Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Universal Creative V.P. Talks Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Though the July issue of FUNWORLD just came out, I'm already getting excited for everyone to see the August issue, which features The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on the cover to headline our annual New Rides and Attractions issue.
I spent a couple days last month exploring all the new land at Universal's Islands of Adventure has to offer (which is quite a bit!). You'll have to wait a few more weeks to read my eight-page blowout story, but to whet your appetite here's a Q&A with Thierry Coup, vice president of creative development for Universal Creative, all about Harry Potter.
How are you handling overall capacity for Wizarding World?
There is tremendous excitement for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which has resulted in a significant number of guests. To make sure that everyone has an enjoyable experience, we are pacing guests into the area, and inviting new guests inside as others leave.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one of the most anticipated theme park experiences of our generation. Our goal is to make sure that every guest who wants to experience it is able to do so.
Can you talk at all about the technological breakthroughs you accomplished to create "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey"?
"Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" is a revolutionary, 360-degree theme park experience and first combination of live-action, advanced robotic technology and innovative filmmaking—specially designed and developed for this brand-new adventure.
The attraction’s newly created ride system envelops guests in filmed action scenes and moves those scenes with them as they travel through the ride, allowing more time in the center of the adventure and with their favorite characters. This fusion of robotic technology and filmed scenes has never been achieved until now. In some cases, technology had to be invented to achieve the highest level of guest experience. The combination of pioneering, state-of-the-art technology, innovative filmmaking, and surprises around every corner make this attraction the embodiment of the Harry Potter book and film series—and the future of theme park entertainment.
Did you have any idea Butterbeer would be such a runaway hit? Everyone seems to want that wonderfully sweet stuff.
We knew there were high expectations for Butterbeer, and we definitely wanted to make sure that we met them. We worked very closely with the filmmakers and J.K. Rowling to make sure that everything—the look, the taste—was just right. The response has been great! It’s absolutely wonderful to see guests walking around the park with Butterbeer mustaches.
What kinds of reactions are you seeing from guests upon entering Wizarding World?
It’s always very exciting and rewarding to see the reactions of guests as they enjoy The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Some guests jump up and down with excitement as they enter, others run around with huge smiles on their faces. Some explore the area in awe and make comments like, “I can’t believe I’m here,” or “This looks just like the movies.”
The retail outlets in Wizarding World are like attractions, too. What are some of the most popular merchandise items?
Because of the great anticipation for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we knew guests would be eager to enjoy the merchandise we have in the land. Some of the most popular items are magic wands, Hogwarts house robes, Gryffindor apparel, Chocolate Frogs, and Pygmy Puffs.
What are one or two things in Wizarding World people might miss but you really love?
There are many details in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for guests to explore. For example, while dining in the Three Broomsticks, guests can see shadows of house elves working upstairs. Also, in Zonko’s, there are Extendable Ears hanging from the roof, and if you listen closely, you can hear whispering. The window storefronts in Hogsmeade are also incredibly detailed—every window has a magical touch for guests to enjoy, like the screaming Howler in the Owl Post window and the flying snitch in the Spintwiches window. All of these details help create an immersive and authentic experience for our guests.
How key are these little touches to the overall depth of theming on display in the land?
Universal Orlando Resort is committed to delivering the highest level of detail and authenticity for our guests. Our team worked very closely with the filmmakers to make sure every detail within The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was authentic to the Harry Potter books and films—from the snow on the rooftops of Hogsmeade to merchandise available in the land. This level of detail and theming really helps to immerse guests into the adventures of Harry Potter.
What affect do you hope Wizarding World has on Universal Orlando?
Universal Orlando Resort is unlike any other destination—we bring pop culture’s most powerful and compelling characters and stories to life. Our guests are pulled into the heart of these stories, and they become a part of the most exhilarating entertainment experiences ever created. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter carries on this theme and provides our guests with another unparalleled entertainment experience.
For more on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, be watching for the August issue of FUNWORLD.