The magic that breathes life into the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter is powered by cutting-edge technology.
ORLANDO – It’s been four years since Harry Potter changed the theme park experience with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Universal Orlando Resort. Over that time, technology has advanced, allowing the team at Universal Creative to build rides that further immerse fans into the world of Harry Potter. On July 8, the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley doubles the size of the interactive Harry Potter experience. With two new rides and a dozen interactive wand stations, there’s plenty to keep fans busy while strolling the streets and shops of J.K. Rowling’s world come to life.
“We always rely on new technology to bring experiences that our guests have never felt before and since we opened Hogsmeade four years ago, we were able to get some brand new technology to bring some of the great stories that were in Harry Potter films like Diagon Alley and Gringotts to life in such a way that was not possible before,” said Thierry Croup, senior vice president for Universal Creative. “The ride system for Gringotts is a combination of all the greatest ride systems that we’ve done in the past, but combined together with the control systems you can have today with computers that were not fast enough years ago. We can do things today that are unbelievable like getting you to plunge down into this incredible cavern miles underneath London.”
The multi-dimensional, multi-sensory attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride seamlessly integrates a compilation of the most innovative technology ever created, including 360-degree themed sets, 4K digital high-definition animation, state-of-the-art 3-D Infitec projection systems and live special effects with beloved characters and breathtaking moments from the Harry Potter books and films.
“Having 4K ultra high definition availability with our projection systems, we are now able to create a seamless environment by taking physical sets and just transitioning them to digital cinema with these huge screens that we built,” said Eric Hunt, the Universal Creative Producer on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. “The new ride system gives us 360 degrees of freedom, which allows us to transfer a guest into an even more full environment by having more digital screens around us. So wherever we turn there’s something to experience.”
Another new experience for guests is located within walking distance of Gringotts and within the secret confines of King’s Cross Station in the London façade of the new themed park. Aboard a full-scale train, the Hogwarts Express experience combines original storytelling, live special effects, lifelike animation and state-of-the-art technology to take riders on a magical physical journey between London and Hogsmeade, and back. Passengers can enjoy two completely different experiences depending on whether they’re traveling to Hogsmeade or London.
Once seated in the cabin, guests will be able to look out their windows at an incredibly authentic and magical adventure unfolds before them. They’ll see Hagrid come alongside the train on his flying motorbike, Buckbeak the Hippogriff swoop gracefully over the black lake, the Weasley twins on brooms and up to their usual antics, the Knight Bus swerving through London traffic – and other special moments and surprises.
“One of the coolest things of course is to be able to ride the Hogwarts Express, which is an exact reproduction down to the finest details like the fabrics inside the train, which is from the same manufacturer that made the fabric back in the ‘50s,” said Croup. “The projection technology allows us to have everything you see outside the window on the train transport you into the film world like the British landscape, the Scottish landscapes, the Malfoy manor and then Hogwarts. All that had to be created so you didn’t feel like you were in Florida anymore. We had to invent a whole production system that is part of the train, so when you look outside the window you can actually lean against the window and see what’s oncoming. This is unheard of. This is very unique technology that we’ve developed here at Universal.”
Those who don’t want to wait in line to ride the two featured attractions can buy a custom wand in Ollivander’s wand shop (there’s a new, larger shop in Diagon Alley complete with an interactive show) and set out to explore the streets and alleys of both Harry Potter worlds. The team at Universal Creative has filled both parks with interactive elements that work with the wands, when coupled with motion sensor tracking motions.
“When you come to Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade you can actually practice your magic,” said Croup. “You can practice your spells by using the map that shows you where all these magical places are. If you do the right spell something magical happens in the window. There are different ones all over the land and even some in Hogsmeade Village.”
Universal’s Creative team worked closely with Warner Bros., Stuart Craig and the production team from the Harry Potter films to create both parks. But it’s obvious when checking out the four-year-old Hogsmeade and its Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride (which is still entertaining), just how far technology has come. The Creative team has gone to great lengths to ensure the new experiences are true to the books and films. And it means the film world will live on forever in a 3D real-life experience that’s simply magical.