Orlando Harry Potter attraction enchants despite glitches

Thu Jun 19, 2014 6:54pm EDT
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By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO Fla. (Reuters) - The signature ride of the new "Harry Potter" attraction at Universal Studios in Orlando, a roller coaster with passenger cars that pitch, heave and spin 360 degrees through a 3-D film adventure, was shut during a media preview on Thursday after minor glitches the previous night.

"Escape from Gringotts" is the centerpiece ride of the new Diagon Alley expansion to the "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley" attraction, opening to the public July 8, which recreates the London-based wizard shopping district imagined in J.K. Rowling's book series.

The ride ran into a technical snag and broke down late Wednesday during a red carpet debut, and was still not running on Thursday. Even so, the actors who attended the preview gasped and grinned as they walked though Diagon Alley, a fully realized four-story shopping district.

"It's absolutely brilliant. It totally takes you in," said Warwick Davis, who played Professor Filius Flitwick in the film series.

To enhance the feeling of authenticity, the designers collaborated with Rowling to create additional signage and graphics that remained true to the book, said senior vice president of Universal Creative Thierry Coup.

"If we had to make up the name of a print shop, the name or wording is somewhere in the book," Coup said.

Diagon Alley is connected to Hogsmeade, the original Potter attraction at Universal Orlando, by the Hogwarts Express, a four-minute themed train journey based on the magical locomotive in the book series.

The new additions will join the main "Harry Potter" ride, "The Forbidden Journey," which is based in Hogsmeade and is an amalgamation of scenes from the book.   Continued...

A dragon breathes fire above The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley during a media preview at the Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida June 19, 2014. REUTERS/David Manning