The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley opened at Universal Studios Florida back in July 2014, and has already welcomed millions of visitors. It takes Universal Orlando guests into the magical London shopping street, and is also connected to the original Wizarding World over at Islands of Adventure by a high-tech recreation of the Hogwarts Express.
Just like Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley is packed with little tributes to the books and movies that inspired the area. As you race from shop to shop and attraction to attraction, it can be easy to overlook these. That’s why we’ve created this handy list to help you spot some of the best easter eggs to look out for.
Let us know of any we’ve missed in the comments section!
Spoiler warning: There are no major plot spoilers for the Hogwarts Express or Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts in this article, but if you don’t want to know anything about how the rides work, then avoid numbers 21 – 30.
1. The Quint Trio
There are tributes to the former Jaws attraction (which sat for 22 years on the same site as Diagon Alley before its closure in 2012) scattered throughout the new Wizarding World.
One of these can be found in the London Waterfront area, where you’ll find a nondescript record store. Displayed in the window is a record titled “Here’s to Swimmin’ with Bow Legged Women”, by the Quint Trio. This is a reference to a toast made by shark hunter Quint in Steven Spielberg’s movie.
2. A familiar tune
While attempting to track down the shark in Jaws, the three heroes sing “Show Me the Way to Go Home”. This song is among those performed by the shrunken heads that are on display in Knockturn Alley.
3. The shark jawbones
You can find another Jaws reference in the storefront of Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary. A set of shark jawbones is hidden away behind a variety of herbs and potions.
4. A mythical being
The mythical Crumple-Horned Snorkack beloved of Luna Lovegood can be spotted on the second level of the Magical Menagerie store.
5. Speaking in tongues
In the window of the Magical Menagerie store is a snake, which will speak to you in Parseltongue and English.
6. An invisible bird
If you listen closely to the Vanishing Cabinet in Borgin and Burkes, you’ll hear a bird chirping away inside.
7. A familiar face
Kreacher, the surly house elf who resides at 12 Grimmauld Place, can be spotted in the façade of the Blacks’ home. Keep an eye on the windows, and you’ll see him peering out every now and then.
8. Too big to hide
Not quite all of Diagon Alley is hidden from the rest of Universal Studios Florida. Sit down for a bite to eat in Springfield, and you’ll be able to see the tail of the dragon that sits atop Gringotts Wizarding Bank.
9. Instant darkness
Look up at the second floor of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and you’ll spot Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, used by Harry to sneak into Draco Malfoy’s train compartment in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
10. The fireworks display
Look up at the skylight in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and you’ll see a perpetual fireworks display.
11. The ingredients of a good wand
The windows of Diagon Alley’s branch of Ollivanders are packed with details. This includes items such as phoenix feathers, dragon heartstrings and unicorn hairs – all essential items that are used to create wands. Harry Potter and Voldemort’s wands both featured phoenix feathers from the same bird, Hermione’s wand has a dragon heartstring at its core and Ron’s wand is built around unicorn hair.
12. The club pennants
Take a look at the windows above the Quality Quidditch Supplies store. These feature pennants from the teams seen in the movies, including Puddlemere United, the Chudley Cannons, the Montrose Magpies and the Holyhead Harpies.
13. Not just for show
The sign on the front of the Leaky Cauldron restaurant actually leaks water.
14. The hidden spells
Not all of the spell locations for the interactive wands that are on sale in Diagon Alley are marked on the map. Two such unmarked spells can be found in the storefront of the Slug and Jiggers Apothecary on Diagon Alley, while another can be found in the right-hand window of Scribbulus Writing Implements on Horizont Alley.
15. Dark magic
The Knockturn Alley section of the spells map must be placed under black light in order to see the spell illustrations. Fortunately, Knockturn Alley itself is filled with black lights.
16. The “magical” wands
The technology behind the interactive wands is actually deceptively simple, and is based on infrared light. Each wand is equipped with a reflective tip, covered by a filter. These reflect infrared light emitted by lights attached to cameras that are pointed at the spell-casting locations, enabling a computer program to track the reflected light and ascertain that the spell has been performed correctly.
17. Haven’t I seen that ad before?
In Kings Cross Station, you’ll see a perfume advertisement that looks very similar to the one Harry and Professor Dumbledore stand by in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
18. All aboard
You might recognize one passenger who is waiting on the Kings Cross platform – Hedwig, Harry Potter’s owl.
19. Call the Ministry
The traditional red phone booth outside Kings Cross isn’t just for show. If you dial 62442 (MAGIC) using the phone, you’ll be connected to the Ministry of Magic.
20. A tetchy goblin
Try asking the animatronic goblin in the Gringotts Money Exchange if he is a house elf, and see what kind of response you get…
Spoiler warning: There are no major plot spoilers on this page, but if you don’t want to know anything about how Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express work, stop reading now.
21. Bill’s microscope
In Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, sitting on Bill Weasley’s desk is the microscope that Bill uses in the pre-show portion of the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
22. The moving picture
In the pre-show for the Gringotts ride, look out for a moving picture frame showing the Weasley family in Egypt, seen in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
23. Big screens
Some 17,000 square feet of projection surfaces are used within the Gringotts attraction. The screens were built by Winter Garden, Florida-based Phoenix Rising, with the largest being 110 feet in circumference, 45 feet high and with a vertical and horizontal radius of nearly 55 feet. The surfaces are coated with Goo Systems Global’s Screen Goo, a specially formulated, highly-reflective acrylic paint that allows any smooth paintable surface to be transformed into a high performance projection screen.
Filling the enormous screens is a task that is beyond even modern high-definition projectors. Instead, a number of projectors are combined together in order to increase the total resolution of the image. The images from the different projectors are overlapped, with the images being visually joined together using edge blending. This technique involves varying the brightness of the overlapping image regions in order to ensure that they appear to be a single, seamless image to those viewing them.
24. Not so steamy after all
All the steam puffing out of the Hogwarts Express trains is strictly for show (and it’s quite a show). The trains are not powered by good old-fashioned coal, but instead work more like a funicular railway of the type that usually runs up and down a steep hillside like this one in Fribourg, Switzerland:
There are no engines on-board the two Hogwarts Express trains. Instead, they are pulled along by a cable, driven by a motor that is (presumably) housed at one of the two stations. The system was built by funicular railways specialist Doppelmayr, who boast: "Hiding behind the detailed reproduction of the renowned steam train is a modern funicular ropeway constructed by the world market leader in ropeway engineering."
25. Just one track
There may be two trains travelling back and forth between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, but that doesn’t mean there are two separate tracks for them to run on. Instead, both trains share a single track – except for one point in the middle, where they are able to pass each other.
Flanged wheels on the outboard side of the trains follow the outer rail, whereas unflanged wheels on the inboard side stick to the opposite rail, enabling the two cars to pass each other. A similar split section from another Doppelmayr funicular is shown above.
26. Heading the wrong way
You’ll have noticed, of course, that there’s nowhere for the two trains to turn around (and, given the cable system employed by the ride, that would be impossible anyway). What does that mean? Simple – you travel in reverse from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley.
27. Fake wheels
Those massive, “steam-driven” wheels you see when you climb aboard the Hogwarts Express are another show element – they’re fake. The actual wheels of the train are hidden underneath.
Interestingly, the fake wheels only exist on one side of the train. The other side doesn’t have them, as you can see if you check out these aerial photos from Pixels at the Parks.
28. The “3D” windows
You’ve probably guessed that the windows of the Hogwarts Express compartments are not actually real, and that you aren’t really looking out at the British countryside. In fact, hidden beyond the fake windows is a decidedly unattractive backstage area of Universal Orlando.
What you may not have figured out, though, is how those fake windows provide such an impression of depth, even though you’re not wearing 3D glasses. The answer is that the edges of the display are curved, helping to overcome the impression that you’re just staring at a high-definition monitor (which, essentially, you are).
29. Platform 9 ¾
With the Hogwarts Express trains looking suitably authentic, the two stations closely resembling their movie counterparts, and the journey having been created, there was still one more challenge facing Universal Creative. In the movies, Harry and his friends enter the hidden Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross by running directly through a brick wall. This memorable effect would have to be recreated in the Wizarding World’s new attraction. But how?
In the end, Universal accepted that actually having guests pass through a brick wall was not practical. Instead, they devised a neat effect for the benefit of waiting riders using the Pepper’s Ghost technique that dates back to the 19th century. A sheet of glass sits between those “walking through” the wall and those watching them, built into a large luggage cart. In conjunction with mirrors and lighting and sound effects, this creates the illusion for those watching that guests in front of them are passing through the wall. However, the guest in question actually simply walks through a zig-zag section of queue, with a sound effect playing to indicate that they have passed through onto the mythical platform, ready to begin their magical journey to Hogwarts.
30. Is that really Harry?
You may notice that the voices of Harry and Hermione don’t sound quite right on either of Diagon Alley’s rides. That’s because Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson opted out of reprising their roles.
“A while ago, they asked me to do more stuff for the theme park,” explained Radcliffe in May 2014, “and that was my moment to try and draw a line because that theme park is going to keep expanding, and keep going to more countries, and there’s going to come a point where I’m going to be 30 years old, and if I was still doing that then, that would be a huge problem.”
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