After you've read the books and seen the films, you can get even more Harry Potter in his theme parks, studio tours, and film prop exhibitions. William Silvester traces the development of these venues and provides entertaining walk-throughs of each.
Though merely a Muggle, Silvester expertly blends Potter lore with behind-the-scenes accounts of the design, construction, and politics involved in the creation of the Wizarding Worlds, from Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley to Japan. You'll learn both how they were built and what each offers in the way of rides, shows, shops, and restaurants.
In addition to the Wizarding Worlds, Silvester also covers the lesser-known Potter destinations, from Movie World in Australia to the British Museum's History of Magic exhibition—and even a peek at the possibility of a new Wizarding World in Universal's forthcoming park in Beijing, China.
Next to your spell book, Wizarding Worlds is essential equipment for wizards of any age. Don't leave for Hogwarts without it.
Chapter 1: In the Beginning
Chapter 2: Harry Potter Movie Magic Experience
Chapter 3: Harry Potter: The Exhibition
Chapter 4: Building a Wizarding World
Chapter 5: Inside the Wizarding World—Hogsmeade
Chapter 6: Inside the Wizarding World—Diagon Alley
Chapter 7: Warner Bros. Studio Tours Leavesden
Chapter 8: Inside the Wizarding World—Japan
Chapter 9: Harry Potter in Hollywood
Chapter 10: The Rest of the Wizarding World
Bill Silvester is a prolific author, with hundreds of articles, mostly historical in nature, to his name.
As a philatelist, he began writing about Disney postage stamps, a previously unfilled niche in Disneyana. This resulted in numerous articles in philatelic publications and a bi-monthly newsletter. In the 1990s, his Handbook of Disney Philately was published, followed by Harry Potter Collector’s Handbook in 2010 and A Solo Wargamer’s Guide in 2013. In 2012, the American Topical Association published his Handbook of Disney on Stamps with full-color illustrations of all the Disney stamps issued from 1968 to date and the stories behind them.
For Theme Park Press, he is the author of two previous books: The Adventures of Young Walt Disney (2014) and Saving Disney (2015), a biography of Roy E. Disney.
For more, visit williamsilvester.weebly.com.
With the success of Hogsmeade at Universal Studios Florida, the boys down the road finally had Disney's kryptonite. So of course it made all the sense in the (wizarding) world to double down.
The first hint that something big was scheduled to happen began with the closing of the Jaws attraction at Universal Studios in Florida. The removal of the popular attraction was announced on December 2, 2012, and one month later the final ride wended its way through the water course. By the following morning the entire Amity Harbor area had been walled off and demolition began, continuing over the ensuing months. All that remains of the Jaws attraction today is the hanging shark vignette which was relocated to the Fisherman’s Wharf area of the San Francisco section of the park.
Rumors began to fly after the announcement. Speculation ranged from Transformers to Family Guy attractions. It would be over a year before Universal Orlando announced on May 8, 2013, that the new area would be the Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Diagon Alley. The announcement served to fuel rumors rather than quell them as only a single piece of concept art was released at the time. Thierry Coup, senior vice president of Universal Creative and executive creative director for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Diagon Alley, said of the artwork: “The illustration is obviously an illustration. It’s an artist’s depiction of what the experience will feel like, but the level of detail that’s in this rendering is not true to the real thing. It’s going to be so much higher in details.”
He shed more light on the project in a subsequent interview: “We brought Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts to life back in 2010, but for us, and listening to our guests and fans, to complete the whole story of the Harry Potter fiction it really also had to be Diagon Alley and London and the Hogwarts Express and Gringotts Bank—all the other elements that were part of Harry Potter’s life and his beginning into the world of being a wizard.
“When we tried to place Diagon right next to Hogsmeade, we quickly realized you can’t just walk from Scotland to London. You can’t see London facades right next to Hogwarts. Jaws offered the largest area for us to create something that was about the same footprint that we did back at Hogsmeade. Jaws had been here for about 22 years and it was still going well. But in the rating of all the attractions of the park, it was probably time for it to be refreshed or changed.”
The former Jaws attraction area proved to be perfect for the Dagon Alley project, as it was located in a remote corner of the park and therefore conducive to the creation of a totally self-contained area. There would be no outside distractions while guests were in the Wizarding World. No sooner had the demolition of Jaws been completed than work began on Diagon Alley. Universal was not wasting time capitalizing on the hype surrounding the debut of what is now known as Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Hogsmeade. No firm dates were divulged for the opening other than some time in 2014.
With the majority of guests now flocking to Islands of Adventure, Universal had to find a way to keep attendance balanced between the two parks. Early on in the development of the Wizarding World, Universal Creative had planned to attach Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade within Islands of Adventure. However, it did not seem to be in keeping with Rowling’s vision to have one visible from the other. Mark Woodbury decided it would be best to build Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida and connect it to Islands of Adventure with the Hogwarts Express transporting guests from one park to the other through Universal’s backstage area. Visual and special effects would be used so that none of that would be seen from the train. As the parks are separate entities, some sort of park-to-park ticket system was also in the works.
The train would leave from a Muggle London façade featuring a row of buildings that exist in the real world, including King’s Cross Station. Each of the façades “played a part in Harry Potter stories and the films.” Coup explained. The Knight Bus, which had been part of the grand opening of the Hogsmeade portion of the park in 2010, would become a permanent part of the Diagon Alley extension.
No details were released at the time, but there were plans to incorporate Platform 9¾ into the experience. Nor would Universal release details for what shops or restaurants would be replicated. Coup stated: “I can’t really say all the details of these places, but certainly all the signature places will be part of this and some additional ones that may not have appeared in the films, but were certainly part of the stories.”
It was pointed out that the Hogsmede area already had an Ollivander’s, but in the books and films, that establishment had been located in Diagon Alley. Apparently, this inconsistency was permitted by Rowling. Coup said: “J.K. Rowling gave us the okay to open an annex to Ollivanders, which was in Hogsmeade Village.” Another Ollivanders was likely in Diagon Alley, though wasn’t confirmed at the time.
The Diagon Alley area was designed to have a similar footprint to Hogsmeade, though the Hogwarts Express connection would expand upon that. As with Hogsmeade, Rowling had input but left more creative control in the hands of Universal Creative. Coup explained: “She’s been partnering with us in the development, in the conceptualization of this to ensure that it is true and authentic.” The Warner Bros. film production team of Stuart Craig and Alan Gilmore were also working closely with the designers to assure that every detail is true to the films. “If we’d have filmed the movie here, we’d all have been a lot better. You can’t help but get brought into the role,” Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) stated.
Attention to detail was of major importance in the making of Diagon Alley. Universal Creative’s senior props manager, Eric Baker, and his team spent three years seeking unique items to display. In addition to antique stores and flea markets, they had access to Warner Bros. warehouses for set dressings and props used in the films. They used molds of many of the props to create exact replicas. “We were able to take things from the movies and make them live on forever for everyone that visits the park,” Baker stated.
Andy Brennan, industry analyst with IBISWorld, remarked: “Hogsmeade reportedly cost over $250 million” and Diagon Alley cost about $400 million to build. Brennan estimated that “combined attendance at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios has jumped more than 50% since 2009. NBCUniversal’s theme park revenue is up nearly 40% since 2009, much of which can be directly attributed to the popular WWHP.” According to VisitOrlando.com, there were 59 million visitors in 2013, up 27% from 46.6 million in 2009.
In an unprecedented move, Universal Orlando invited a group of media people on a private tour of the construction site in late January 2014. This is when it was first learned that there was more to Diagon Alley than just the one name. Potterphiles had heard of Knockturn Alley, but what about Horizant Alley or Carkitt Market? They aren’t just inventions of Universal Creative, but named by Rowling herself.
Continued in "Wizarding Worlds"!
Given the wild success of the Harry Potter theme parks in America, it took no time at all for Harry to get his passport stamped for a new Wizarding World in Japan—and potentially one in Beijing as well.
The grand opening celebration [for Wizarding World—Japan] began the night before at sundown, Monday, July 14. Some 1000 invited guests arrived and at 7:15 p.m. walked the red carpet to a stage that had been constructed in Hogsmeade village for the event. Twenty-five minutes later, Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Evanna Lunch stepped forward and cast the Lumos charm to illuminate Hogsmeade village and Hogwarts Castle with a display of fireworks and colored confetti, to thunderous cheers.
“The craft and attention to detail across the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan is incredible and I will take away the memory of Hogwarts castle reflected on the Black Lake in particular. I’m delighted that Harry fans in Japan and around Asia can experience a physical incarnation that is so close to what I imagined when writing the books,” said Rowling when she visited the area.
Twelve hours later, at 7:15 a.m., the opening ceremony began. Lynch, Felton, and Gumpel stood at the entrance archway to Hogsmeade. Lynch and Felton led the crowd in a Revelio charm, causing the archway to fill with smoke which slowly lifted to reveal the village beyond. Japanese Muggles swarmed through the archway to explore the new attractions.
The website of Universal Studios Japan announced with certainty that the “45 billion yen project with a 5.6 trillion yen projected economic impact over ten years is sure to meet the expectations of a national level project of its size and attract many guests over the coming years.” A huge increase in park attendance was noted over the following months.
Butterbeer has proven very popular in Japan, so much so that Universal Studios Japan (USJ) had kept track of how much was being consumed. At 9:56 on the morning of October 24, 2014, the one millionth Butterbeer was served 102 days after the grand opening. To commemorate the occasion, Potterphiles in house colors along with the Frog Choir and the Triwizard Rally performers gathered around the Butterbeer cart in anticipation of the serving of the one millionth cup of Butterbeer. The lucky recipient, Aichi Pre, of Okazaki City, and her family were presented with Hogwarts robes and scarfs, a guided tour of Universal Studios Japan, and all the Butterbeer they could drink for the rest of the day.
One of the differences between the Universal parks in the U.S. and the one in Japan is the capability and passion of the team members. One writer stated that “comparing the competence and enthusiasm of Japanese theme park service to its American counterpart is like pitting Gryffindor against Hufflepuff—it’s just not a fair fight.” In Japan, costumed workers go to guests to have pictures taken rather than waiting for guests to come to them. They constantly engage with adults and children. “It’s not easy to manage the hordes of people who visit Harry’s world every day, but the USJ employees make it look easy, keeping lines orderly and preventing shops from reaching critical mass, always with a smile on their faces.”
According to the 2014 Theme Index Global Attraction Attendance Report, Universal Studios Japan was ranked fifth among the top 25 amusement/theme parks worldwide, attracting 11.8 million visitors in 2014, 16.8% more than in the previous year.
Never at a loss for occasions to celebrate, the next ceremony was held was on May 21, 2015, when hundreds of Potterphiles bedecked with Hogwarts scarves gathered in the evening as members of SMAP and USJ’s ambassadors stepped onto a stage in front of Hogwarts Castle. The ambassadors introduced Tom Felton and Katie Leung (Cho Chang) along with Glenn Gumpel who announced that Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the attraction showing inside Hogwarts, would in future be upgraded from 3D to 4K3D, the only Harry Potter attraction to have this upgrade. To make this happen, Felton and Leung cast a Patronus charm at the castle, causing an eagle, rabbit (Luna Lovegood), weasel (Arthur Weasley), and stag (Harry and James Potter) Patronus to appear on the castle walls followed by a display of fireworks.
Less than a month later, on July 15, the first anniversary of the grand opening of Wizarding World in Osaka was celebrated at the entrance arch to Hogsmeade. The usual group gathered to mark the occasion, along with the Hogwarts Express conductor and students from Durmstrang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy.
Continued in "Wizarding Worlds"!