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Grand Opening - July 2016

The Magic of Harry Potter Comes to Tinsel Town

by Keith Miller

Following the spectacular success of The Wizarding World of Harry PottER at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Japan, it seems only fitting the original Universal Studios park, located in the world’s movie-making capital, would create the fantasy realm for its own.

In April, Universal Studios Hollywood (USH) swung open the gates of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which USH President Larry Kurzweil said marked the pinnacle of years of work at the park, with more than 75 percent of it having been “completely reimagined.” As in Orlando and Japan, the Wizarding World itself remains true to the stories and characters in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and subsequent films.

“I am delighted to see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter brought to life in a way that is so close to what I imagined when writing the books,” said Rowling. “I’m thrilled that Harry Potter fans can now experience the wonderful immersive experience created at Universal Studios Hollywood.”

Though the ideas and concepts in the Harry Potter stories were first revealed in Rowling’s books, it’s the striking visual imagery presented in the Warner Bros. movies that Wizarding World is judged against by both ardent fans and casual guests. Rowling has been intimately involved in the design of the Wizarding World park sections, giving continuity to the books, the movies, and the theme park attractions.

The Hollywood Wizarding World offers a re-creation of Hogsmeade village, similar in presentation and guest experience to the other two iterations, including the stunning Hogwarts Castle and the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” dark ride contained within.

There’s also the popular Ollivanders Wand Shop where guests can choose their wands—or according to the Potter stories, where the wands choose them—and the “Flight of the Hippogriff,” which is the first outdoor coaster at USH. And there’s plenty of the popular Butterbeer drink, offered in both a cold and a frozen form.

But there are several differences between The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at USH and the other parks. Perhaps the most publicized is the conversion of “Forbidden Journey’s” media sequences from 2-D to 3-D. The ride is also in 3-D in Japan, and Universal says the effects bring the ride’s characters even closer to guests. The park also notes the ride has been reconfigured with additional scenery and details. Also, in the queue for the ride, as guests make their way up a ramp toward the greenhouse, they see real mountains in the background—the Hollywood Hills—which play the scenery role of the Scottish Highlands from the stories.

There is a representation of the Hogwarts Express train here; however, it does not move like its counterpart in Orlando. Instead, guests can have their photos taken inside a reproduction of a passenger compartment from the train. Also, the compartment’s luggage racks are real props used in the movies.

Other props from the films are used throughout the attraction, like the desks and chalkboard in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom in Hogwarts Castle. Also, the two winged birds flanking the entrance to the castle were created from the same molds as those made for the movies.

The “Flight of the Hippogriff” coaster offers a distinct layout from Orlando and Japan, and goes a little faster and higher than the others, while this version of Ollivanders is also larger than the shop in Orlando.

Four years after The Wizarding World of Harry Potter debuted in Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando, its companion park section, Diagon Alley, opened at the adjacent Universal Studios Florida. There is much speculation about whether the same will happen at Universal Studios Hollywood, but the park has not yet made a statement regarding future developments.