We toured the 13 city blocks on four acres of historic studio lot in the largest set construction project in studio history. Built with creative consultation from Steven Spielberg himself, it is the movie industry’s busiest sets. Among the sets we traveled along these streets: Brownstone Street, Denver Street, Central Park, Courthouse Square, New York Street, Theater Facades. Old Mexican Area, Wall Street and West Village.
The Hogwarts Express, in Harry Potter books, travels between the London, King’s Cross Station Platform 9 3/4 and Hogsmeade Station. The Express carried students to and from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This Express is at the entrance of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We went into Ollivanders, makers of fine wands since 382 BC, and saw a short performance of a wand choosing a wizard. In our group a young boy, who was celebrating his birthday, received a wand. Of course, his parents had to pay the $47.95 for it.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was buried deep inside Hogwarts Castle. We traveled through Gryffindor Common Room, which was filled with all the talking paintings. It was hard to listen to the conversation that the paintings were having. We then passed through Dumbledore’s office and got some advice from him. All of this was to entertain us while we waited in line for the ride, if we had not had the VIP passes. This ride combines a 3-D experience with a robotics ride system that made us feel like we were flying. Sets and filmed media were projected on domed screens in each vehicle. The ride zoomed over the Hogwarts grounds, hit the Quidditch pitch, dueled with dragons. At the end we were hailed a hero when we hit the Great Hall, but we didn’t feel like it with the sick feeling from to much movement.
From the cobblestone alleyways to the snow-capped roofs, you get the sense you are on the street of an English village. It all feels very natural, organic, and comfortable, and that’s was deliberate by the designer. There are film artifacts throughout the village. The school desks and chalkboard in the Defense Against Dark Arts classroom scene are inside Hogwarts Castle. In the train station there are luggage racks. There are many of the wizarding world’s best known establishments in which to shop and eat. Moaning Myrtle, was a Muggle-born witch who attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and was killed by Tom Riddle’s orders. Now, she is a ghost who haunts the restrooms in the Harry Potter Park, moaning and talking, which catches you off guard at first. There are many of the wizarding world’s best known establishments in which to shop and eat.
Above the entrance to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a sign says “please respect the spell limits.” Once inside, our eyes immediately go skyward to a huge, rambling, castle with a jumble of towers and battlements. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the magical wizarding school towers over the snow-capped village of Hogsmeade.
Our tram stopped at the set from 2005’s “War of the Worlds” (with Tom Cruise), where an airliner has crashed into a residential neighborhood. The actual, full-size 747 jet airliner fuselage was purchased and shipped to Hollywood at the cost of $2 millions. The plan was ripped in two, its tail section is still intact, while its engines smolder in the ruins of the tract houses around it. Mary pressed a switch and smoke and water started coming out around the houses and airplane.
The Transformers a 3-D thrill ride, takes place in the middle of a war zone. As our seats rocked, the HD 3D media and flight simulation technology made us feel like we had things being thrown at us, hurtling down tall buildings, and large robot creatures coming at us full force. We entered The Walking Dead attraction through an archway to start our journey into a world overrun with hungry walkers. As we worked our way through the mazes the walkers reached out and walked into us. If we had watched the show it might have been more fun and meaningful.
The tram entered a garage where Fast & Furious: Supercharged was introduced by Roman and Letty, two of the movie’s characters. The tram moves forward and we are in the middle of Pepper’s ghost hologram, as the party is interrupted and guest are escorted out. Screeching cars fill the screens and a background alarm alerts that trouble is ahead. We put on our 3D glasses. The characters head for their vehicles and begin a vehicle chase in a parking lot underground. The chase then ends up on the freeway.