Universal Orlando Releases New Info, Pics of Diagon AlleyNews
January 23, 2014, 10:32 AM
Article by Margaux Herrera with on-site reporting by Melissa Anelli
Reading The Leaky Cauldron inside the Leaky Cauldron? They day is coming!
Universal Orlando is about to begin a Web cast that will reveal a lot of details about the upcoming Diagon Alley expansion at the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando Florida (where LeakyCon makes its home this summer!), and this post will be updated with ALL those details as they come in. Meanwhile, we have been on location at the park for exclusive sneak peeks and tours of the existing set, and here's what we got so far:
The area will about double the size of the current Harry Potter-themed world of Universal. It will feature shops, an outdoor market area, and never-before-seen streets, all named by J.K. Rowling.
The shops will be book favorites, like Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, and Quality Quidditch Supplies. Besides being able to dine at The Leaky Cauldron, you'll also be able to satisfy your sweet tooth at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, which will feature strawberry and peanut butter ice cream (as featured in the books), among other flavors.
And speaking of bigger: Honeydukes in the Hogsmeade area is expanding to take over all of Zonko's Joke Shop. The Weasley Wizard Wheezes shop in Diagon Alley has achieved its first takeover, and will be the only joke shop in town.
The new park will feature Carkitt Market, an outdoor area similar to London's famous markets. According to Universal, the market was used by Wizards to trade goods and sell food. We'll also get to visit Horizont Alley, another side street of Diagon Alley. In the books we are only ever treated to Knockturn Alley, which will also be featured in the park and turns right off The Leaky Cauldron (which is huge and claustrophobic looking at once) down a spooky looking sidestreet. Here's hoping for a Hand of Glory. There will also be a new Ollivander's Shop, similar to the one in the current Wizarding World park but much, much bigger.
Gringotts Bank will be at the top of the high street, complete with a "really big," actual-fire-breathing dragon perched on top. It will house the new ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which Universal calls a "multi-sensory, multi-dimensional journey." The artwork and visuals suggest a mix of the dragon ride from the Hogsmeade side and the all-encapsulating multimedia experience of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Just like Harry had to pass through Muggle London to arrive in Diagon Alley, so will we. You'll get to walk through the famous brick archway that first introduces Harry to the magical world, tucked in behind the bustling Muggle city. A London façade, complete with Grimmauld Place, will be the entrance to the park. Everything is built to scale, with the exception of King's Cross, which is slightly smaller than its real-life counterpart. Standing on what will be the most compressed version of London ever (on a much cleaner version of the Thames), it only takes a minute or two to forget that you are standing across from the Simpsons' Krusty Land portion of Universal's theme park. The buildings dwarf; it bears repeating that they are almost all fully to scale. While the mechanism that will become the magical, bricked arch to Diagon Alley wasn't one hundred percent clear (and diverges canonically - not unpleasantly, as, after all, how the heck would we all get in? - from being behind the Leaky Cauldron), what was clear was that the park builders were going out of their way to do what seems crazy at a big spectacle of a theme park: hide the entrance.
You'll also be able to cross "take the train from Platform 9 3/4" off of your bucket list, because the Hogwarts Express will run guests between the two parks. The train ride will feature views of the London countryside, and Universal is promising a few more surprises along the way. Keep in mind that you'll need a two-park pass to ride the train that connects the expansion to the original park in Islands of Adventure.
Universal has also created an interactive website for fans and guests to explore the park. It features new video material from Hagrid, a fully interactive map of the park, and more.