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Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter to open in Spring 2010, webcast confirms

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Published: September 15, 2009 at 8:27 AM

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida will open in "Spring 2010," Harry Potter co-star Tom Felton announced today in a live press webcast.

Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the popular movie series based on J.K. Rowling's best-selling books, was welcomed on to the webcast set by Universal Creative president Mark Woodbury, who hosted the webcast.

"I'm not usually welcomed in the Gryffindor common room," Felton cracked as he entered the crimson-and-gold set.

Tom Felton
Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) in Universal's Gryffindor Common Room

Woodbury described some highlights of the new land during the half-hour webcast. He began by introducing the official map of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, created by the same team that devised the Marauders' Map for the "Prisoner of Azkaban" film.

WWOHP map
Map of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Visitors will enter the land through the village gates of Hogsmeade, where they will see Hogsmeade Station and the Hogwarts Express to their right. On the left will be Zonko's joke shop and Honeydukes candy store, which both will be themed merchandise locations, selling items from the books and movies, as well as park-specific Potter-themed items.

Down the street on the left, visitors will find The Three Broomsticks restaurant and Hog's Head Pub, which will be restaurants, serving Harry Potter-themed fare, including Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice.

Across the street stands the Owlery and Owl Post, which will be a working post office, offering Hogsmeade post marks on sent items. Next to that will be Ollivander's, another merchandise location where "the wand chooses you," in an undescribed "interactive experience." There'll be a Dervish and Banges merchadise shop, as well.

That leaves the attractions. Woodbury confirmed that there would be three: Dragon Challenge (a rethemed Dueling Dragons), Flight of the Hippogriff, a family coaster set amid a Care of Magical Creatures class led by Hagrid (this is rumored to be the Flying Unicorn coaster, rethemed) and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the centerpiece new attraction located within Hogwarts Castle.

Concept art
Concept art from Universal of the Forbidden Journey entrance

Woodbury did not provide details on Forbidden Journey, except to confirm that it is not a roller coaster. However, it's been widely leaked that the ride will be a indoor track ride, where visitors will travel via "Floo Network" on Kuka robot arms, mounted on an elevated track, through iconic scenes from the Harry Potter stories. It was confirmed that visitors will walk through the Gryffindor common room on their way into the ride, and the ride's blueprints show the queue area proceeding through the Great Hall, as well.

Will Wizarding World of Harry Potter meet its opening date? Which scenes will make the cut for the Forbidden Journey ride? What's on the menu at the Three Broomsticks? And will the Ollivander wands trigger any interactive experiences outside the shop? Questions remain as fans anticipate the land's opening next year.

Update: Here is the video fly-over of the new land that Universal played during the webcast. It's an overview of the map, with close-ups of Hogsmeade, followed by Dragon Challenge, Flight of the Hippogriff and then Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on September 15, 2009 at 8:33 AM
Fun!

Love to know how the wand thing is going to work and how much they are going to charge for it!

From Vickie Boyd on September 15, 2009 at 9:24 AM
I hope they've done some renovating to Dueling Dragons. It will work well with the theme. We may actually have to go back to Universal just to see what they do. We weren't very impressed our first time, which was in mid January 5-6 years ago. Too cold to go on the water rides. That may have made a difference.
From Will Chilcote on September 15, 2009 at 9:52 AM
Great write up Robert. Looking forward to opening day. That wand thing sounds familiar, I think there is a company that is already using that technology. Magiquest is the company. I looked it up.
http://www.greatwolf.com/files/landing/mqdells/index.html

Robert, can u post a link to the webcast?

From 72.156.229.158 on September 15, 2009 at 9:49 AM
So only one ride is actually new?
From Scott B on September 15, 2009 at 9:49 AM
Is it just me, or is this new "island" not as extensive as it is being made out to be. The Dueling Dragons being retrofitted to the new island combined with the lost unicorn (that's going to HP as well, right?). That leaves basically one "new" ride for the island along with some shops and restaurants. Don't get me wrong, I am still psyched for it. But is it just me or does it not seem like a lot? Or maybe there are still some suprises left to be discovered?
From Robert Niles on September 15, 2009 at 9:54 AM
The webcast was press-only today, although Universal is promoting that it will be linked from the official website "soon."

I have part of the webcast on video and am uploading it to YouTube now.

From Joshua Counsil on September 15, 2009 at 9:52 AM
I am really hoping for some extraordinary theming and elements of surprise, because, as Scott mentioned, very little is new in the ride department.

I just have my doubts about encompassing something so huge in such a short amount of time.

From Melissa Kosztowny on September 15, 2009 at 10:10 AM
Although there is only one new ride, i think there is something more to the wand thing. I heard something like magi-quest, where you get your wand and have to find the different stations around the world and complete the quest. (i wonder if Hagrids magical creature class is a part of it?)

Also, it is rumored that they have a contract to add a new ride after the last movie comes out.

From Robert Niles on September 15, 2009 at 10:34 AM
From an operational stand-point, I think that three rides are fine, though they are rumored to add a fourth after the final movie runs (in 2012/3?) What the land could use, though, is a high-capacity show - something that pulls people off the street 500-1,000+ at a time.

Performances are not part of the Harry Potter world, however. (There's a hilarious smack-down on Christmas shows in Beedle the Bard, if I recall correctly.) I could see a "Jedi Academy"-style "Wizard Academy" show in or around the Owlery at some point. And there could be some sort of Care of Magical Creatures show within the Hippogriff ride.

Otherwise, I'm drawing a blank on what kind of show would fit the theme. I suppose it could be some sort of class, though one that would be outside of Hogwarts given that building's use for the main ride.

Ideas?

From TH Creative on September 15, 2009 at 12:35 PM
Perhaps a boat ride with scenes of Harry, Ron and Hermione fighting Voldemort ... and hippos.
From 66.192.143.170 on September 15, 2009 at 12:54 PM
I love the idea of the post office. That's a very brilliant addition and I think people will really like it.
From Gareth H on September 15, 2009 at 1:06 PM
Maybe I should watch the films again.

The first one bored the **** outta me, the second put me to sleep, the third I gave up on part way through, I skipped the following 6, watched the 10th, got lost, and vowed never to watch the following releases. I may watch part 18 though, just for giggles.

From Audra Distler on September 15, 2009 at 1:08 PM
I think a great show would be a Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom or something like that, kind of a "how-to" of spells. Or something with Quiddich, which seems to be what the "World" is missing, there were no Quiddich references at all!

I wonder if Universal will tap any of the other movie's stars for opening?

From TH Creative on September 15, 2009 at 1:16 PM
Part 18 is when the hippos show up. It RAWKS!
From luis gonzalez on September 15, 2009 at 1:42 PM
i think that universal should contract warrick davis to reprise his role everyday at the parks. He could be outside hogwarts cueing people and explaining safety procedures
From James Koehl on September 15, 2009 at 4:17 PM
For a new ride, how about a simulator ride like The Simpsons Ride using the flying car they rode to Hogwarts? No new technology would be needed, but the chance to recreate that scene from the film, with visitors being able to feel like they are in the out-of-control flying car, could be a real crowd pleaser.
From James Rao on September 15, 2009 at 6:27 PM
From the webcast, it does indeed look like WWOHP will be a beautiful and immersive new land. Amazing. However, I am in agreement with some other posts in that it looks like an awful lot of work for one new ride and a variation on the MagiQuest system. The new restaurant should be interesting, but it is just replacing one that was pretty darn good already (Enchanted Oak Tavern). Some of the shops might be cool, if the items for sale are imaginative re-creations of the Harry Potter world available only at the park. The Owlery and Owl Post also have merit, but I hope, as others have said, that Universal did leave some room for future growth. If so, I agree with Audra that a Defense Against the Dark Arts special effects show would be excellent.

Still, one thing I know about Universal is they know how to make great ride experiences. To that end, I am expecting the Forbidden Journey to set a new standard for theme park entertainment. This new attraction should be the Spider-Man killer that other theme park companies have so long coveted. Leave it to Universal to be the only company capable of besting the best!

From 71.192.215.167 on September 15, 2009 at 5:36 PM
A lot of time, money, and energy spent on essentially ONE new attraction. However, there seem to be no shortage of places to eat and spend your money on Harry Potter related junk. Very disappointing from the theme park of the 21st century.
From 24.167.232.232 on September 15, 2009 at 7:25 PM
I am very underwhelmed by this addition!!!!

For all the money spent we will get the possibility of 1 "E" ticket attraction and some changes too two existing attractions, And a couple of stores/places to eat.

Sounds top me that there is far more hype than substance to this new area.

From James Rao on September 16, 2009 at 3:11 AM
^^I felt the same way, at first. But after closely watching the video, and considering just how amazing the new "E" Ticket attraction could potentially be, I am now of the opinion that theme park fans will NOT be disappointed. Honestly, the immersion factor alone should be worth the price of admission! Traveling to the WWOHP should be a singular experience, a one-of-a-kind journey, if you will. Something hard to find at most parks these days.

Even if you consider the whole expansion as simply one new ride, that one new ride is going to be a lot more rewarding than if Universal went "cheap" and added a $10 million GCI wooden coaster called Harry Potter's Broomstick Race instead. Furthermore, the Forbidden Journey will certainly be worthy of more attention than something like a slightly-modified, two-drop, shoot-the-chutes flume ride. Don't you think?

Look, Universal knows existing fans are going to come experience the WWOHP. And new attraction junkies (like most of us) are going to be interested regardless. So, let's face it, the company is trying to grab the attention of a segment of the population that has not previously considered Universal Orlando as a vacation destination. And for those people who have never been to the resort, I think they are going to be very impressed with what they find. In other words, there may be a lot of Disney-only travelers who spend a few less days at the Disney parks during their vacation next year in order to sample the WWOHP. And once those "newbies" get a taste of what Universal has to offer, that new business will turn into repeat business for years to come.

From Audra Distler on September 16, 2009 at 4:34 AM
OOO James. Nice dig there. :)

I think a lot of people are forgetting a major portion of this land. There are people out there who, sad as it may be, basically arrange their lives around HP. That could be a bit of an exaggeration, but let's just say they are freaks for anything involving HP. As James stated, more than likely, they haven't ever been to Universal before. So this will bring in a lot of newbies. For those of you who have been there too many times to count, the whole expansion may seem like a disappointment. For those HP freaks, (me to a point), any chance to SEE the world that was created would get them on a plane to see it!

Oh, and I've never been to IOA. It may be I just try to plan a visit next year, if I can convince some family members to join me. :)

From 24.167.232.232 on September 16, 2009 at 11:39 AM
James, how immersed can you be when the place will be jam packed with people and you are waiting in lines hours long for the few attractions in the park??? Or wait almost as long to get something to eat???
From Gareth H on September 16, 2009 at 11:44 AM
I'm seriously thinking Poseidons Fury could easily be changed into a HP attraction in the next few years.

It wouldn't take much to pretty much remove the Entire Lst Continent Theme. What does it offer anyway?
After DD gets rethemed you are left with the Sinbad show and Posideons Fury.

Well Poseidons Fury (PF) could easily be re themed as a show, similar to what it is now. A cheap refit, much like the Simpsons was with BTTF.

I don't think there are to many people who'll miss the SinBAD show. That could either be completley lost and the stage used for events, as it is now, or a HP live show installed.

THe rest of the lands themeing wouldn't be too far off HP anyway. A few adjustments here and there, a few facades placed on sme buildings.

And Mythos, well upmarket restaurant, would be quite nice.

Voila, a HUGE land and Lost continent would actually become something interesting, because right now I pass on through it, across the temp bridge, and straight into JP!

From James Rao on September 16, 2009 at 4:30 PM
I wouldn't worry about crowds, Anonymous Poster 24.167.232.232, I am used to visits to the Magic Kingdom where the average attendance is 45k peeps a day. If I can feel the immersion there, I can feel it anywhere!

Furthermore, if you can time your trip during the Orlando off-season you will find very light crowds, even with Harry Potter involved. And if you can't make that happen, just have a good touring plan, arrive at the park early, and move in an alacritous fashion. That strategy works every time!

From 70.190.159.7 on September 18, 2009 at 11:03 PM
I can think of a LOT more rides, interactive areas, and HP experiences. It should be it's OWN theme park, not a branch of one.
I'm worried that hard-core fans are going to be diasappointed if it's just a re-vamped unicorn ride and a couple of dragon rides from the Lost Continent.

Where's the Quidditch pitch?

No dementors? Seriously?

There's no Whomping Willow ride in a car?

Forbidden Forest - at night???

Underwater with the merpeople?

The Maze from Triwizard (book, not movie, please)?

What about The Burrow?

Where's Diagon Alley?

Ministry of Magic?

The Shrieking Shack?

Where's Fred and George's Joke shop?

Escape from the Wizarding Bank?

Search for the Horcruxes?


Sigh.... so many things missing!

But, of course, I'm still checking on the first available vacation package. Even a little bit of stepping into the dream would be worth it.

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