The original version of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (located here in Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, but of course) has been remarkably stable across its eight-year lifespan, seeing only the smallest of – if any – changes. While this might initially seem like a rather standard state of affairs, given how infrequently Universal tinkers with the vast majority of its attractions, it stands in dramatic contrast to the ride’s counterparts over in Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Hollywood – at these two locations, the company has been introducing and, sometimes, removing new elements in order to create the optimal wizarding experience for guests.
Now, however, at long last, Florida has gotten into the experimentation game, as well.
Universal has announced today that Harry’s first Forbidden Journey has already received a (long-overdue) high-definition upgrade, with its 2K projectors getting replaced by brand-new 4K ones (we also think that the ride’s video sequences got their framerate bumped up from 60 to 120 frames per second, but this wasn’t officially confirmed. [Although the human eye really can’t perceive any difference past 24 fps, it can detect a crispness in movement once past that threshold]). The resultant effect is a color palette that is so much richer – blacks look really black in the new HD scheme – and a silky-smooth sense of fluidity. While it won’t feel like an entirely new attraction, it’ll still be a noticeably improved one, with Universal even promising a “seamless integration between the ride’s elaborate sets and its spellbinding media.”
How does this make the Floridian iteration fall in line with its overseas brethren? The Californian Forbidden Journey, the last to go online, received this very same “ultra-realistic” upgrade in March 2017 – just 11 months after it first opened. And the Asian version, meanwhile, saw this update this past January, which means it was the only one to be able to boast that it was in “4K3D” – for two months, that is, until it, too, had its 3D component removed, just as in Hollywood.
But, as it turns out, that’s just the tip of the theming iceberg when it comes to Universal Studios Japan’s take on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – alongside the technical improvements, it also received some powerful new special effects, including heat (for when the Hungarian Horntail dragon breathes “fire” on guests) and cold (to accompany the Dementor attack sequence). Such touches, while small, certainly help to make the overall experience more immersive, and they would be most welcome here in Orlando, as well.
And that’s the real crux of the issue, at least for us Universal Orlando Resort devotees – now that this door has been opened, we can only hope that it won’t be swung resolutely shut again, allowing for the possibility of even more improvements to be made down the line. While it now looks nearly impossible for Florida’s Forbidden Journey to get the 3D treatment, despite the fact that it was initially designed for such – the West Coast was forced to dump its 3D (which did manage to become an opening-day feature) due to too many guests getting nauseous, with Osaka following just recently – receiving the extra blasts of fire and ice is still within the realm of possibility. And then there’s what can be called the holy grail for many die-hard Wizarding World fans: the implementation of some of the elements that were originally built into the attraction but which, for one reason or another, were never implemented, such as the extra Dementors that have remained stationary literally in the shadows as the ride vehicles swing merrily by.
It’s all that a muggle can hope for. Until then, however, here’s a handy, dandy snapshot of the various Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journeys’ change-ups that Universal has made over the years – just in case Professor Binns ever quizzes you on the information.
Opening date: June 18, 2010
4K upgrade: June 4, 2018
Opening date: July 15, 2014
3D upgrade: May 21, 2015
4K/special effects upgrade: January 18, 2018
3D removed: March 16, 2018
Opening date: April 7, 2016 (in 3D)
3D removed: December 4, 2016
4K upgrade: March 28, 2017
Islands of Adventure’s Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has just received its 4K upgrade.
Find out everything you ever wanted to know about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – plus more! – in our complete insider’s guide.