Wizarding World Update

Universal Orlando: Previews of the park are underway

From Sara M
Posted May 19, 2010 at 9:34 AM
I try to keep up on all the Wizarding World updates and Finally it seems like things are underway at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I've read on other blog sites that Universal employees have received word that they can start picking up their preview tickets for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this week! The previews are taking place now through Friday during the evening hours. Although the Wizarding world shops and both roller coasters will be open the actual ride portion of forbidden journey is still off limits. The employees will be able to see the full queue though.

This all seems like good news to me because what I believe happens in the normal progression of themeparks is that after the employee preview soft openings will soon follow. Does anyone else have any details or previous experience with these situations???

From Hermione Potter
Posted May 19, 2010 at 3:11 PM
Universal has done employee previews, then annual passholder previews, then true soft opens traditionally (although that wasn't the case for Rockit, but there were extreme circumstances there.) I would guess in this instance that the pre-booked hotel package guests will stand in for passholders in this case.

The Forbidden Journey queue is amazing! The portraits talking was the best part of it to me. It is clearly designed to be a loooong line, but I noticed water fountains throughout and fans to fight off the heat in the greenhouse section.

The stores are really small, and I can see them getting crowded very easily, but they were all amazingly themed and full of products from the books.

From Robert Niles
Posted May 25, 2010 at 9:10 AM
Here was our round-up of first glimpses rom inside the Wizarding World, from last week.

Also, I want to remind everyone that I'm looking for people who have hotel reservations at Universal Orlando on May 28 who will e-mail reports, photos and video that I can post here on Theme Park Insider. If that's you, I want to hear from you! E-mail is themeparkinsider @ gmail.com.

From Nick Markham
Posted May 25, 2010 at 12:09 PM
^Oh so close, I won't be there until early July. Even though WWOHP will be open by then, I will make sure to take and post lots of photos!

From A Fluker
Posted May 28, 2010 at 1:51 PM
So, annual passholders get nothing this time around??? Seems really unfair ... I bought our annual passes last year timing it so that we would get to take advantage of any sneak peeks. Are we really getting left in the lurch?

From Rick C
Posted May 31, 2010 at 5:20 AM
I'm staying at Universal and got to ride Forbidden Journey twice. It's been stressful and disappointing. Yesterday (sunday), the ride stayed open for all of an hour and a half and that was a record. Friday, the ride stayed open for 38 minutes and Saturday less. The ride itself is well-described by a combination of soarin' and spider man. You go through a long, long queue where you meet the various characters. In one part, Hermione makes it snow, and there are lots of talking pictures. The problem is that the queue gets held up because people want to take photos of all this, and when you know the ride is going to shut down after an hour, well, it's frustrating.
WWHP was open to us from 8-10am during our trip. I'm angry because Universal wouldn't tell us details until the evening of the 27th even though they must have known by then. By Sunday, everyone had heard that the ride was only open for half an hour so it was a madhouse and a stampede to it. People were screaming. Kids were crying. Universal employees were begging people to slow down, but people were screaming back "keep it open for more than half an hour and we will."
What's the problem? It seems it might be the controversial issue of large riders. On Friday, we got on the ride, and there was a large rider in a seat a few cars ahead of us. He decided he couldn't fit and needed to get off (sigh), so they stopped the ride. They kept us hanging for about 20 minutes, and tried to start it again, but they couldn't restart it. I heard the same thing happened Saturday. By Sunday, they got their act together, and anyone who was remotely big, they were forcing them to sit down and sit/fit in the trial seat before the loading platform. There is a trial seat outside as well, but as of sunday, they force you into the trial seat if you look like you are a large rider. I'm 6'1" and 220 and on Sunday, the forced me into the trial seat even though I insisted I had been the ride twice by that point. The teen explained, "They are forcing us to do this because it's the reason the ride stopped." Several people were turned away because they were obviously too big,, but at 6'1 and 220lbs, I found the seat roomy and comfortable.
The ride is like soarin' in that you fly over a huge imax screen in hd but it's much better because you go through tunnels and crevices, and you have encounters with dragons and monsters (I'm not a potter fan so I don't know what you call these ghostly figures that Harry warns you not to look at but which come out at you and scare you as robots and are also on the screen). These creatures are simultaneously on the screen like in soaring but also come out at you (I screamed twice so it might be very scary for some kids) very close as huge robotic creatures.
The ride is great, but it doesn't seem to be working very well so I can't imagine what the wait will be like in June. The shops were boring to me, but I'm not a Potter fan. Butter beer tastes like butterscotch rootbeer and comes in regular and frozen. The butter beer is sold in a huge key in the middle of the land and the lines were quite long. On Friday, the price was 8.50 in a souvenir mug but yesterday, it had risen to 9.50 for the same item.
Pumpkin juice is apple cider with pumpkin pie flavoring and is 5.25.
Dueling dragons is exactly the same except they say "good luck champion" when they check your seatbelt. I didn't notice any new theming at all in the queue which was exactly the same as the hundreds of other times I rode it.
The unicorn kiddie ride now has a griffin at the helm. All in all, was it worth the trip - hell, no. I don't think I'm the only one who felt this way. There are scores of furious people here. Since you literally have to be at the gates of IOA at 7 am and run like a demon to even get on the ride, many people who bought packages are not getting the chance to even ride it. Kids are crying. Parents are swearing. When you complain, what does Universal offer you? an express pass to the ride of your choice. This pittance is especially inane when you consider that as a hotel guest, you have an express pass to all rides on your room key unlimited times.
Trust me, Disney has nothing to worry about! Universal on the other hand has a lot to worry about. The Forbidden Journey ride seems to be at a point where if it stops, it can't be restarted for a long, long time (several cast members reported this to me) so when you think of the throngs of people who will be coming on June 18 (the lines were hours with just the limited number of hotel guests), my advice is to wait until the kinks are out of the ride, (if that's possible). Universal Employees keep saying "Well, there's so much to see outside of Forbidden Journey" but I don't think that's true at all. There is a chorus of a hogwarts singers with some frogs. There are 3-4 shops with souvenirish dreck. There is the butter beer keg and there is a train photo op, but it's much smaller than any of the other lands at universal so the ride is the land really, and since the ride is so unstable, unpredictable at this point (until yesterdays record long run of 90 minutes, I heard the standing record was under an hour), I would not go booking a vacation just for this attraction, because you might end up sorely disappointed like the dozens of people I've talked to here this weekend.

From Andrew Holden
Posted May 31, 2010 at 9:05 AM
So I am planning on going after it opens, as a 6'4" 240 lbs male, I will probably fit, right?

From James Rao
Posted May 31, 2010 at 11:56 AM
I guess the real question is: are the bragging rights of being one of the first to visit worth the headaches and frustration related to opening a whole new land with new technologies and new experiences? Sounds like "no."

I am glad I put off my Universal trip until next year. By then everything should be ironed out, working properly, and crowds should be stabilized. I am really looking forward to the trip!

From Bob Miller
Posted May 31, 2010 at 12:10 PM
Rick, thanks for the great report. And James, I learned many years ago not to ever go the same year that a ride opens. Wait a year until they work the kinks out.

I flew to the west coast just to ride a special coaster, only to get out there and find out that it was closed for the week I was there. The same thing happened at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, drove all that way only to find out the coaster was down.

It's happened to many times, so how does that saying go,"fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me". I've been fooled to many time by the industry, so like you, I might go up to see Harry next year, but now I'm wondering if I should.

From Rick C
Posted June 1, 2010 at 4:31 AM

I think you will fit fine. The people I saw turned away were - not sure how to be pc about this - rotund. I saw three men get turned away and one woman. The woman didn't look huge to me but then, when I stared at her as she was being escorted out, she looked very round in the middle, and that seems to be the part of the body that is the problem (the stomach area). By the third day, we were nervously looking at the people in line in front of us and behind us to guage whether they would fit and of course, 98% of the people in line do. On Sunday, they were asking anyone who was remotely large to sit in the seat, but even most of those people fit fine.

From Nick Markham
Posted June 1, 2010 at 8:39 AM
Well hopefully all of these problems will calm down soon after grand opening as I will be down there from July 8-15! Staying at Portofino, but it sounds like the hour early entry for hotel guests could turn out to be even wilder than that for normal park guests. Did you notice if the rest of the park seemed somewhat empty from the rush towards WWOHP? What about USF, were you there too?

From Ann Marra
Posted June 1, 2010 at 9:02 PM

From Rick C
Posted June 4, 2010 at 12:12 PM
Hi Nick,

I didn't leave the WWHP until well after 10 all three days I was there, but by 10 pm, both parks were packed. Of course, it was memorial day weekend, but I do think the preview made the park more crowded earlier.
Normally, I would not have ventured over to the park until around 10 and I'm sure there are other people who like to sleep late even at an amusement resort, but on these days, nobody was going to sleep late, so I imagine everybody staying at the resorts was in the park earlier which probably made the 9-10 hour emptier but the 10-11 hour busier.

From David Graham
Posted June 5, 2010 at 6:50 AM
In line now for ride, line is long (in green house area) not sure how long wait is from here. Forgot too see if single rider line too. Surprisely not as busy as I expected, will let know how it is, but line is moving quickly at least

From David Graham
Posted June 5, 2010 at 7:50 AM
Just fyi there is a single riders line but you'll miss a lot in queue

From Manny Barron
Posted June 5, 2010 at 10:31 AM
How long did you end up waiting in line?

From Mark Fairleigh
Posted June 6, 2010 at 6:26 AM
Too early to tell of course, but I can see Potter backfiring on Universal. Granted that depends on individual expectations. I just can't see people who've built their trip around Potter being satisfied with such a small product. The way Universal has advertised it so far a lot of newbies will come expecting a big park, not a fairly small portion of a park. I hope I'm wrong...just hate the idea of people being disappointed.

From Melissa Donahue
Posted June 6, 2010 at 7:51 AM
I guess I won't feel too sorry for the people who haven't done their homework prior to visiting the WWoHP. This is simply another "island" within an expansive theme park. Even as a Universal newbie, if you do your research, then it should be clear that this is simply an addition to an existing park. Like anything else -- consumer beware is what I say!

From Nick Markham
Posted June 6, 2010 at 9:12 AM
Even for those people expecting a large Harry Potter park, the WWOHP delivers from what I have seen, heard and know about it. I mean, if it were a full park, what else could they make? Maybe a couple more attractions, but not enough for an entire park.

From Donna Fisher
Posted June 6, 2010 at 4:35 PM
Just returned from a weekend at WWOHP. Enjoyed it tremendously! The wait line in the castle for the Forbidden Journey is amazingly detailed and immersive. The ride itself was too intense for me. My only criticism of the park is that there are no rides for those who don't like thrill rides, and no rides for younger children. I can't imagine how they are going to handle the crowds once the park has its grand opening. Was told by WWOHP workers that the park will only hold 2500 persons and then they will cut off admissions. Did anyone else hear that? All in all it was worth paying extra to stay on the grounds for the preview package. So glad we went. Don't miss Ollivanders wand shop.

From Nick Markham
Posted June 6, 2010 at 8:24 PM
Sounds great, but Flight of the Hippogriff is a children's attraction. :)

From David Graham
Posted June 7, 2010 at 8:18 AM
I think Sat I waited in line maybe 30 minutes, but could have been a little longer. Once in the castle looking at everything it seemed to go quicker than out in the Greenhouse where it was HOT even with the fans on... And yes as pointed out it is a very intense ride, I'll probably only ride it once in a while due to I'm not a motion ride person, I'll stick to my coasters instead.
As for the 2500 I haven't heard that, but I did notice they had put up signs when I was leaving the WWOHP area around 11am stating area closed for a "private event" and there was someone keep track of how many people were leaving the area as well, so this could be very true...

From Rod Whitenack
Posted June 7, 2010 at 9:38 AM
Obviously, Islands of Adventure can hold a lot more than 2500 people at once. I suppose they are refering to only the Wizarding World portion of the park. That's going to be tricky this Summer since everyone purchasing a ticket to Islands of Adventure will want to go directly to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It will certainly anger guests who have already bought their park tickets if they reach the Wizarding World portion of the park and are told that it is at capacity and they must wait in a line for others to leave the area before new guests are let in just to get into the area, let alone ride the Forbidden Journey ride.

From Caroline Davis
Posted June 7, 2010 at 10:34 AM
So glad the Virgin Holiday packages from the UK have early entry into not only the theme park but actually into The Three Broomsticks so hopefully we'll have a head start. We're planning to have a day just for Harry Potter and hopefully leave early, then have another day for the rest of Islands of Adventure. I don't think any one can deal with the kinds of crowds they're expecting for a whole day.

From b schaefer
Posted June 9, 2010 at 5:59 PM
The Orlando Sentinel ran an ad todat about the WWoHP and the ad stated "now open". Very interesting!!

From Rob P
Posted June 10, 2010 at 6:13 AM
Bob, as usual, got it spot-on. Don't bother to go for a new ride until it's had about a year to bed in and iron out all those teething problems.
( Although Everest is not a good example of this ).

My view is that I can take or leave Harry Potter and, right now, it's acting like catnip drawing large portions of the crowd away from the areas that I do want to be in.

And that, as they say, is magic !

From b schaefer
Posted June 13, 2010 at 1:29 PM
Anyone have any info on festivities for opening day? I finally got into the park yesterday and enjoyed everything .. Can't wait to go again!!

From Kathryn Leigh
Posted June 14, 2010 at 9:10 AM
Is there any word on how the rest of the park will be during the summer? I'd imagine that the majority of IOA (and likely ALL of Universal Studios) will be relatively empty during this Harry Potter chaos?

From Helena Polansky
Posted June 14, 2010 at 9:17 AM
I went to the WWOHP yesterday and the day before. The whole experience was amazing! I love the Forbidden Journey. I went on it 7 times!! It's one of the best rides I have ever been on. The butterbeer tasted great too! The Oliveanders wand shop was an awesome experince. If you have the time, go ahead and wait in line. I'm glad I did my research on the WWOHP because if some people think the WWOHP is like a whole park, its not. I hope no one is disapointed by the size. But still, the experience I had, I will remember! All the workers were in character and were all so nice and talented. I loved the school choir and in all the shops, the workers were interacting with guest. "You really need this, an inflatable touge!!" said a worker to me. It was pretty funny with my friends around.

I expect opening day to be packed with Harry Potter fans from all over. I heard the parking garage will open at 5:30 am on Friday. Some workers are saying they will have to close WWOHP if they exceed their max limit in the area (I assume 2500). So, people might have to wait to get in there. I'll try to get in Saturday but I know it's going to be packed.

From April C
Posted June 14, 2010 at 4:24 PM
It's definitely amazing. I've explored it two days now (Saturday and today) and I've racked up 34 rides. I actually got evacuated off the ride today! Turned on all the lights and everything - really cool.

I've never read the books or seen the movies and I'm in awe of it all. :)

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