Part 2: The Hogwarts Express and Diagon Alley
The Hogwarts Express by Draco and the Malfoys
Hogwarts Express, won’t you steal away my mind?
Back before phase one of WWoHP had even been completed, rumors of Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express began to circulate for the first time. One of my immediate thoughts was that we would finally be able to take the same journey Harry did: through Diagon Alley, then through the wall to Platform 9 3/4, and – finally – to Hogwarts. It’s something I’ve been thinking about through the entire Diagon Alley construction process, because it’s just so damn special that we get to do this.
The ride on the Hogwarts Express is iconic, marking the beginning and end of each year at Hogwarts. There’s a reason that the stationary train in Hogsmeade is one of the best photo ops around, that King’s Cross station across the pond is a sort of pilgrimage for Potter nerds, that we still joke about meeting up on September 1st after a long, muggle summer. So I’ll be honest – I’m probably going to cry when we get there. And I may or may not be trying to figure out if I can make it back to WWoHP on September 1st to finally do what we’ve daydreamed about.
Platform 9 3/4 by Harry and the Potters
And we’ll take the train from Platform 9 3/4
‘Cause the bus don’t go to Hogwarts, you gots to take the train
Before boarding the Hogwarts Express, we start out in the muggle side of King’s Cross and then go through the wall onto Platform 9 3/4. Those who have already visited the attraction describe seeing the familiar boarding area and the Hogwarts Express for the first time as breathtaking. Meanwhile, the optical illusion bringing us the through-the-wall effect is simple but memorable:
Ginny and Me by The Mudbloods
The Knight Bus, it came up to me
Conductor said ‘what will it be?’
I said ‘take me down to Diagon Alley’
Diagon Alley by Tonks and the Aurors
Heaven is a street in London called Diagon Alley
When Harry first walks into Diagon Alley, he “[wishes] he had eight more eyes.” I don’t think we’ll be any less overwhelmed. Universal Creative has made the expansion every bit as detailed as Hogsmeade, working to embody the busyness of a wizarding place of commerce. The crooked buildings lean inwards; Gringotts looms in the distance, the dragon perched atop it; shop windows are – literally – alive with their displays.
Despite boring things like fire safety regulations, the team behind the theme parks has captured the best parts of the wizarding world we know and brought it to life.
So maybe heaven is a theme park in Orlando.
The Economics of the Wizarding World Don’t Make Sense by Harry and the Potters
My wand only costs seven galleons
I know this song is a playful critique of J.K. Rowling’s occasional lack of continuity in her worldbuilding, but my first thought upon buying my first WWoHP wand was “why doesn’t my want only cost seven galleons?”
Wizard capitalism at work.
Wizard Wheezes Radio Hour by The Mudbloods
Turn that frown upon your face
Into a look of joy and grace
This is a whimsical song for a whimsical store. One of the most awaited parts of the expansion, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes features is something straight out of the films. Every inch of the shop brings us Weasley humor brought to life, from moving objects lining the shelves to fireworks going off overhead.
Our Fireworks Say Poo by Gred and Forge
Our wheezes are cool
The Gringotts Goblin Coaster by Harry and the Potters
I want to ride the Gringotts goblin coaster
Deep into the belly filled with gold
Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts is Diagon Alley’s headlining attraction, taking riders on, well, the Gringotts goblin coaster. Unlike Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey over in Hogsmeade, this ride focuses in on a specific moment from the story: we’re breaking in just like the trio did.
While it’s more dark ride than roller coaster, Escape from Gringotts is revolutionary in its own ways. Like Forbidden Journey before it, it is a masterpiece attraction that takes risks and goes above and beyond. The ride combines motion, physical sets, and screens in a completely new way.
This in-depth review of the ride was written after media previews.
Knockturn Alley by Draco and the Malfoys
Went down to Knockturn Alley today
The Diagon Alley expansion includes the darker side of the wizarding world. Through an understated entrance lies Knockturn Alley, the dodgy area we first saw in Chamber of Secrets. Though you wouldn’t know if straight off the bat, it’s actually indoors to better bring us an illusion of all-encompassing darkness. It’s lined with creepy storefronts and is home to Borgin and Burkes – the subject of the Draco and the Malfoys song. The shop will feature all the morbid little details from the film, including the Hand of Glory.
Knight Bus by KNiGHT BUS
KNiGHT BUS is relatively new, boasting two songs since 2012. The timing gives me the slightest hope that this won’t turn into another The Brothers Black situation. While their first track, I Really Like Harry Potter, saw some interest from the wizard rock community, Knight Bus has gone more under the radar for no good reason. It’s a love letter to the vehicle that took Harry away from Privet Drive when he most needed it, drawing parallels between Harry’s situation and the escapism fans find in the story.
The Knight Bus itself, which made a temporary appearance in O-town back when Hogsmeade was opening, will be a fixture in the London area of the Diagon Alley expansion. Arguably the best part of this is the conductor, who has already made appearances in the red carpet event and media previews.
Get On the Bus by Oliver Boyd and the Remembralls
Part 3: Wizard Emotions
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is my favorite place in the world, hands down. I followed its development and construction religiously from the moment rumors first reached the Harry Potter fansites. When Diagon Alley rumors began, I was delighted to be able to do it all over again.
I’ve only really gone once, but being there is like nothing else. The visit I count as my first was on July 21st 2012, the fifth anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I dressed up in a Florida-friendly version of Ravenclaw gear in an attempt to stave off heatstroke and arrived before the park opened, a copy of the book in tow.
I spent thirteen straight hours in Hogsmeade; it remains one of my fondest memories ever. Because Hogsmeade is only so big, I had chances to rest and reflect on the theme park land around me, the Harry Potter phenomenon, and the community. I thought about the friendship I’d made not only through the books, but through the theme park land that brought it to life.
Now that we’re only weeks away from LeakyCon’s Open at the Close event, where I will go back home and meet so many of my Harry Potter community friends for the first time, the emotions I felt that day are only stronger.
These songs capture it better than my words can.
Hogwarts is Boring Without You by The Whomping Willows
It’s Real For Us by Lauren Fairweather
I just can’t wait to go and see so many people just like me
‘Cause all I’ve wanted for so long is to find a place where I belong
Holding On by the Blibbering Humdingers
We gather and journey down that road
And return to the place that we call home
Last Day at Hogwarts by The Beedles
Home by Lauren Fairweather
J.K. Rowling once said that Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.