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Robert Trigaux

From Harry Potter fans, pressure on Universal Orlando to deliver big on 'Wizarding World'




Wake up and good morning. Orlando theme park Universal Orlando's starting to fill in some details of its $200 million Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a 20-acre "theme park within a theme park" slated to open next spring at Islands of Adventure. So far, I must admit as a Potter fan (earned since my son "grew up" the same age as Harry Potter -- they were both 11 when the first book came out) with high expectations, it's all a bit underwhelming. So far.

For example, Universal still is not offering much detail about its Wizarding World's core entertainment feature, the only new major ride so far: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. (There's no height restriction so it won't be too wild.) And one area Universal initially said Muggles, uh, non-wizarding people could visit -- the darker-themed Forbidden Forest that in the books was home to centaurs, unicorns and giant spiders -- does not appear on the theme park's new map of Wizarding World. But Universal told the Orlando Sentinel the Forbidden Forest is still in the works. Here's the Orlando Sentinel story and a St. Petersburg Times report looking at it and other expansion plans among Orlando theme parks.

Hey, it's still early. Yet I'm not sure how Buckbeak, the wild and independent hippogriff and pal of Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter series, would take to the family-style Flight of the Hippogriff coaster ride (see rendering above), redesigned from Universal's Flying Unicorn ride.

The good news is that since J.K. Rowling has finished the series of Potter books and we're down to the final and 7th Potter book to be made into a movie (two, in fact, since the long plot will be split), Universal Orlando's Wizarding World will be a fun extension to the millions of folks who want some semblance of the Potter experience to continue.

I'll show you some Universal-supplied renderings of Wizarding World so you can conjure up your own decisions about whether this will captivate Potter followers. For example, Paul Daurio, show producer of Wizarding World, told the Orlando Sentinel that "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."


Visitors, for example, will be able to purchase wands at Ollivanders wand shop (see rendering above), via interactive (and undisclosed) methods. As wandmaker Mr. Ollivander tells a young Potter in the  first book: "The wand picks the wizard." Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative, told the Sentinel: "We've developed a way to make that experience real." Now that, done well, could be cool.


At the Three Broomsticks (above), part of the Hogsmeade village that also includes Zonko's and Honeydukes, a Universal-concocted (and nonalcoholic) Potter staples -- butterbeer and pumpkin juice-- will be available. Woodbury told the Sentinel that Universal "developed a special recipe" in collaboration with Warner Bros.of the Potter movies. "One of the meetings we've had with J.K. Rowling," he said, "we tasted and sampled some of the food items that we will have in Three Broomsticks, including butterbeer."


Conveniently, the Honeydukes candy store (above) in the Potter series is another good excuse for Universal to sell sweets to visitors. Yes, Universal says it will be stocking some Potter favorites, from chocolate frogs to Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans. No word yet on whether the flavors will include some of those in the Potter books that produced a resounding Yuk! from kids and adults: boogers, vomit and ear wax.

So amid all the consumption and jokes, what's truly missing? Any ominous reference to He Who Must Not Be Named, the evil wizard and Harry Potter's nemesis. We can only assume the "Forbidden Journey" ride, still under wraps, will address -- no, must address -- that omission in some fashion.

Renderings courtesy of Universal Orlando.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:26am]


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