Attraction Review: HARRY POTTER AND THE FORBIDDEN JOURNEY (Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando)

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by Frank Arthur on December 29, 2010

in Extras

HIS JOURNEY IS NOW YOURS

Universal’s Islands of Adventure has always been one of the most astounding theme parks imaginable. But the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter actually puts the rest of the park to shame. The world offers guests a one-of-a-kind experience complete with multiple attractions, shops and a signature eating establishments. This completely immersive environment transcends generations and brings the wonder and magic of the amazingly detailed Harry Potter books and films to life.

But we’re not here to talk about the outrageously gorgeous new area and the way that previous rides have been reimagined to fit into this familiar landscape of literature and cinema. And reams can be written about the perspective of Hogwarts Castle, and the way it looms overhead looking taller than the Empire State Building — OK, a bit of exaggeration, but the view is just as stunning. (By the way, have you ever thought which Harry Potter House you truly belong in? If not, take this Hogwarts house quiz and find out.)

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Yesterday, we boarded the new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride three times, and I’m here to tell you that all the eagerness in the world will not be enough to match how thrilling this terrific experience is. After Spiderman, this is my favorite ride on the planet (sorry, Disney). While I will say little about the actual attraction, the line to get in simply amazed us.

Forbidden Journey truly begins the experience long before you sit down for the ride. With no patrons in line at all, a slow walk through the queue takes roughly 20 minutes, longer if you care to stop and watch each of the scenes several times. Look for the spectacular holograms. The “Defense Against the Dark Arts” classroom actually features three separate bits of dialogue between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as well as three different spells that get cast in the room, each with its own unique special effects. They’re all worth stopping and watching, so I was consistently slackjawed at the way guests would rush past these features to get to the ride faster. Stop and smell the castle. Next to Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin at Disneyland, this is the coolest queue around.

HOGSMEADE Ð The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at UniversalÕs Islands of Adventure will provide visitors with a one-of-a-kind experience complete with multiple attractions, shops and a signature eating establishment. This completely immersive environment will transcend generations and bring the wonder and magic of the amazingly detailed Harry Potter books and films to life.

Upon passing through everything you saw above, just past the Sorting Hat, you arrive in the “Room of Requirement,” which acts as the loading area for Forbidden Journey. This room is impressive not because it is filled with detail like all of the other Hogwarts Castle areas, but rather because of how well it hides the massive contraption that you’re about to strap yourself into.

Upon first arriving into the “Room of Requirement,” you are greeted by Hogwarts students who ask, “How many muggles in your party?” You get the feeling like you’re really being escorted out of the castle by a group of students eager to help you skip a boring lecture on Hogwarts history. It’s a nice touch.

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When approaching the loading area, you catch your first glimpse of the “enchanted benches” that you’ve been told will guide you out of the castle and to a Quidditch match. These four-seat vehicles glide horizontally along a mirrored back wall, reflecting floating candles above and making the room seem much larger than it is (though it is already a large room to begin with). The “benches” really appear to be nothing more than that. There is no indication at that time that they will do anything except slowly float along the ground, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

Hall of moving portraits, some of which will interact with guests.

A unique element to boarding Forbidden Journey is that the ride vehicles never stop moving (and because every guest is mandated to put their backpacks and other theme park gear in free lockers first, it speeds up boarding time dramatically). Guests are required to step onto a slow-moving platform and take a seat while in motion. The loading process has been compared to Disney’s Omnimover system, utilized on attractions like The Haunted Mansion and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. But comparisons to those attractions end there as each of the four seats on the vehicles features an over-the-shoulder harness like those found on many roller coasters. Once you sit down in the snug seats and pull the harness down, you realize that there is no way this ride is going to be a slow-moving adventure.

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Put those video cameras away for what’s next. No video of this attraction would ever do it justice.

And we’re not going to tell you what happens. The ride itself is a combination of hydraulics (think Disney’s Star Wars or Indiana Jones), movie (think Universal Hollywood’s Back to the Future), and tricks, sets and animatronics (think Haunted Mansion) that will blow your mind. Cleverly designed so that you never see any tracks for your vehicle, all we can say is you will end up getting to play Quittich on a broom. In fact, we were so inspired by the state-of-the-art technology and in-your-face effects that we can’t gripe that it lacks cohesive storytelling. Forbidden Journey provides an impressive whirlwind tour of almost every scene and character you’d expect to show up in a Harry Potter-based adventure.

photos courtesy of Universal Studios

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Universal Studios Islands of Adventure
1000 Universal Studios Plaza in Orlando, FL
for more info, visit Islands of Adventure

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