On the morning of January 23, Universal Orlando held a live webcast hosted by James Phelps (Fred Weasley in the Harry Potter films) as well as Matthew Lewis and Evanna Lynch (Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood, respectively) to announce more details about Diagon Alley – the upcoming expansion to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Before the webcast happened, a few details were already known – the Hogwarts Express will take guests back and forth between both parks, guests will be able to dine at The Leaky Cauldron, there will be a state-of-the-art thrilling attraction inside Gringotts Bank and somewhere in the land will be a massive fire-breathing dragon.
Matthew Lewis started out the live webcast by showing off the current Wizarding World of Harry Potter including Hogwarts and Hogsmeade before sending it over to Mark Woodbury, President of Universal Creative, who was standing in the vaults of Gringotts along with a goblin and families that were chosen from the park to sit in on the fun.
Woodbury brought out James Phelps to talk about his experience in the construction site for Diagon Alley and the recurring trend for the rest of the webcast ended up being about the realism behind the new expansion. All of the actors said over and over again how much it felt like being on the set.
Thierry Coup, Universal Creative Senior Vice President, took over on board the Hogwarts Express with Evanna Lynch. Lynch claims that the Hogwarts Express feels even more real and immersive than being in the train on the films. You can board at either station Kings Cross or Hogsmeade, but Woodbury confirmed that you must have a park-to-park ticket in order to experience the Hogwarts Express.
When experiencing the Wizarding World expansion in Universal Studios Florida, the first thing we will see is London and the Knight Bus before stepping into Diagon Alley. The shops inside Diagon Alley will include Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions – where witches and wizards go to buy their robes as well as other apparel products, Magic Menagerie – a place to find animals for every witch or wizard, Ollivanders – the original wand shop where students go to get their first wand, Scribbulus – place to shop for quills, notebooks, diaries and more, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment - where one can find such special objects as time turners and cauldrons, Weasley’s Wizards Wheezes – the joke shop that Fred and George opened up in the books and finally, Quality Quidditch Supplies – the only place to get your quidditch robes and brooms.
Knockturn Alley will also be in place at Diagon Alley and is described as a ‘very scary place’. Everything in the Wizarding World is not so nice, so Knockturn Alley will be in place to really show off the contrast of good and evil. Guests can shop at Borgin and Burkes for Death Eater masks and more dark wizarding goods.
The Leaky Cauldron will be the main dining experience inside Diagon Alley, but if ice cream is what you are looking for then Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour is where you will want to be.
Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts is the official name for the new attraction inside Gringotts Bank. It will be one of the most exciting and technological theme park attractions that Universal has ever built. Universal did state that Escape From Gringotts will not be as intense as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but it will still be a thrilling family-friendly experience and the giant fire-breathing dragon will be perched on the roof.
One note was made about Hogsmeade – Zonko’s Joke Shop will be removed and Honeydukes will be expanded. There is no longer a need for another joke shop in the original Wizarding World as Weasley’s Wizards Wheezes will become the go-to place for that type of merchandise.
Diagon Alley is promised to be a theme park experience beyond our wildest imagination. Stuart Craig, who worked on the concepts and designs of the original Wizarding World, returned to help shape Diagon Alley and the initial artwork looks beautiful. There are still many more details to be released about Diagon Alley, but summer 2014 and the quickly approaching opening of the Wizarding World expansion is almost guaranteed to be a massive success.