It is hard to believe that this week will transition us from November into December, and with that transition comes sad news. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the premiere attraction of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade and the best attraction at Islands of Adventure, will be closed from December 1 through December 18. These plans have been in the works for months, but only became official on Universal Orlando’s park hours calendar and the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride page in the past month.
There was some speculation that Forbidden Journey would close at some point to undergo a 3D conversion, but we have been told those plans have been scrapped for now. That doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen, but as time moves on it becomes less and less likely. So what will be happening? Well, time will be dedicated to making sure the sets, ride track, and, most importantly, the KUKA robots are all as perfect as they can be.
A lot of people don’t realize Forbidden Journey is essentially a play on an Omnimover attraction. For those that don’t know what an Omnimover attraction is, basically it is a Disney-created ride design where ride vehicles move in a continuous motion around the ride track and control your line of sight. Forbidden Journey has a maximum of 47 vehicles on the ride track at one time each with their own bubble to fill. When they move through the load/unload stations they are close together, but once they move into the ride track they have the ability to space out. But, unless the ride stops for some sort of technical or safety reason, the vehicles are in almost constant motion during the entire operating day. The only exception to this rule is if one of the benches leaves its bubble to move into the secondary (non-moving) platform.
Throughout the year, the average operating time for Islands of Adventure is 9 am – 7 pm, so Forbidden Journey is up and moving receiving guests for 10 hours a day and that doesn’t count the time that techs have the ride up and running in the morning before the park is open to guests and the amount of time the attraction remains open after park hours to clear the line of guests. Heck, let’s not even add in special events that could keep the attraction open an extra 5 hours. The point is, the EXTREMELY technological ride runs A LOT and never really gets a break except for overnight hours when the techs are working on the attraction.
Now, Disney is well-known for taking attractions down for refurbishments that could last anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months to a year, but they are very good about giving notice. On the other side, Universal rarely ever takes any attractions down for maintenance periods with the exception of the upgrades to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk Coaster, as well as the water rides going dry. In my years working at and going to Universal, the only time I can recall any attraction having a refurb was Dragon Challenge during a brakes replacement that never worked quite as well as planned and caused daily downtimes.
That being said, I spent over a year working at Forbidden Journey, my time starting before the attraction even turned a year old, and at that point we were already noticing that the ride needed some time of for a little TLC. It’s been years since I left Hogwarts and the attraction is over 6 years old now and it still never got a break. So, despite how much this will inconvenience the vacations of many, it is critically important to keep Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey operating properly.
Yes, Universal did not give anyone nearly enough notice, and they kept it pretty well hidden as a small little asterisk on their calendar, but it really is for the best. If this affects your vacation, we recommended making sure you contact Guest Services at Universal Orlando and let them know. While they can’t change the fact that the attraction is down, they may be able to assist in helping make your vacation just a little better.