Like a locked door that's been opened just a tad, Universal Orlando on Tuesday revealed news about its latest attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. The ride is the signature piece of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter -- Diagon Alley, which, for now, is shrouded in secrecy until Universal reps announce the date of its grand opening.
"If you want to be teased and entertained with all your senses, this is the attraction," said Eric Hunt, a creative producer for the Gringotts ride, which features 360-degree sets, 4K digital high-def animation and other special effects. "Wind, water, heat, falling ... just about anything you can think of that's part of this 4-minute experience."
Guests will see some familiar faces from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," specifically, dark wizard Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort aka He Who Must Not Be Named. But the good guys are there, too, like Harry's best mates Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
As fans of the books and movies know, Harry, Ron and Hermione break into Gringotts Bank to retrieve something from Lestrange's vault that will help them defeat Voldemort. To do so, they must fool the goblins that work at Gringotts and eventually deal with a fire-breathing Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon.
"We're really excited to have not only a technical accomplishment, but a really great story that has been blessed by J.K. Rowling herself," Hunt said, referring to the best-selling author behind the Potter series.
Universal worked with their partners at Warner Bros. and with Stuart Craig, production designer for the films. In Gringotts, there will be new faces, new rooms and never-before-seen places that were not in the films, but were part of Craig's vision, Hunt said.
The goblins, for example, or what Hunt affectionately calls, "my adopted children."
"We've done a really great job about bringing these characters to life," he said. "These goblins weren't even in the feature films. They're all truly unique." All 10, he added, have custom-fitted suits with most of the materials Italian-made down to the cuff links, shirts, the jewelry and the buttons.
Brodrig the goblin sports the same tie as he did in the film.
"As with our opening, we want to keep some things secret," Hunt said. "Magical surprises await within the wall of Gringotts."
"We've created an entirely new type of ride that propels guests into the story like never before, and guests will remember it long after their visit to Diagon Alley," Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative, said in a news release.
Other highlights of Diagon Alley:
-- Hogwarts Express leading to Hogsmeade at Universal's Islands of Adventure from King's Cross Station at Diagon Alley at Universal Studios.
-- Platform 9 3/4 (pronounced 9 and three-quarters), where, in the books and movies, Hogwarts students ran through a brick wall to get to a portal to board the train. Guests will experience "something" like this, Hunt said.
-- Weasleys Wizard Wheezes, a prank and practical joke shop
-- The Leaky Cauldron, a wizarding pub and inn in London and the entrance to Diagon Alley
-- Knockturn Alley, the shopping area with dark arts items
-- Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, where park visitors can buy Hogwarts school uniform supplies like ties, scarves, robes and costumes.
-- Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment, full of telescopes, binoculars, compasses, magnifying glasses, and hourglasses.
-- A shop that sells Quidditch supplies. Quidditch is the game that uses broomsticks, goals and a golden snitch.
-- Scribbulus, which will have feather quills, ink, journals, parchment paper, stationery sets and more.
If fans want to see both parks, a two-park ticket will be required. For adults, a two-park ticket for one day costs $136; for children, it costs $130.