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Archive for Saturday, June 19, 2010

Harry Potter fans flood eagerly awaited park

June 19, 2010

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— Thousands of people waited in line for hours Friday to get into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando on its opening day, as Daniel Radcliffe and other stars from the movie greeted fans at the minipark.

Aerial photos showed thousands of people in a snaking line waiting to enter. On Twitter and other forums, observers joked that the park had become “Harry Potter and the Endless Line.”

Universal Orlando spokesman Tom Schroder said the park does not divulge attendance figures, but he said 5,000 people were waiting to get in before the park even opened Friday morning.

Schroder said that despite the large numbers of fans, “it looks as if we will be able to accommodate everyone who wants to experience The Wizarding World of Harry Potter within our regular hours.” The park normally closes at 10 p.m.

The park was admitting guests to the 20-acre Wizarding World area in waves, so it did not appear overcrowded from the inside. But the line to enter the Wizarding World snaked all the way through Universal’s Islands of Adventure park, where the Harry Potter area is located.

“It’s absolutely jampacked,” said Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, in a phone interview, adding, “The number of people here for this is clearly in the tens of thousands. These are passionate fans.”

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.

The Wizarding World brings the popular Harry Potter books and movies to life with rides, shops and detailed reproductions of the fictitious village of Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the steam-belching Hogwarts Express train.

Radcliffe, who plays the boy wizard in the movie series, was joined at the opening by Warwick Davis (who plays Filius Flitwick), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) and Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore).

“What Universal Orlando has done with Harry Potter is really, really fantastic,” Radcliffe said at the opening ceremony. “We’re all kind of very grateful that the next part of the Harry Potter legacy has been so well-done and so well-made.”

The park’s marquee ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is filled with special effects as it takes guests on a flight through Harry’s life, including encounters with Dementors and a dragon, and projections of characters from the film like Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts.

The park also has two roller coasters, Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge, as well as themed stores like Honeydukes confectionary and Ollivander’s Wand Shop.

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