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December's Wizarding World of Harry Potter update

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Published: December 14, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Excuse my spacing out, but I realized that I haven't been keeping you up-to-date on what I'm hearing about the progress of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure.

I'm not on the scene, since I live in the Los Angeles area, but my sources on the scene in Orlando are feeding me some good information. Here's what I know:

  • The physical interior construction of Hogwarts is almost complete. Scenery and decorating crews are moving in, transforming the rooms from a bare building into the castle we know from the films and books.

  • The Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey track is installed and the ride vehicles are cycling. Work is proceeding now on installing ride effects and timing. The Forbidden Journey is using Kuka robot-arm ride vehicles, so the ride timing for this involves many more variables that a traditional Omnimover-style dark ride.

  • Most of the familiar sights from within Hogwarts castle will be found not in the Forbidden Journey ride, as many initially suspected, but in the queue for Dragon Challenge (the former Dueling Dragons roller coasters.) You'll walk through Hogwarts for the Dragon Challenge queue, proceeding through at least one of the house common rooms, as well as the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and Dumbledore's office.

    Despite the complexity of the decorating and programming work that needs to be done, my sources are confident that Universal will have Harry Potter ready for a May debut. Having major construction finished by Christmas was an important milestone for the project, and Universal appears to have beaten that.

    Universal Orlando has promoted to its grad night attendees that they will be able to walk through the area in during that event, in late April. It's not off the table that at least one of the attractions could be soft-opened for them at that time, as well, though no one feels confident enough to guarantee that. (Given everyone's experience with Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit last year, no one associated with Universal is in any mood to guarantee any specific opening dates for anything anymore.)

    In all, I'd have to say that this is good news for the project. Word from the inside is that Universal is throwing every resource it has toward getting this done right, and on time. Promotion for the Wizarding World in national media has been somewhat light for a project of this magnitude, but if Universal's decided to under-promise and over-deliver this time, I think that many fans, ultimately, will be pleased.

  • Readers' Opinions

    From Matt Roseboom on December 14, 2009 at 12:35 PM
    I don't see how you'll be able to go through Hogwarts to get to Dragon Challenge. The two are separated by Flight of the Hippogriff.

    Matt
    Orlando Attractions Magazine

    From Ty Mullins on December 14, 2009 at 2:46 PM
    I think your tidbit about going through Hogwarts in the Dragon's Challenge queue is incorrect. I've been following the project on various websites, and not once have I heard this. Instead, it's been announced that the DC queue will feature props from the movies- not entire sets and scenes. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, however, will most-definitely feature various classrooms and Hogwarts settings in the queue.
    From Robert Niles on December 14, 2009 at 4:06 PM
    I didn't believe it at first, either, but I've gotten this from multiple sources that I trust. Remember, Hogwarts is a sprawling mess of a building, with hallways and towers going every which way around things. And queues can be routed in all sorts of funky directions.

    I wouldn't be surprised if, at some point, the DC queue were rerouted away from the Hogwarts stuff, and that part of the area were devoted to the queue of the much-rumored future new HP attraction, to be based on the 7th and 8th films. But no sources have confirmed that to me.

    Also, to clarify, the queue for Forbidden Journey will take you through the entrance hall and the Great Hall of Hogwarts.

    From James Rao on December 14, 2009 at 8:23 PM
    Thanks for the update, Robert. And please, please, please keep me posted on any opening date info you receive from your inside sources. I am currently in the advanced planning stages of a May Disney trip and trying to decide if Universal will be part of that excursion, or will be featured later in the year (September). I would rather visit all the Orlando parks in one trip, but I would hate to miss the new stuff if it encountered some Rip, Ride, Rockit style delays.

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