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Wizarding World of Harry Potter Grand Opening June 18: Details About Hogwarts Emerge

Fan Events
Posted by: Melissa
March 25, 2010, 12:01 AM

Today Universal Studios announced that the highly anticipated amusement park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, will have its grand opening on June 18th. (This is the grand opening date, not the first time it will be open to the public: those who have purchased one of the advertised packages for May 28 are still promised a "Harry Potter experience.") Leaky was at the park this week for a preview of some of the attractions - many, many details on the "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" below! Stay tuned also for discussion of this and more at a special LIVE video PotterCast Monday evening at our Livestream channel. See you then!

-By Melissa Anelli

This summer and after - after the June 18 opening and decades into the future - fans who visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will experience a series of owl-home events. During a recent preview of the Hogwarts attraction, however, it became blindingly obvious which one of these events will send them into the kind of joyful squeal that only those who have been part of a true fandom can say they ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

(Below: the portrait gallery - click for high res - featuring Helga Hufflepuff at center and Godric Gryffindor in the large frame on the right.)



Just in front of Hogwarts castle, at the very beginning of "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey," the attraction that developers call a "game changing" visitor magnet, are two high columns. Atop these columns, two boars flank the entrance to the castle. Walking through them - seeing them above you as you walk by - creates the kind of transporting moment that most attendees, and all fans, have been excited about for years. Nothing has yet compared to the mouth-open wonder and nearly tangible lift of spirit that accompanies walking through those gates and toward the massive, rock-set, spired castle of our imagination. We've seen lot of things as fans and reporters on this fandom - sets, museums, exhibits. Nothing creates the feeling of Hogwarts so spectacularly as crossing that threshold.

(Pictured below: the Room of Requirement during the "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" ride)



Then there's a the castle itself in its incomprehensible mass and cool Scottish beauty. It's good that the first few feet of the interior of Hogwarts are relatively stone holding rooms, because it takes some time to absorb the fact that you're actually inside. (And it will indeed be a feat to get inside it once this park is open to the public: the line snakes through what must have been a quarter to a half a mile of scenery, snaking through the greenhouses in a maze of metal line-holders: this will be two hours of your day at Universal at the least. Probably three.) Once you are, a few things become clear:

Firstly, J.K. Rowling's influence is all over the attraction, from the sparkling dialogue (screenwriter Steve Kloves is also apparent here) on portraits and characters, to small story touches (such as the fact that one statue is of Hogwarts' first headmaster: the founders were professors, none was ever a headmaster) that dot the attraction.

(Pictured below: Dumbeldore's office. Click for high res.)



Second, the effects are stunning: the portraits move and talk without leaving any traces of digital imagery or technology. They are not even reflective: they appear to have been coated in varnish and look as though they hopped out of your 18th century art textbook and could speak to you without any help from electronics. The same is nearly true of the visual representations of Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint). As of yet undescribed projection technology has resulted in videos that look like they could take form and accompany you to the Three Broomsticks (more on that next week).

Leaky traveled through most of the castle attraction, stopping short of the ride itself (which is not yet ready). We will have more details on this as we get closer to the opening of the park, but here's an idea of what's in store (spoiler warning, for those who want to remain pureā€¦)

(Below: The gryffin leading up to Dumbledore's office. Click for high res.)



-For the first time ever we will meet the four founders. Gryffindor, Slythering, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw were cast, approved by J.K. Rowling (Vice President of Universal Creative Thierry Coup says Ms. Rowling proclaimed they were exactly as they were in her imagination), and talk to visitors about the ride's storyline. They also josh each other about quidditch rivalries; Slytherin openly seethes about Harry Potter (the boy who "survived"). Ravenclaw is angled and dark-haired while Hufflepuff is soft and gracious looking. Slytherin towers in his photo, all long nosed and stern, while Gryffindor has a beefy appearance that bears a slight resemblance to Hagrid. All of their accents differ, in accordance with the origins named by the Sorting Hat song of the first book.

-The sets are fully reconstructed inside the castle; you walk through Dumbledore's office, the Gryffindor common room, several hallways dotted with memorabilia (the Mirror of Erised, the Fat Lady's portrait, a Gryffindor pasteboard featuring a moving Daily Prophet proclaiming that Gryffindor would be defending its title that afternoon).

(Below: Dan Radcliffe on the Quidditch pitch during the Hogwarts attraction. Click for high res.)



-A few new characters (all approved by J.K. Rowling) appear in portraits, giving lectures and popping into one another's frames.

-You will be able to peruse this area at your leisure even though it's technically a line: no one will rush you through to the end. The set is so detailed that that kind of browsing may be necessary. -The front hall also boasts statues of the One-eyed Witch and the Architect of Hogwarts (unnamed, he is also seen frequently in the films; he's the gold/bronze statue holding a model of Hogwarts in his hand).

-The story revolves around the fact that Muggles are being allowed into the castle for the first time ever. Dumbledore gives you a short intro and directs you to the Defense Against the Dark Arts room where Professor Binns is set to give a lecture on the history of the castle. Of course, Harry, Ron and Hermione won't let this happen. When you get to the DADA room, a door opens, and Harry, Ron and Hermione appear from under the Invisibility Cloak, Ron and Hermione bickering sharply. Harry informs you that instead of listening to a boring lecture (which Hermione says is actually fascinating!) they want to take you to a Quidditch game by sneaking you out of the castle. So, you're directed to the Room of Requirement, where the ride will begin.

-"You won't be able to tell the difference between inside and outside" on the HPatFJ ride, says Woodbury.

-The ride will be four people to a carriage, and carries the conceit that the carriages (really enchanted "benches") are supposed to fly.

-A secondary storyline, that Hagrid has lost a dragon that very day, is hinted at.

-The technology includes something that has been referred to as a 360-degree film experience. There were also several mentions of a robotic arm and the "biggest special effects we have ever put on," according to President of Universal Creative Mark Woodbury. "It's a level of execution that makes everything else pale in comparison."

-The experience will take you through the Forbidden Forest, an encounter with the Whomping Willow, out to the Quidditch pitch, through a cold patch of Dementors, and more.

-J.K. Rowling's approved, ultimately, everything, and her "level of involvement [created] the backbone of making it as authentic as it is," says Woodbury.

Coup (vice president of Universal Creative) said, "We had to create a whole new level of experience," and that there has been "an attention to detail unlike anything we have ever done before. " He promises that the combination of new patented technologies and Universal's history of thrill rides will create an attraction that will make feel as though you are "riding beside" the characters from the books and films.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is in Orlando, Florida, at the Universal Islands of Adventure park. Two fan events have already been planned near the park: LeakyCon 2011, which takes place the weekend of the release of the last Potter film, and Infinitus 2010, planned for July of this year.

Remember you can look at videos of the park in our gallery here. Expect Leaky and PotterCast to have more details soon!

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99 Comments

Me_thumb
474 Points

Sweet.

Posted by Courtney Quirke on March 25, 2010, 12:13 AM report to moderator
The_claw_normal_thumb
1455 Points

Thanks for the midnight “release”, Melissa.

Posted by OrlandoDaddy [WBM] on March 25, 2010, 12:17 AM report to moderator
Picture_4_thumb
134 Points

This is fantastic! Can’t wait!

Posted by Hannahmation on March 25, 2010, 12:19 AM report to moderator
Ron1_thumb
3703 Points

Waitttt. I don’t understand. So it’s going to be open by May 28 but June 18 is their big grand opening? o_O

Posted by Christine on March 25, 2010, 12:21 AM report to moderator
Films_dh_articles_dhew_11_thumb
6941 Points

Everything sounds so awesome,especially how realistic the portraits in the castle would be!

Posted by harrypotter1991{ROAR} on March 25, 2010, 12:21 AM report to moderator
Wicked_clock4_thumb
233 Points

Melissa, I think you’re trying to kill me. I am soooooooo jealous right now.
God this needs to come out quicker.
Anyway, thanks for the scoop!!

Posted by Potterfreak24 on March 25, 2010, 12:22 AM report to moderator
Noavatar-thumb

this is SO EPIC :)

Posted by ahlisten on March 25, 2010, 12:22 AM report to moderator
Noavatar-thumb

this is SO EPIC :)

Posted by ahlisten on March 25, 2010, 12:22 AM report to moderator
_r9kau7w_thumb
1599 Points

i am…i am actually speechless. i have nothing more to say than: WOW.

Posted by Nealie Zealbie on March 25, 2010, 12:22 AM report to moderator
Johnb_thumb
4644 Points

Humm, me post did not go through or is it just Nargles delaying it???

Posted by JohnB on March 25, 2010, 12:23 AM report to moderator
Dhonesheet_thumb
1661 Points

OMG!!!!!! I’ve chills everywhere!!! Those pictures are AMAZING!!!! I want to go now!!! I’m so excited we’ve finally got a release date!!!!!! It looks soooo BRILLIANT!!!!!! I can’t believe this!

Posted by cghambright on March 25, 2010, 12:25 AM report to moderator
Noavatar-thumb
105 Points

epic.

Posted by SayMorsmordre on March 25, 2010, 12:28 AM report to moderator
Bookworm_thumb
1623 Points

Wow, this is awesome! Thanks for all the details, Melissa! (And as a side note, I’ve got to say that reading this post reminded me how much I love your writing style; can’t wait to read your next book, whenever that may be!) :)

Posted by Bookworm Jen on March 25, 2010, 12:28 AM report to moderator
Marrow_normal_normal_small_thumb
1830 Points

Wow, when they said the 25th I didn’t realise that meant midnight! But when it says Monday evening for the live PotterCast, what time would that be????

I like the whole "an attention to detail unlike anything we have ever done before. " from the Vice President, that bodes well on top of everything else. I particularly like the sound of the moving portraits :D The photo of the Room of Requirement is spectacular. Shame that the DADA room is used for History of Magic, but it makes sense that we get Binns, and if we get a Ron-Hermione argument that’s awesome!

Reading this makes me want to go way more than I did before, and to walk through all that! And I want to taste Butterbeer anyway :)

And one statue is of Hogwarts’ first Headmaster! That’d be interesting trivia, I hope someone who goes gives us a bit more detail on that, if there is any.

But June is a bit later than a lot of people were expecting I think! At least we know now.

Posted by nellythemarrow on March 25, 2010, 12:28 AM report to moderator
Noavatar-thumb
107 Points

HOGWARTS IS REAAAAAAAAL

Posted by hallows or horcruxes? on March 25, 2010, 12:33 AM report to moderator
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"I'm not stupid, you know."[br]"You're doing a really good impression of it," Harry snapped.[br]"Yeah?" said Ron, and there was no trace of a grin, forced or otherwise, on his face now. "You want to get to bed, Harry. I expect you'll need to be up early t