Universal Orlando has made its big reveal, and we know more than we did about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley. But there are still gaps in our knowledge.
The real highlight of Universal's Diagon Alley webcast last week was the chance to see new concept art for the area's rides, shows and restaurants, as well as peeking inside the vaults of Gringotts Bank. We didn't actually learn a lot of new information about the land's two rides, the Hogwarts Express and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
Universal deliberately held back some information about the expansion at Universal Studios Florida. We can expect the company to gradually release more details over the coming months, but in the meantime let's take a look at 5 unanswered questions about Diagon Alley.
5. Will the wands be interactive?
Rumors have been circulating for months that the most popular merchandise item from the original Wizarding World - the wands sold by Ollivanders and the Owl Post - will be taken to a new level in Diagon Alley. According to Theme Park Insider's Robert Niles (the source of several reliable previous leaks about the land), they will be equipped with RFID chips, enabling them to trigger effects and animations at various different points in the land.
Walt Disney World, of course, has already pioneered the use of RFID in its parks with its MagicBands. Niles, though, claims that Universal will push the boundaries further, going beyond simple triggers and enabling the wands to perform additional functions at home, too.
Universal kept quiet about the wands during its presentation. The main interactive element of the land that was confirmed was the presence of a talking zombie head on the recreation of the Knight Bus.
4. What will the "new" areas look like?
Diagon Alley will actually be just one section of the new Wizarding World. There'll also be the London Embankment section facing onto Universal Studios Florida's lagoon (shown above), a recreation of murky Knockturn Alley, and two new areas devised by author J.K. Rowling: Carkitt Market and Horizont Alley.
Carkitt Market doesn't feature in the books, and is said to be inspired by Leadenhall Market in London. Horizont Alley will be another shopping street. We've yet to see concept artwork for either area.
3. How will the magical entrances to the land work?
Whether guests enter via London Embankment or from platform 9 3/4 in the area's recreation of Kings Cross Station, they will undergo a "magical transition" as they enter Diagon Alley. Evanna Lynnch, who played Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter movies, referred to this as a "right of passage", promising that it would "emotionaly prepare you for what's coming".
We still don't exactly what this transition will be, although we can safely assume that the entrance and exit to platform 9 3/4 will be a simulated walk "through" a brick wall.
2. What will the Hogwarts Express storyline(s) be?
The Hogwarts Express train ride will link Diagon Alley to the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade in neighboring Islands of Adventure. The trains themselves will be authentic recreations of the one seen in the movies, complete with interior compartments.
We know that guests will see views of London and the British countryside through the train's "windows" (actually multimedia screens). They will also encounter characters and creatures from the movies. Universal has hinted that the journey will be different in either direction, but is yet to fully confirm whether or not the experience will vary every time guests ride (in a similar fashion to Disney's Star Tours: The Adventures Continue).
1. When will it open?
Here's the big one: we still don't know when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley will open. Universal only mentioned "summer 2014" during the webcast. Previous rumors had hinted to a June debut, but Universal's statements may suggest that it could be a little later.
Find out more about Diagon Alley
We've collected all of our information about Diagon Alley into three main articles:
- Everything we know about the Hogswarts Express.
- Everything we know about Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
- A virtual walkthrough of Diagon Alley, including its shops and restaurants.
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.