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Transcript from "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" Theme Park Announcement

Books
Posted by: Edward
June 07, 2007, 11:22 AM

Last week, Universal Studios and the people behind Harry Potter made the announcement of a Harry Potter Theme Park to be built in Orlando, Florida. Scheduled for completion in 2010, the park is set to include attractions such as a Hogsmeade section, the Forbidden Forest, and even Hogwarts Castle where you will actually be able to walk inside a replication of the beloved castle. The announcement was made via a webcast for various sites including TLC, with Harry Potter movie production designer Stuart Craig detailing the plans in this three part interview.
Leaky can now bring you, thanks to our incredibly hard-working, dedicated and all around amazing transcription elves, the complete transcript of the interview. In parts one and two of this presentation, Mr. Craig speaks of the designing of the project, a task he has worked on since January, and the many attractions the park is set to have. In the final part, he answers a number of questions sent in by you and details how you can sign up for continued updates on the theme park.

The video of this webcast is available on our own YouTube page.

Enjoy!


~*~~*~


Part One:

Scott Trowbridge (ST): Now, Stuart, a little bit about your vision of this world, the "Wizarding World of Harry Potter", how does it work together? You talk a bit about the collaboration, but can you elaborate a little more on how we've been able to take this place and turn it into a three dimensional environment that you can walk around. And what some of those, the opportunities of doing that for the first time are?

Stuart Craig (SC): Well, the movie people, this team of twenty artists, illustrators, draftsman, and so on, they know. You know, how to deliver the detail. Universal Theme Parks, their expertise obviously is in generating theme parks and being able to manage this enormous numbers of guests and you know, how to make them safe, how to make them enjoy the whole experience. But, more than that, I think there's a particular kind of American skill, American virtue. I think theme parks are American. And I think America has a way of just embracing an idea, really going for it and giving everybody enough, and then a little bit more. You know, 110 percent. I think that isn't a British virtue; I think it is an American virtue, (ST chuckles) I think. So, that kind of collaboration are two sets of very different skills of making this work in a very exciting way.

ST: Well, I of course, have more detail on all of this, and I can say that what we are collaborating on is coming out to be an incredibly exciting project. Now, of course, we're talking about the environment, but that's not all that's part of this world. It will be an amazing, immersive, rich detail-filled environment; but there's also going to be amazing rides, attractions, experiential shows, shops and restaurants. And we'll be bringing out for the first time ever, a spectacular new attraction, that will bring the magic in characters and stories of Harry Potter to live, in a way never before experienced. Capturing the hearts and imagination of all of our guests. Capturing the heart and imagination, that is something we all try to do; you try to do it in the movies, we always try to do it in the theme parks, too. Are you having fun doing this? I mean, this is a new venture as you've said before. Are you enjoying this? Is it providing some opportunities for you to do things you haven't been able to do before?

SC: It is totally. I mean, I'm scared to death, and I'm enjoying it at the same time. But then you know, I think, even making a movie delivers concerns, you know, as well as, fulfillment and pleasures, really. So, I am enjoying our collaboration enormously because there are all sorts of things we couldn't possibly address without the expertise of Universal Theme parks. Yeah, that's it really.

ST: Well, I know it's bringing a lot of challenges. You know, a lot of times on films we concentrate on what it looks like; what the camera sees. But less so on "What does it feel like?" "What does it smell like?" "Is it hot?" "Is it cold?" Those kind of textural things that we'll be providing in the world that we're building. Now, unfortunately, we're not quite ready to give away all the details behind the magic, yet. We have a long way to go to finish the design of the project, but we will providing more information as we go in the development of the project, but we do want to hear from you guys a little bit. In a few minutes we will be able to answer your email questions, if you send them in live. And we'll want to address those. Let me start off with a question for you. You've been working on Harry Potter from the first movie. Why do you think it is such a successful and such a powerful story in the set of characters?

SC: Well, its (clears throat) reach around the world is phenomenal. What is really intriguing is the books and therefore the movies are very, very specific. I mean, it's European culture. It's not just about European culture. It's about British institutions. What we call public schools and the rest of the world call private schools, (ST: Right.) boarding schools. They're very British institutions and the manners and the behavior and so on. Very, very specifically a British boarding school. And also the architectural detail. All the detail that I'm interested in, my responsibility, is so specific, geographically specific. (ST: Mm-hm.) And so the fact that the world is able to find this accessible, and relate to is- and get pleasure and meaning from it, is extraordinary, and a tribute to its great, great power. America is often accused of- in a way, the Americanization of world culture is, the older European nations often complain about. This is the antithesis of that. This is America embracing, as I say, a very specific European culture, and making it really accessible. Taking it to the world. It is enormously powerful, and surprisingly so.

ST: Yeah. Not just America, but the entire world embraces...


Part Two:

ST: We'll be bringing out for the first time ever, a spectacular new attraction, that will bring the magic in characters and stories of Harry Potter to live, in a way never before experienced, capturing the hearts and imagination of all of our guests. Capturing the heart and imagination, that is something we all try to do; you try to do it in the movies, we always try to do it in the theme parks, too. Are you having fun doing this? I mean, this is a new venture as you've said before. Are you enjoying this? Is it providing some opportunities for you to do things you haven't been able to do before?

SC: It is totally. I mean, I'm scared to death, and I'm enjoying it at the same time. But then you know, I think, even making a movie delivers concerns, you know, as well as, fulfillment and pleasures, really. So, I am enjoying our collaboration enormously because there are all sorts of things we couldn't possibly address without the expertise of Universal Theme parks. Yeah, that's it really.

ST: Well, I know it's bringing a lot of challenges. You know, a lot of times on films we concentrate on what it looks like, what the camera sees, but less so on "What does it feel like?" "What does it smell like?" "Is it hot?" "Is it cold?" Those kind of textural things that we'll be providing in the world that we're building. Now, unfortunately, we're not quite ready to give away all the details behind the magic, yet. We have a long way to go to finish the design of the project, but we will providing more information as we go in the development of the project, but we do want to hear from you guys a little bit. In a few minutes we will be able to answer your email questions, if you send them in live. And we'll want to address those. Let me start off with a question for you. You've been working on Harry Potter from the first movie. Why do you think it is such a successful and such a powerful story in the set of characters?

SC: Well, its (clears throat) reach around the world is phenomenal. What is really intriguing is the books and therefore the movies are very, very specific. I mean, it's European culture. It's not just about European culture. It's about British institutions. What we call public schools and the rest of the world call private schools, (ST: Right.) boarding schools. They're very British institutions and the manners and the behavior and so on. Very, very specifically a British boarding school. And also the architectural detail. All the detail that I'm interested in, my responsibility, is so specific, geographically specific. (ST: Mm-hm.) And so the fact that the world is able to find this accessible, and relate to is- and get pleasure and meaning from it, is extraordinary, and a tribute to its great, great power. America is often accused of- in a way, the Americanization of world culture is, the older European nations often complain about. This is the antithesis of that. This is America embracing, as I say, a very specific European culture, and making it really accessible. Taking it to the world. It is enormously powerful, and surprisingly so.

ST: Yeah. Not just America, but the entire world embraces these characters and stories. (SC: Sure, sure, sure.) That's one of the reasons why we were really striving to try to find a physical home and a place where people can experience it first hand. And, that's what, you know, we at Universal try to do. We try to get people experiences they can't get anywhere else. And, this world, the world of Harry Potter, will be a place where fans can have a real personal encounter with the magical world. You can discover it on your own and on your own terms. That's really one of the things that Universal is- that we really strive to do. Now, this park is going to be at Universal, Orlando; a resort there. And our company at Universal is obviously, our heritage is in the movies and in creating one of a kind experiences and we do that in Orlando, where there are actually two Universal theme parks. There's Universal Studios, which is based on film and television; and right next door is Islands of Adventure, which will become the home for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And its soul- it's really about great stories of literature; great stories of adventure. That's what Islands of Adventure is built around and that's why we feel it's a perfect home for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Islands was lucky enough last year to be awarded "The Best Theme Park in the World" award from IAAPA. The so-called "Applause" award. And, we've also been lucky enough to continue to have the number one theme park attraction in the world: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. So, we're actually quite well-pleased that people like this park and think that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is going to be a fantastic addition to it. We think that people are looking forward, hopefully, to coming to see it.

ST: What are you looking forward to when you come and see it? When these doors open and you see people come into the park for the first moment, into this wizarding world, what are you looking forward to?

SC: I'm looking forward to being one of them, actually. (ST laughs) I want to go there; I want to take my grandchildren. I think this unique collaboration of the theme park world and movie world, and our specifically sort of European take on all of this. That combination I think will be magical and I can't wait to be the first in the gate.

ST: I can't wait either but you're gonna have to wait a little bit (SC: Okay.) because the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is schedule to open in early 2010. Now as I said before we're gonna keep you informed as we move ahead. There's a- you can come to www.universalorlando.com/harrypotter and get a website update. You can also put in your email address on that page to get emailed updates. Again, you guys are the first in the world to hear this news. We're gonna be releasing this to the public in just a few hours but we really respect and share your commitment to this brand and to these stories, which is really why we wanted to reach out to you first. So, we have a few minutes left and we really want to hear from you, too. So, we'd be happy to take some questions. Okay, we have a question coming in: "Will I be able to go inside Hogwarts Castle?" Stuart, I'll let you take that question.

SC: You will. You'll be able to see the exterior of Hogwarts Castle and enter it and the- it's a magical space, so it's limitless on the inside. But there are certain very key elements, very familiar elements. So, maybe even this environment that we're sitting in now; the Headmaster's office, you will indeed be able to go into it.

ST: So, that's going to be great. Here's another question coming in: "What is J.K. Rowling's involvement?" Well, as I mentioned before, J.K. Rowling has been involved from the very beginning; and I mean from the very beginning. We wouldn't be doing any of this if these great, fantastic stories hadn't been born from her imagination. But specifically on the theme park project. She has from the very beginning reviewed our plans and been very supportive and excited and encouraging about what we're doing so very involved. Okay, here's another question coming in: "Shouldn't the theme park be in England?" Stuart, you had said before that Florida was kind of the theme park capital of the world. What do you think about the- and about this property being particularly a British property? How do you feel about the park being in Florida?

SC: I think that's right. I think Orlando is the focus of theme parks, and everybody's very used to gravitating there. Listen, the climate's much better there than here, so it's perfectly natural. I think it's absolutely appropriate, and the bottom line is I think you'll do it better than we would here, anyway.

ST: Well I don't know about that, but we're certainly going to give it a try.

SC: Good.

ST: Here's another question coming in: "Will the new environment be based on any specific book or film?" Well, the answer to that is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is really intended to encompass the entire world of Harry Potter. People are going to be coming to the park at different points in their relationship with the books and the movies. So, we want to create a world that feels right no matter where they are in their relationship with the books or films. So, it's not based on any specific point in time, but it is really based on more of the DNA of the archetypal Harry Potter book and experience. Here's another question: "Has this been held till after Book Seven so that it could be built completely, or is the timing a coincidence?" The timing is more coincidence than not. We have been working with Warner Bros. and J.K. Rowling for a number of years now and we actually already been in design for at least a year and a half. We will be taking elements from all of the books and in and eventually all of the films. This will actually- the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is expected to open just before the last film opens. So, we're going to try to take as much material that represents the world in Harry Potter; the franchise and make it part of this physical embodiment. Another question: "Are there any thrill rides in the theme park such as roller coasters dedicated to any of the characters?" As I mentioned before, we're not talking specifically about the rides and attractions that are in the land, but yes, there will be thrill rides. There will be very intense thrill rides. There will be immersive, engaging rides that are filled with story and fantasy. And there will be lots of opportunities for people to get different entertainment experiences that are based on characters. Stuart, you know more about what we are doing, than what we're able to share today. What do you think about the way we are representing some of the iconic characters and some of the iconic moments of the world that we are planning to build?

SC: I think you know the question of, "Is it a coincidence? Is the timing a coincidence?" as you said. It is largely but it's very fortunate that the timing has happened that way. I think that it's important that the theme park represents the entire saga, from Book One to Book Seven. It needs to feel complete and it will feel complete. The final movie will only just be being released, as this theme park opens. But nonetheless the book will be familiar and everything in it will be familiar and it should be total. And...


Part Three:

ST: Questions: "Can fans contribute ideas to the park?" Yes. We do want this to be a dialogue with you so in the website that we have and the email updates, there will be an opportunity for us to hear back from you. We won't be able to accommodate and incorporate everybody's ideas; but we do want to hear from people. Another question: "How many years has this been in the works?" Stuart, how long have we been working on the specific design now, from the first time we met? How long ago was that?

SC: We physically met in November. I visited the existing park and we all met in November 2006. The design process began, for me, at the end of January but you'd already had done a whole lot of preparatory work, planning the layout of the main attractions and so on. So (ST: Yeah.) me personally, six months less. You, a good deal more.

ST: Well, yes, we started about... Well, I think I said maybe around two years ago. Another question: "What age range will the park be aimed at?" Well, that's a great question, because this is Harry Potter. It deals with the magic, but it's not fairy-pixie-dust kind of magic. This is a more mature kind of magic; this is a story, a set of stories that deals with real struggle, and good and evil. You know this better than anybody. How would you describe that kind of target audience for Harry Potter?

SC: Well, the books begin with Harry and his friends at age eleven, but actually, it's accessible, I think- I have a seven-year-old grandson, he's already completely a fan, and involved and absorbed by them, so I would say it begins at around seven. People my age are lapping it up, too. (ST: Hey, of course!) So, that's seven to sixty-seven. That's a pretty good range! (SC and ST laugh)

ST: That is a good range. Well, your questions are flooding in, and we love that, so we're going to extend this by a few minutes, so we can take a couple more. "What steps will be taken to ensure that the park will still feel British, even though it is in Florida?" Good question. Well, we're undertaking this project in a way unlike any other project we've taken before. We are- that includes everything from the way we're building it- as you know, we are having it drawn and designed by people with a specific experience; not only in Harry Potter, but in that British sensibility that Stuart talked about. But we're going to continue that thinking all the way through the food that we serve, the merchandise that we sell, the way we train the employees and staff, will all be done with that eye toward authenticity and an eye towards our commitment to making this world as authentic, incredible and as Harry Potter as it possibly can be. Stuart, here's a question for you. Someone has asked me if you can speak to your favorite planned work inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You have a favorite piece?

SC: We're sitting in one of them actually. Fortunately. And we- this is something we'd very much like to recreate within the theme park. But there are other favorites, too. There are corners of the Common Room that I like very much. There are aspects of the Dark Arts classroom I like very much. The silhouette of the entire castle; there are all kinds of things which we will... (ST: Right.) And, you know what? In Hogsmeade, too; we have never shown the complete Hogsmeade in the movies and there's a chance here to do so. And so I think that those new elements there that the theme park will have that the movies have not been able to explore, that's exciting, too. So that's the favorite. I'm looking forward to it, yeah.

ST: That's fantastic. Okay, one last question: "Are you planning to make it interesting to Harry Potter fans of all ages? The kids who fell in love with Harry Potter at eleven or twelve, when it first came out, will be in their twenties or even bringing their own sprogs (ST and SC laugh) from 2010 onwards." Well, we think and believe that the Harry Potter world is already classic. It is a modern classic and will have a life well beyond when the seventh book is printed and when the seventh film is in the can. And, we're making the commitment to building this place where that world will live on for many, many, many years. So, we actually look forward to this being a place where you can bring your family, (to SC) your grandson, your friends, too; time and time again. And kind of share it with them as they are starting to share the stories and films of Harry Potter. So hopefully it'll be a place that will appeal to everyone. Thank you for all of your questions. We really appreciate that. On the website you can sign up for the email alerts or find more information. And just for you, as an additional surprise, we will soon be emailing all of you an official piece of the conceptual artwork we developed especially for you. It's not something you've seen, yet. It's not something anybody has seen, yet. We're going to give it to you for your sites immediately, and you guys will be the first to be able to post and disseminate this. We do that because we honor your commitment to the franchise and to the stories and characters and we share that commitment. We look forward to talking with you soon. And thank you, Stuart, for being here with us this morning.

SC: (to ST) Thank you, (to audience) thank you.

ST: Thank you, everybody online, and goodbye from Hogwarts.

SC: Goodbye.

ST: Now, where's Dumbledore?

SC: He was just here.

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