Get ready to head back to Hogwarts, as Universal Orlando Resort has finally released details on their planned expansion to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The theme park expansion nearly doubles the size of the immersive experience, adding new rides, shops, and of course, gift items.
In 2010, Universal Orlando launched The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (now with the suffix "Hogsmeade") based on the movie and book series of the same name. The expansion adds a train between the Hogsmeade/Hogwarts area located in Universal's Islands of Adventure, and the new area — "Diagon Alley" — which is located in the Universal Studios theme park.
When MTV News hopped on the phone with Mark Woodbury, President of Universal Creative, he noted that you would need tickets for each park to enjoy the whole experience, but that Universal preferred to think that no matter what park you decided to head to, you'd have a chance to experience the world of Harry Potter.
Between the two experiences you'll be able to ride the Hogwarts Express. The train will head from Hogsmeade to the new area, which will also feature London as seen in the Harry Potter films. Though Woodbury did decline to confirm what exactly would happen on the train ride, when asked if it would be the same castmember and detail heavy experience as the previously opened part of the park, he strongly hinted that it wouldn't be a simple tram ride.
Once visitors debark from the Hogwarts Express in "London's King's Cross Station," on the famous Platform 9 3/4, they can head to an entirely new section featuring an entirely new ride, "Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts."
"When we saw what happened in the movies at Gringotts, we knew this had to be a ride," Woodbury said. "If you've seen the films, you'll have a fair idea what to expect." We'll add that the Dragon crouched on top of the ride in the concept art should give a strong hint.
As for how the ride will work, Woodbury clarified that it's based on an entirely new system, and not just a repeat of the KUKA robocoaster technology used for Hogsmeade's "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey." For those not in the know, "Forbidden Journey" is a combination of movie footage, robotics, a coaster track, a spinning platform, and a robotic arm that pivots the ride car up and down; all allowing more movement than your typical ride.
Beyond the ride, Diagon Alley will build on the shopping experience from Hogsmeade. Highlights include:
» A movie correct location for the popular show/shop Olivanders, which plays out the wand choosing experience from the movies and then allows shoppers to buy their own wand.
» Knockturn Alley, home of Borgin and Burkes bad-guy shop where fans can buy Death Eater masks, skulls, and more.
» Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, a joke shop based on the one owned by the Weasley Twins in the movies.
» Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, featuring everything from wizard's robes to Hogwarts school uniforms.
» Magical Menagerie, a shop filled with plush animals from the films.
» Wisacre's Wizarding Equipment, which sells telescopes, spheres, and hopefully a pensieve or two.
» Quality Quidditch Supplies, which should prove popular with the increasingly widespread alt-sport.
» Scribbulus, home to writing supplies, papers, quills, and more.
» The Leaky Cauldron, which will feature traditional British fare.
» Florean Fortescue's Ice-cream Parlour, which features strawberry-and-peanut-butter ice-cream, and more.
When asked about the food, Woodbury confessed to being a frozen Butterbeer man himself, referencing the delicious treat sold in the Wizarding World. He added that beyond what's already been announced, food from the books would always be a major feature from the parks, and fans who loved the Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice from Hogsmeade should look for new treats in Diagon Alley.
As for the future? There's no date for the opening beyond "Summer, 2014," though we can obviously expect more news on that soon. When asked whether Universal was thinking beyond the two sections of the park — and whether there was even physically room on the grounds — Woodbury noted that was an interesting question, but they were focused on opening Diagon Alley first.
We further pressed to find out whether Universal would collaborate on "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them" once Warner Brothers starts working on the spin-off, but again, Woodbury said it was a little too early to talk about anything like that.
For now though, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley has officially moved beyond the rumor phase, and into actually being a place the public can visit in the near future. Stay tuned for more on that as we approach the opening.