Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (also called Forbidden Journey or FJ) is a dark ride attraction that opened with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on June 18, 2010. The attraction is housed inside Hogwarts Castle, which guests explore as they meander the halls and see familiar characters. The attraction uses many first-of-its-kind technologies to place riders in Harry’s world. The most notable of these technologies is the robotic arm vehicle system designed and manufactured by KUKA Robotics.


Concept of Hogwarts gates. Courtesy of Universal.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is the centerpiece of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the 2010 expansion to Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Hogwarts Castle, which houses the attraction, acts as a weenie when guests first enter Hogsmeade Village, and draws guests down through the village. At this point, guests can only see the upper parts of the castle towers. Once guests approach the end of Hogsmeade Village, there they see the entirety of Hogwarts Castle. This representation is not essentially complete in relation to the movie version of Hogwarts, as it would be much larger, but many familiar landmarks are represented, such as the Grand Staircase Tower, the Astronomy Tower, the Great Hall, and the courtyard. All of these elements of the castle and others are perched high above guests on a rocky cliff. The castle was designed using forced perspective to make it seem larger and higher than it truly is; the Gryffindor Commons near the top of the Grand Staircase Tower is a good example.

Conceptual overview of Hogsmeade showing Hogwarts in the background. Courtesy of Universal.

Throughout construction and even still, there have been complaints of the attraction’s show building not being entirely hidden. Much of the show building to the guest’s right (stage left) just beyond the Flight of the Hippogriff attraction can be seen. Universal made efforts to cover more of the building, but alas, much of the building is still quite visible. The show building is enormous and even though the space between Hogwarts and Flight of the Hippogriff is small, since the space inbetween is a service road, little can be done. It is up to the guests to ignore it. Still, as large as the show building is, it is impressive that the designers were able to cover as much as they did.


Hogwarts concept art showing lighting. Courtesy of Universal.

Status: Operating

Opening: June 18, 2010

Location: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Ride type: Dark ride, robotic arm

Manufacturer: KUKA Robotics

Model: Robocoaster

Snowy concept art of Hogsmeade. Courtesy of Universal.

Seating Configuration: One row of four

Duration: 4:06

Theoretical Hourly Ride Capacity: Around 2,880 (Four riders per five seconds)

Height Requirement: 48”

Queue Reservation Available: No

Single Rider Available: Yes

Future Expansion Area

Marauder’s Map concept showing all of the Wizarding World. Courtesy of Universal.

For over ten years, Islands of Adventure had a large, vacant expansion area between Jurassic Park and Lost Continent.  In Islands of Adventure’s second year of operation, some of this expansion land was dedicated to adding The Flying Unicorn, but this still left a large plot for expansion.  As evidenced by original concept art, this plot was intended for an attraction entitled Jurassic Park Helicoptours.  The ride was planned to be an aerial simulator attraction where riders would fly high over Jurassic Park and see various species of dinosaur.  However, the attraction never opened, and the concept was either shelved or scrapped.

Concept art of Jurassic Park showing Jurassic Park Helicoptours on the Future Expansion Area site.

Years later, further evidence of Universal’s longtime pursuit to add a “monster” attraction to the resort was seen when concept art surfaced for a Van Helsing attraction.  Likely intended to open in the mid-2000’s (possibly as a response to Disney’s Expedition Everest), the attraction would be a dark ride in a massive show building which occupied the entire expansion area.  Interestingly, the concept seemed to use KUKA’s Robocoaster technology, the very same technology used in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  With the announcement of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter just a few short years later in 2007, Van Helsing likely paved the way to the attraction that sits on that land today.

Blueprint of Van Helsing attraction, also planned for the Future Expansion Area site.

Today, the expansion area is occupied by Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  Just like the Van Helsing concept, the large plot is dedicated to a massive show building.  Nearly all of this land is backstage and off-limits to guests.

The Enchanted Benches

Construction of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

The attraction’s vehicle is the “enchanted bench”, a magical mode of transportation that guides Muggles around the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Pulling back the curtain, the enchanted bench is a single row of 4 seats attached to the end of a robotic arm, similar to robotics equipment at automotive assembly plants.  The manufacturer, KUKA Robotics, has brought their technology to the amusement industry for installations in amusement and theme parks.  Although the system is called the Robocoaster, the system is by no definition a true roller coaster.  The attraction vehicles are the first application of their kind.  Similar attractions, also manufactured by KUKA, are Knight’s Tournament at Legoland California and Sum of All Thrills at Epcot.

Model of KUKA’s Robocoaster in its coaster variation. Robotic arm is attached to coaster car chassis and is a real roller coaster.

Forbidden Journey differs from these two installations in that it is a tracked version of the system.  A busbar-powered base follows a track, and attached to this base is a large robotic arm structure that supports the bench.  Unlike the others, Forbidden Journey only utilizes a single ride profile which is comparable to a medium thrill level on the other installations.

Although each of the benches is its own individual vehicle, the vehicles never stop moving.  The loading station uses a continuous loading system with a moving platform belt.  The loading process is very similar to that of various Omnimover attractions.  Throughout the attraction, riders do feel like the bench accelerates or decelerates, but the tracked base never changes its speed.  Riders are feeling the sweeping motion of the robotic arm, so while the bench and riders are technically accelerating, the vehicle as a whole never does.

Sets, Screens, and Special Effects

Third person view of first scene of Forbidden Journey.

Taking a few notes from The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Forbidden Journey uses several different media to convey its story.  The enchanted bench, like Spider-Man’s SCOOP vehicle, directs riders towards different scenes and specific thematic objects throughout the attraction.

Unlike Spider-Man, Forbidden Journey makes significant use of fully-sculpted set pieces and animatronic creatures.  Real sets include locations like the Observatory, covered bridge, Forbidden Forest, Chamber of Secrets, and near the Great Hall.  Animatronic figures include the Sorting Hat, a massive dragon, spiders and acromantulas, the Whomping Willow, and several dementors.  Another major difference between Forbidden Journey and Spider-Man is that Forbidden Journey does not mix sets and screens within a single scene, instead transitioning between the two.

Another third person view of enchanted bench in domed screen.

An impressive aspect of Forbidden Journey is the amount of time each bench spends at a single screen.  On Spider-Man, each SCOOP vehicle spends only seconds on a single screen, but the enchanted benches on Forbidden Journey spend about 30 seconds on a single screen at three points in the attraction.  An important point to remember is that the benches never stop moving, so in a secret innovation in theme park magic, the screens follow the benches.  At three points in the ride, there is a “carousel” of 180º domed screens.  The carousel rotates at such a rate that each domed screen moves at the same speed as the benches.  Each bench moves seamlessly from set to its own screen, and the story continues.  During these sequences, the arm section of the vehicle stays mostly static while the bench end moves with the screen, similar to other simulator attractions.

Several enchanted benches in the maintenance area.

Forbidden Journey also incorporates fun special effects.  Most noteworthy are the animatronic dragon breathing steamy breath on riders, spiders spitting on riders, and a dementor locking riders in a Dementor’s Kiss, where riders see their souls being sucked from them.

Queue Part 1 – The Dungeon

The queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey begins with passing through Hogwarts’ gates. On either side of the entrance are stone pillars with hog statues atop. The pillars read “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.” With the use of fiber optics, every few seconds the very same sign lights up to read “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” in a calligraphic script.

Enchanted bench full of riders positioning riders on their backs.

To the right of the gates is a set of test seats. On the arm of the seats are red, yellow, and green lights. When a guest uses these test seats, one of the lights will illuminate.

  • Green light means that the guest will be able to board the standard vehicle seat.
  • Yellow light means that the guest will need to board a modified seat in order to ride.
  • Red light means that the guest will not be able to ride.

Beyond the gate are two lines. The line to the right, which will typically be full of people, is the line for the lockers. The ride vehicles can only hold a few, very small items, so for guests with larger items, it will be necessary to queue here. Those without the need for a locker queue to the left. Both lines feed into a foyer area, where the lockers are to the right, and the dungeon area of the queue is to the left.

The dungeon part of the queue begins with a large, dimly lit room. This is where single riders separate from the standby line, and proceed up a staircase to the left. Standby guests continue to the opposite side of the room to a hallway.

The hallway begins with a turn to the left from the large room area. After several feet, there are noteworthy items on either side of the queue. On the guests’ left side is the Mirror of Erised, and on the right is the One-Eyed Witch. Continuing a bit further down the queue, on the guests’ left side is a door that reads “Potions Classroom.” Near this door, guests hear a female professor lecturing a class. She can be heard specifically calling out Neville Longbottom’s name. The hallway then turns to the right without any other noteworthy items for the remainder of the dungeon. After several feet, the queue turns left again, and guests are back outside.

Queue Part 2 – Hogwarts Greenhouses

Guests now enter the greenhouse. This is almost certainly where guests will spend the majority of their time waiting. The greenhouse is the only area of the entire queue where there are extensive switchbacks. Although the greenhouse is outside, it is covered of course, and there are fans. After a variable number of switchbacks, guests ascend a series of inclined, zigzagging ramps. Although there is little to take note of in the greenhouse, guests can appreciate the aging of the greenhouse, as well as brief views of the castle and an enclosed display of stationary mandrakes. At this point, the typical queue is over, and the Castle Tour/Queue begins.

Mysterious engraving in the Hogwarts greenhouse.

For some time, guests to Hogwarts have been confused by a certain aspect of this part of the queue.  The ramped section of the queue has brick pavers as the walking surface.  Every few feet, there is a brick that is engraved with the inscription “E.C.S.C. L.M.S.”  No one in the Potter or the theme park fan communities has been able to identify what these acronyms mean.  We asked Chick Russell, Show Producer at NBCUniversal, and he was able to shed light on the topic.

Wish I had a magical answer for you, but I don’t.  The Greenhouse paver bricks were not made for WWoHP, so the letters “ECSC LMS” on them don’t relate to the project.  They were existing, real-world building materials–which of course have a place in the Harry Potter world.  ECSC (may) stand for European Coal and Steel Community, a business group.  LMS could stand for Leuven Measurement Systems, a testing organization.

– Chick Russell

Queue Part 3 – The Oxford Corridor

Guests re-enter the castle into a corridor. Immediately to the right is a large statue of the Hogwarts Architect. Just a bit further is the House Points hourglass display. According to the hourglasses, Gryffindor is winning in points, followed by Slytherin, then Hufflepuff, and finally Ravenclaw. Beyond this is a statue of the first Headmaster of Hogwarts. At the end of this corridor is the familiar-looking golden griffin statue that is the entrance to Dumbledore’s office. Instead of using this entrance, guests roundabout to the left. After meandering almost to the other side, there is another short hallway. Just before entering this hallway, there is a large tapestry of a unicorn in a field.

Queue Part 4 – The Tracery Hall

US20110273485 – Patent for “METHOD AND DEVICE FOR TRANSFORMING AN IMAGE” (Moving Portraits)

The hallway leads into the Portrait Hall. Here, there are two paintings, the first of several paintings that are animated and interact with each other. The first painting guests see is of Professor Swoopstick describing how aspects of Quidditch work. The second painting is a box of spectators watching a game of Quidditch. The professor walks over to the second painting and continues speaking to guests.

An alternate concept for the Wizarding World and Hogwarts.

Queue Part 5 – The Portrait Gallery

Guests continue into the Portrait Gallery, which is a fairly large and very tall room filled with paintings. Of these paintings, four are animated like the previous room, one on each wall. Each of the four paintings is one of the founders of Hogwarts. When facing the same direction as when entering the room:

  • Rowena Ravenclaw is to the left

    Same concept showing Hogwarts from Flight of the Hippogriff.

  • Salazar Slytherin is directly ahead
  • Helga Hufflepuff is to the right
  • Godric Gryffindor is directly behind

In the Castle Tour, there is a separate portrait gallery where the talking portraits are only on two of the four walls.

  • Rowena Ravenclaw is to the middle right
  • Salazar Slytherin is to the far right
  • Helga Hufflepuff is to the middle left
  • Godric Gryffindor is to the far left

The conversation between the portraits goes as follows:

Unpainted model of Hogwarts.

[Version 1]

Helga: “Rowena, have you heard? Hagrid’s lost a dragon, again.”

Rowena: “Yes, yes, well, I’m sure he’ll find it, Helga. He always does. Let’s just hope it doesn’t bug down the owlery like last time.”

Salazar: “Sounds like yet another clear violation of the Warlocks’ Convention of 1709. But then again, with all these Muggles running about, perhaps a dragon’s just what we need.”

Helga: “What a dreadful thing to say, Salazar!”

Godric: “A few Muggles might be just what the Slytherin team needs, judging from their most recent efforts. Exactly when was the last time your house won the Quidditch Cup, Salazar?”

Fully painted model of Hogwarts with some of Hogsmeade.

Salazar: “I will not dignify that with an answer, Godric.”

Helga: “Oh, listen to all of us squabbling. Our guests must think us most ungracious hosts.”

Salazar: “Good, then maybe they’ll leave.”

Godric: “If Dumbledore think it right and proper that they be here, then they are more than welcome. Besides, perhaps one of our younger guests will wake to an owl one morning and find themselves summoned to Hogwarts.”

Rowena: “Yes, just think, the next great witch or wizard could be, walking through this room right now, unaware of their hidden talents. Just like Harry Potter.”

Salazar: “Potter?! The boy who lived?! The boy who survived by the seat of his pants is more like it.”

Godric: “Ah, but you’re wrong, Salazar. It was love that saved young Harry, not luck. Something to remember.”

[Version 2]

Helga: “You must be quite proud of having Harry Potter in your house, Godric.”

Godric: “Yes, remarkable young man (doubly?)”

Salazar: “Potter! Potter! Potter! That excrescence wouldn’t even make a substitute on the Slytherin team.”

Rowena: “You’re mad, Salazar. Just watch. I’ll wager young Mr. Potter and Gryffindor beat Slytherin today.”

Salazar: “Ha! Gryffindor doesn’t stand a chance, Rowena.”

Helga: “Ssh! Honestly, all of you. We have guests.”

Salazar: “What are all these Muggles doing at Hogwarts anyway? I expect this is Dumbledore’s doing.”

Godric: “Dumbledore, unlike you, Salazar, sees the good in all people, whether or not they possess magic. Besides, I think I detect a future Quidditch player or two amongst our younger visitors.”

Salazar: “They look like a pretty nasty lot to me.”

Rowena?: “Perfect for Slytherin, then.”

(pause then repeat)

Queue Part 6 – Dumbledore’s Office

At this point, guests walk down a short hallway and into Dumbledore’s office. Guests walk past several cabinets filled with wizard knickknacks such as telescopes, books, and a Pensieve. Guests only walk through about half of the office. The other half shows more recognizable objects, like Dumbledore’s desk. On the other half is where we see Dumbledore, not at his desk, but high above on a balcony. Here, he welcomes us to Hogwarts, warns us, and informs us that we will be listening to a lecture given by Professor Binns.

[Version 1]

Dumbledore: “Now, where did I put that book?  Ah, guests!  How delightful!  Welcome, welcome.  I am Professor Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Our school was founded over a thousand years ago by the four greatest witches and wizards of the age.  As many of you may know, Hogwarts is one of the schools where young people of the wizarding world come to study magic.  I should warn you, things can be a bit unpredictable here.  During your visit, you may encounter all manner of things not common to your own world: ghosts, house elves, giants, and apparently, as of this morning, a dragon.  But I sense a bit of apprehension in the room.  Perhaps you fear meeting…You-Know-Who.  Well, a piece of advice if I may.  Fear of a name only increases the fear of the thing itself.  Voldemort is only as powerful as we make him.  And remember, inevitably, there comes a moment when we must make a choice between what is right and what is easy.  The choice we make defines us.  When in doubt, follow your heart.  It will, in my experience, rarely lead you wrong.  Now, if you will, please proceed into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.  Unfortunately, we are currently without a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.  They tend not to last too long, I’m afraid.  Therefore, Professor Binns, our esteemed History of Magic professor, will present his thorough and exhaustive lecture entitled Hogwarts Through the Centuries.  I am most certain you will find it…long.  Enjoy the remainder of your stay with us, oh, and should you catch sight of that dragon, please take note of its location and report it to a member of the staff.  Thank you.”

[Version 2]

Dumbledore: “Where has that book gone?  Ah, more guests!  Welcome, welcome.  I am Professor Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Now as you probably know, this is one of the schools where young people come to study the magical arts.  For centuries, Hogwarts has educated scores of young men and women, many of whom have gone on to distinguish themselves as fine witches and wizards.  A few, it’s true, have strayed to the dark side.  Once a young boy named Tom Riddle stood precisely where you stand now.  Of course, these days he’s best known by another name.  Lord Voldemort.  The name alone strikes fear in good witches and wizards everywhere, and his hatred of Muggles is widely known.  But do not fear.  You’re well protect while here.  I’ve personally cast a few enchantments and spells specifically intended to ensure your safety.  But should you ever find yourself in danger, I’ll tell you what I tell all young boys and girls who pass through Hogwarts.  There comes a time when all of us must make a choice between what is right, and what is easy.  Here’s hoping you choose correctly.  Now then, you’re about to enter the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.  As we are currently without a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, the position has proven perilous, I’m afraid.  Professor Binns, our longstanding and long-deceased History of Magic professor, will, with your enjoyment, condense hundreds of years of Hogwarts history into a few short hours.  Enjoy your stay with us, oh, and should you happen upon a dragon whilst here, please alert a member of the staff, and run.  Not necessarily in that order.  Thank you.”

Queue Part 7 – Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom

Dumbledore tells us to proceed into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. In this room, there is the familiar-looking dragon skeleton hanging high above guests’ heads. At the front of the classroom is a chalkboard with spells and such written. Just beyond the chalkboard is a staircase up to the door that, according to the films, leads into the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher’s office. The door opens seemingly by itself, and guests hear bickering. After a few seconds, Harry, Ron, and Hermione come out from under an invisibility cloak and tells guests to skip Professor Binns’ lecture (as he is a dead-boring ghost) and watch a Quidditch match instead. In the middle of the trio speaking to guests, Ron casts one of (two?) charms: which can either make the weather stormy, or make it snow in the classroom. Hermione corrects Ron, and the three don the cloak once again and head back through the door.

[Version 1]

Ron: “I think the three of us under this Invisibility Cloak is the thickest idea you’ve ever had, Hermione.”

Hermione: “We’ve got to help all of those visitors get out of Binns’ lecture, and if McGonagall sees us, she’ll give us the boot.  Have you got a better idea?”

Harry: “Keep your voices down.  Everything’s going to be fine but let’s make this quick.”

(Harry, Ron, and Hermione appear from under the Invisibility Cloak)

Ron: “Um, excuse me.  We reckon we should warn you, if you stay much longer you’ll find yourself listening to Professor Binns go on about the history of Hogwarts…”

Hermione: “…which, it should be pointed out, is rather fascinating.  One book I’d highly recommend which is an absolutely riveting read is Bathilda Bagshot’s Hogwarts –”

Harry: “Uh, perhaps another time, Hermione.  The point is, Professor Binns is very, very boring, which is understandable as he’s…”

Ron: “Dead.”

Harry: “Yeah.”

Hermione: “What Ron means to say is he’s a ghost.”

Ron: “Yeah, well, dead aren’t they?  Ghosts?  Sort of a requirement.  They’re Muggles, Hermione, not morons.”

Hermione: “I never said they were morons!  My own parents happen to be Muggles if you recall, Ron.”

Harry: “Anyway, we thought you might prefer to come with us and see a game of Quidditch.”

Ron: “But to get you there we have to sneak you out the castle, which is where Hermione comes in.”

Hermione: “All you have to do is meet me in the Room of Requirement.  From there, we’ll fly you down to the Quidditch pitch.  Of course, we’ll need a bit of magic, a spell I learned from a world-class Quidditch player.”

Ron (pointing wand): “Hermione knows all these spells, you see.”

(Begins snowing)

Hermione: “Ron, you’re making it snow again.”

Ron: “Why does that always happen?”

Harry: “Hermione, if you would…”

Hermione: “Meteolojinx Recanto.”

Ron: “She’s barking but she’s brilliant.”

Harry: “Someone’s coming. (Trio hides under cloak) Remember, the Room of Requirement.”

Hermione: “See, Ron?  Everything worked out perfectly.”

Ron: “Perfectly, except I’m stuck under this cloak with you.”

Harry: “Keep your voices down or McGonagall will hear us.”

Hermione: “Ron, you’re despicable.”

[Version 2]

Ron: “I still can’t believe we let Hermione talk us into using the Invisibility Cloak with all three of us.”

Hermione: “How else are we going to get to these visitors before they get stuck in Binns’ lecture?  If Filch sees us, we’ll be on the next train home.  What’s your suggestion?”

Harry: “Keep it down, you two.  This will work fine if you stop bickering.”

(Harry, Ron, and Hermione appear from under the Invisibility Cloak)

Ron: “Um, excuse me.  We thought some of you might be looking for a way to escape Professor Binns’ lecture.  If you’re not, you’re mental.”

Hermione: “Not that the subject isn’t fascinating.  Personally, I’d recommend Bathilda Bagshot’s Hogwarts: A History.”

Ron: “No one else has read that book, Hermione.”

Hermione: “For your information, it happens to be, by general consensus, the definitive (volume?) on Hogwarts.”

Ron: “It also happens to be dead boring.”

Harry: “As is Professor Binns.  Very boring.”

Ron: “And exceptionally dead.  He’s a ghost.  Fell asleep in front of a classroon fine, woke up the next day to teach and left his body behind.”

Hermione: “He’s still very sound on history, though.

Ron: “And as an added bonus, he can enter the classroom through the blackboard.”

Harry: “Anyway, we thought you might rather watch a game of Quidditch than listen to Binns, but we’ll have to sneak you out of the castle and down to the pitch and we reckon the best way of doing that is to fly you there.”

Hermione: “All you have to do is follow me to the Room of Requirement, and I’ll manage it from there.  Of course, we’ll need a bit of magic.  A charm I learned from a world-class Quidditch player.”

Ron (pointing wand): “Hermione’s famous for her charms.”


Hermione: “Meteolojinx Recanto.”

Ron: “I was just about to do that.”

Harry: “Remember (Trio hides under cloak), meet Hermione in the Room of Requirement.”

Hermione: “See?  That wasn’t so bad, was it, Ron?”

Ron: “Not as bad as being under this cloak with you.”

Harry: “Keep your voices down.  Filch will hear us.”

Ron: “I’m not making any noise.”

Hermione: “Please!”

Queue Part 8 – Gryffindor Common Room

[Version 1]

Fat Lady: “Who are you people?  Am I supposed to let you all in?  And without a password, no less.  What is this school coming to?  Well, move along then, otherwise you’ll miss the match.  I wish I were coming with you, though I certainly don’t miss those awful benches, so uncomfortable.  Oh, but you’ve got a treat today.  Harry Potter’s going to show all of you how the game of Quidditch was meant to be played.  Ah, Gryffindor!”

[Version 2]

Fat Lady: “Don’t worry, there’s room for all at the match.  If I weren’t so busy, I’d ask some of you to carry my picture down to the stands.  Mine has never stopped talking about Potter’s Quidditch skills.  I’d really rather see for myself.  Come now, move along.  Don’t dilly-dally.  Ah, Gryffindor!”

Guests walk down a short hallway and see the Fat Lady, signifying the entrance to the Gryffindor Common room, yet off of her hinges, indicating that a password to enter is not required of the Muggle visitors. She speaks to guests as they walk past her, showing her support for Gryffindor’s Quidditch team. Beside her is a Daily Prophet newspaper, which shows an animated Harry Potter playing Quidditch.

The Gryffindor Common room has many of the items expected in a common room, including a fireplace, some chairs, and a winding staircase up to the bedrooms. High above guests heads are three more moving portraits.

  • Left – A female etiquette coach to teach Muggles of the proper way to fly the enchanted benches.
  • Middle – An older gentleman that seems to be a veteran of using the benches.
  • Right – A smug young man that tells guests how thrilling it is to ride a bench.

The three bicker about how to use the enchanted benches.

[Version 1]

Old Man: “I will now continue my review of the unique characteristics of enchanted benches.”

Etiquette Lady: “And I will remind you that etiquette is every bit as important once in the air as it is on the ground.”

Young Man: “And I’ll tell you what it feels like to go blasting through a cloud on one of these benches.”

Old Man: “The information I will be imparting is very important, young man.  I’ll thank you not to interrupt.”

Young Man: “Who do you think they’re going to listen to?  You two, or someone who’s actually taken these benches on test flights and lived to tell the tale?”

Old Man: “A fine young Hogwarts student by the name of Hermione Granger has been gracious enough to cast a flying charm on the enchanted benches. While they are quite safe, each bench possesses a mind of its own, and can shoot up into the sky without notice, or stop on a sickle at any moment.  Therefore, it’s not recommended for those with neck or back problems, persons subject to motion sickness, or anyone who is pregnant.”

Etiquette Lady: “Once aboard, please use the seat-back pouch to store items which might fall, scratch, or poke someone.  Jewelry, earrings, cell phones, change, glasses, hats, and wands.”

Young Man: “Flying on one of these benches is like grabbing a Chinese Fireball by its tail.  I once flew one from the South Pole to the North Pole and my shoes didn’t arrive until the next day.”

Old Man: “Preposterous nonsense!”

Young Man: “Oh, is it, granddad?  Remind me to show you my frostbitten stocks sometime, and watch this.”

(Summons bench and flies away)

Old Man: “So there you have it.  The enchanted benches are really very safe.  However, the exit is just ahead if you need to use it.

[Version 2]

Old Man: “I will continue to acquaint you with the unique and magical specifications of enchanted benches.”

Etiquette Lady: “And I will also show you how to fly like ladies and gentlemen.”

Young Man: “And after all that rubbish, I’ll show you what these benches can really do.”

Old Man: “I’ll ask you to refrain from interrupting me, young man.”

Etiquette Lady: “You’re not even dressed properly.”

Young Man: “Listen, dear.  I scored the winning goal in the 1862 League Championship wearing nothing but a smile.  The other side jinxed off all our robes.”

Old Man: “Hermione Granger, one of our more exceptional students, has cast a flying charm on the benches which gives them the power of flight.  However, the enchanted bench has a mind of its own, and can fly an infinite and unpredictable number of angles.  Therefore, it’s not recommended for those with neck or back problems, persons subject to motion sickness, or anyone who is pregnant.”

Etiquette Lady: “Once aboard, please use the seat-back cubby hole to store items which might fall, scratch, or poke someone.  Jewelry, earrings, cell phones, change, glasses, hats, and magic wands.”

Young Man: “An enchanted bench flies like a dragon with a firework tied to its tail.  In fact, the last time I raced one, it caught fire.”

Old Man: “That’s hardly likely to happen to them.  They’re beginners!”

Etiquette Lady: “When boarding, it’s always polite to ask ladies in your party where they’d like to sit.”

Young Man: “I remember the day I took a party of ladies for a spin over the Himalayas.  If I knew where they landed, I would’ve brought them back too.”

Old Man: “So there you have it.  Everything you need to know about enchanted benches.  The exit is just ahead should you need to use it.

Queue Part 9 – Pre-Loading Area

Guests only wanting to partake in the Castle Tour exit the queue here. At this point the line splits three ways. In the far left lane, single riders queue. In the middle lane, guests needing modified seating queue. There is another test seat at this point in the queue, so any larger guests who either needs to be retested or those who bypassed the initial test seat may be sorted. The far right lane is for standby guests. All three lanes continue down a corridor towards the Hogwarts Sorting Hat, who gives a safety spiel before loading onto the ride. The queue turns left briefly and a Hogwarts student (team member) instructs riders when to board.

The Sorting Hat’s Safety Spiel

“Your journey is about to start, but safely you must go,

and so the Hogwarts Sorting Hat tells all you need to know.

These benches are not safe for you if you are still too small.

You must be more than goblin-sized, 48 inches tall.

Now rid yourself of objects that might poke or scratch or fall.

Take jewelry, cell phones, all loose change and stow them, one and all.

To keep your treasures safe and sound, Smart Lockers are supplied.

Gringott’s-made and wizard-proofed, for all you need to hide.

And now, a warning; do not ride if flying makes you queasy.

If pregnant or else sore in back or neck, then leave, it’s easy!

You’ve traveled far, you’re very near, the waiting’s been long,

But smoking, drinking, or eating while in line are very wrong.

Now thank you all for listening. My safety lesson’s done.

We hope you live to tell the tale, and most of all, have fun!”

Loading Area – The Room of Requirement

The Room of Requirement is a fairly large room with floating candles high above guests’ heads. The ride vehicles are clearly seen at this point, as they continuously glide to the right. The system resembles the Omnimover system, as the vehicles never stop and there is a moving loading belt to board. However, the vehicles are not connected to one another. The vehicles’ bases move at the same rate even during the ride, but may detour to enter the maintenance area, and ride vehicles for handicapped guests can sift into the flow of vehicles. The vehicles are facing riders in the station, with the robot arm hidden behind the vehicle.

US6871596 – Patent for “Moving means, particularly for amusement parks, fairs and the like” (Busbar conveyance for KUKA arm)

Guests walk to the left and around a half-wall to reach the loading belt. Guests stow any small belongings into the compartment behind the seats and, if wearing loose shoes, may sit on them. Guests then pull down the over-the-shoulder restraint and wait to be checked. Although the belt is long, boarding must happen very quickly.

For handicapped guests, there is a separate loading bay behind and parallel to the standard one that is unseen by most guests. This loading bay is not continuous, and when vehicles dispatch from here, they shuffle into the flow of the other vehicles.

Ride Part 1 – Floo Network and Observatory

After being inspected by several team members, a green button is pushed on the vehicle giving clearance for dispatch. This button can be seen in the very long series of mirrors along the opposite wall. Riders travel along this wall for an extended period of time, as the loading belt is very long. At a certain point, guests hear Hermione say “Over here!” She is then seen on a balcony with some floo powder. She then says “Alright, say ‘Observatory’, on three. One, two, three!”

In a blast of green smoke, guests fly through the Floo Network, which is a dizzying array of chimneys. After a few seconds, riders emerge into the observatory. As riders look out the windows, there are high above Hogwarts in the tallest tower. The enchanted bench narrowly slips through the astronomy clock. Harry can be heard saying, “Hermione did it! They’re flying! Keep up, Ron! We’re on our way, we’ll meet you outside.” The bench slips out of the third window and the bench speeds around the Hogwarts campus.

US8137205 – Patent for “Motion-based attraction” (Carousel) – Isometric view

Ride Part 2 – Dragon Encounter

Riders then see Harry and Ron and race to the Quidditch pitch. Harry says, “Sorry about that. Those benches can be a bit dodgy. But we haven’t lost anyone yet.” Ron responds with “Not this week, anyway.” When Harry and Ron dive under a bridge, the bench instead approaches the bridge. Hagrid is standing on the bridge with a large shackle, and asks riders “Hey, you lot! Haven’t seen a dragon, have ye?” Harry says, “Right. Come on, we’ve got to head over to the Quidditch pitch.”

US8137205 – Patent for “Motion-based attraction” (Carousel) – Plan view

Of course, immediately after diving under the bridge, a dragon swoops out from a hiding place and begins attacking. Harry yells, “Hagrid! Dragon!” Riders are separated from Harry and Ron, and the bench heads towards the rickety bridge. Harry yells, “Look out!” The dragon perches in the clearing on the other side of the bridge, so for safety, the bench backs up into the covered bridge.

Just after careening into the covering bridge, guests discover that the dragon has followed them. Through the openings of the bridge, riders see a colossal wing of a dragon waiting on the roof. Then riders see burn marks on the side of the bridge. The bench turns forward to see the opposite side of the bridge, showing riders’ potential exit, until the floor drops out beneath them and they are thrust right into the face of a huge animatronic dragon. The dragon then blasts riders with fire, sending them into the Forbidden Forest.

Ride Part 3 – The Forbidden Forest and Whomping Willow

Riders find themselves in the Forbidden Forest. It is very dark and spooky, and flashes of lightning are the only indications that riders are surrounded by spiders. The bench turns a short corner, and right in front of the bench appears Aragog the acromantula. The bench turns again and riders see Hermione. She instructs, “The forest isn’t safe. Hold on tight! Arania exime! (a spider-flinging spell)” (This is where riders’ photo is taken) After turning another corner, riders see a wall of spiders. When it goes dark, riders are squirted with simulated venom, saliva, or webbing (water) and they hear Hermione say, “Hurry on to the Quidditch pitch, and watch out for the Whomping Willow!”

Just then, the bench approaches the Whomping Willow. Hermione yells, “Look out!” The massive tree swats at the bench and the bench leans backwards to dodge. The tree then tries once more. This time it is successful, and whomps riders finally to the Quidditch pitch.

Ride Part 4 – Quidditch

The bench lands right in the thick of a Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin. After hearing some game commentary and brooms swishing by, Harry catches up and asks, “Where’ve you been?” The golden snitch flies past and Harry instructs, “Snitch! Follow me!” Immediately Draco Malfoy rams into Harry’s side and mocks, “Showing off for your Muggle admirers, Potter?” The two duke it out just before the bench flies up to meet Ron, and guests see him block an attempted shot by Slytherin. Just then Ron points and shouts, “Dementors!” Several dementors are seen flying around the Quidditch pitch. Harry says, “This way!” and the bench follows. Harry and the bench fly down and dodge beams in order to avoid the dementors. When Harry returns to the air, a dementor grabs hold of him, as Harry shouts “No!” Both he and the bench dive into the cave that leads to the Chamber of Secrets.

Document showing several pieces of concept art from American Scenic.

Ride Part 5 – The Chamber of Secrets

The bench pitfalls into darkness. Suddenly, a towering animatronic dementor looms over the bench. The bench reacts and flees from it, but directly into the path of another dementor. Then the bench swoops past the skeleton of the Basilisk. Another dementor comes to startle the riders. The bench then enters a large room when they can see a drain which the Basilisk used to navigate, and more importantly, the Dark Mark. The bench then enters a cave that is shaped like the head of Salazar Slytherin.

Scenes showing wizard chess scene and animatronic Basilisk scene in the Chamber of Secrets.

Another dementor attacks the bench. One final dementor locks all four riders in the Dementor’s Kiss. Riders can see their faces being peeled away from them as the dementor performs the Kiss. We can hear Harry yell, “Leave them alone! Get away from them!” The bench then turns to face Harry, and he performs the Expecto Patronum charm to ward off the dementor. Unfortunately, the blast from the Patronus charm causes the passage to start caving in.

Partial layout showing a proposed “Voldemort & Dementors” scene, possibly intended to be between the dragon scene and acromantula scene. This might have been dropped in favor of an extended Forbidden Forest/acromantula scene.

Ride Part 6 – Return to Hogwarts

Harry instructs, “Follow me.” The bench hurriedly follows Harry as rocks begin falling on all sides. Harry warns, “It’s caving in! Watch out! Let’s get out, quick!” After dodging several rocks, both Harry and the riders make it out safely. Harry says, “We made it. To the great hall!” Harry and the bench dive down and ride along the sea, through a flock of birds towards Hogwarts. Both hop above a building and towards the Grand Staircase Tower. The bench slides backwards and past the Great Hall. There, there is a crowd of students that has lifted Harry onto their shoulders. Harry says, “Thanks, everybody. You were brilliant!” The bench continues and passes a hallway where riders see Dumbledore and many more students. Dumbledore says, “You showed great bravery. Feel free to return to Hogwarts anytime. Now, tuck your elbows in.” The bench passes over another green mist and the bench again navigates the Floo Network. When the bench emerges, riders are back in the Room of Requirement. Just before riders unload, Dumbledore instructs, “Oh, and don’t forget to retrieve your stowed belongings, lest you want them confiscated by Mr. Filch.” Guests exit onto the moving belt, and descend a staircase into Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods.

Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods

Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods is the exit gift shop for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. There are many pieces of merchandise here. This is also where guests can view and purchase on-ride photos from the ride. There is an animated Marauder’s Map in the store as well.


  • In the queue for the attraction, there are two instances where well-known characters appear. When Dumbledore and the Harry/Ron/Hermione trio appear, the technology used is called a Musion effect in which a film is projected onto glass. A similar effect can be seen in the Frank Kincaid scene of the Disaster! pre-show. A similar effect, known as Pepper’s Ghost, is used in the ballroom scene of the Haunted Mansion.
  • The moving portraits, as some may guess, are essentially large television screens with frames around them. The animation in the post-production of the clips displays a convincing illusion of a painting. Furthermore, it seems a transparent material (likely glass) is placed in front of the portraits, and some sort of viscous liquid was applied to it, giving the illusion of brushstrokes. The entire effect is quite realistic.
  • Many people have been confused by the transitions on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The transitions from dragon to Forbidden Forest, as well as Whomping Willow to Quidditch pitch have been explained (fire blasted and whomped), but the Chamber of Secrets transition still puzzles some. At the end of the Quidditch scene, Harry and the bench fall into a wide cave. This is the same cave that Harry, Ron, Lockhart, and Fawkes the Phoenix use to leave the Chamber of Secrets in the second film. On Forbidden Journey, riders enter the exit of the Chamber of Secrets.
  • While the final scene of the attraction works seamlessly, the technique used should look familiar to riders that have experienced The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Though no 3-D glasses are used, the flat projection has a changing vantage point to alter perspective perfectly synchronized with the bench, making the projection look natural and giving it depth.
  • While the Hogwarts facade is certainly massive, it is interesting to view satellite imagery of the attraction. The facade is quite minimal compared to the size of the show building.
  • For many months, a pair of Powerade bottles were perched high in a window of one of the towers. When scaffolding came down and the bottles remained, many wondered when they would ever come down. On January 11, 2010, two men used a cherry picker to reach the window and remove the bottles.


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