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Universal orlando, 2010


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  • Universal orlando, 2010


    I am currently sitting at my desk drinking a glass of pumpkin juice, the last remnants from my fantastic tour of Orlando's new "theme park within a theme park."

    Ignore any other ridiculous BS, naysars, and haters. Harry Potter is the best thing to happen to a theme park since New Orleans Square in Disneyland CA. This giant trip report will be divided into multiple parts, the first of which a review of the Hogsmeade in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

    okay then... before I get ahead of myself, I will begin by saying the atmosphere is amazing, above and beyond any other theme park. From the moment you step into the land you are immersed in Hogsmeade. Steam rises from the Hogwarts express, which seams to have just pulled into the Hogsmeade station. The entire land is unbelievable.



    Everything in Potter had a line. HP and the Forbidden Journey had a two hour wait throughout the day, while Dragon Challenge and the Flight of the hipporgriph sported a half hour wait throughout the day. There was a 3 1/2 hour wait just to get in the land if you weren't staying at the hotel and didn't arrive at the park an hour before opening when I went, but opening day had a 7 hour wait just to get inside. Honeydukes had about an half hour line just to get into the gift shop, while the line for Butterbear was at least 45 minutes from the minute the park opened. Olivanders, an interactive wand choosing experience, had an hour wait, while Dervish and banks had a 45 minute wait as well. The Hogshead, a small pub to get Butter Bear and Pumpkin Juice tended to have a 20 minute wait, while the Three Broomsticks had a 45 minute wait. Keep in mind, Universal did have crowds in mind--even the shops have detailed queues with interactive pots and pans for the Three Broomsticks, levitating wand window displays in Olivanders, etc. Obviously, the park is a huge success. I spoke with the cashiers at Honeydukes about an hour after the park closed, while the land was still relatively busy, and they said that every 1,000 purchases, they need to empty the cash register--this happened multiple times every hour.


    The staff at the Wizarding World was exceptional--everyone stayed in theme and they were very nice and made any waits enjoyable. They were true "cast members." Everyone enjoyed their part and seemed to be excited to work at the Wizarding World. A few girls at honeydukes, late after closing, also gave a "harry potter trivia quiz," asking questions they were asked as well to test their knowledge of Harry Potter should they be faced with ruthless fans. The trickiest question was probably "Name the number of the vaut in which the sorcerer's stone is stored in Book 1. The cast members, or whatever they are called, made our day very enjoyable, and they were excited, fun, and relatable, not steril and unthemed.


    The Window displays put Main Street to shame. Each display had something unique about them--a witches dress made of tape measures and other designing tools with a purring kitten fashioned the same way, a levitating wand--no strings attached, full on mock shops, busy with stacked up pots and pans or scribbling quills, skeletons that tip their hats to passer byers, Quidditch gear, complete with a flying snitch, moving Owls, sorting hats, screaming mandrakes (plants), "howler" cards, growling books, and so much more. The shops too were decked out with details, from hanging ears in Zonkos, to Mr. something's licorice, were guests see how wizard candy is made, attacking chess boards, floating Nimbus 2,000 broom sticks, house elves, and a snarling hog's head. Best of all--all the food and merchandise was specifically personalised, from the well crafted original wizard-esq. toys at Zonkos, to the Butterbeer--which is unlike anything you have ever tasted. You can't find the merchandise and food anywhere else, unlike at Disney World, where each shop sells exactly the same thing, and the shops are only differentiated by their facades, like a department store.

    Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey full review coming soon...

  • #2
    Re: Universal orlando, 2010


    Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

    HPFJ is the best ride. period. This ride is a culmination of years of theme park design, innovation, theatrics, suspense, and story telling. I rode the ride nine times, 3 of which going through the full line, the rest single rider. I am addicted. The technology is brilliant, the average guest truly feels as though they are flying, thanks to the robotic arm, no exposed suspending poles, gears, and wires, or even screen edges like on Soarin'.


    The line is just as detailed as the ride, the later half of the line is part of the entire experience itself. Although the land is very crowded, the ride fortunetly has a terrific capacity. Every 5 seconds it seamed a car of four guests left from the speedramp style load (think Haunted Mansion.) When compared to Haunted Mansion, previously my favorite ride, the cars are further part, a bit less than a car apart, however the belt overall moves faster, with 4 people per car, as opposed to one or two. I figure it has a capacity of +2,200, better than most rides.

    The line moves the entire time, so it is not nearly as bad as it seams. The line begins by weaving through the dungeons under the castle--this is where all loose articles are stored, the single rider line begins, and the future Expresspass queue starts. Guests see props from the movie like the Mirror of Erised, statue of the one eyed witch, etc. Here the line is on par with the catacombs of Indiana Jones Adventure. The line opens up the the greenhouse, the tedios uphill switchback section of the line, decorated with overgrown magical plants and tables from Proff. Sprout's herbolitry class. After weaving up a story, the line enters the castle once again for the good part of the queue, a tour of Hogwarts. You begin by walking down a hall with more statues and tapestries before coming to the statue seen guarding the Headmaster's quarters (sp.) We continue into the portrait hall, with very well done moving portraits that discuss wizard matters and more. Most of you have probably heard about this. We continue to Dumbledore's chamber, where the lifelike holograms speak to us, before visiting the Defense against the Dark Arts room where Harry, Ron, and Hermoine brief us on how they plan to get us out of Proff. Bin's lecture on the history of Hogwarts. Their are several different variations of this segment, which involve different effects caused by a misfired spell, including a thunder storm and snow. Further down, we enter the Gryffindor common room through the Fat Lady's portrait, another well executed effect. More portraits tell us about the Flying Benches, which appear dangerous. The sorting hat finally gives us some last advise before its off to the Room of Requirements where we board our enchanted benches...


    Firstly you must note the ride is NOT Soarin', nor "Sum of all Thrills" or anything else it has been accused with. The ride immersed you inside the individual imax screens during the projection carousels, a set of six pint sized screens that immerse you as they follow your car. The ride begins with a upflight section, a projection, then into a small scene. The first carousel follows, followed by a long corridor of live sets, than another projection carousel, than another long corridor, than one last carousel, before going through the finale projections and downflight section. Elaborate scenes are woven between the carousels. The projections are just as great as the live sets. Just those scenes are better than Soarin', because of the Kuka arms advanced movements, it really sells the exhilarating flying sensation. I loved the flying over Hogwarts sections greatly, just as much as the giant Kuka arm animatronic Womping Willow that wallows you with its branches. The scenes go as follows: (scenes that are projection carousels are italicized while the live sets are bold, the rest are projections.There is a stable ration between the three.)

    Astronomy Tower
    Flying to the Quidditch Match/attacked by dragon
    Dragon Attacks
    Forbidden Forest: Spiders
    Womping Willow
    Quidditch Match/Dementors
    Chamber of Secrets: Dementors, basalisk, Dark Mark
    expecto patronum! Fending off the dementors, flying back to Hogwarts
    Great Hall/Staircase--Farewell

    The Enchanted benches briskly move through the large room of requirements, dominated by large mirrors and floating candles. Assisting Wizards and Witches wish us well on our journey as we climb into those comfortable benches, complete with OHR's. The car drifts down toward the end of the wall as more cast members check our restraints and wish us farewell (this is also the last minute point when those who have somehow managed to still get on the ride who are... err... big boned... are quickly rushed out of their seats. As you drift down the hall, staring at the mirror with oil lamps across from you, Hermoine suddenly calls for you. You see her standing above on a balcony about to cast a spell on you. This uses a Pepper's ghost effect I believe. With a wave of the wand, you are off. A puff of smoke sends you away and your car begins to levitate above the ground. For me this is the most magical part, the effect could not have been done better. The wonderful John William's score comes on as you ascend through chimneys as you go up and up. Your bench then enters the Astronomy Tower where Harry excitedly shouts "You did it--They're flying!" As he says this, you see is shadow on a broom stick dart across the very detailed Astronomy Tower Room as your benches hover many feet above the ground. You go out the window and into the first projection carousel. You see Harry and Ron guiding you around Hogwarts, until you come upon Hagrid, who asks you if you've seen a Dragon. Again, the effects are so realistic with the movements of the car, and the quality of the images, it feels so real. Plus, giant fans blow wind at you to create the free sensation of flying. Suddenly the Dragon appears and begins to appear. You get chased through the grounds until flying back into the castle....

    Part II coming once I get some rest...

    Till then, thanks for reading!


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