On my second day of previewing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, I once again tried to ride the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. Unfortunately, the ride was only open for long enough for a handful of guests to enjoy it today before it shut down due to technical difficulties.
This time, rather than closing off Hogwarts Castle completely, Universal left it open for guests to experience what they called a “castle tour.” So I was able to walk through the entire attraction’s queue and see all of the amazing scenes they have created. Even though I didn’t get to ride, I still feel reasonably fulfilled as the queue is like a walk-through attraction unto itself. Scene after scene offers so much entertainment that I didn’t even realize I had been in there for more than an hour this morning before finding out the ride was not running. The queue is definitely part of the experience.
Update: Here is a full video walkthrough of the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey queue including moving portraits, Dumbledore in his office, Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Sorting Hat, and much more. (If the video looks like low quality, it’s because YouTube is still processing it. It will improve over time.)
And here is a photo tour through Hogwarts Castle and the queue of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey:
It’s very dark inside the castle, so capturing clear pictures was tough for my little point-and-shoot still camera. But the video that’s on the way will give you a great idea of what unfolds throughout each scene, so check back soon to enjoy it!
I was extremely impressed by all of the scenes within Hogwarts Castle. The “musion” effects that bring Dumbledore, Harry, Ron, and Hermione to life are extremely believable. They look even better than the similar effect seen in Universal’s Disaster attraction that shows actor Christopher Walken seemingly walking around in front of you. In the case of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, if you look at Dumbledore from straight ahead and don’t strain too hard, you would actually think he is standing there. The lighting and shadowing are truly convincing, especially when he seemingly steps away from the railing where he is “standing” and then steps back. Likewise, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione appear from underneath the invisibility cloak, it’s one of those impressive “reveal” moments.
Moreover, the rest of the queue is fantastically themed. It’s much darker than I anticipated, so I didn’t feel like I was walking the main halls of Hogwarts as much as walking through a few underground corridors. For some scenes that works well and for others I wish it had been a bit brighter.
The moving portraits are quite convincing. They don’t look like TV screens mounted on the walls. There are brush strokes in front of the moving images that really make them look like they are portraits. Off-angle viewing is tough though. You do have to stand directly in front of the portraits, or close to it, to see them well.
Further down the queue, before the loading area, you see a Daily Prophet newspaper pinned to a bulletin board, complete with moving images of Harry Potter. In wandering the Wizarding World yesterday, I was wondering why I hadn’t seen any references to the Prophet, so I was happy to see it make an appearance here. Safety instructions for the ride are delivered by a few moving portraits and ultimately by an animatronic Sorting Hat, which is entertaining and informative.
So now all that remains for me to experience in the Wizarding World is actually riding the Forbidden Journey attraction, which I hope to very soon.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is currently only in a preview stage for on-site Universal Orlando hotel guests. The official grand opening is June 18.
See more of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter before it grand opens on June 18: