Universal Hollywood's Wizarding World Is Now Open, Learn The Differences From Orlando

The grand opening of Universal Hollywood's version of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter happened last night at the Los Angeles theme park. It was an incredible night, filled with magic and wizardry. Hit the jump to hear more about the opening celebration and also learn about the new Wizarding World now open for everyone to enjoy in Universal Hollywood.

Legendary Oscar, Emmy, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Grammy award-winning composer John Williams conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in front of the iconic Hogwarts Castle, which has been constructed in front of the Hollywood hills. Playing themes from his Harry Potter score, Williams set the stage for an elaborate projection mapping show that projected images on the castle itself, taking us on a journey into the Wizarding World. The presentation showed off the insides of each of the buildings while showcasing the different houses based at the iconic school of witchcraft and wizardry.

Also in attendance at the Grand Opening was some stars from the Harry Potter films, including Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley). Other celebrities were on hand to be the first to experience the West Hollywood Coast version of the Wizarding World, including icon Steven Spielberg.

The show that Universal Studios put on for the grand opening is unmatched. As John Williams conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, animations were projected on Hogwarts Castle, culminating in a one-of-a-kind fireworks show that was created just for this event. You can watch the whole grand opening here:

I almost can't believe that no guests will be able to experience this projection mapping show. It looked too good and too polished just to be something that was put together for one performance. I know that the surrounding neighborhood restricts loud noises, which means Universal Hollywood will probably never have a regular nighttime fireworks show, but I'd love to see them put together a show like Disney's World of Color with the projections we saw on Hogwarts – I think guests would love it. I also hope that Universal Hollywood continues to stay open later as Hogwarts looks so beautiful at night with all the proper lighting.

Alan Gilmore

A few weeks back I got a chance to tour the new Wiazarding World before it was open to the public with designer Alan Gilmore, who worked on a bunch of the Harry Potter films. He helped point out some of the differences between this version of Hogsmede and other versions constructed around the world. I know that'ss probably what many people are wondering: how is this Wizarding World different than the one in Orlando Florida or at the international parks?

The answers to that question and more are on the next page.


What are the differences between the Universal Orlando Wizarding World and the new one that just opened in Universal Hollywood?

The simple answer is that it isn't that much different than the Hogsmede that you may have experienced in the Orlando, Florida park, but it has been improved in a variety of ways. The street is larger, allowing more guests to visit Hogsmede without it feeling too congested.

There is a new street on the right side of the land, which Gilmore calls The Town Wall street, although he admits none of the streets in Hogsmede are officially named. The Town Wall street isn't anything glamorous – it's really just an alleyway for guests to more easily exit the land. But the tighter quarters will be a great place to get more intimate looking photographs. Says Gilmore:

"Each Wizarding World is designed for its location, tailored like a piece of clothing so that it fits its location quite carefully. This location has a couple very interesting features like the Hollywood hills and the light in California is very different from Florida and any other place. When we came here I was like 'Wow, now I see why they made so many movies here, because the colors are very vivid.' That gave us an amazing opportunity to really enhance the colors and details to really work with the California light. And also being the home of moviemaking, if felt it was a very apt thing to do. Being in Hollywood, why not build the best real film set we ever could – that was the real challenge."

They constructed elaborate models in London and created computer simulations to find the best way to light the Hogwarts castle with California's sun and sunset.


One of the other differences is that this version of the Wizarding World is built much closer to the other lands as opposed to Islands of Adventure, which is more spread out. This created more of a challenge when it came to hiding sight lines, and preventing other parts of the park (like The Simpson's Springfield) from being visible within this new land. Right now, you can see more of it then Alan seemed happy with, but he admits that the trees they have planted were picked to grow out and eventually hide more of the "outside world."

Most of the shops from the Orlando Wizarding World are recreated here in slightly different orientations. Gilmore jokes that "through enchantment they have relocated themselves." He says:

"[In the] same way in the films that Hagrid's hut tends to move around, in Hogsmeade the buildings tend to move around as well, very similarly."


Ollivanders has its own building in Universal Hollywood, dwarfing the smaller version seen in Orlando. This version of Ollivanders introduces a large lobby room, with shelves filled with wands from floor to ceiling. After waiting in line around the corner, guests will be granted entrance to the lobby, which will begin to tell the story of Ollivanders and allow the park guests to avoid the California heat outside. One of the many things J.K. Rowling pushed for in this iteration was to hide lines of any kind from the main street.


Located where Ollivanders was in Orlando is a new shop called Gladrags, a wizard wear boutique. Gilmore says:

"Gladrags in the stories is located in London, Hogsmeade and Paris. It's quite international. And its fabrics can be purchased [as well as] house robes ... In the films, we designed Gladrags. You see it when we fly past Hogsmeade really quickly but we got a chance to design the whole store."

The Harry and Ron sweaters sold at Gladrags were made in Scotland. You can see Cho Chang's real Yule Ball dress from the movie on display in this shop, but the Ginny Weasley dress on display is a recreation.


Some buildings are just facades, although Gilmore says that there is the room to build them out into real stores if they decide to do so:

"We always design it so it can be expanded. So for instance, you can have a building that is a facade right now and that could become a whole building at some point. Or it could lead to another storytelling moment. The books are so rich in stories. This is only one small part of this fiction. But absolutely, there are many more places we could create, but we have all the main elements of the storytelling."

At the front of the land, behind a recreation of the locomotive from the Hogwarts Express, sits a room where Muggles can get their photo taken inside a recreation of a Hogwarts Express train car. Guests will sit under the same luggage racks screen used in the movie, and for a fee, are able to take an enhanced version of the photo home. The same area in Orlando is filled with lockers, so this is a unique experience to Hollywood's Wizarding World.

Other screen-used props from the Harry Potter films are also scattered throughout the land, including some background brooms on the wall in the Three Broomsticks tavern and the actual desks and chalkboard from the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom inside Hogwarts (in the queue for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride). As Gilmore says:

"We have to share the film props out, because there is only so many. Each Wizarding World gets quite a good selection."

Even the fabric used in the chairs on the Hogwarts Express recreation photo ops were flown in from England, the same exact fabric that was used for the original set. They didn't cheap out on any of the details, trying to stay true to the details of the movie whenever possible:

"Everything here is hand-done. Everything. You can't buy any of this out of a catalog. It really is art. Every stone, every piece of wood, everything you see was handmade by very creative people."


Eleven locations around the area allow you to use the same interactive wands that you could purchase in Orlando, allowing muggles to create magic in the shop's windows. Many of the effects are the same as the ones you could experience in Florida. J.K. Rowling was very involved in the making of each version of the theme park, approving every detail during the development. She even made sure that all the food served in the restaurants is all-natural and non-processed. She even approved the dishes that would be served in the restaurants based on locations from the movies and books. Nothing in the park was created without her approval.

And finally, here is a collection of random photos I took in Universal Hollywood's Wizarding World of Harry Potter before it was open to the public: