‘Escape from Gringotts’ ride revealed with new Diagon Alley details as Harry Potter expansion takes shape at Universal Orlando

in Entertainment, Featured, Islands of Adventure, Movies, Theme Parks, Universal Orlando, Universal Studios Florida

dragon

Today Universal Orlando has revealed an impressive set of new details for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley expansion. Though a specific opening date has not yet been announced, progress is moving steadily behind the London waterfront facades to create an impressively large addition to the world of “Harry Potter” that will span both Universal parks.

In fact, Diagon Alley is so huge that while Universal has released quite a lot of information about Diagon Alley, it’s nowhere near fully unveiled, leaving many surprises for the coming months leading up to its summer 2014 opening date. Along with today’s announcements arrives new concept art showing off what many areas of the finished expansion will look like.


Video: Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley artwork and preview


In addition to hosting nationwide press on site, Universal streamed a webcast online showing off the latest details to fans.


Video: Highlights of the Diagon Alley webcast


Enough excitement has been offered to warrant two articles on the subject, this one covering the newly-named restaurants, shops, and attractions and a second article offering a closer look via a behind-the-walls, first-person account of what it’s like to step into Diagon Alley along with interviews with the creatives folks behind it all.

Take a quick look at what’s been announced for Diagon Alley below. And for more information and a few interviews, read my Fox News article.

London Waterfront and Facades

There will be nearly no indication of the world of “Harry Potter” outside Diagon Alley. A row of waterfront facades are inspired by London locations seen in the films, but no signs will be posted specifically pointing guests into the new area – though there will be one hard-to-miss clue that things aren’t quite what they seem around this area.

The London facades are King’s Cross Station, Charing Cross Road (leading to Leaky Cauldron), Grimmauld Place (home of the Black family), Leicester Square Station for the London Underground, and Wyndham’s Theatre. The Eros Fountain from Piccadilly Circus is also being recreated in the area.

Parked alongside the fountain will be the big blue Knight Bus, complete with an interactive inside featuring a talking shrunken head (with Caribbean accent). But peering into Diagon Alley won’t be easy from this vantage point, as any entrance into the Wizarding World is marked by a bit of magic. (More on that below.)

Hogwarts Express

The original Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village is located in Islands of Adventure, whereas the Diagon Alley expansion is built upon the former site of the Jaws ride in Universal Studios Florida. As such, guests may soon travel between the parks using the Hogwarts Express train system. It will load and unload from new train stations on both ends.

In Hogsmeade Village, a new train station is being constructed just to the right of the current entrance to the area. A path will lead guests around the extremities of the Dragon Challenge roller coaster and to the new station, which will mirror the look of the existing one, complete with a snow-capped roof. The existing train station and stationary train will remain as photo ops.

For the Diagon Alley expansion, King’s Cross Station is a near replica of the real station in London and will feature the famous track 9 3/4, offering a magical entrance into the Wizarding World.

A park-to-park ticket will be required to take a trip on the Hogwarts Express.

During the webcast, Senior Vice President of Universal Creative Thierry Coup offered a first look inside the Hogwarts Express train, joined within one of the train’s cabins by Luna Lovegood actress Evanna Lynch:

Universal isn’t ready to disclose all the details about the actual Hogwarts Express ride itself just yet, but has noted that each trip will feature scenic views of London and the British countryside, along with surprises that include familiar characters and creatures. (Dementors, perhaps?) None of the backstage areas that the train physically passes through will be visible from within, as all views will be virtual. And Universal is going to try hard to block most views of the train traveling the elevated tracks from guests walking the parks, though it will still be visible at times.

Diagon Alley

The main entrance to Diagon Alley from the London waterfront area will be disguised with a special pathway, intended to represent the parting of bricks as seen in the films when Hagrid first lets Harry Potter into the area. The full details on how this special pathway will appear are not yet apparent, but jagged, crooked walls are definitely part of it as a representation of the moving wall.

Once inside, Diagon Alley is impressively tall, far larger than Hogsmeade Village. Its main street is lined with shops and eateries including:

  • Weasley’s Wizard Wheases – Three stories of practical jokes and gag toys
  • Due to Weasley’s Wizard Wheases opening in Diagon Alley, Zonko’s will be closing in Hogsmeade Village and Honeydukes will be expanding in to that spot.

  • Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC – An expanded version of the Hogsmeade Village experience with a better planned queue (the original will remain)
  • Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment – telescopes, binoculars, armillary spheres, compasses, magnifying glasses and hourglasses
  • Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour – Unique frozen treats including strawberry-and-peanut-butter ice-cream
  • Leaky Cauldron – Serving traditional British fare such as fish and chips and bangers and mash
  • Quality Quidditch Supplies – Quidditch sweaters, brooms, Golden Snitches, Bludgers, Bludger bats, Quaffles
  • Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions – Hogwarts school uniform ties, scarves and jumpers, to authentic wizard’s robes and character costumes
  • Magical Menagerie – plush animals, such as owls and Hippogriffs
  • Scribbulus – writing implements and products such as feather quills, ink and inkwells, bookmarks, journals, parchment paper, seals, stationery sets and postcards
  • Diagon Alley will be filled with other yet-to-be announced stores along with many facades and windows to browse, including the Daily Prophet, Dr Filibuster’s Fabulous Wet-Start, No-Heat Fireworks, Obscurus Books, and House Elf Placement.

    Knockturn Alley

    Just to the right of the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron is a small, dark archway leading into Knockturn Alley. Here it will always be nighttime, covered from the sunlight. Borgin and Burkes is the main shop, specializing in the Dark Arts that will offer a wide variety of Dark objects, such as Death Eater masks, skulls, and other sinister items.

    Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

    The ride housed within the Gringotts Bank finally has a name: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Universal was not ready to dish out all the details for this attraction yet, though they promise that will happen in the coming months.

    Outside, Gringotts will tower over the rest of the already-tall Diagon Alley, with a huge fire-breathing dragon on top of the building.

    They did say Escape from Gringotts will be a “multi-sensory, multi- dimensional journey that will take theme park attractions to a new level.” Guests will first walk through an elaborate experience inside Gringotts Bank, complete with goblins seen working inside. It’s said this walkthrough will be even more immersive than Hogwarts Castle at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

    Ultimately aboard the mine car ride, passengers will navigate their way through the perils of the Gringotts vaults. The ride will be less intense than Forbidden Journey and more family-friendly, but still thrilling. It will feature characters seen in the parks before as well as ones that have not been included yet.

    Carkitt Market

    The biggest surprise revealed in the Diagon Alley announcements is an entirely second street running parallel, effectively doubling the area of the expansion. There are two paths into this additional area, one at the front of Diagon Alley near Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and the other accessible via a street passing by Gringotts called Horizont Alley. That new street name came from author JK Rowling.

    The big new area is called Carkitt Market, also named by Rowling. It’s inspired real-life London locations like Leadenhall Market, but given a wizarding twist. It’s a huge covered space linking the backside of Diagon Alley to the far right borders of the expansion. Within Carkitt Market will be live entertainment, shopping, and other surprises yet to be announced.

    The Future…

    The most important piece of information to take away from today’s announcements is that they are just a sliver of what the Diagon Alley project will offer. The scope of this expansion is massive with many more stores and surprises yet to be revealed. To the left of Gringotts is an entire side of the new Horizont Alley street that Universal wouldn’t comment on. And while construction is moving along briskly, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the details of what types of interactive experiences will be included throughout the new area.

    Be sure to check back here soon for a much more in-depth look what it’s like to step inside Diagon Alley, including interviews with its creators.

    42 Comments

    1. Chris

      This looks amazing. Very impressive, Universal. It looks like an area you could spend half a day in just shopping, riding, and enjoying the atmosphere. With Hogwarts Express, they pretty much have an all day Harry Potter experience. My only gripe from a themeing perspective is the dragon on Gringotts. It will get old. Initially, it will be a WOW moment, but as you’re sitting there eating your ice cream after 3 hours in the area, I think it will detract from the atmosphere. Why wouldn’t the dragon fly away? I’m sure Universal went back and forth on that. For whatever reason, they feel they need to have these big, demonstrative attraction fronts with the characters featured front and centered, when the themeing can be much more subtle and serve the atmosphere better. Everything else looks fantastic, and I wish Disney would take a lesson from them on merchandising and unique shops. Those stores sound like a real pleasure to tour and shop, unlike Disney’s shops which are ALL the same.

      1. EricJ

        “Why wouldn’t the dragon fly away?” I dunno, maybe it does–On film, overhead, at the climax, BTTF style. Anything’s possible.

    2. Marc

      So much awesomeness. Though, it does leave me wondering one thing… When it’s done and open, will the area be filled with Death Eaters during HHN?

      1. Bryan

        I doubt it… But hopefully it will at least be open during HHN it would be such a good crowd eater and keep people out of lines for houses.

    3. sushilad

      I’m so incredibly excited. My family was originally planning on visiting some family here in Canada for our summer vacation, but I showed this to my mom today (she’s a huge Harry Potter fan like me), and now we’re going here this August!!!!!!!!

    4. Johanna

      @Chris I agree with your statement on the dragon. It doesn’t make sense story wise, especially since you’ll be facing him in the attraction. If there’s a dragon on top of Gringotts spitting fire – wouldn’t there be chaos in Diagon Alley? Just doesn’t make sense.

      1. chris

        think of it this way what if in the ride the dragon escapes from the building and every time u see that happen in ride the dragon shows up on the roof outside of the ride

        1. Chris

          But then the dragon just STAYS there. It’s a stationary thing. The problem, the way I see it, is that the dragon will be a fixture on the Gringott’s bank, always there, because Universal felt the need to have this big dynamic attraction front. They do this with all their attractions. I’m saying that less is sometimes more. In the film, the Dragon bursts out of the bank and flies away. When Diagon Alley saw it they were terrified, as was the bankers. Now, when you walk through this queue I’m guessing the goblins aren’t panicking and running around and the place isn’t destroyed. So there’s a disconnect in the story where a dragon exists outside, but not to the people inside. I’m also just saying that the dragon is going to get OLD. As in, tiring. He’ll be cool at first, then get in the way of some of the atmosphere, more of a statue of a dragon than a “real” dragon (in the context of the themeing).

          1. Sean

            It’s a giant, animatronic, fire-breathing dragon.

            Calm down and have fun, buddy.

            1. Chris

              Not saying it ruins the land or that it will prevent “fun” I’m just saying, if you believe theme parks are crafting an environmental story, that the big dragon, while neat, doesn’t ultimately work to serve the story or the atmosphere in which the guest is meant to be enveloped.

            2. Sean

              “Story” is the most overused and unnecessary word in theme park rhetoric today. I believe intricate details are what makes a great environment.

              An animatronic fire-breathing dragon is pretty damned intricate.

            3. Chris

              If they’re not telling a “story” then what are they doing? Themed environments are specifically designed, controlled, to communicate a time and place. This is storytelling. That’s why it’s differentiated from, say, your local mall, which does none of those things. I’ve read those same “story is a myth” articles, too, and in some ways they’re right, and some ways they’re wrong. You know how Stitch spits at World of Disney at DTD? This dragon is now an upgraded version of that. It’s DECORATION. Not an intricate detail that underscores the reality of a fantastic place.

            4. Grace

              Exactly! Why can’t they have a big, cool, stationary dragon outside for fun? It will be awesome! So just RELAX!

          2. Bryan

            They never specifically state that you will be battling this dragon during the ride. We don’t even know what point in time in the Harry Potter universe this land is supposed to take place. For all we know this could take place well before the 7th book and maybe the dragon was kept on the roof to guard Gringotts against an army of Death Eaters or something.

    5. Mark (UK)

      I am so excited by all this new detail!

      Visited Hogsmeade in 2010 and can’t wait to visit Diagon Alley when i can afford it – which won’t be for years. Well at least the initial opening crowds will have reduced by then!

    6. EricJ

      Yeah, I was -wondering- what they’d put in USF’s Diagon Alley besides Gringott’s, since the real Diagon Alley shops from the book (Ollivander’s Wands, the Leaky Cauldron) all ended up at IOA…What was left??

      1. Marc

        Well, as they explained for Ollivander’s in Hogsmeade, it was a second store he decided to open. Which does make sense. I mean, wands can end up breaking and students would need to get a new one. Look what happened to Ron’s wand in Chamber of Secrets. It snapped in half when he and Harry crashed the car into the Whomping Willow. And even though Professor McGonagall told Ron that he would need to replace it, she never took him to Diagon Alley to get a new one. So having a wand shop closer to the school would be useful to any student that needed a new wand. It all makes sense when you think about it in terms of the world the story takes place in.

      2. Sean

        The Leaky Cauldron isn’t in IoA…

    7. Jessica

      I have to ask….why not Flourish and Blotts? Why make up something new like Scribbulus?

      1. Edyeb

        F&B are in Hogsmeade. Sad to hear that Zonko’s will be closing, but Honeyduke’s does need the expansion.

        1. Jessica

          It’s actually in Diagon Alley.

        2. Marc

          Actually, Flourish and Blotts is in Diagon Alley. It’s the book store where in Chamber of Secrets Lockhart was doing his book signing and Lucius Malfoy slipped the Diary into Ginny’s cauldron. Hogsmeade doesn’t have a book store, though the closest place that might sell books is Dervish and Bangs, which repairs magical equipment and sells the occasional school supplies.

      2. Marc

        They didn’t make it up for the park. It is a store listed in the shops in Diagon Alley on the HP Lexicon site. Much like Scrivenshaft’s in Hogsmeade, it sells quills, ink, and parchment.

    8. Edyeb

      Sounds to me that the Escape from Gringrotts will be more like DINOSOAR or INDIANA JONES in Disneyland than the MUMMY Ride from the first news out on the attraction. I for one will be pleased if it isn’t a true coaster, but it is sounding like a cross between a coaster/pre programed ride vehicle/robot arms from Forbidden Journey.

    9. chris

      i look forward to going to this in September it’ll prob be too busy in jun opening only problem is its a roller coaster so im going to have to push my fears aside to ride it

    10. Keesha

      what does “summer 2014″ mean exactly? I can’t really plan for this without an exact opening date, as I work AND go to school. please tell me that that means sometime in June!

      1. chris

        i heard it opening in june

    11. robby

      universal have blown disney out of the water of the past few years, cant wait to go to universal studio’s …disneyworld has now changed fast pass system and is making guesses book there rides up to 60 days in advance, thats NOT a holiday THAT’S MILITARY PLANNING…i can see people getting really mad at disney when they go there and find all the rides are booked up

    12. Zack14

      Just hope the dragon doesn’t become the next disco yeti…

    13. Justin

      I’m suggesting that there should be another inside attraction in Knockturn Alley. Hogesmade has three attractions in the area, but Gringotts will just have one? Meh…

    14. Susan White

      It will be fascinating to see if Universal can re-gain its park growth as of 2 years ago. The plans for Diagon certainly look interesting. I wish them the best in terms of creating new quality entertainment options for Central Florida park goers.

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      1. A. Williams

        Sounds like a lot of shops designed for more revenue and only one real ride? This is a theme park. There should be more than 1 ride (not including Hogwarts express) in the new attraction area. This has been my gripe with the current Wizzarding World area; only three rides… and one is a kiddy roller coaster.

    16. A. Williams

      Sounds like a lot of shops designed for more revenue and only one real ride? This is a theme park. There should be more than 1 ride (not including Hogwarts express) in the new attraction area. This has been my gripe with the current Wizzarding World area; only three rides… and one is a kiddy roller coaster.

    17. vanessa

      Disney will make a good come back with Avatar opening in Animal Kingdom. Great things come with time…but obviously Wizarding world has become quite famous & I love it, I grew up with this story and seeing the books and movie come to life its just breath taking. Universal has done a great job so far…but then again Universal & Disney are 2 different crowds. At the end of the day.. they’re both full to capacity spring break and summer time! :)

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