Wizarding World of Harry Potter soft opening is spotty, preview show posted online by NBC

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Members of the general public wanting to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this weekend were lucky on Saturday but not so lucky on Sunday at Islands of Adventure theme park. On Saturday, the public was let in about 9 a.m. for a couple of hours in a routine seen several times last week. On Sunday, the general public was never let in.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Watch the preview show for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on NBC.com.

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eightdotthree's avatar

I was at the resort this weekend and got to go in twice, take lots of photos and ride the ride twice. Everything about it rocks.

eightdotthree's avatar

Also, if you're interested in following along with the soft openings you can check out the hashtag #potterwatch on Twitter.

Jeff's avatar

So where is the "spoiler alert" trip report? :)

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

eightdotthree's avatar

It's coming. Need to go through my photos tonight.

eightdotthree said:
It's coming.

It's headed right for us!

With the kind of problems they've been having, I am surprised that they have yet to do a day of soft opening beyond 11-noon to work with the ride in a situation where they need to get it back up and running ASAP from bouts of downtime. I don't believe Three Broomsticks has had to deal with a meal changeover yet, either. If they still haven't done any kind of extended soft opening by the 18th I have a feeling it will still be in a soft opening situation for quite a while with its issues. It would definitely be a killer to have the star of the show close down for half the day or more after just running until 10am successfully.

Now, with that said, Forbidden Journey is definitely the best attraction in Orlando in my opinion. Without a doubt the best thing at Universal (not just my personal judgement, what I've heard from a lot of guests every morning that I've been there for the soft openings). And Butterbeer is quite tasty. :)

Original BlueStreak64

short TR with Spoilers. You've been warned.

Was at the Univ Resort 6/4-6/6. Not sure if it's the economy or the result of a bad winter causing extended school calendars, but the parks were noticeably empty. I was expecting larger crowds, but most rides were walk-ons after 6 pm, including Spiderman, etc., with even Rip Ride Rockit only being 20 min at peak time on Saturday.

If you're a fan of the books, you will probably soil yourself. If you've only seen the movies, or don't care about HP, you'll still be impressed. We spent the full 3.5 hours on Saturday just wandering the village after getting 2 quick rides on HPatFJ. The amount of detail (and HP items) tucked into this is overwhelming. Complete Immersion is the only phrase my jaded crew could come up with.

Wizarding World: It really is all that! Universal has outdone Disney in this one area. The ride is technically the most advanced thing I've ever been on (no surprise), and some of the effects are really amazing. The whole concept is 10+ from the moment you round the corner into Hogsmeade and see the Hogwarts Express, down to the minutiae and HP icons and artifacts hidden in the shop windows.

The film sequences and Kuka arm movements are really well done. It's not uber-dynamic, in fact I thought it was overall too smooth, but you do get thrown on your back several times, never inverted but perhaps a bit past horizontal. However, as Kevin Yee wrote in his review, the most amazing part of this attraction is how close it gets into your face. This isn't staring into an omnimax dome like Horizons or Back to the Future, but a "personal dome" for each bench, smacked right against your bench, to give you an amazingly long sequence, that afterwards left me with the "how the F did they do that." (riding in an outside seat unfortunately lets you see how it was done). Animatronics get well within the normal "envelope of safety", and your interaction with the spiders and Dragon are extremely up close. You've not encountered a dark ride like this before.

The finale though is really weak tea. The run in with the dementors is poorly animated on the film, too fast to really grasp what is happening, and the animatronics looked, not cheap, but certainly not scary. The "fog film screen" didn't work the first day, and while improving the finale, the whole thing left me wishing that part was a bit more aggressive.

That said, the whole thing is simply amazing as a complete, start to finish, queue to gift shop themed experience. Universal hit a home run.

You must be brutally aggressive on the loading platform to get the two middle seats on the 4 seat flying bench. Those two have almost no ability to see beyond what you are supposed to see, and the immersion is complete. the two outside seats have 2 bad spots where you can see other Kuka arms, and a bad break in switch from film to scenery.

The queue itself is Dueling Dragons amped up by several orders of magnitude. Right now Universal has the queue stocked with tons of employees, all in costume and in character as prefects, that really add to the thought that you are touring Hogwarts. The talking portraits are really good, and the two main rooms with "exposition" for the story line are really good.

The retheme to Dueling Dragons is a light overlay, and the new differences are minimal. They have removed most of the "dragon lair" references, and it's all minor stuff about the tri-wizard tournament. Not criticizing, but they've done a minimal overlay here, as not much was truly needed, as the queue was already stunning. They have removed the "story" window in the first main room.

interesting note: When they close the WWoHP after the morning trial run, they close the main queue for Dragon's Challenge, take down two signs, then route everyone through the exist so that they can enjoy "Dueling Dragons". Yep,they remove all the HP theming in the last bits of the queue, and it's still DD to the GP, and there is a sign for DD with the old DD logo still hanging in Lost Continent.

You've been warned:
I went to the early Technical previews for IOA 10 years ago and the same thing will repeat itself here, in that Universal themes crap to within an inch of its life, but they dont' take into account the wear and tear, and or what is within the grasp of dumbasses. Already there are two statues in the HPatFJ attraction that are too close to the queue and people were touching, hanging on it, etc. Those won't last, and two stunning pieces of scenery will be lost for the ages, as well as the story telling that goes with it.

Also, there are several neat items tucked away in the shop windows that, once they break down, will never be fixed or maintained. It's amazing now, new and out of the box, but I doubt they are going to pay to maintain it. I hope so, but it would be contrary to past practice.

Hope this was worth the time to read

LostKause's avatar

Thanks, Creditwh0re! It was well worth the time to read.

Some other random points, now that I've finished work for the day:

Again, Spoilers, read at own risk:

The butterbeer is great, I preferred the "on-tap" to the frozen, though it too was worth the $4.25. The Pumpkin Juice tasted like a liquid pumpkin pie, but at $6.25 for a 20 oz bottle, (with a plastic crap pumpkin on the top) I thought it wasn't worth the value.

I can't stress enough how cool the theming is in the village, perhaps to the detriment of the experience. The shops are tight, crammed, and look just like the movies. There is a point at which I had to walk outside because it was just too damn much. Imagine the last saturday before christmas in the mall, but now you're in a theme park, with people (like myself) just gawking at the crap. Again, total immersion.

The casual Potter fan will enjoy it, but the uber-Potter nerds will go crazy with the easter eggs hidden in the village shop windows. little things, just on display with no reference made about them, nothing that says "this is the time turning locket that Hermione wore in move 2 (or 3).

It's not a movie park, it's designed to BE Hogsmeade.

Slight continuity errors that Potter nerds will obsess over: The Shops from Diagon Alley are represented in Hogsmeade, two distinct locations in the books, but it's simply overlooked here.

In the HPatFJ ride, the storyline in the castle queue is that Hermione has charmed the flying bench for you to fly to see a quidditch match. However, the first thing she does is throw down some "floo powder" (unexplained in the ride) and you go through the "floo network" to your first location.

It was only the 2nd ride that I caught this, and it in no way affects the ride, other than you have no idea what the first 10 seconds of film are showing you other than you are somehow traveling somewhere.

Favorite gag: Moaning Myrtle talks in the loo. Yep, taking a whizz and here comes Myrtle's voice. priceless.

The costumes are great, (although I fear for the workers outside who are wearing woolen House Elf caps, and the dragon handlers at Dragons Challenge are wearing overalls, etc, (rugged looking heavy clothes). I was dying in shorts and a t-shirt in the 97 degree weather, I can only imagine how that will go over day after day.

At the end of the morning, there were a crew of employees asking people to give opinions of the experience. Typical multiple choice, computer screen feedback survey, but some interesting things I noticed:

How does it compare to other marquee attractions in town, specifically Everest and Manta.
Numerous questions about whether HPatFJ was too scary, not scary enough, and whether it was smooth enough or too smooth. (not sure what they can juice up, or tame down, but obviously it's a concern for them).
Several questions about the Butterbeer cart and the pumpkin juice stand. They are treating them as "attractions" (not formally), but they obviously consider these to be part of the immersion.

Sum it up again, it's a huge huge home run. My nephew almost cried when he heard that I got to go there. If they can keep it up and running, and maintained, this will be a goldmine for IOA.

Jeff's avatar

Not to be a jerk, but can we avoid the impossible acronym? Can't we just call it "Forbidden Journey?"

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

eightdotthree's avatar

We were there the same weekend creditwhore, here is my review.]

I feel like this was the nicest I have ever seen the park and it's also the earliest I have been in the park. Their upkeep doesn't match Disney's but the level of detail still had me noticing new things even though this was my fourth visit to the park.

A bar tender said that they normally wouldn't be open that late during this time of year and that it's not quite their busy season. I thought the same thing about the crowds, but it was busier Monday and Tuesday than the previous two days. Almost like the Disney people figured they would wait until the week to go cause it would be slower.

Had a great time as always.

Last edited by eightdotthree,
Mamoosh's avatar

pkidelirium said: It's headed right for us!

Dang...looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

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