The gates of Hogwarts await families visiting Universal Studios Hollywood’s new The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. // © 2016 David Sprague/ Universal Studios Hollywood
Feature image (above): Opening day celebrations at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood // © 2016 Mike Danenberg/ Universal Studios Hollywood
Hollywood just got a little more magical with the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles. The third Hogsmeade village in Universal’s Wizarding World (the others are at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando and Universal Studios Japan) features a few new tricks.
Most noticeably at the Hollywood studios, the signature attraction, “Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey,” is the most technologically advanced of the three locations. For the first time, riders don Quidditch-inspired goggles for a hyper-realistic, 3-D-HD 360-degree high-flying adventure with Harry and his friends inside the iconic Hogwarts Castle.
Thierry Coup, senior vice president of Universal Creative — the research and development group that designs attractions for Universal Parks & Resorts — and his team revisited the original film footage shot in 2008 and were able to enhance the action sequences even further using 3-D technology.
“Each scene was completely enhanced to allow guests to feel like they are right with the actors,” Coup said.
The team also took the opportunity to take the ride to the next level in Hollywood by expanding the sets and scenery within the castle.
“We keep striving for the ultimate immersive experience,” Coup said. “And I think we were able to achieve it.”
The added appeal of Forbidden Journey is that the line itself is an attraction — so even when riders are waiting, they are part of the story. Park guests who have visited the attraction in Orlando will notice that the queue in Hollywood has some different elements, including a completely new greenhouse. For visitors who do not want to ride, a “walk through” option is available to experience the magic of Hogwarts with no broomsticks required.
“Bringing Forbidden Journey to Hollywood was a pretty big adventure, and taking the high bar that we had set and finding ways to enhance that was a pretty considerable challenge,” said Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative.
According to Woodbury, Universal Studios Hollywood will be the only park with a 3-D version of the attraction for the foreseeable future.
But it’s not only Forbidden Journey that has been enhanced in Hollywood. Hogsmeade Village has a few magical secrets, too. First, there’s a completely new street located just past the Owlery that does not exist in the other two versions. There are also props from the original films scattered around the village.
Alan Gilmore, supervising art director for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and art director for all eight Harry Potter films, notes that the designers didn’t put signs on the props because they want park guests to feel like they are in the world of Harry Potter, not visiting a museum. However, Gilmore reveals that the train compartment in Hogsmeade station contains the actual luggage racks from the movie set, and that the original school desks and chalkboard from the Dark Arts set can be found inside Hogwarts Castle.
“Harry Potter is a modern classic that really touches people’s hearts,” Woodbury said. “It’s truly amazing to see the reactions of guests as they come through the gates of Hogsmeade and experience stepping into the movies and books that they love.”