Universal Orlando Resort: Diagon Alley Dissected a Wizarding World Expansion Update

Written by Eric Davis. Posted in Orlando Parkhopper, Universal Orlando

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Published on May 14, 2013 at 3:00 am with 48 Comments

Detailed artwork has been released for the new Harry Potter expansion, Diagon Alley, that is currently under construction inside Universal Studios Orlando. Included in the new land will be a major new attraction, brand new shops and dining, and transportation that will connect the two parks. Today, we take to the air to bring you a birds-eye tour of the construction site and compare it to the released artwork. Plus, we’ll bring you the latest information from around the resort, including Transformers and Cabana Bay updates.

Universal Orlando Resort

This past week, Universal dropped a bomb on the theme park world when they unexpectedly released Wizarding World Phase 2, Diagon Alley, concept art.  While none of the information in their release would be considered “news” to MiceChat Readers, who have heard all of the info here months ago, the concept art is quite beautiful. We were so inspired that we decided to dust off the MiceCopter and take to the air once again to show you a building by building breakdown on the project.

Artist Rendering of Diagon Alley. CLICK TO ENLARGE

We’ll do our best to provide you concept and real world views of the entirety of this huge project. From the artistic representation above and construction photo below, you can already see that the project very closely mimics the concept art.

Overview of Diagon Alley construction site. CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

MAIN ENTRANCE

The exterior of the land will look like London and the Kings Cross train station and will completely conceal Diagon Alley on the other side. But once you pass under the facades, you’ll be in a faithful recreation of the world of Harry Potter.

An overview of the shopping courtyard.

While the concept art lacks detail and is highly stylized, we are still able to make out some of the individual shops which we can expect to find in the new land:

Flourish and Blotts

Madam Malkins

Olivander’s

Quiditch Quality Supply and Owl Emporium

Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes (you can just make out the side profile of the round window with the arm and top hat)

This is what the Weasley’s shop looked like in the film and what we can expect it to look like in the theme park as well (given the clues from the concept art above).

London Water Front

You’ll note number 12 Grimmauld Place in the lower right of this image.

And here’s what the concept art above looks like in the real world.

The first part of Phase 2 that you will be able to see as you approach from around the Universal lagoon is the London Waterfront area. The concept art alludes to some additional details we can expect to find upon opening.

The purple triple-decker “Knight Bus” from the Harry Potter film, Prisoner of Azkaban, is parked on the waterfront. This will make for a great photo op.

Kings Cross Station

One of the main attractions in Phase 2 will be the train to Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross Station.  This large façade will become part of the iconic skyline for Phase 2.

Hogwarts Express Station

Inside Kings Cross you will find the entrance to Platform 9 ¾ that will take you to the Hogwarts Express Train that will transport you from London to Hogsmede, creating the first inter-themepark transportation anywhere.

Hogwarts Express

Once guests board the Hogwarts Express, they will be whisked away on a magical journey from park to park that will include up to 4 different story lines for day vs. night and to London and to Hogsmede.  Guests will be treated to in cabin effects and will truly feel like they are making the pilgrimage that young Harry and friends made every year when they would go to school at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The elevated line runs the entire length between the Studios and Island’s of Adventure. From one Wizarding World to the other.

 

But you won’t see any of the ugly back stage areas from the train. All views from the attraction will be simulated. You’ll really feel like you are being transported somewhere magical.

 

Here we see the other station being constructed in Islands of Adventure.

The station is wedged between the Dragon Challenge coaster just above it and the Sinbad theatre to the left.

Hogsmeade is in the top right of the pic.

GRINGOTT’S

The most anticipated addition to the Diagon Alley expansion is the Gringott’s bank coaster.  Set in the depths of the cavernous, subterranean storage vaults, riders will race along a winding track narrowly avoiding all sorts of dangers.

The entrance to the attraction will, apparently, be adorned with a fire breathing dragon. While concept art is notorious for adding fantasy images which never make it into actual production, it is very likely that the dragon will be an important element of the new land.

Here’s the back side of the massive Gringott’s show building.

So, what’s missing from our report that can’t be captured yet in concept art or MiceCopter photos? Well, while none of the items below have been officially confirmed by Universal, we’ve been told by sources that there will be some very popular additions to the expansion. Readers should expect to find an enclosed Knockturn Alley area, which will contain a Borgin and Burkes walk-through attraction (which promises to be pretty dark and scary). Leaky Couldron will be the main restaurant. And Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour will help keep the crowds happy and sugared up.  Universal intends to stretch out the concept art releases and news to generate as much buzz as they can before the attraction opens (likely in late spring of 2014).

It’s already an impressive looking project. We can only expect it to get more exciting as the facades and details are added. We have lots of interesting information to share with you about this project going forward, so please be sure to check back weekly.

CABANA BAY PROGRESS

Thanks to the MiceCopter, we can show you the current progress on the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort.  With the tower and the pool areas now defined, and the lobby building beginning construction, guests will be staying at Universal’s new “Value” resort in under a year.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS

FACADE WORK

Some refurbishment is being conducted in the New York and Hollywood sets as the park prepares for what they expect to be another banner summer.

SPRINGFIELD

Work continues in the Springfield expansion next to the Simpson’s ride. Though construction might appear to have slowed down on the exterior, interior work is being completed at a rapid pace. The water front will begin to receive a bulk of the attention once the main interior work is completed.

TRANSFORMERS: THE RIDE 3D

Last minute details are being worked on to get this new attraction ready for its official June 20th debut. The “Garage” will allow the large stilt walkers to walk on and off stage with ease once it is completed. And guests might be able to get a special treat from this location that people have come to love in Hollywood.

Finishing touches are being added. The obligatory disclaimer is now up, and there are just a few more touches (and one big touch) that is going to be added to the building.

Universal Islands Of Adventure

JURASSIC PARK REFURBISHMENT

Jurassic Park went down for a quick refurbishment after the previous dates were scrapped due to various operational needs and scheduling.   We hope that the Animatronics on this ride receive some TLC, because they were beginning to look really rough.

 

MARVEL SUPERHERO ISLAND

Over in Marvel Super Hero Island, more street work continues. Crosswalks are currently being repainted.

And if you are still looking for more Universal fun . . .

NEW: MiceChat Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast

We have a brand new Unofficial Universal Orlando podcast for you today. It’s a fun look at what’s hot in the Universal parks:

Thank you!

With that, we end our high flying Universal Orlando Resort update today.  Are you excited about Transformers, Springfield and Diagon Alley? Let us know in the comments below and please share today’s update with your friends and family. It takes a lot of fuel and effort to get the MiceCopter airborne, but your comments and social shares make it all worthwhile.

About Eric Davis

By day, Eric is in Marketing and Social Media. But on the weekends, he's a theme park addict. Eric is a frequent contributor to MiceChat's Orlando Parkhopper columns and tends to focus his efforts on what's new and what's news at Universal Studios and SeaWorld.

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  • Trumpet

    Great Update

    London is looking amazing, and the news just keeps betting better and better.I can’t wait to see all of the details that will emerge and the unique shops that make a land special. It is a shame that WDW use the One Disney merchandise. It is funnt that Disney announced the AVATAR Land on the same week, but it will open in 2017! I have a good feeling that Disney will not open any attractions until 2017, unlike USO. The concept art looks fantastic, and will be so emersive. I can’t wait for the Hogwarts Express and from the looks of the track, it is going to be a long journey and full of effects.

    Thanks Again Eric, and thanks for using the MiceCopter to see a birdseye view of all of the construction.

    Trumpet

    • Eric Davis

      The construction is already at a scale that is hard to capture in photos. I can’t wait for us to be able to experience it!

    • DLFan1995

      Too bad that Disney won’t release any concept art for Avatarland. People are totally anxious to experience Universal’s Harry Potter expansion, now even more so due to the concept art they released. If Disney would release some of their Avatarland concept art (there actually is some, isn’t there?), it MIGHT actually give people something to look forward to.

  • Lee Mallaby

    What an amazing expose on the new Diagon Alley. This looks like its going to be amazung. I have one reservation though, it concerns me that they are only putting in one attraction. I know the Wizarding World in IoA only had one new attraction, but it still has 3 rides, where as Diagon Alley will only have one ride and the rest seems to be geared around merchandise, obviously they will have the Hogwarts Express but u would nor class it as a ride, more of an attraction.
    As a harry potter fan they will do no wrong in my eyes, but I think general joe public may be disappointed with only one ride.

    • Eric Davis

      Well I am not too worried. I think that Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express will have enough repeat ability, that people will be pretty focused on those.

      But also what I think is that with all the areas to explore that while you might not “sit down and be strapped” into the attraction there will be a lot of things to experience as you stroll around Diagon Alley.

  • CreepyMonkey

    Fantastic update! Loved seeing the birdseye view of everything. I will say I’m really excited for the Diagon Alley, etc. additions to the park, but honestly, I think I’m in a way I’m just as excited for the new ‘value’ hotel!

    With everything they are doing at Universal they are really giving Disney a run for their money already, however, from what I’ve heard about this so called ‘value’ hotel it is awesome and will make Disney value hotels look like Motel 6. I’m really hoping we see some fires lit under the powers that be in Disney as they slowly but surely see their dollars being siphoned away by Universal’s increasing awesome presence in Orlando.

    • Eric Davis

      Disney is running all the way to the bank! lol They keep thinking that if they out market Universal Orlando, it doesn’t matter what is inside the parks.

    • Westsider

      Transformers in ’13 and then Potter 2.0 in ’14… Wow. By 2014 it’s quite obvious that Universal Orlando will have gone over the tipping point and have such critical mass that it will be nearly impossible to go to WDW and NOT go to Universal for at least two days. This will come at the expense of DHS and DAK, which are both dusty and decaying parks that should have had two E Tickets, a handful of C/D Tickets, plus fresh shows and parades added in the last decade but haven’t. They still have entertainment from the Bill Clinton era in both parks, and it’s just embarrassing at this point.

      Team Disney Orlando is about to get their behinds kicked by Universal, and while Magic Kingdom and Epcot will keep their head above water, it’s DHS and DAK that will fall off the radar and lose their days to Universal and Sea World, with LEGOLAND nipping at their heels just to be an extra nuisance.

      • DLFan1995

        “Team Disney Orlando is about to get their behinds kicked by Universal . . . .”

        . . . AGAIN!

  • MrTour

    What a wonderful 2 parks! If only USH was half as complete as either of the Florida parks!

    • Eric Davis

      Well Mr. Tour, I personally suggest you come out to Florida for a visit! You will have tons of fun!

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    AMAZING update! I’m so excited for Diagonal Alley. But, like Lee above, I’m concerned that they aren’t building enough attractions in the new land to satisfy the MASSIVE crowds which will be showing up.

    Still, Uni is operating on a whole new level with multiple themed attractions all being constructed at once. It’s refreshing and certainly going to give Disney a run for the money.

    • Eric Davis

      Personally I think with the Hogwarts Express train, and some of these walk through attractions, and the fact that Olivanders will be much more of an attraction this time around, I think guests will find themselves spending countless hours exploring the Wizarding World Part II

      • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

        I’m sure you are right. With the train, Borgin and Burkes walk-through, and the Gringott’s coaster, that’s three attractions. Though, I’d love to see a big people-eating show or something of that scale to help suck up the massive crowds. Universal’s problem will be success. As with the phase one in Islands of Adventure, they are going to be flooded with far more guests than can comfortably fit in the new land. I hope they have a great crowd control plan. Because everything we’ve seen points to lightening striking twice and another record setting run for the Universal Orlando Resort.

      • Eric Davis

        Well I heard Universal is really working hard to get MagiQuest approved for Phase 2, so that Muggles can finally buy wands that work.

      • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

        That would be VERY cool!

  • Gregg Condon

    Simply Amazing!!! I’m so much more excited for Harry Potter and Antarctica at Sea World than I am for any of the rumored additions to the Disney parks.

    • Eric Davis

      The Wizarding World changed the theme park industry. It will never be the same. We are now reaping those benefits here in Orlando with the Wizarding World Part II and Antarctica. I want more than anything for Antarctica to be a runaway success because I want that trend to continue. I want Universal Creative to be able to continue to dream BIG!

  • StevenW

    A fire breathing dragon? Of course, where’s Disney’s Yeti? Next year, we’ll finally see the Dwarf’s coaster, not that I care anymore.

    • Westsider

      No one will care about the Dwarf Coaster when Potter 2.0 is finishing up. The Dwarf Coaster is only Barnstromer Plus with department store mannequin “animatronics” jiggling around in two brief indoor scenes. The Dwarf Coaster will be totally irrelevant when it opens this winter with Potter 2.0 nearing completion up the freeway.

    • mainejeff

      I had almost forgot about that Dwarfs coaster…….seems like it’s been under construction forever!

  • tofubeast

    AMAZING. I cannot wait to see this all completed. The train sounds awesome and a fantastic way to link the two parks. It’s going to be hard to decide whether my drive up to Orlando will be for Universal or Disney in the future.

  • kburford

    Great detailed report on Diagon Alley pairing up concept art with construction progress!! Always love the aerial views, thanks!

  • Tielo

    This is an amazing update!
    Love the HD photographs to enlarge. So many details to see!!!

    I don’t get why people complain about just one major ride. There was one ride, Jaws (yep a cool on) and now we get 2 rides (the train ride will be an awesome C/D- ticket ride. Know that Universal’s creative team can make you believe you are dropping of a skyscraper without getting you 1 feet in the air!
    Also the many shops and restaurants will have (just like HP1) many animatronics and other stuff to experience and explore. I hope demand will be so huge they’ll convert the horrible Fear Factor show into another Potter extension. A stunt show with magic and duals would be awesome.
    Also a crazy bus tour trough London using the King Kong 3D technic like used at USH would be nice and could be fitted in easily.
    Bring it on Uni, can’t wait to ride, shop and dine there (not to be out done by all the other cool stuff over there).
    Thanks Micechat for this great update, you guys are the best!

    • Truecoat

      I’ve heard the train will be closer to E than C/D ticket.

      • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

        You hear correct. For many, the train may very well be the highlight as it is a fun for the whole family ride which immerses you in the Wizarding journey and serves an important function in getting you from one park to the other. It’s an absolutely brilliant concept and Universal Creative is going to get lots of praise and kudos not just for the attraction but for the genius way it will increase the daily spend per guest (park-hoppers for all).

  • danielz6

    Eric…both Tokyo Disney resort and Walt Disney world have inter theme park transportation systems. Universal Orlando isnt first. It is unique however in that it is between 2 themed lands between 2 separate Parks, with continuity of theme throughout the entire ride. That is a theme park first and very impressive. Universal is clearly raising the bar for themed lands and attractions. They remind me of the unrestricted creativity that Walt Disney had in the 60s with the massive new Orleans square expansion of Disneyland. Go Universal!

    • LoveStallion

      I hardly regard the monorails as being in the same league as this Hogwarts Express. Yes, they are technically inter-park, but require one to completely leave a land, park, and then re-enter another park through turnstiles, etc. While there will surely be a form of checking tickets, this is, indeed, pretty cool. Just Potter to Potter.

      The closest thing I can think of to this is the Disneyland Monorail, which allows you to leave the “land” of Downtown Disney and go straight to Tomorrowland.

    • Westsider

      Agreed that Disney has no “inter-park” transportation at any of its properties. Exiting, hand stamping, bag checks, queueing for new turnstiles, ticket checks. Monorails past the exits are not the same as boarding the Hogwart’s Express at Kings Cross, experiencing a major attraction, and exiting at Hogwart’s in a different theme park. Universal Orlando is about to rewrite the book on theme park operation, and is light years beyond anything Disney could or would try with its current gun-shy Parks leadership. (Especially in tired old Orlando)

    • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

      That is not correct. Those resorts have various forms of transportation to get you from one park to another AFTER you exit the park, but only Universal Orlando has a system of getting you from one park to the other without having to leave the park.

      • danielz6

        Having to leave the park doesn’t disqualify the monorails as being interpark transportation systems. The definition of the latin prefix “inter” literally means “between”, not to be confused with the prefix “inner” which means “within”. Therefore the monorail systems that run “between” magic kingdom and Epcot, and Tokyo Disneyland and disneysea are, by literal definition inter-park transportation systems, regardless if the station is in the park or outside. The transportation is used to travel “between” the two Parks. My comment does recognize the uniqueness of the Hogwarts train, but by definition it is not the first inter park transportation system in the literal meaning.

  • JiminyCricketFan

    What a great update! Universal is really hitting it out of the park with this update. (As opposed to WDW, who is really only hitting a fly ball with the Fantasyland expansion!)

    I can see so many of Walt Disney’s design principles in this expansion:

    1) Small portals that open up to a concealed world.
    2) Moving guests around both in a practical and fun way at the same.
    3) Theming lands with rides that build one cohesive story (rather than miscellaneous attractions that although are part of the same land but have little shared thematic or story elements — I think of Disneyland’s present Tomorrowland which illustrates this problem.)

    I agree with Dusty, all I see in this is the problem of an outrageous success which will bring out massive crowds. The ride capacity is low.

    Thankfully, the new Fantasyland will not draw many new guests so if after visiting Universal and you feel stressed by the crowds, you can come by MK where there will be much less people and hang out at the Tangled bathrooms.

  • jcruise86

    Eric, THANK YOU (and Universal Orlando) for giving me something to look forward to!

  • Big D

    We still have a ways to go, and Universal may still have more announcements up their sleeve, but I do agree with everyone who says that there needs to be more to soak up the crowds. I haven’t been there since phase I opened so I haven’t seen it for myself, but I’ve heard the stories of hour long waits just to get into the land itself before you actually get to go on any rides or shop in a store or eat in a restaurant. Universal needs to work on wide walkways, large stores and restaurants, and rides that can handle thousands and thousands of people an hour. I don’t know any of the ride capacities offhand, but something like Pirates of the Caribbean for example takes up very little space in New Orleans Square but handles a lot of people, and because the boats themselves are so large and loading process is very efficient (no seat belts to check) the line is never that long. Universal needs at least one ride like that, even if it’s not an “e-ticket” ride, in addition to the main big ride that everyone wants to see. As visually stunning as the land appears to be in the photos, a people-mover type ride that just simply tours the land would also be a great crowd-eater.

    • jcruise86

      If this is themed well enough, the whole area will be an attraction and just hanging out there will be wonderful, as is hanging out at the Disneyland Resort and (I’ve read) at Tokyo Disney Sea. My 7-year-old just reeeaaaaally wants a butterbeer.

      As a J.K. Rowling fan & English teacher, I’m thrilled that this area
      and our incoming Universal Hollywood WWoHP will promote her inventive, funny books.

      If I had to bet on whether 30 years from now Hollywood will be more likely to be making more Star Wars movies OR another filmed series of Rowling’s seven HP novels, I’d go with HP. There is still some excellent stuff in her novels (such as some of the best Dursley scenes) that hasn’t been filmed. And I want to see different versions of Hogwarts.

  • dsmith3373

    Fantastic update again Eric, thank you.

    I agree one major ride is a bit disappointing, but it is only replacing one ride so its a fair trade off, with the added bonus of the train. My main concern is capacity this is going to be one seriously packed area, not for the claustrophobic. I’m also really curious how they’re going to work the other station theming in another very tight space.

    Is it really likely that they can have this open by late spring next year? That will be impressive.
    I’m keeping very close eye on ‘possible’ opening dates in the coming months as I’m desperate to start planning a trip next year!