By Katie Bruno.
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Remember, if you are old enough, when the first Star Wars movies came out? How excited everyone was for the first movie and how much it permeated the entertainment and retail space? Today, kids are rediscovering the franchise through the Clone Wars animated series, but the impact can’t compare to waiting for that next movie to come out and experiencing it for the first time with the whole world.
Add to that feeling from the Harry Potter books and movies The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park and it is almost overwhelming.
During the last IAAPA conference and exhibition, the Thursday night “special event” was a party at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Coincidentally, it was also the opening night of the seventh movie!
The event started at night, so we did not arrive until after dark. I don’t know if the “magic” is as strong in the daytime, but in the evening it was spectacular. The attention to detail in all of the surroundings made it all feel so authentic. And the butterbeer…ah the butterbeer…it tasted just like you imagined it would.
The “Castle Ride” as everyone called it, which is actually Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, was nothing short of amazing. The line itself is such a cool experience with talking pictures and holograms of characters that talked that I actually think I liked the line best and would love a whole attraction done that way. I went through the line a couple times and skipped the ride!
The ride…well the ride…it is quite unbelievable. It is a mix of live action and film that leaves you never quite sure what is real and what isn’t (“real” being a relative term here). One minute you’re playing Quiddich (I’m serious) and the next minute you are face-to-face with a dragon spewing smoke into your face. It is wonderful and fun and thrilling and terrifying. Once was enough for me. Although I LOVED it, these “4-D” experiences tend to disturb my equilibrium uncomfortably. My 13 year old son, Jack, who has grown up in the amusement industry said “I haven’t been thrilled by a ride in a while, and THAT was thrilling.” He of course rode it several times.
I so enjoyed just wandering the streets and shops. When the girls from Beauxbatons came out on the street and did their thing, I nearly started to cry it was so much like being at Hogwarts. You can ask my husband, I was literally tearing up it was so darn cool.
We didn’t end up watching the midnight showing of the seventh movie that night; it had been a long day. However, when we did go only a few days later I was all primed from just being immersed in that world.
It is really quite amazing that all of this has grown from nothing more than words on a page. It speaks to the power of “story” and this is one great story.
Image at top: Hogsmeade, © Universal Studios, All Rights Reserved