On the Road to Diagon Alley: The London Embankment
Written by Robert Niles
Visitors to Universal Studios Florida already can get a first look at the London Embankment, the facade under construction in the park that hides The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.Tweet
Concept art courtesy Universal Orlando
Universal's concept art for the embankment shows that there's quite a bit of space between those construction walls and the building facades themselves, space that ultimately will provide an urban park. In the park, you'll also find the Knight Bus, a triple-decker, purple AEC Regent III RT bus that carried Harry Potter to the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The Knight Bus in front of Universal Studios Florida, before the Wizarding World of Harry Potter premiere in June 2010.
Eventually, the Knight Bus is planned to provide some interactive animation elements for visitors (the talking shrunken head, perhaps?), though I've not heard recently how close those elements are to being ready for the land's opening this summer. Nevertheless, the bus will provide an attractive photo op for Harry Potter fans visiting the new land.
But let's look at the elements of the London Embankment facade itself. We've already written about King's Cross Station, located at the far left in the concept art. Let's continue down the embankment from there.
The next element, to the right, is the Leicester Square tube station, which will provide the entry and exit for Diagon Alley. For those unfamiliar with London, the tube, or London Underground, is what Americans would call the subway system. (In the UK, a subway is a sidewalk that passes under a street.) Passing through the entryway of the station will bring you to a zigzag that will recreate the experience of the bricks opening to reveal the passage into Diagon Alley, as Harry experienced in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (Philosopher's) Stone. Behind the Leicester Square facade, and to the left as you enter Diagon Alley, you'll find The Leaky Cauldron restaurant, which will have a slim facade tucked between Leicester Square and King's Cross on the Embankment itself.
The real Leicester Square tube station entrance, in London. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
To the right of Leicester Square station stands Wyndham's Theatre, a London landmark that really does stand next to Leicester Square in real life. A West End stage theater opened by actor Charles Wyndham in 1899, Wyndham's Theatre over the years has offered performances by Tallulah Bankhead, Alec Guinness, Vanessa Redgrave, Jeremy Irons, and Maggie Smith (Harry Potter's own Minerva McGonagall). There's no theater here in Orlando, of course, Universal's Wyndham's Theatre facade stands in front of the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes joke shop in Diagon Alley.
Wyndham's Theatre in London. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Continuing down the facade, we come to the final element in the London Embankment — the townhomes of Grimmauld Place, where the Order of the Phoenix met in Sirius Black's home at No. 12. Of course, No. 12 is hidden to Muggles, who've simply accepted the oddity of No. 13 standing next to No. 11 on the street. While Grimmauld Place is a fictional location, unlike the very real locations found elsewhere on the Embankment, the Grimmauld Place scenes in the Harry Potter movies were filmed at Claremont Square in London, which is actually located several miles from Wyndham's Theatre.
Claremont Square, London. Photo via Google Maps.
Universal and its partners have recreated these real-life landmarks in convincing detail, allowing Universal Studios Florida visitors to see London rising on the banks of the park's lagoon, while they await the opening of the newest Wizarding World of Harry Potter this summer.
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