Pottermore and a free book were not enough for fans missing Harry Potter, so Universal Orlando Resort will be expanding this summer with new additions that both Slytherins and Gryffindors will love. Oliver Phelps discusses his Harry Potter experience and returning to play George Weasley for fans on their ride to the newly added Diagon Alley.
The Harry Potter portion of the resort has always featured Hogsmeade, complete with Gringotts, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, and plenty of butterbeer. Summer will bring Diagon Alley to the experience and in order to reach it, guests will take the new ride through Britain’s countryside on Hogwarts Express. Beginning at platform 9 ¾ guests will pass through the brick wall before boarding. During the ride, Harry Potter scenes will surround the train as passengers look out the windows, each person seeing a different view depending on their seats. Hagrid will be flying around on his motorbike, the Weasley twins on their brooms, and the Knight Bus will make appearances during the ride.
A new hotel is also in the works, Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Russ Dagon, vice president/executive project director of Universal Creative, said that it will extend the experience and keep guests feeling like they are in the park. Featuring modernist architecture based around the 1950s and 1960s, and 1,800 rooms, the hotel will also be equipped with a lazy river and a water slide.
In honor of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s new addition of Diagon Alley, EW talked with Oliver Phelps. When asked about his first visit to Universal Studios he remembered his experience vividly and how much “everything about it was Potter.” With Hogwarts castle looming in the background, he was impressed with the level of detail and how much justice they had done in portraying the world. Phelps laughed about his excitement to find the joke shop and said he was blown away by the size. “It’s exactly how they built it in the film,” he said, already pleased with it though he had seen the unfinished building, not yet painted.
Looking back at previous scenes, he decided that the Yule Ball was his favorite to film. After three long weeks of “nerve-wracking” dance lessons, a concert was held in the Great Hall a week before Christmas. He compared it to a school dance, complete with the co-stars being divided, boys one one side and girls on another. For an hour Radiohead played songs and though the concert did not make it into the film, Phelps still thought it was brilliant.
Back on his broomstick, Phelps was able to once again play George Weasley, which he said was the weirdest part of the experience. New footage was filmed to be shown to Hogwarts Express passengers on their journey and as excited as he was, he was sure he would never be back in his old role. After wrapping up the final battle, Phelps said he thought it was the end. “I’d said my goodbyes to the characters.” After being back with the same crew, he said for a time it felt as though they had never left. There are no official opening dates added for when the Hogwarts Express is taking Harry Potter fans on their trip to the new Diagon Alley. However, after a positive review from Oliver Phelps himself, the joke shop alone may be worth the visit.
By Whitney Hudson