Article by VacationRentalPeople
In a small number of years Miss Rowling’s books have gained such notoriety and the words ‘Harry Potter’ such commonplace that it is hard to imagine a childhood that wasn’t fully immersed or desperately avoiding Hogwarts. Now along with the books, films, merchandise, confectionery and so on, there is also the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park to eek wallets from parents’ pockets. Six years in the making, and 0m in cost, the theme park is open to the public now, as part of Universal’s ever extending theme park empire in Orlando, Florida.
At the entrance to the park, part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, visitors are welcomed in by Hogwarts Express steam train, feeling as if blending into the movies, as the attention to detail is such that it feels as if the scenes are beginning to play around you. The only regard in which visitors will struggle to suspend their disbelief is in imagining these sun lit twisted chimneys, snow covered roofs and Olde Shoppes are in gray old England, rather than a glowing Florida.
On the right here is Zonko’s joke shop which sells sneakoscopes and extendable ears, don’t worry if these means nothing to you, it will to your kids. Then there is Honeydukes sweet emporium, for all the foul sounding candy from the films, thankfully they don’t seem quite as horrible here. The park tries to keep it as ‘real Potter’ as possible in regards to its wares, perhaps one of the very few places in this part of the world where you can pick up a Cornish Pasty or Scotch Egg, rather than Burger and Fries. It is a strange form of exoticism to find such things on sale here.
Yet if you know the Potter films at all you will know that the whimsy only lasts the first half of the story, the part where they return for the new term, where everything is fine, villains defeated in jolly wizard-world. Those parts suit the outdoor Florida sun wonderfully. Yet going indoors the stories’ latter acts await, the part where the meanies return, the darker side of Potter.
Within the Towers of the Hogwarts building there is the main attraction, the Forbidden Journey ride. Having made it through the spiraling corridors of the building, you find yourself in the Room of requirements, where a moving image of Hermoine casts a spell on you before being whisked through the darkness and in to this CGI ride.
The passengers sit on the “magic bench”, which for four minutes twists, drops and turns in time with the images projected around it. You ride as if in a Quidditch match gone wrong, twisted branches come crashing in and you are in the forbidden forest full of beasties and other nasties. You flow with Harry and Ron past the fearsome dementors, serpents come at you from the mist, and giant spiders spit water at you. When it’s over you find yourself returning to the grand Hogwarts hall where the school cheers for you and your fellow adventurers.
Most of the young riders have come from the ride with a dizzy exhilaration, aching to go straight back on it, yet with the queue time expecting to stretch in to the hours this seems unlikely. “We shot the footage for Forbidden Zone 2 years ago… and it’s a ride like no other” says Tom Felton (the film’s Draco Malfoy), “It combines amazing new technology with 3D imagery, with life size stuff coming out at you.”
Yet the interactive tour of Hogwarts attempts to curtail the boredom of queuing, with those familiar chatty portraits, a visit to Dumbledore’s office and a masterclass in Defense of the Black Arts with the characters from the book. While predicted attendance figures remain elusive, the best advice seems to be expect to wait.
JK Rowling, who attended the park’s opening is said to have been heavily involved in the process of creating the theme park, consulted at every corner, so we are to believe. Also involved are members of the film’s creative team including production designer, Stewart Craig, and supervising director, Alan Gilmore, who are said to have taken some of their work in the theme park over in to the films.
There are two more rides in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, one being the family friendly Hippogriff mini roller coaster, while exasperated teenagers will find the Dragon Challenge high speed-double roller coaster a welcome addition to the park. Though they may find the park on the whole lacking in appeal for them.
Potter and friends seem to squeeze the pennies out of you at every corner, with the Park seeming sometimes rather like an interactive mall. Each shop from the film finds a slot down these paths. You can buy a wand from Ollivander’s as in the first film, they’ll even let the wand ‘choose you’ as in the film, though it does so for . Then every other item of memorabilia from the film’s mise en scen is available in these stores, robes, scarves, golden snitches, so forth. It seems young Potter’s greatest spell is the money making one.
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