One of the good things about Universal is that they know exactly how to build momentum and the update on The Hogwarts Express at Universal Orlando Resort is no exception!
On Monday (10/03/2014) I was lucky enough to be invited by Universal to a special press conference hosted at Kings Cross Station – Now, before you Potter fans start getting all giddy it wasn’t at Platform 9 3/4, it was actually just round the back, at the Renaissance Hotel. I also travelled using the Victoria line from Oxford Circus and not the Night Bus 🙂
The press conference was hosted by Mark Woodbury, President of Universal Creative and James Phelps who played Fred Weasley in the films. Mark joined us via a live video link from Orlando and as a special treat James was at the conference in person.
The event kicked off with a short video showing some of the ‘lifelike’ concept animation that the riders will experience along the route from Kings Cross to Hogwarts and vice versa. The footage was actually a world premier and showed some amazing scenes featuring Hagrid, Hedwig the owl, Hogwarts pupils on broomsticks and Hippogriffs flying past the train carriages all using the familiar back drop of the countryside.
The train cabins will be windowless – in place of the windows the animation will be delivered to riders on glasses free 3D screens during their journey. Each carriage will be split into cabins. Each cabin will seat 8 riders with 25 cabins per carriage – this will give a maximum carriage capacity of 200 riders.
Here are some of the factoids that we manage to get hold of;
The train journey itself will last 6 minutes
6 minutes is about the average ride duration at Universal when you factor in getting on and off of the ride. On board the train you can expect Universal’s usual immaculate attention to detail which will ensure an authentic ride experience. Mark also hinted that as well as merchandising opportunities on board (probably the chance to buy chocolate frogs etc just like Ron does in the films) the train will have a few extra special experiences happening in the corridors.
The whole train ride experience will probably last around 60 minutes
Before you start moaning about how long the queue is, remember that this is Universal you’re dealing with! The queue itself will be part of the ‘whole’ experience. From the Kings Cross end we were told you can expect the platform to be busy with hustle and bustle of luggage cars, owls and eager Wizards waiting to board the train.
There will be 2 trains
One of the things we had speculated about here at Orlando Attraction Tickets was ‘will there be more than 1 train?’
Well, the answer to that is yes! There will be 2 trains running simultaneously. Each train will offer very different experience depending on which direction you are travelling in.
Platform 9 3/4 entrance
Although no specific details were given on how you will enter the platform, from what was implied, we are speculating that Universal could use an optical illusion at the entrance of the platform. As in the film where students of Hogwarts run through a wall, we think that the queue may be positioned in such a way that it gives those waiting in line the illusion that those entering the platform will be passing through a wall.
Universal have gone to great lengths to make sure that the user experience is totally authentic.
Did you know that Universal sent a special team to the UK to research trains? They made sure that not only the look and feel of the train was correct, they even made sure that the ride, sound and even the fabric on the seats matched exactly. They have even taken great care to ensure that black smoke will billow from the train as it makes it journey.
Universal have ensured that this ride is suitable for the whole family so no one will miss out! I for one cannot wait to see this in action. The sheer level of attention to detail by Universal on the train alone will no doubt ensure that the Hogwarts Express, will be a major attraction at both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.
Although many people have tried, none have so far succeeded in finding out the exact opening date for Diagon Alley. Universal are stating summer 2014. Here at OAT we reckon sometime in June 2014.