Hogwarts Castle image

Universal Orlando is set to confirm today that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure will officially open on June 18, 2010.

The opening date (broken by the Orlando Sentinel) is later than many expected, given that Universal is still selling Harry Potter-themed vacation packages with arrivals from May 28. However, for such a major opening there is still a strong possibility of a "soft opening" period ahead of the official grand opening date - with the key Memorial Day weekend (May 29-30) an obvious target. An official announcement is due at 12pm EST today.

The Sentinel reports that Universal has stated that those who have booked Potter vacation packages prior to June 18 will receive everything promised. However, this does not necessarily include rides on the Wizarding World attractions. Though Universal touts early entry to the new land as part of the packages on its website, the small print reveals that if "the opening of an attaction is delayed another Universal's Islands of Adventure attraction will open for Early Park Admission." Nevertheless, it would be a public relations disaster for the company if excited fans are denied a chance to experience the Potter rides and a limited soft opening still seems likely.

Universal has revealed a few extra details of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the only all-new attraction to feature in the $200 million Wizarding World. The ride is located in the area's centrepiece, Hogwarts Castle, and reporters taken through the under-construction queue-line saw a number of previously-unannounced elements on Wednesday.

As well as passing through indoor areas of the castle and an outdoor section based on the greenhouse seen in the Potter movies, waiting riders will encounter talking portraits and the headmaster of Hogwarts school - Professor Dumbledore. The portraits will use artificial intelligence technology similar to the Mr Potato Head character seen in the queue system for Disney's Toy Story Mania, enabling them to converse with guests. Meanwhile, Dumbledore will be presented as a life-like character using an as-yet unknown technique.

Few new details have been released on the ride itself, although Universal has finally confirmed the use of robotic arm technology similar to that seen in Epcot's Sum of All Thrills attraction. Although speculation has centered on the use of the technology to simulate a broomstick flight, the Sentinel reports seeing "enchanted benches" with over-the-shoulder harnesses.

The ride's plot will be based on Hogwarts opening to "muggle" visitors for the first time - making the queue itself a part of the story. While touring the castle, guests will encounter Harry Potter and fellow characters Hermione and Ron - all played by the stars of the Potter movies. The storyline will then take in a game of "quidditch", an encounter with Demontors and a trip into the Forbidden Forest.

Though the ride itself is likely to last just minutes, Universal's Mark Woodbury told the Sentinel that he expects the entire experience to last about an hour. This will include the Hogwarts walk-through, and a pre-show "safety briefing" in the Gryffindor Common Room.

Other details revealed by the Sentinel's story include confirmation that the area will not feature any walk-around Potter characters, and that Hogwarts Station (close to the Hogwarts Express train) will house lockers for the rethemed Dragon Challenge rollercoasters.

You can keep up to date with the latest confirmed and rumored opening dates for new attractions through Theme Park Tourist's "New Attraction Watch" section, and by signing up for our weekly newsletter.


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