The story is that Dumbledore's opened the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to Muggle tours for the first time, to the disgust of Salazar Slytherin, who'll let you know that in the castle's Portrait Hall. Yes, the portraits move and speak to another, just as in the films, in an effect that is completely believable.
You've probably seen attempts at moving pictures in theme parks before. The Wizarding World has several others throughout the land, relying (as is typical for this sort of thing) on video screens. But the portraits within the castle don't look like TV screens embedded in a frame. They look like moving paintings - as simple and profound as that sounds.
The queue through the castle would merit a recommendation on its own. But as a pre-show? Universal Creative sets expectations almost impossibly high, with elaborately detailed recreations of Dumbledore's office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom, enhanced with filmed appearances from Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Michael Gambon, reprising their roles as Harry, Ron, Hermione and Dumbledore.
The Hogwarts headmaster has arranged for Professor Binns to present a lecture "of just a few hours" on Hogwarts' history, but Harry and his friends arrive in the classroom to rescue us from that deadly boring fate. Instead, we're off to the Room of Requirement, where Hermione will enchant a bench for us to ride on, then blow us into the Floo Network for the trip out of the school.
We end up at the top of the Astronomy tower, where we're to follow Harry and Ron, on their broomsticks, over to the Quidditch pitch. But a dragon intervenes, setting up the ride's first stunning encounter with an animatronic figure.
Imagine an Omnimover dark ride, such as Disney's Haunted Mansion. But instead of riding in cars that move only in one dimension, rotating on a stable axis, imagine a riding on a robot arm that rotates and elevates along three axes - left and right, up and down and tilting diagonally - as it moves through the show building. Then think about Universal's Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and how it blends movie screens with physical props in a three-dimensional dark ride space.
Creative Director Thierry Coup has surpassed his work on Spider-Man with Forbidden Journey. Here, richly detailed animatronics add to the mix of narrative tools, along with a clever use of on-ride photography.
Together, the ride and show elements deliver several of the most dynamic, iconic moments from the Harry Potter series, while placing you into that action in relation with the characters themselves, as Universal Creative president Mark Woodbury said this morning. You'll face that dragon, along with massive spiders and dementors, on the most action-packed day of hooky since Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Eventually, of course, Harry gets the snitch, the wizards save your bacon and everyone exits happily into the gift shop.
After 10 years, we, at last, have a ride that exceeds Spider-Man, a rousing journey through a pop-culture icon that thrills riders with unique experiences at every turn. About 15 years ago, a mom on the dole in Scotland created a story about a boy wizard that inspired a generation of children around the world to embrace reading like no other generation before. When media scolds complain about kids' short attention spans, I laugh. Kids who queue up at midnight to buy and read 750-page books have no problem with their attention spans. Jo Rowling's creation inspired those kids (and many adults) to embrace literature. And now it's inspired a creative team to build the most advanced and engaging attraction in theme park industry history.
Forget fairies or wizards. That is magic.Tweet
I, too, was tempted to make a trip there this Summer but knew it would be too crazy. So we're trying to hold onto our enthusiasm until next August. Don't know if we'll be able to hold out that long though.
Cause I've always love Universal and I think the Universal creative people is just insanely good. But still Disney gets what seems as, all the guests. So i really hope Universal gets a lot of customers so they keep adding new and exciting things. Man! If the World Cup wasn't on till July i would need some medication to calm my anxiety! Lol.
Will there be the same coverage and giddiness when the new Fantasyland open? I am going to guess not. Sorry, I just have been wanting to say this for awhile. I am really thinking people are making a bigger deal out of it!
Good Report though!
The latest omnimover from Disney and some princess meet and greets will in no way make the theme park industry bat an eye.
Potter is a big deal not only because of the ride, but because fans are still in the midst of their love affair with the story, although the book series has come to an end as of now, and because the wildly popular and extremely profitable film franchise has yet to complete it's theatrical run, with two movies yet to be released. Think what it would have been like if the Star Wars saga was in full force, and the movies continued the story of the original trilogy with episodes 7, 8, 9. Then while all that was going on, Disney not only builds a game changing ride, but drops the ride in the middle of a brand new Star Wars land, as well as numerous other attractions, shops, shows and restaurants. We're not talking a ride building jammed into DL's Tomorrowland or a tiny section or area like at DHS, at one of their theme parks, but a full on world unto itself, offering an immersive experience for Star Wars fans, the likes of which have never been seen before at any other theme park ever. That's what all this coverage and giddiness equates to for me.
Potter fans are very fortunate to be able to have this type of opportunity at a time where most franchises take years to see some form of killer attraction, they still have a chance to be a part of this world while it has yet to finish unfolding, at least cinematically. Hell, the first Potter book was published in 1997, the first movie released 4 years later in 2001, and now nine years after that there is a land at a theme park. It took all of 13 years, a very quick turnaround. Compare that to The little Mermaid, which was written in 1837, released as a Disney movie in 1989, and now 22 years later Disney gets around to making a ride. Am I looking forward to it, surely, do I really care about it at this point, not really. It's long overdue, and only because it's Disney do they get away with waiting so long. Any other animated feature would need a theatrical sequel to warrant an attraction after lying so dormant for so many years.
Now that IOA has the greatest attraction in the world of theme parks, it should focus on improving the rest of its dwindling park. Jurassic Park River Adventure, Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls, The Incredible Hulk, and various other attractions look terribly dilapidated. It's not a difficult fix - a fresh coat of paint and some technical refurbishments - but it's something that is required if IOA wants to be considered the world's greatest theme park.
With a fresh influx of cash, I'd look for Universal to begin quick refurbishments of all its attractions, once the crowds diminish enough to allow that.
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Oh, thanks Robert for keeping us apprised, and for posting a review that details the attraction without detailing the surprises!
(PS -> Star Tours II is rumored to be opening at DHS on May 17, 2010...next May is gonna be a wonderful time for the next Rao Family Adventure!).