It's been more than 3 years since Universal Orlando and Warner Bros. announced on May 31, 2007, that they were forming a partnership to produce Wizarding World of Harry Potter, "a theme park within a theme park" to be built at Universal's Islands of Adventure. It would include the village of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts castle.
"The plans I've seen look incredibly exciting, and I don't think fans for the books or films will be disappointed," Potter author J.K. Rowling said at the time. Production designer Stuart Craig was hired to maintain the look of the films. Opening date would be "late 2009." In its filing with the SEC, Universal said it would open no later than summer 2010.
Here's how Wizarding World has evolved since that initial announcement.
•January 2008: Construction begins.
•July 2008: Lost Continent's Flying Unicorn coaster and Enchanted Oak Tavern close. (Enchanted Oak later is leveled to make room for Potter projects.) Bridge is built over IOA waterway to bypass Wizarding World yet still connect Lost Continent and Jurassic Park areas. Result is public view of construction and popular photo opportunity.
•Sept. 15, 2009: A broad opening date is established: "Spring 2010." Actor Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the Potter films, announces that during a webcast.
•September 2009: A crane slips the top shell of Hogwarts atop the manmade cliff at Islands of Adventure.
•Sept. 15, 2009 Universal reveals more elements of Wizarding World, including the presence of butterbeer. Announced establishments were Zonko's, Honeydukes, Ollivanders, Filch's Emporium of Confiscated Goods, Dervish & Banges, the Owlery, Three Broomsticks restaurant and adjacent Hog's Head Pub.
It's also the first mention of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is described as a "thrilling new state-of-the-art attraction that uses entirely new technology" but is quickly wrapped in secrecy. Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff, rethemed versions of Dueling Dragons and Flight of the Unicorn, also are announced. The trains on Dragon Challenge are redubbed Chinese Fireball and Hungarian Horntail. Missing: Forbidden Forest, which was presented in original plans and press releases, is no longer on the Wizarding World map.
•Dec. 8, 2009: An extra on the DVD for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince says Forbidden Journey will include "moving" portraits and a giant spider; plus Universal executive chef Steven Jayson says the flavor of butterbeer is "great, real comforting and nice and smooth going down."
•January 2010: Universal CityWalk billboard pushes Wizarding World. It's later covered by a Mardi Gras promotion.
•Jan. 28, 2010: Guests will be able to buy magic wands at Wizarding World, Universal announces. Actually, through special effects and a live actor, the wands will select their new owners.
A 3-D, "augmented reality" map of Wizarding World appears in a newspaper ad. With aid of webcams, visitors "fly" through the area and hear the Hogwarts Express.
•Feb. 3, 2010: The Harry Potter "microsite" within Universal's main Web site gives the menu for Three Broomsticks: Fish and chips, shepherd's pie, Cornish pasty and turkey legs. You can wash it down with butterbeer or pumpkin juice. Touted souvenirs include Hogwarts school uniforms, omnioculars, broomsticks and candies such as Fizzing Whizzbees and Chocolate Frogs.
Ride descriptions remain vague. At Forbidden Journey, the site says, "You'll visit iconic locations such as Dumbledore's office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Gryffindor common room, the Room of Requirement and more."
•Feb. 7, 2010: Wizarding World of Harry Potter is featured in a Super Bowl ad, which shows actor Daniel Radcliffe (as Harry) aboard a broomstick.
•Feb. 19, 2010: Newspaper report that butterbeer will have alcohol in it is disputed by Universal. The information was from a presentation by a Universal sales coordinator. Universal will not comment about two other tidbits in the article: a "very top secret" frog choir and a talking hog's head at the Hog's Head Pub.
•Feb. 28, 2010: Universal announces its first Potter-oriented vacation package, the first of which will be available May 28, 2010. Among the amenities: breakfast at Three Broomsticks, a commemorative ticket, early park admission.
•March 29, 2010: Orlando Sentinel reports that Universal's butterbeer tastes like a shortbread cookie with butterscotch, is amber in color and most definitely non-alcoholic.
•May 17, 2010: Participants at the Orlando International Pow Wow, a tourism trade group, receive a preview of Hogsmeade Village and the extensive queue in Hogwarts for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride — but don't actually get on the ride. In the following days, Universal employees have similar experiences, and a few actors from the Potter films — including Emma Watson (Hermoine) — tour the grounds.
•May 28, 2010: Special Harry Potter hotel packages begin.
•June 18, 2010: Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens to the public.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun