When the gates open at Universal Studios Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, it’s not hard to tell where the crowd is headed. Dressed in robes and scarves and armed with wands, the fans move straight through the park to catch early morning in Hogsmeade.
Open now for nearly a year a half, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter follows the park’s theme of literature-based attractions (even their Jurassic Park ride is specially tailored to represent the original novel’s river scene) and last weekend it was host to a very special media event, celebrating the home video release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, gathering cast members from the entire eight-film franchise to celebrate the conclusion of their role in cinematic history.
ComingSoon.net was on hand to talk with the stars of the films, but before the evening’s red carpet (held right in the center of Hogsmeade), we had a chance to spend the day in the park with the fans.
Walking through the gate of Hogsmeade, visitors are informed by a small sign that Professor Dumbledore has lifted the incantations that keep the area unseen by Muggles. The snow-topped shops are offset in the distance by a forced perspective (though enormous) model of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. On the right, the Hogwarts Express (a full-scale train engine) has just arrived across from fantastic locations like Zonko’s Joke Shop and Honeydukes Sweetshop, both of which are fully-realized stores that visitors can enter and shop at, finding all sorts of park-exclusive treats like Chocolate Frogs, Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans, Fizzing Whizzbees and more.
Further down the artificial town is The Three Broomsticks and The Hog’s Head, both of which serve Potter-themed foods like butterbeer (available in both regular and frozen versions) and Pumpkin Juice. Across from that is Dervish and Banges, offering Quidditch supplies, clothing and more and, most popular of all, Ollivander’s Wand Shop wherein would-be wizards can choose their wand (or, as the shopkeepers will remind you, the wand can choose their wizard).
All throughout the shopping area, fans should keep their eyes open for hidden jokes and references to novels and films. One store window holds one of only three Quidditch sets used in filming and another the actual dress that Emma Watson wore as Hermione to the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Even the bathrooms keep with the theme and, inside, visitors can overhear the wails of Moaning Myrtle.
Though a number of shops are just false storefronts for now, that’s planned to change in the near future. No official dates have yet been announced, but the park is anxious to expand the Wizarding World.
Of course, the attraction isn’t built purely on shopping. It also contains a number of rides, including the family-friendly “Flight of the Hippogriff” coaster, the more extreme “Dragon Challenge” (offering two different coasters on connected tracks) and, most popular, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” a combination of video, animatronics and a motion control seat that takes riders through the Hogwarts grounds, pitting them against Dragons, Dementors, the Whomping Willow and the enormous spider, Aragog.
Constructed beneath the Hogwarts Castle, the lines to get in are nearly as intricate as the ride itself, allowing fans to walk through a replica of the school and interact with holographic renditions of Dumbledore, Harry, Hermione and Ron.
It was after a long day of park adventures that the red carpet was rolled out, and guests began to arrive for a special ceremony that included a singing frog chorus conducted by Warwick Davis (who played both Professor Flitwick and Griphook throughout the series).
As you can see in the video compilation below, ComingSoon.net spoke with Davis, along with actors Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley), James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), Kaie Leung (Cho Chang), Devon Murray (Seamus Finnigan), Alfie Enoch (Dean Thomas), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy) as well as producer David Barron, and four-time Potter director David Yates.