The crumple-horned Snorkack lives! Luna Lovegood’s favorite fantastic beast peers from a second-floor corner of the Magical Menagerie, one of many through-the-brick-wall surprises at the new Diagon Alley expansion of Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The appearance of the humped creature ”is like a secret win for Luna,” says Evanna Lynch, who portrayed the lovable Ravenclaw in the films. ”I once asked J.K. Rowling, ‘Is the Snorkack real?’ and she was like, ‘No,”’ Lynch tells EW. ”But I think she’s changed her mind.” (It’s unclear whether the critter is intended to be ”real” — as is hotly debated in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — or a menagerie model, but who are we to Quibbler?)
The expansion, opening on July 8 after a media preview, brims with authenticity, ”sign for sign, stone for stone,” as Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) puts it. In contrast with cozy, snowcapped Hogsmeade — which debuted at Universal in 2010 and has reportedly boosted revenue by 40 percent — the bustling capital of Wizarding World is grittier and more essential, the place to pick up everything from wands to robes to Puking Pastilles. (Tickets cost $96. Keep in mind: Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade is in Universal’s Islands of Adventure park — two adjacent but distinct properties. To visit both, you’ll need a two-park pass, which runs $136. Ouch.) Diagon Alley also boasts two new queue-worthy attractions: Escape From Gringotts, exactly the thrill ride Rowling penned it to be, and the Hogwarts Express, a working replica of the films’ scarlet steam engine. (Harry and Hermione turn up in both rides, but Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson did not film new footage.) Visitors who cough up $44.95 for one of the new sensor-enabled wands can try their hands at spell work at designated points. Do you have to say ”Aguamenti” while wand waving to make the frog fountain spit? No, but in the name of Flitwick, you will want to.
Yes, the soft-serve Butterbeer ice cream and fire-breathing dragon atop Gringotts Bank are guaranteed Muggle pleasers, but for N.E.W.T.-level Potterheads, the real magic is in the details: the street sign hawking Mrs. Skower’s All-Purpose Magical Mess Remover, copies of The Daily Prophet casually strewn about, a door marked House-Elf Placement Agency. Visiting the Dark Arts depot ”is very surreal,” says Tom Felton, whose alter ego Draco Malfoy experiences several pivotal moments in the store. ”It holds some special memories for me.” The Hand of Glory and Vanishing Cabinet are spot-on, but Felton points to at least one big difference between the new version and the one he remembers: ”We didn’t have Azkaban T-shirts for sale!”