It seems kind of counte-rintuitive to use a plane to promote
But that's exactly what the Universal Orlando Resort did earlier this week.
They jetted James & Oliver Phelps (AKA the two talented Brits who played
Fred & George Weasley in the "Harry Potter" film series) all over
the globe. To London, São
Paulo and New York City,
to be specific.
But then again, James & Oliver weren't talking up just
any locomotive. This was the Hogwarts Express experience that the Phelps
brothers were helping to hype. An authentic recreation of the train that Harry
Potter & his friends used whenever they traveled from London
to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment / NBCUniversal. All rights reserved
Starting later this summer, visitors to the Universal Orlando Resort will be
able to do just what that boy wizard did in all of those books & movies.
They'll first enter a replica of King's Cross Station. Where -- after passing
through what appears to be a solid brick wall -- these folks will then find
themselves standing on Platform 9 3/4.
Where they'll then watch as the Hogwarts Express rolls into the station with
steam billowing & its familiar whistle blowing.
At that point, it's time to walk past all of the loaded-down
luggage carts & trolleys piled high with cages full of magical creatures
and then board the train itself. Guests in groups of eight will enter one of
the train's cabins.
From there, after the Hogwarts Express actually pulls out of
the station, Universal Orlando visitors will be able to look out their cabin
window and see the British countryside rolling by. Though -- if they're
watching closely -- these people will also be able to catch glimpses of some
very familiar things from the Harry Potter world. Items like Rubeus Hagrid,
Hogwarts' gamekeeper zooming by on his flying motorcycle or a swarm of
dementors swooping in to menace the train.
At the end of this six minute-long journey, Guests will then
be able to get off at Hogsmeade Station. Where -- just a few steps away -- is
the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Which has been wowing Universal's
Islands of Adventure visitors since it first opened in June of 2010.
Mind you, what's really wild about this soon-to-open transportation system is
that -- if you climb aboard the Hogwarts Express at Hogsmeade Station to make
the trip back to Platform 9 3/4 & King's Cross Station -- you'll then get
an entirely different ride experience. As you look your cabin window, you'll
see that Hagrid has come down to the station to see you off. Better yet, as the
train rolls around Black Lake
and Hogwarts Castle
fades in the distance, Buckbeak the hippogriff flies into view. And then -- as
you roll through the Scottish countryside -- Fred & George Weasley fly by
your cabin window and set off a firework display. And as a special final treat,
just before you pull into King's Cross Station, you get to see the Knight Bus
magically weaves its way through London
And the best part of the Hogwarts Express experience is that
it's not just a transportation system. It actually provides connective
narrative tissue between the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at
Universal Studios Florida and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon
Alley over at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Thereby creating something
that's truly unique in theme park circles: a two park, one story, truly
authentic experience that will then immerse Guests in a highly detailed world
that celebrates this much-beloved series of books & films.
As you might expect, getting all of the details right on the
Hogwarts Express experience took some doing. Members of Universal Creative
(i.e. the arm of NBCUniversal which actually designs all of the rides, shows
and attractions for the Universal theme parks) spent months over in the UK
riding around on that country's rail system in their effort to replicate
They even went so far as to chase down the company that
distributed the fabric which was used to make seat cushions for trains similar
to the Hogwarts Express. All with the thought that -- when Universal Orlando
visitors climb into that train cabin -- everything around them, right down to
the bolts in the walls, tells these people that they're now in the world of
Which -- I know -- makes it sound like Universal Creative is
going completely going over-the-top when it comes to attention to detail. But
to hear Mark Woodbury -- the president of Universal Creative -- talk, this is
just the sort of thing that Harry Potter fans have now come to expect from the
Universal Orlando Resort.
Copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment. NBCUniversal. All rights reserved
"When we opened the original Wizarding World back in
2010, the Harry Potter fans really came out in force. But we also created a
whole new bunch of fans for the Universal Orlando Resort in the process because
we executed Hogsmeade Village
& Hogwarts Castle
at such a high level," Woodbury explained. "And with what we've been
about to do with our Hogwarts Express experience -- not to mention Diagon Alley
& the Gringotts ride & Nocturn Alley -- I think that we're well on our
way to doing that again."
Just so you now though: All Universal Orlando visitors who
are looking to board the Hogwarts Express and then travel between Diagon Alley
& Hogsmeade Village (or visa versa) will need a park-to-park ticket. Which
would then allow these people to visit both of Universal's Central
Florida theme parks.
Also, it's important to note here that Universal Orlando
guests will not be able to stay on the Hogwarts Express once it rolls into
Hogsmeade Station or King Cross Station. If they wish to experience what the
other half of this journey is like with its live special effects & lifelike
animation, these Central Florida visitors will just have
to get off the train, exit the station and then get back in line. The Hogwarts
Express experience will not feature a roundtrip option.
It's also worth noting that Universal Orlando guests who are exploring The
Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley and then wish to take the train
over to Hogsmeade Village
& Hogwarts Castle
are going to first have to exit Diagon Alley and then walk past USF's London
facade area before entering King's Cross Station. Likewise Central
Florida visitors who are traveling from IOA's Hogsmeade Station to
Platform 9 3/4 will not be able to walk straight from the train into Diagon
Alley. They must first exit King's Cross Station, walk past the London
facade area before entering the Leaky Cauldron.
"And why is that?," you ask. Because "Harry
Potter" author J.K. Rowling insisted that Universal Orlando guests had to
have the exact same experience that Harry did when he first visited Diagon
Alley. And that involves having the back brick wall of this centuries-old pub
magically fold in on itself and then reveal this secret wizard shopping
district hidden from Muggle eyes right in the middle of London.
"J.K. Rowling has been a great partner since we did the
original Potter -- Hogsmeade & Hogwarts," Woodbury continued. "So
when we went to her with this idea that we could not only build Diagon Alley
and bring that experience to life with the same level of detail &
authenticity which she now had great confidence in our ability to do, but that
we would connect the two with the Hogwarts Express and do it in this very
innovative, immersive way, I think that she was thrilled with that. More to the
point, Jo was always there for us when it came time to evolve this concept and
refine it along the way."
Copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment/ NBCUniversal.All rights reserved
So when should you plan on hopping a plane to Orlando
so that you can then experience the Hogwarts Express? Universal Orlando
officials aren't willing to go on the record just yet as when the Wizarding
World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley will officially be opening. While they
hope to make a formal announcement of a specific opening date sometime over the
next few weeks, as of right now, all Universal Orlando will say right now is
that look for the magic to begin this summer.