Friday, March 14, 2014

You'll now get to ride the Hogwarts Express at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

For years, the noble Hogwarts Express only existed as the (relatively) static model above - tucked away in a far corner of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter past the insufferably long line for the Butterbeer carts.

Now, it's going to take center stage - literally - following the announcement of the Diagon Alley park expansion into Universal Studios proper.

During that announcement, Universal teased that the magical train would join the parks and promised it would be "an adventure in itself" - but didn't reveal exactly what they had in store.  Now they have with an all new announcement, and the results are every bit as impressive as you'd expect.

The whole thing starts with a Platform 9 3/4-type experience.  Meaning, you'll actually walk through a wall - or rather, you'll pretend to walk through a wall.  However you choose to look at it, Mr. Muggle, the result should be as impressive as it is disorienting.  A park official describe the experience as follows:

"I don't want to give it away, you have to experience it. But you'll see people... Transition through the wall, and you'll transition through the wall as you go to the platform."

So, let's get down to the details!
  • The Train will be awesome - It'll seat about 200 guests at a time, and pulls into the station billowing smoke. Each cabin is made to the exact size of the ones shown in the movies, and the hallways, paint materials used, and train whistle are all "100% accurate".
  • You'll want to ride it a few times - The train ride is exactly that: part train, part ride.  As the train trundles along, a new Harry Potter-inspired scene play out with characters and creatures outside the windows. They'll be famous wizards flying by on broomsticks, Buckbeak the Hippogriff, Dementors, and gorgeous landscapes from the film will all scroll by.  Infuriatingly, where you sit on the train determines what part of this show you'll see... and the show's different whether you go from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley or vice versa, so completitionists will want to ride it a few times.
  • Hagrid will be there - As if you needed another kick in the nostalgia feels, Hagrid will wave goodbye to guests from the Hogsmeade station.
  • You can spend money - While the Candy Trolly would be kinda tough to implement, park officials teased that they'd have something close to it in the finished product that'll let you buy chocolate frogs and whatever other treats you can justify paying for.
  • You need to spend money - In order to ride the train, you'll need the more expensive Park-to-Park ticket for both Universal Studios (Diagon Alley) and Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade). 
There's still no set release date for when the Diagon Alley expansion and the Hogwarts Express experience will be up and running past "this summer" but I somehow expect the opening announcement will be kinda hard to miss.