Universal Orlando has confirmed that the grand opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will take place at Islands of Adventure on June 18, 2010.
The opening date - towards the end of Universal's original "spring 2010" timeline - 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.
According the Orlando Sentinel, Universal has stated that those who have booked Potter vacation packages prior to June 18 will receive everything promised. However, while Universal's website advertises early rides on the Wizarding World attractions as being included with the packages, the small-print reveals a get-out clause. The clause states that if "the opening of an attaction is delayed another Universal's Islands of Adventure attraction will open for Early Park Admission." Nevertheless, a soft opening in time to welcome the first Potter vacationers remains possible.
In its official press release, Universal has released new 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 inside Hogwarts Castle, the towering structure at the center of the new land.
The ride's plot will be based around the premise that Hogwarts has been opened to "muggle" visitors for the first time, making guests a part of the story. The queue will pass through indoor areas of the castle and an outdoor section based on the greenhouse seen in the Potter movies. To keep guests entertained, they will encounter several "talking portraits" which will use artificial intelligence technology to enable them to converse with guests.
The headmaster of Hogwarts School, Professor Dumbledore, will then welcome guests to the castle - reproduced in life-like form using an as-yet unknown technique. Venturing further into the castle, guests will meet Harry Potter and fellow characters Hermione and Ron - all played by the stars of the Potter movies. The characters persuade riders to miss a planned lecture and follow them instead - leading on to a wild journey.
After a safety lecture in the Gryffindor common room, riders will head to the Room of Requirement where they will board an "enchanted bench". Although previous rumors had suggested that the ride would simulate a broomstick flight, instead the benches (featuring over-the-shoulder restraints) will carry riders on an adventure taking in a "quidditch" match, encounters with Demontors and the Whomping Willow and a trip into the Forbidden Forest.
Universal says the ride will involve a combination of "live-action, advanced robotic technology and innovative filmmaking". This is believed to include the use of robotic arm technology similar to that seen in Epcot's Sum of All Thrills attraction. In addition, riders will be "enveloped" in video scenes that will "move with" them in a way not scene on any previous attraction.
Though the ride itself is likely to last just minutes, Universal claims that the entire experience (including the queue) will last about an hour. In total, 12 scenes will be included in the attraction and characters featured from the movies include Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Albus Dumbledore, Rubeus Hagrid and Draco Malfoy.
Other details revealed earlier by the Orlando Sentinel's story include confirmation that the Wizarding World 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.