Harry Potter film stars attend Diagon Alley preview at Universal Orlando

jmorreale@bradenton.comJune 19, 2014 

ORLANDO -- King's Cross Station was a magical place to be Wednesday night as stars from the "Harry Potter" film series arrived on the red carpet for a special preview of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter -- Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando.

Earlier in the day it was announced the newest addition to Universal Studios will open to the public July 8.

Stars from the Harry Potter movie series on the carpet included Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), who has a major part in the new ride Escape from Gringotts.

Also appearing: Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley).

Hundreds of Muggles and Potter fans gathered outside the gates to cheer on their favorite actors.

Around 9 p.m., Coltrane used his pink umbrella to push the secret code on the brick wall to make the attraction open. The actors and special guests were the first to ride Escape From Gringotts at the nighttime event.

Actors dressed in wizard wear strolled Diagon Alley greeting guests. Samples of the fantastic Butterbeer ice cream were given out at Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour.

The first Harry Potter-themed attraction at Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure -- Hogsmeade -- opened four years ago and has been a very profitable addition to the theme parks. Since the first phase opened in 2010, attendance has increased year-over-year by 30 percent.

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Thierry Coup, senior vice president of Universal Creative at Universal Studios, said Diagon Alley was a natural subject when looking to expand the Potter-themed attractions.

"It's the first place Harry (Potter) went in the wizarding world," he said. "It's where he got his owl, his robes, his wand and where he visited the

Leaky Cauldron."

In the Harry Potter books by author J.K. Rowling, Diagon Alley is a secret wizards-only neighborhood in London where they can shop for wizarding supplies such as wands, owls and other pets and school clothing. It is also where they can exchange Muggle money for Gringotts bank notes.

Guests will see the Knight Bus as they stroll through London. Enter King's Cross Station and access Diagon Alley by walking or running through a brick wall to get to Platform 9 3/4. Guests will then board the Hogwarts Express and enjoy a unique journey as they travel between London/Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.

In scenes playing on the windows of the train, characters from the books and movies appear, including Hagrid on his flying motorcycle and the Weasley twins on brooms. A two-park pass will be required to ride.

While in Diagon Alley, guests can shop at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes or Ollivanders wand shop, grab a Butterbeer ice cream at Florean

Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlour or fill up on bangers and mash at the Leaky Cauldron.

The big attraction is Harry Potter and The Escape from Gringotts ride, which features a 60-foot, fire-breathing Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon, goblins hard at work and the villainous Death Eater, Bellatrix Lestrange and He Who Must Not Be Named.

"Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts will change the way you think about theme park attractions," said Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative. "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."

For continuing coverage of the Diagon Alley media preview, follow @janamorreale on Twitter. #DiagonAlleyPreview

Jana Morreale, features editor, can be reached at 941-745-7059. Follow her on Twitter: @janamorreale.

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