Universal Orlando Update – Diagon Alley Details and the Simpson Couch Gag

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

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Published on October 01, 2013 at 1:00 am with 35 Comments

Construction is happening at a fever pitch at Universal Orlando where we find something new in Jurassic Park and Springfield as well as updates on Harry Potter, Citywalk and the new family hotel being constructed at the resort. Plus, we’d like to invite you to join us at Halloween Horror Nights on October 17th. Read on, there’s lots to discover this week!

Let’s journey first to Islands of Adventure, where we have updates on the Hogwarts Express construction and Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park Games Signs Up

The games that are moving from the Lost Continent over into Jurassic Park now have new themed signs that match the world of the dinosaurs.  With Hammond’s Hotshots, Jurassic Park Animal Control Training Zone, INGEN Egg Nursery and Dinosaur Dash Up. These games will add a bit of energy to a once quiet corridor.

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Hogwarts Express

The Hogsmede Station for the Hogwarts Express is almost fully enclosed now.

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Over at the Studios, we have some updates with Diagon Alley beginning to show details, and Springfield getting a new Photo Op.

Chief Wiggum’s Car is Missing

Over at the newly open Springfield USA, Chief Wiggum’s police car has been recently removed, and the area closed off.  We hope to see the car return soon.

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Simpson’s Couch Gag Photo Op Opens

Over in Krustyland at Springfield USA, a new Photo Op has opened up where you can insert yourself into the famous Simpson’s Couch gag from the opening scene of the show.  Guests can be inserted in a number of different backgrounds that are sure to be a hit.

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Diagon Alley Details

Across the lagoon from Springfield USA, details are beginning to emerge on the facades that will be part of the London Facade.  All of the facades now enclosed and are receiving the initial stages of thematic detailing.  These buildings are going to be beautiful once completed.

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Hiring Started for Diagon Alley

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Universal Orlando has recently started to accept applications for jobs in the new Wizarding World attractions.  Internal candidates will start interviewing in November, and will find out at the beginning of 2014 if they have made the cut to be part of Phase 2.

CityWalk Update

A lot of changes are happening in CityWalk with Red Oven starting to hire, and more changes on the way.  We can expect more updates to CityWalk over the six months as this area of the resort gets a much needed refresh.

Red Oven Construction

Over at the former Pastamore quick service location, construction is moving forward, and Universal Orlando has started hiring for this new upscale quick service location.

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Latin Quarter Update

The location formerly known as Latin Quarter has been gutted and torn apart as they prepare this location for a new concept.

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Cabana Bay Beach Resort Update

The standard room guest towers are almost fully completed, and the guest parking tower is now under full construction.  The massive scale of this resort’s 1,800 rooms is finally being realized with these towers nearly complete.

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Join us at Universal Halloween Horror Nights on October 17th

If you are looking for a night of haunted fun, join us at Universal Studios Orlando on October 17th as we visit Harry Potter during the day and stay for Halloween Horror Nights that evening.  We plan on a full night of fun and scares complete with a dinner beforehand, and more.  (stay for the whole day or just join us for Haunt)

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If you plan to join us for Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights you will need to purchase a ticket for Thursday, October 17th that includes the additional HHN Express Pass option (Front of line). The link we include below is to collect your information so we can contact you about meeting up with us for the evening and to find out if you’d like to join us for dinner.

SIGN UP FOR MICECHAT’S UNI ORLANDO HORROR NIGHT EVENT – HERE

If you plan to join us, please click the following link and sign up to our event info page. The system will take your name, contact info and record what portion of the event you’d like to join us for (Day in the park, Dinner, and/or Halloween Horror Night). Please sign up here: http://uni-orland-horror-2013.eventzilla.net/

 

That wraps up this weeks update. For more Universal news and information, please listen to the Unofficial Universal Podcast, staring Lee, Tracey and Darren, as they discuss all the latest Universal Studios Parks and Resort news from around the world.  In the latest episode we recount the audio from the Universal Orlando Podcast Meet-up at the Universal Hard Rock Hotel where we took on the Kitchen Challenge.


Direct Download | iTunes Link

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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35 Comments

Comments for Universal Orlando Update – Diagon Alley Details and the Simpson Couch Gag are now closed.

  1. I can’t wait to see what else universal have in store for us, especially after announcing that Orlando will get a new attraction every year and will share a $500 a year budget with Hollywood. Diagon Alley looks like it is going to be amazing, I hope we can be there next year for it’s opening. It’s good to see that Springfield, even after being officially opened, is still having things added.
    My only concern is that it could become distracting, having construction going on year round. But, overall, exciting times are ahead.

  2. In the Hogsmeade Station photos, it still breaks my heart that Universal cheaped out and left the steel exposed when they rethemed those old coasters to be Harry Potter roller coasters. They could have spent another million or two on the project to make the coaster track look like it was made of wood and rocks or something, so that it would look like it belonged in Hogsmeade. Instead we have to use our imagination and pretend that those tracks are not there. I’ve read every Harry Potter book and have seen all the movies several times and I don’t remember there being steel roller coaster tracks with bright red and blue paint on them in Hogsmeade.

    This is what I call the “good enough” attitude that Universal has with projects, where some parts will be great but then you have to use your imagination to overlook the glaring bits where Universal just kind of either gives up or cheaps out.

    • How exactly, do you put faux wood and rocks on an existing roller coaster track that’s been there 10 years? You can’t. They might could have covered up the supports, but that would only have drawn attention to themselves, darling. Universal knows what they are doing. Try looking at the track at Goofy’s Barnstormer for tracks that are ‘good enough’.

      • I don’t appreciate being called “darling”, since you don’t know me at all. But isn’t Goofy’s Barnstormer supposed to be themed as a ride at a circus/fair. So the track looks appropriate to me.

        But…having shiny steel structures for a rollercoaster in a magical medieval looking village? That’s where I need a lot of imagination to make all that steel go away.

        They could have done a lot with rock work and fake tree and wood effects to make a lot of the support structures blend into the rest of Hogsmeade. But Universal just went cheap and saved a lot of money by repurposing two old rides instead of making two new attractions that wouldn’t have had all that exposed steel.

        Universal fans like to say that everything it does is better than Disney…but Universal fans have a tendency to overlook things like all that steel leftover in Hogsmeade that is really out of place.

    • I wish there was a way they could look different, too, but even if they had built something brand-new, there are things a wooden coaster can’t do that a steel one can. And the mechanics (not to mention safety regulations) of steel roller coasters don’t really allow for much beyond paint on the actual tracks – now, they could have enclosed at least part of the coasters or built up other things around them to make it less noticeable, which would have been awesome – but if you’re going to have a steel coaster, there’s only so much structural theming that’s possible.

      • I think they should remove dueling dragons. We need a shrieking shack walk through, the burrow, and the dursley’s place, with hisoriginal bedroom under the stairs and all. My opinion only!

    • It’s just a roller coaster. It doesn’t belong anywhere near Hogsmeade. It belongs outside of Hogsmeade. Why would your heart break? Don’t take it so personally.

    • So do you like the little dollhouse at new fantasyland which WDW calls Beast’s Castle?

      Does your imagination overlook the 18 inch high dollhouse on a 10 foot stick called Rapunzel’s House at New Fantasyland?

      These are WDW’s answer to WWOHP and the new London and Diagon Alley?

      Who do you think “cheaped out”?

    • It breaks your heart? I think you do protest too much.

      Your heart must really be broken about the little dollhouse 4 feet over the guests heads at New Fantasyland which WDW calls Beast’s Castle, eh?
      That is not even close to a “good enough” attitude is it?

      Haven’t seen you criticize the dollhouse on top of a 10 foot stick at WDW called Rapunzel’s House. How is that for a cheap out?

      These are the responses from WDW to WWOHP and the New London and Diagon Alley.
      I’m sorry, who cheaped out? I’m sure you will want to tell us how sad New Rockland at WDW has made you.

      • I’d rather have an awesome unthemed coaster like dueling dragons in my park then pathetic unthemed coasters like barnstormer or primeval whirl.

        The difference between universal and Disney isn’t that universal is flawless its that universal is aggressively expanding and improving its Parks with amazing new lands and attractions while WDW seems to be obsessed with meet n greets and new lands that have attractions that aren’t even as good as the old ones.

  3. They should get rid of the ugly steel coasters, they belong to a previous era when Universal was willing to settle for “good enough”, they detract from the beauty of the surrounding themed attractions. I don’t care how elaborate the queue and station are, an ugly steel coaster is what it is: Six Flags/Cedar Fair caliber entertainment.

    • EXACTLY. At a Six Flags or a Cedar Fair park, I expect to see the roller coaster tracks and all that steel…and I expect there to be some nice theming here and there, but it’s really just an amusement park with rides.

      A really immersive theme park does not have exposed steel coasters just sitting there. It takes me out of the themed world and back into just an amusement park with some nice set decorations over to the left and to the right of the big, ugly steel coaster.

      • Give us a comparison of WWOHP and New Fantasyland?

        New London/Diagon Alley and New Fantasyland?

        You found One negative thing to say about WWOHP and New London and that’s all you can think of. I’d like to hear your list of negative things at New Rockland at WDW. You’ll need 3-4 posts if you don’t get too wordy.

        Yum, Shank Steak and LaFou Brew. Restaurant is always empty.

      • Nope, darlin’. The Barnstormer featuring the Great Goofini is themed as a flying airplane ride through various props and buildings. No, it isn’t supposed to be themed as a ride at the fair. But, as a super fan, I’m surprised you didn’t know that.

        I’ve never said that Universal did everything better than Disney and I personally have never seen half of the Harry Potter movies. But, I’d rather have the themed queue of Dueling Dragons than the themed queue of the Rupunzel commodes.

  4. Couldn’t they have painted the supports and the track too look like wood or at least colors that blend in to the green landscape. Universal and Disney in the past have done a great job in painting steal to look like wood or even faux rock pillars

  5. I’ve never heard any of the guests complain about the coasters, more to the contrary that they very much enjoyed them. It IS an amusement park, and you’re going to have rides at amusement parks. The coasters are fun and are perfectly fine where they are. I don’t see how you could really “re-theme” the coaster. Can you find me an example of a B&M coaster with theme elements on the supports and track? The area is fine and guests are enjoying it, sometimes though you get a few obsessive folks, which we seem to have here, that just can’t handle a fun ride because it doesn’t meet their definition of perfection.

    • The beginning portion of Hulk is themed all around the track and the supports. But for a B&M, that’s all I can think of. It’s hard to theme a large, steel roller coaster all the way around. If they did, then it would be an even bigger intrusive element on Hogsmeade. And then people would complain about that.

      Honestly, the best that they could do is re-paint the tracks and add some dense foliage and rock work below the tracks, so you aren’t flying over dirty ponds and weeds.

      But besides that, when Dueling Dragons was built, it was views as an amazing roller coaster from the theme perspective and from the thrill perspective. It added a whole new element of dueling and close calls that people loved. It was unique, and quite frankly, amazing. The queue was also one of the best queues ever created. Simply as that. It told an awesome story and really built up for the attraction. And the entrance through the two dragons was awe-inspiring.

      The coasters were certainly not built “on the cheap” or “good enough”. They were innovative in design and had a very strong theme through the entrance to the boarding area. The theme on the ride has never been strong (they are big coasters), but the dueling aspect added something so very unique that it wasn’t necessary.

      Now it’s a shell of its former self, that doesn’t duel and is just viewed as an intrusive element on Hogsmeade Village. It’s sad.

      • Great post… Dueling Dragons is a very sad version of its former self. The former queue was incredible. The statues were awesome. The views inspiring and the ride thrilling.

    • Yup! Baloo: google search Crystal Wings in Beijing for your answer.

      It’s by no means perfect especially close up, but if a Chinese theme park can pull it off, Universal could have made it look halfway like a Qudditch pitch or added some rockwork.

      • Sorry meant Insemsf

    • Maybe Nemesis, but the Matterhorn was the standout foryears.

  6. I love how exposed coaster track at Uni. is something drawn up by The League of Doom, but Barnstormer, Primeval Whirl and Screamin’, Sky School, are MAGICAL and FUN………

    • Funny comment, it made me laugh.

      I believe the reality is that all of these attractions have been designed by the same people. When they weren’t working for one, they were working for the other. I suspect that at the end of the day, budget and leadership had everything to do with why some things look great and others look like imagination was suspended that day.

  7. Naturally because we’re talking about Universal, the discussion must become an argument over which is better (again)…Disney or Universal. I’ve completely forgotten what the article was even about. As long as they’re both in business, it will forever be the Hatfields and McCoys! I propose that they are both great in their own ways and they both require improvements in their own ways. And that is where the spirited conversations always begin. Oh well, it’s fun to discuss.

    Regarding the article, thank you Eric for your continuing great articles and coverage on the subject. I had a couple of questions I’m hoping you can answer:

    1. When is Cabana Bay scheduled to open?
    2. Has Universal given any hint (or timeframe of a hint) on when they are going to tell us all what will be located inside the new Diagon Alley area as far as attractions, restaurants and shops, etc?
    3. Do we know at what themed location the train from IOA will be docking in the new Diagon Alley area? In fact, do we physically know where it will be in reference to the massive buildings they are assembling (I assume in the back to drop people into the center of the area)?
    4. Have they allocated room for attraction expansion within the currently “under construction” buildings? Seems like a lot of building space for just 1 main attraction and some shops, doesn’t it?
    5. If I were planning a vacation to see this new area in 2014, when would be a safe time to visit to ensure it’s open?

    Thanks for all your great work Eric!

    • Yeah, I get your Hatfield vs. McCoys reference but I see a BIG difference. I’ll bet that almost all of the folks who have moved over to the Universal side are folks like me who USED to be big Disney fans.

      The Disney side is losing, in giant numbers, guests who are becoming major Universal fans.

      Universal isn’t losing any guests who are becoming Disney fans.

      WDW is insulting their fans while Universal is attempting to attract all theme park fans.

      This is why the last die hard Disney fans have so much angst and trouble defending WDW. Instead of being honest about what WDW has been doing the last 10 years, they attack any small defect they can imagine at Universal or they attack the person who points out all WDW insults to their guests the last 10 years.

      • Fair points. I totally get where you are CaptainAction as I believe we are in the same place. I love your comment about Universal not losing anyone to Disney. It’s actually quite insightful.

      • Yep, I agree we are in the same place. I think we get more folks joining us every day too. I hope Universal can beat AK, Disney Studios, and EPCOT in 2015.
        I’d love to see WDW leadership realize what their greed, inaction, and taking guests for granted could come to bring about as they get their rear ends handed to them.

  8. Amazing how people complain about having 3 kick ass B&M coasters in one park.

    • Haha! Isn’t this the truth? I’m glad IOA doesn’t have each of their coasters thrown in a show building with an elaborate facade. Then people would complain about how TOO similar IOA is to, say, Magic Kingdom. They did a great job designing the park with amazing themed lands and queue lines, then having an awesome roller coaster which still told the story of attraction.

      The only bad thing is the transition Dueling Dragons went through to become Dragon Challenge. It doesn’t tie in as well with its surroundings as it did when it was part of The Lost Continent’s Merlinwood, and the story/the rest of the grandeur (the large dragon statues) of the attraction were removed. It is certainly a shell of its former self.

      Long live Dueling Dragons!

  9. i love the picture of the simpsons sofa lol. great pictures thanks

  10. Universal Orlando right now is like Walt Disney World in its old glory years. Two great parks, one water park and three hotels right next to the parks with state of the art attractions.

    Disney World is way over expanded and watered down right now. With four parks each one only has one maybe two good rides. I would not be surprised to see bums soon in all the closed areas, former attractions or even parks like River Country and Discovery Island. If WDW had an HOA they would be fined. I guess it is good enough for Disney to let areas rot to death in the open and ruin the “magic.”

    • Great points. Funny how some folks are so jealous of what is going on at Universal that all they can find to comment on is, ” I don’t like the color of those roller coaster tracks”, wow.
      They don’t mention that 3 years (and counting) to build the Dwarf Coaster is twice as long as Walt took to build Disneyland.
      They don’t mention all the LANDS, MULTIPLE awesome rides, and resort that Universal created and are currently creating in the same 3 year period.
      They don’t point out the big lazy miss of the Mermaid attraction. Mermaid is almost always a walk on while Peter Pan and Winnie often have 45 minute waits.
      All some folks can find to criticize is the color of some tracks at Universal.

      Ever thought how cool it will be to fly all around the Hogsmeade Train Station with the Hogwartz trains entering and exiting?

  11. I would rather see bums then DVC time share reps every where.

  12. Thanks for another great update.

    I cannot believe the size of Hogsmeade Station. I was not expecting that. Are they going to move the Hogsmeade archway and sign to include this new area? It seems like much of the station will be outside that current entryway.

    Anyone know how the engine/caboose layout is going to work if this is a single track? Seems like the trains will be going in reverse half the time.

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