With justified pride, the creative team at Universal Orlando Resort recently revealed a first look at Diagon Alley, the new themed attraction at Universal Studios that will become part of the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in summer 2014, and tie both theme parks together.
Since the 2010 opening of Hogsmeade, the original “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” park located in Islands of Adventure, it seems the entire industry has been trying to catch up to Universal Orlando’s remarkable creation. Noting in their first look webcast that the level of detail and immersion was beyond any type of storytelling they had previously done, the Universal team talked about their commitment to maintaining that quality in future endeavors.
Stuart Craig, the films’ production designer, was repeatedly mentioned as being instrumental in guiding the Universal design team to bring the new Harry Potter worlds to life and, from our preview, it looks they will succeed.
Diagon Alley will be Magnificently Themed
Described as being a “magnificently themed environment” that will take guests on “an all new journey with incredible attractions, food and entertainment,” the webcast was just the start of a first look that included interviews with actors from the blockbuster film series as well as snippets of illustrations from the new attraction itself. Matthew Lewis, who played the evil Neville Longbottom in the films, took the stage first.
The team at Universal explained that since they knew there were lots more Harry Potter stories to tell — and the audience has affirmed they are happy to hear and live through them all — they chose Harry Potter’s London, specifically Diagon Alley, to recreate next in central Florida.
Train Journey Enhances the Magical #WWOHP Wizarding World Experience
J.K. Rowling’s series tells us that London and Diagon Alley are at a considerable distance from Hogsmeade, however. To give guests that experience, Universal Orlando is adding a new Hogswart Express train to transport everyone waiting at the famous platform 9 3/4 from London’s King’s Cross Station to Hogsmeade. At our brief visit to Universal in November 2013, we had a sneak peek at the train’s construction… Very sneaky and only a peek, with no detail about the journey itself, as you can see by this video on our Facebook.com/FamilyTravelForum page.
In the near future, guests with a park-to-park admission pass will be able to travel in a seamless adventure between Universal’s Islands of Adventure park and Universal Studios Florida. Note that a two-park pass will be required. And according to news released March 17, 2014, riders aboard Hogwarts Express will see a different virtual view depending on which direction they are going!
A brief clip in the webcast, reportedly shot onboard a Hogswart Express train car, showed actress Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) talking about how thrilling the new park was, and again, “immersive” was the key adjective used to describe the incredible attention to detail that Universal Orlando is known for.
A lot of excitement is being generated by reports of the new ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts — this multi-sensory thrill ride through the perils of the Gringotts vaults is sure to be a highlight. The spooky Knockturn Alley showcasing the dark side of the wizard’s world will be another aspect of the new themed area, highlighting the 2D world that jumped off the pages of Rowling’s book in a super realistic and engaging 3D environment.
Immersion, Details, Magic in the Works for #WizardingWorld Fans
Matthew Lewis agreed that seeing all the sets put together, rather than just in the bits where the actors had filmed their scenes, is part of the amazing experience of being in the new theme park. His favorite part of the new park is the “spot on” reproduction of Kings Cross Station where the Hogswarts Express will depart from.
James Phelps, who played the redhead Fred Weasley, said the scale of Kings Cross is so impressive, “It makes you relate the real place to the books.”
Of course, commerce is king at theme parks, and Harry Potter merchandise is among the most coveted in that world. The many commercial outlets at Diagon Alley include Borgin and Burkes — a shop specializing in the Dark Arts, Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions (Hogwarts school uniforms at $100 a pop are huge sellers now), and Scribbulus, which aims to resurrect the lost art of writing.
Woohoo! There will be a second Ollivander’s Wand Shop (good thing, since the waits at the first are very long), a Magical Menagerie for magical plush animals, and a Quality Quidditch Supplies sporting shop. At #93 Diagon Alley, Weasley will have his own Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes selling all sorts of spells and fun wizarding gear.
Among the many themed food outlets, expect Floria Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour and a Leaky Cauldron Pub. Of course we expect the delicious, best-selliing butterbeer to be widely avaiable.
We are totally psyched to see it, experience it, live it with our families. Of course, there’s more to know about Diagon Alley but this is just a taste. For more information and breaking news, set your antennae to universalorlando.com/harrypotter and follow as the story unfolds.
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