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LOS ANGELES, USA – Fifteen years after Harry Potter’s first big screen adventure, Universal is enchanting a new generation of Muggles with its most spectacular conjuring trick yet – a theme park in the heart of Hollywood.
The “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” follows similar money-spinning ventures in Florida and Japan, but is set to be the most technologically advanced so far, incorporating state-of-the-art 3D effects with the traditional fun of the fair.
Opening at Universal Studios beneath the Hollywood hills on Thursday, April 7 it is the latest attraction in a burgeoning film industry sideline which has become so lucrative executives are beginning to design sets with future theme parks in mind.
“When you think about the property of Harry Potter – all 7 books and 8 movies – there’s no better place than the filmmaking capital of the world to have this ultimate experience,” said Thierry Coup, a senior vice-president of Universal Creative, the company’s research and development division.
The last Harry Potter film was released 5 years ago but the character’s appeal remains as strong as ever, with fans eagerly awaiting stage show Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, which opens in London this summer.
Meanwhile a spin-off movie trilogy is due to hit the big screen, starting with Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them later in the year.
‘A more magical experience’
The attention to detail is impressive, from the fading patinas on the slate-gray stone blocks that make up the aged rustic Hog’s Head tavern to the painstakingly worn edges of the stained furniture and the grimy floors.
The quaint fictional village of Hogsmeade bustles with the chatter of merchants on the cobblestone streets and a pub packed with thirsty patrons under a snow-capped roof.
If all that sounds like the run-of-the-mill theme park, the signature “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride combining state of the art 360-degree 3-D special effects, live-action thrills and groundbreaking robotics, is anything but.
Gilmore, an architect by trade, says Wizarding World boasts many original props from the films, including the luggage racks from the Hogwarts Express train, Hagrid’s motorbike and a costume from the Yule ball.
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“Here, we don’t have actors, we have real people. So it was very important that we at least realized the set design perfectly so that when you step into this world you feel you’re in the film,” he told Agence France-Presse.
Among a international pack of reporters and photographers seeking their inner wizard at a preview on Wednesday were a number of stars from the films, including Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy, and Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick).
In the video below, Tom gives USA Today a tour of the wizarding world in Hollywood, visiting Zonko’s Joke shop in Hogsmeade village.
“Even though I’ve experienced much like this, having worked on the films, for me coming to ‘Wizarding World’ is a more magical experience,” said Davis, whose filmography includes several Star Wars episodes, Labyrinth and Willow.
“These environments are more immersive because you can walk into somewhere like the Three Broomsticks from Hogsmeade and it exists in reality, whereas when you make the movies these locations and sets are quite separate.” – Frankie Taggart, AFP/ Rappler.com