Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open in spring 2010 at Universal Orlando
By Dewayne Bevil
Sep 15, 2009 | 8:11 PM
A sprinkling of details — including a broad opening date — about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was revealed by Universal Orlando on Tuesday.
"Universal has given me the great honor in revealing to the world that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be opening its gates, spring 2010," said actor Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the Potter films and was in Orlando for the announcement.
Tuesday's peek provided a few new tidbits and renderings of the new area within the Islands of Adventure theme park. It confirmed some previous reports about the expansion that's expected to cost more than $200 million but left much of Universal's planned magic still in the dark. Notably absent: details about Wizarding World's only new major ride so far, called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Released today were two videos and a set of renderings for the planned park.
"This is really just the tip of the iceberg," Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative, said of the announcement about the 20-acre area that will re-create scenery from the J.K. Rowling books and subsequent films about a boy wizard.
•The "spring" opening date is the most specific the resort has been. That's later than its original goal of December 2009 but earlier than a June 30, 2010, deadline stipulated in its licensing contract with Warner Bros.
"In terms of just raw construction, given where they appear to be, they certainly should be able to make the spring date," said Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com. "The real challenge is if they're going to be able to have the ride programming in place in time."
•Some merchandise will be exclusive to Islands of Adventure. "We're going to bring to life all the great food and candy and gadgets and what-not that are in the books and films," said Paul Daurio, show producer of Wizarding World. "But more importantly we're going to have an entire line of product that's been developed specifically for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that can only be found here from the books and the film."
•Guests will be able to purchase wands at Ollivanders wand shop via interactive (and undisclosed) methods. In Potter movies, wands select their owners. "We've developed a way to make that experience real," Woodbury said.
•The Owl Post will send out letters with a postmark from Hogsmeade, Rowling's village that will be made three-dimensional at Wizarding World.
•Maps of the area indicate that two existing coasters at Islands will be refashioned for Wizarding World theming. Dueling Dragons becomes Dragon Challenge (now with Chinese Fireball and Hungarian Horntail trains). Flying Unicorn, a family coaster, morphs into Flight of the Hippogriff.
•A slew of stores from the Potter stories — including Zonko's, Honeydukes and Three Broomsticks — will be included in Hogsmeade. Butterbeer, a staple of the stories, will be available there.
"Many of us have tasted it," Woodbury said. "We developed a special recipe. We collaborated with Warner Bros. One of the meetings we've had with J.K. Rowling, we tasted and sampled some of the food items that we will have in Three Broomsticks, including butterbeer."
Nonalcoholic, he said.
What's in the air
•One area that wasn't talked about at all: the Forbidden Forest, an ominous setting from the books that is home to creatures such as centaurs, unicorns and spiderlike "acromantulas" that Universal initially said guests would be able to visit. It's not included in a new map of the Wizarding World released Tuesday, and the resort has removed mention of the location from its press materials.
Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said the Forbidden Forest is still part of its plans. "We have not announced its location yet," he said.
•Details were thin on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the new ride within Hogwarts Castle. But officials were gushing.
"This is something totally new, totally different, and an experience unlike anything anyone's ever done, including ourselves," Woodbury said. "I would call it a full-immersion, visceral, compelling experience."
Although show producer Daurio said "it couldn't be further from a roller coaster," he did share a few visual details.
"As you enter Hogwarts Castle, you find those iconic rooms such as the Gryffindor Common Room, which everybody for years has wanted to have the opportunity to travel inside Hogwarts and see what it was like to be in those hallowed halls," he said. "Then you are swept up into a journey that really captures the greatest stories, the greatest characters, and the greatest experiences from the books and films."
No height restriction was announced for Forbidden Journey. Without one, it's more likely to be a milder ride.
"If there is a height restriction, then you know they're going to be bumping around a little bit more," Niles said.
Jason Garcia of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Dewayne Bevil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5477.
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