known characters that are making their first-time ever appearance in a model."
Fortescue, who operates an ice cream parlor, is a great example, because he only makes an extremely brief appearance in movies. In the books, he has a slightly larger presence, giving Harry free sundaes in Prisoner of Azkaban before mysteriously disappearing in Half-Blood Prince.
And don't worry, when it comes to the Fred and George figures, you don't need to be Mrs. Weasley to tell them apart. There's a very simple trick:
"They’re actually [wearing] the costumes from the sixth movie, so they’re in the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes outfits," say the Phelps twins. "You can actually differentiate between the two of them, so you know that Fred’s got an orange waistcoat on underneath his gown and George has a green one. And that was exactly how we filmed it as well."
In addition to being your one-stop shop for love potions, Pygmy Puffs, Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, joke wands, Canary Creams, Skiving Snackboxes, edible Dark Marks, and more, the joke shop component of the set actually moves. Why, one could say it's almost like magic.
"The cool thing as well is how the hat moves in the film — you’re actually able to do," add the Phelpses. "It’s not a just a model, it’s an actual working piece and they’ve made it so sturdy. You can either have it as a display piece or if you’ve got kids, they can play with it as well, so it’s made to last."
"With LEGO Harry Potter, where magic is the overarching theme, it only makes sense that we tried to sneak in something that plays a little bit to that magic," continues Bessa. "In this particular case, the function is a very simple mechanical trick, but just having a trigger that is a little bit away from what’s actually moving creates this fun illusion that something is moving by itself. It’s one of those things that hopefully kids of all ages can have a little fun just showing off ... I think it’s one of those things that adds value to the product."
Before the set goes on sale tomorrow, LEGO is offering Potterheads a chance to explore the product with an augmented reality experience at LEGO.com/enterthemagic. You can scan an existing QR code (see below) or even build your own to access a virtual 3D model of the magical shops and characters. If you're planning on buying a copy, the "Behind the Bricks" AR is perfect for planning out where you're going to actually build it inside your home.
"Let’s say you were thinking of putting the set on a table, hold your phone over the table and it will show you a virtual [version]; what it looks like and where it is," the Phelps twins explain. "But also LEGO characters start walking across, so Fred and George’s LEGO characters say, ‘Hello, come over here.’ Harry and Hagrid are walking across, the Daily Prophet man is taking photos. An interactive experience like that is something that they don’t need to do, but they do it for the fans."
"With the Behind the Bricks AR experience, it’s almost like this modern, real-life magic where you get to relive the moments," Djordjevic says. "You literally get a brick wall from the Leaky Cauldron that opens up and you get welcomed to the street by the Weasley Twins. Then you get to see all the fun moments that we built in the models. We’re definitely looking forward to it."
The Diagon Alley set costs more than a few Galleons, with a price tag of $399.99 (you could probably get a Firebolt for the same amount of money). Nevertheless, that nets you a good chunk of construction-based fun, with over 5,500 individual pieces. "The bags just kept coming and coming and coming. There’s definitely a lot to work with," say the Phelpses, who agree that such a description brings to mind Hermione's bottomless beaded bag in Deathly Hallows.
"I think I estimated maybe eight hours in total to build it through," Bessa says. "I’ve heard people taking several days, and to be honest, last time I built it was already quite a few months ago and I can’t remember how many hours it took."
"I still didn’t get a shot [at building it]," Djordjevic finishes, "but I’m definitely looking at a good long weekend somewhere around Christmas."
Plus, you can mix and match the arrangement of the shops to satisfy your own personal head canon. "It’s a meter wide when it’s all put together, but you can actually separate the stores individually and have them where you [want]," the Phelps twins conclude. "If it wasn’t how you imagined it in the film from what it was in the book, you can rearrange it to be like that."