Harry Potter attraction enchants despite glitches
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[June 20, 2014] By
ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - The
signature ride of the new "Harry Potter" attraction at Universal
Studios in Orlando, a roller coaster with passenger cars that pitch,
heave and spin 360 degrees through a 3-D film adventure, was shut
during a media preview on Thursday after minor glitches the previous
"Escape from Gringotts" is the centerpiece ride of the new
Diagon Alley expansion to the "The Wizarding World of Harry
Potter - Diagon Alley" attraction, opening to the public July 8,
which recreates the London-based wizard shopping district
imagined in J.K. Rowling's book series.
The ride ran into a technical snag and broke down late Wednesday
during a red carpet debut, and was still not running on
Thursday. Even so, the actors who attended the preview gasped
and grinned as they walked though Diagon Alley, a fully realized
four-story shopping district.
"It's absolutely brilliant. It totally takes you in," said
Warwick Davis, who played Professor Filius Flitwick in the film
To enhance the feeling of authenticity, the designers
collaborated with Rowling to create additional signage and
graphics that remained true to the book, said senior vice
president of Universal Creative Thierry Coup.
"If we had to make up the name of a print shop, the name or
wording is somewhere in the book," Coup said.
Diagon Alley is connected to Hogsmeade, the original Potter
attraction at Universal Orlando, by the Hogwarts Express, a
four-minute themed train journey based on the magical locomotive
in the book series.
The new additions will join the main "Harry Potter" ride, "The
Forbidden Journey," which is based in Hogsmeade and is an
amalgamation of scenes from the book.
"Escape from Gringotts," topped by a landmark fire-breathing
dragon, closely follows a storyline in which the book's leading
characters - Harry Potter, Hermoine Granger and Ron Weasley -
escape from the goblin-run bank vaults on the back of a dragon.
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Diagon Alley resembles an old English village with a hint of
enclosed American mall. Large swaths of the shopping district are
covered by glass with ceilings made to look like sky and a
strategically located elevated train track, allowing comfortable
shopping even during a Florida summer storm.
While theme parks in Europe and Asia feature enclosed areas, open
air is the norm in Florida's sunny climate, and shopping is the main
activity. Potter fans can purchase a $6.95 set of chattering teeth
at Weasleys Wizard Wheezes, Hogwarts school robes for $109.95 at
Madam Malkins, or Dumbledore's robes, the priciest item in the shop,
On the dining side, the Leaky Cauldron restaurant offers up
traditional British dishes such as a Toad in the Hole (sausage in
savory bread pudding), for $8.99, and fisherman's pie for $14.99.
Comcast Corp's Universal Studios will also bring the world of "Harry
Potter" to its Hollywood theme park in 2016, as part of plans to
drum up attendance with a revamp and five-year expansion plan for
its film-themed attractions.
(Writing by Piya Sinha-Roy in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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