Posts Tagged ‘Harry Potter’

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts REVIEW [Minor Spoilers]

by on July 1, 2014

 

gringotts review

A panoramic view of the majestic Gringotts bank lobby. (photos by Seth Kubersky)

As PotterWatch wraps up with the approach of Diagon Alley’s July 8 official opening date, I’m proud to present Touring Plans’ first in-depth review of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions. During the recent VIP preview week, I spent nearly 12 hours exploring the expansion at Universal Studios Florida, and was the only member of the media to successfully ride the Gringotts attraction three times. I’ve distilled that first-hand experience into the following Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts review, which will appear in edited form in the 2015 edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, as well as other affiliated titles.

Bear in mind, the following opinions and information are based on a preview of the attraction, and is subject to change once the area is open to the public. BEWARE: Minor spoilers ahead.

 

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

5 STARS

APPEAL BY AGE

  • PRESCHOOL 2 stars
  • GRADE SCHOOL 4 stars
  • TEENS 5 stars
  • YOUNG ADULTS 5 stars
  • OVER 30 5 stars
  • SENIORS 4 stars

What it is Super-high-tech 3-D dark ride with roller coaster elements.
Scope and scale Super-headliner.
When to go Immediately after park opening or just before closing.
Special comments Expect loooong waits in line; 42″ minimum height requirement.
Authors’ rating The ultimate realization of “Ride The Movies!”; Not to be missed; 5 stars
Duration of ride 4 1⁄2 minutes.
Probable waiting time per 100 people ahead of you 4 minutes.
Loading speed Moderate-Fast.

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Photo Ops at Universal

by on June 28, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers the Top Six Photo Ops at Universal. Previously we have covered our favorite Photo Connect experiences at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, but this week we are going to look at the six must-get photos when we walk around the parks. For first time visitors, these are the locations that are going to make you stop in your tracks and get out the camera. Some are iconic, others are breathtaking, but all are memorable and should be considered for your vacation scrapbook. Let’s start off by heading into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village….

# 6 – Hogwarts Express and Conductor (Islands of Adventure)

Muggles stepping foot into Hogsmeade Village for the first time are going to love the great photo op with the Hogwarts Express and interacting with the train’s conductor. Holding his enchanted pocket watch, the conductor is the go-to person with any question on Hogsmeade as he is always well versed on Potter-lore and everything within this magical land.

PHOTOOP_HogwartsExpress

Hogwarts Express (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Surprises of Universal’s Diagon Alley

by on June 21, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Surprises of Universal’s Diagon Alley. The Universal Orlando Resort held its big Diagon Alley media event this week, and TouringPlans’ own Seth Kubersky was on hand each night of the the three day event. For this red carpet event, Universal flew in some major players from the Potter movie universe, including the usual crew of Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and the Phelps twins (Fred and George Weasley), but also used the Floo Network and brought in Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Domhnall Gleason (Bill Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Matt Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), Robbie Coltrain (Hagrid), and Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange). For the first time ever, media and VIPs were able to ride on the Hogwarts Express and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, along with experiencing everything in Diagon Alley itself.  The Leaky Cauldron. Carkitt Market. Knockturn Alley. All of it.

We’ll cover all the big stuff in due time (especially with the newly announced July 8 Grand Opening date for all guests), but today we’re going to look at six surprises within Diagon Alley that had us grinning wider than Ron Weasley after seeing a Veela.

# 6 – Gringotts Bank Notes

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Gringotts bank note (photo by Seth Kubersky)

After many years Universal finally has its version of Disney Dollars in the form of Gringotts Bank Notes. Located in Carkitt Market, the Gringotts Money Exchange will allow guests to exchange their Muggle money for Gringotts Bank Notes (in $10 or $20 denominations), which can then be used as souvenirs or as currency to purchase anything in the Wizarding World or on Universal property. Even more impressive is the goblin animatronic that interacts with the guestsincluding looking directly at the person talking to it. Both creepy and fun.

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PotterWatch: Diagon Alley Media Event Preparations and Hogsmeade Interactive Windows

by on June 16, 2014

Potterwatch hogsmeade interactive windows

The media is about to descend upon The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando (photos by Seth Kubersky)

The past week has been a wild emotional roller coaster for Wizarding World of Harry Potter fans on PotterWatch, with last Monday’s euphoric unveiling of Universal Studios Florida‘s London waterfront giving way to days of rain-drenched waiting for non-existent Diagon Alley technical rehearsals. Though it now seems certain we won’t see the inside of Diagon Alley until this week’s media preview, we did get look at preparations for the upcoming VIP event. And over at Islands of Adventure, we have exciting photos of all the new interactive windows recently installed throughout Hogsmeade.

Diagon Alley Media Event Preparations

Team member training, executive inspections, and promotional filming precluded any possible soft openings at Diagon Alley this week, but you can see the staging equipment being prepared for the media preview that begins this Tuesday.

 

The last construction walls have been removed, fully revealing the forested berm that block the view of Gringotts.

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SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL EDITION: Six Reasons Why We Love the London Waterfront Area of Universal Studios Florida

by on June 14, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers the Six Reasons We Love the London Waterfront Area of Universal Studios Florida. Wait a minute, didn’t we already do a Saturday Six on Harambe Nights for this week? Yes we did, but the construction walls came down earlier this week, and our excitement level about Diagon Alley is at a fever pitch. Now that we’ve had a day or two to pick our jaws up off the ground, it’s time to present those items that blow our minds by looking at what is the most elaborate facade in theme park history.

# 6 – Kreacher at 12 Grimmauld Place

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Kreacher peering out the windows at the filthy muggles outside. (photo by HateToFly)

To quote German poet and professional basketball player Dirk Nowtizki, we can basically SHUT IT DOWN right now as Kreacher peeking through the curtains at 12 Grimmauld Place is everything that makes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter the gold standard in theme parks today. A Kreacher animatronic is taking fan service to the Nth degree and will make anyone who has ready the Potter books or has seen the movies to almost swoon in disbelief. Before you even walk through the doors, Universal Creative has shown they get it.

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PotterWatch: Diagon Alley’s London Waterfront Walls Are Down

by on June 9, 2014

As Laurel Stewart shared in a newsflash a short time ago, the construction walls around The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley came down late last night, unveiling the new London facades without walls for the first time to this morning’s guests (including myself). Without further ado, we present a long-awaited PotterWatch milestone, without our first full look at the expansion with the London Waterfront walls removed.

Wizarding World Harry Potter Diagon Alley London Waterfront walls

A first look at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley and the London Waterfront without walls (photos by Seth Kubersky)

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PotterWatch: Diagon Alley Interactive Entertainment Confirmed & Photo Update

by on June 8, 2014

Our PotterWatch updates are coming fast and furious, as the finishing touches are put on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley prior to its media unveiling in under two weeks. For this edition, we have the usual photo updates of progress along the London Waterfront in Universal Studios Florida, and Hogsmeade Station in Islands of Adventure. Plus, there’s finally official confirmation on some Diagon Alley interactive entertainment experiences that we’ve previously shared rumors of. Finally, we’re sharing some fantastic new footage of some Harry Potter film stars exploring the new attractions, showing off our best sneak peak so far of this spectacular expansion

London Waterfront Photo Update

Here’s a quick look at the latest progress along the London Waterfront, which serves as the facade in front of Diagon Alley:

Potterwatch Diagon Alley Interactive Entertainment Confirmed

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Can’t Wait for Diagon Alley to Open

by on June 7, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Reasons We Can’t Wait for Diagon Alley to Open. It seems every day something comes along which whets our appetite even more for the new Harry Potter themed land coming to Universal Studios Florida. In just the past few days we’ve gotten a Disney Dish with Jim Hill episode that covered the new food items coming to the Leaky Cauldron, three of the Weasley clan taking a look into Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and Seth Kubersky’s preliminary touring plans for Diagon Alley. With the media preview taking place June 17-20, it’s safe to say we’ll be walking around the wizarding shopping area very shortly. Here’s what we are really excited about experiencing after the most recent developments:

# 6 – The DRAGON

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Ukrainian Ironbelly atop Gringotts Wizarding Bank (photo by HateToFly)

Sitting high atop Gringotts Bank (already the tallest building inside Diagon Alley) is the half-blind Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon that we all remember from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. Besides its immense size, the attention to detail on the dragon is staggering. You can see the marks around its neck where chains tore into its skin, holes in its wings, and an overall aura of authenticity that almost has you feeling for this tragic character even in its menacing pose. While it is still not completely known how much (if any) movement the dragon will have, the gas lines have been installed, and soon it will breathe fire.

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PotterWatch: Preliminary Diagon Alley Touring Plans

by on June 6, 2014

Wizarding World of Harry Potter preliminary Diagon Alley touring plans

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley is nearly ready — but are you? (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

With only two weeks to go before the worldwide media descends upon Universal Orlando for its unveiling of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, we already know plenty of things about the experience that awaits behind Universal Studios Florida‘s imposing new London Waterfront. We know about the E-ticket “multi-sensory thrill ride” inside the dragon-topped Gringotts bank; we know about the Hogwarts Express train that will transport guests to the original Wizarding World in Islands of Adventure; we know the names of that will line this magical shopping mall; we even know the varieties of pie (Seafood! Steak and Guinness!) and ice cream (Chocolate chili! Butterbeer!) you’ll be able to eat. So it’s no wonder that many of our subscribers have requested Diagon Alley touring plans to prepare them for their upcoming vacations. Unfortunately, we still lack two pieces of data vital to providing our usual expert advice: when we can get inside, and how long we’ll wait once we get there.

Through a combination of inside information, experience observing Universal’s operations since Potter arrived, and some educated guesses, we’ve devised the following preliminary Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley touring plans, along with a summary of our surmises about how the area will operate. Be aware that much of this is based on unofficial intel, and is subject to change before, during, and after the grand opening of the attraction.

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PotterWatch: London Waterfront Lighting, Diagon Alley Return Tickets, Hogsmeade Transition, & Leaky Cauldron Food Preview

by on June 2, 2014

PotterWatch London Waterfront lighting Diagon Alley return ticket kiosks Hogsmeade transition

Welcome to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where time has turned purple… (photos by Seth Kubersky)

We’ve passed an important PotterWatch milestone this week: we’re most likely less than one month away from the public premiere of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. This update will examine some new lighting along the London Waterfront, the newly revealed Hogsmeade transition area outside the original Wizarding World, and some recently revealed Leaky Cauldron food and beverage details.

 

London Waterfront Lighting

I took a stroll along the London Waterfront outside Diagon Alley at “magic hour” to capture some of the lighting features throughout the area. Let’s start with a panoramic overview of the construction area:

 

This purple illumination on the King’s Cross clock tower confuses me. Perhaps it is some sort of magical effect, or an unfinished test? Time will tell…

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