Mary McNamara: Harry Potter’s Wizarding World conjures up crowds

June 22, 2010 | 11:20 p.m.

Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara is in Orlando to review the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Her full review will run later this week, but here’s a few quick dispatches from the scene. Click on the photos to go to a full gallery.

Although Universal Orlando doesn’t release numbers on park attendance, the first week crowds for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter seem to have taken officials by surprise. Those staying at the resort hotels are allowed in the Islands of Adventure Park one hour before the 9 a.m. opening time, but the crowd at the gate forms much earlier.

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Once inside, those wanting to visit Harry first thing are channeled into a line that swoops around the park in an effort to keep the Wizarding World from being overrun. Hundreds of guests waited up to four hours this morning to be allowed past the soon-to-be-iconic gates of Hogsmeade, only to wait in more lines! For butterbeer, for a glimpse into Ollivander’s wand shop, for a bite at the Three Broomsticks, a wait of 45 minutes or more is not unusual. The centerpiece of the place, the fabulous multimedia journey through Hogwarts, listed wait times in the triple digits, as in 120 minutes.

“We expected it to be a great success,” said Thierry Coup, vice president of Universal Creative. “But we delivered beyond expectation and we’re seeing a response beyond expectation.”

Indeed, for all the waiting under a non-gentle Florida sun, there was nary a complaint to be heard.

“There’s a line everywhere,” said one mom to her kids as they queued up for the Hogshead Pub. “We’ll just have to deal.” And, eyes shining as they took in the crazy snow-covered eaves and chimneys of Hogsmeade, the boy and girl just nodded.

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Wizarding World offers a collision between two often opposing cultures: fantasy geeks and roller coaster freaks. Literary moms and other adrenalinephobes find themselves talked into boarding the Dragon Challenge, which is a fairly serious roller coaster experience — you go upside down, etc. But when you’ve stood in line for three hours to enter the Wizarding World, a certain recklessness sets in and the racing coasters are filled with eyes-closed, rosary-muttering parents, most of whom get off proud and exhilarated if regretting, just a bit, that second butterbeer.

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Bigger than the Beatles? Bottles of pumpkin juice on tables at the Hard Rock Cafe makes one wonder what percentage of the world’s wealth is owned by J.K. Rowling and Paul McCartney combined … and did they get Bill Gates’ recent memo?

– Mary McNamara

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Photos: First – Gates to the theme park were opened at 6 a.m., as a line of faithful fans snaked as far back as the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal CityWalk. Credit: Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel. Second – “Harry Potter” star Daniel Radcliffe rides the Flight of the Hippogriff attraction at Universal Orlando Resort. Credit: Kevin Kolczynski / Universal Orlando. Last – J.K. Rowling visits the theme park escorted by Mark Woodbury, president, Universal Creative. Credit: Kevin Kolczynski/Universal Orlando

Comments


4 Responses to Mary McNamara: Harry Potter’s Wizarding World conjures up crowds

  1. Bill says:

    I went to Harry Potter land a few days ago. They did a great job making it all seem like your right there at Hogsmeade village. Hogswart castle was really cool too!

  2. Andy says:

    Just went there over Fall Break and the crowds in Hogsmead were too much. Shoulder to shoulder all the way through and long, long lines for everything. Everything looks really great and authentic but it was just too crowded to enjoy it. The good thing about everyone being in that part of the park is that the rest of Islands of Adventure was less crowded and the Universal Studios Florida park next door was even less crowded and almost no waiting in line all day long over there.

  3. Leilah says:

    Went for my birthday- AMAZING. I got to see the frog choir, and the Durmstrang boys and Beauxbaton girls put on their exhibitions. Rode the Dragon Challenge- TWICE because you can't ride one and not the other- and loved the Forbidden Journey. We went on a Thursday, so the lines weren't terrible… It was amazing, and it looked just the way you would imagine it. Went into Ollivanders- the only complaint I had about the place, seeing as Ollivanders is in Diagon Alley- and got a wand. Loved Honeydukes and everywhere else! I'm afraid to eat my chocolate frog because then it will be gone… It was amazing, and I was almost expecting the snow to start melting in the hot sun and dripping on my head, it looked so real. Definately worth the trip, especially if you can go on a weekday when they're not so busy.

  4. Heather says:

    I like this line "two often opposing cultures: fantasy geeks and roller coaster freaks"
    Because I fall into both categories. LOL! A fantasy geek who is a huge roller coaster freak :D
    I really wish I could afford to go here soon. I live on the opposite corner of the country though, any money has been tight.
    Leilah- don't be too afraid to eat your chocolate frog (they are good) You can find them at Borders and Toy R Us. You also can order them online, and I bet they are about 1/2 the price as they were at the theme park. They also actually come with collectible cards of our favorite characters. I was very happy when the first one I ever got had a 3-d card of Albus Dumbledore.

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