Universal Orlando Update – Hogwarts Express Trains and Resort Update

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

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Published on October 08, 2013 at 1:05 am with 46 Comments

It’s a big news week at Universal Orlando. Trains have arrived for the Hogwart’s Express, which will transport guests between the Studios and Islands of Adventure, and they are now being stored in plain sight.  We also have a huge amount of pictures from the recent progress of the Diagon Alley facade inside Universal Studios.  It is looking more amazing by the day! Starbucks continues its invasion of the theme parks as we document two locations being installed at the resort, and we also have a look at the Cabana Bay hotel construction progress. So put your conductors hat on, because we are going for a ride.

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/

 

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Diagon Alley

Details are emerging at Diagon Alley where brick work details on the far right facade are now visible.  The entire London facade is coming together.

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Hogwarts Express Trains

Guests to Halloween Horror Nights can get a sneak peek of the brand new Hogwarts Express Trains backstage, complete with Coal Cars.  These dark red and black trains will be transporting guests soon between theme parks in 2014.

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Port of Entry Sign

There has finally been movement on the Port of Entry sign, with the red support beams now removed.  We are glad to see this project finally move forward.

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Starbucks

Internal construction continues at the new Starbucks location inside Port of Entry, there should be some visible external changes coming in the next few weeks.

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Jurassic Park Games

Electricity has been added to the new games built in Jurassic Park. These games will be open soon, with more coming to the Jurassic Park area in the near future.

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Hogwarts Express Station in Hogsmede

In the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure, the Hogwarts Express station details are becoming more visible.  The scale of this building is impressive and incredible, with most of the queue at this station being outside, guests will be able to take in and appreciate the beauty of this building.

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Starbucks Replacing Endangered Species

The Endangered Species Store has closed, and Universal has wasted no time gutting the facility, and beginning to move the Starbucks from 2nd floor into a larger and more convenient location.

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Brick Oven

At the new Brick Oven quick service location, the oven has been installed, and a new exterior patio area is being constructed.  This new upscale quick service location is going to be a powerful draw for guests exiting Universal each night.

 

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Latin Quarter

Latin Quarter also continues to be gutted as they move forward with the new concept for this location.

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Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Cabana Bay Beach Resort construction is progressing rapidly at this point, with the parking garage growing story by story, the standard guest room towers are near topping out, and the Lobby building with the bowling alley on the 2nd floor is now enclosed, with the interior prep beginning.

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That wraps up this weeks Orlando Parkhopper.  For more Universal Studios news, click play below to listen to the latest episode of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast, with your hosts, Lee, Tracey and Darren as they review and discuss Halloween Horror Nights 23.


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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46 Comments

Comments for Universal Orlando Update – Hogwarts Express Trains and Resort Update are now closed.

  1. The Hogwarts Express trains are a great teaser. Uni is smart to leave them out. These next 6 months are going to be very exciting as they rush to finish this project by summer.

    • I had an up close look at the vehicles for the Mine Coaster at Disney last week which are being kept in storage at the Central Workshops. And Universal are really going to have to bring it next Summer with Diagon Alley.

      • Are you saying that after seeing those mine cars, the diagon alley
        expansion looks lame to you? Amazing.

      • Are you saying that the Dwarf Coaster is a near match for Potter London LAND? E Ticket Gringot’s Coaster? Perhaps E Ticket Hogwartz Train? Despicable Me Ride? Transformer’s Ride? New Simpson’s Land? New Hoggsmead Train Station and area? New Cabana Bay Beach Resort?

        Because these are all the things Universal has done during the construction of the Dwarf Coaster.

        Are you saying Universal better bring it?

      • Having just recently visited, yes I am saying it needs to bring it that’s absolutely right!!! The reason it’s having to invest millions into its parks is simply because there are not that good. Steve Burke realises this and has gone on a mad spending spree to bring them up to par with Disney. Transformers is alright but it’s seriously not too different from Spider-Man. Despicable Me although great fun is the same ride system and experience that we got from Hanna Barbara and Jimmy Neutron. A new hotel is nothing to get excited about when you see how many superior rooms Disney are building. The Simpsons area is cute but nothing outstanding. Also does Universal need so many midway game areas. It seems like every area of both parks has one set up. I easily managed to do both parks in a day plus Horror Nights. And I was still bored. Unless you are seriously into coasters then Islands of Adventure is a 3-4 hour park. Universal offers much more but still needs Diagon Alley to be truly amazing to make this park stand out more. The Dwarf coaster at Disney just further adds to an already solid line up of attractions at Disney. Diagon Alley needs to be something incredible for it to make a lasting impact at Universal. Right now all I’ve seen are building facades and I have no idea if the rides being planned will be any good. Antarctica at SeaWorld proved that you can’t get pulled in by hype. And that the park has to produce the goods.

      • You’ve just made a great list of things that Uni IS doing. . . which is a lot of stuff. I’m not sure that Uni is the one that need to “Bring it.” We all know Disney ‘can’ do great stuff. But look at how they cheeped out on New Fantasyland. A clone of Little Mermaid and double Dumbo. That’s a lot of space for nothing. I’d say that’s a lot of pressure on the dwarf coaster to uphold an entire land. Looks pretty, but Disney needs to bring it, and fast! Uni is eating their lunch in the excitement department.

      • I am baffled as to how you can say that Universal needs to bring it next year!
        Universal are bringing it NOW! and are most definitely bringing it next year.
        Transformers is a great ride and yes it is similar to spiderman but they can easily co-exist in those parks. In the Magic Kingdom, you have Magic Carpets, Dumbo and astro orbitor, that are virtually the same ride, IN THE SAME PARK.
        Mine Train is only going to be, for all intents and purposes, a kiddy version of BTMR. In fairness to UOR, WDW has had 19 years extra time to build up their resort, but have done very little to add to them in the last 7 or 8 years. Everyone complained that WWoHP was a small land with one ride and two existing rides, ok?! New fantasyland is even less than that, at least the Forbidden Journey actually draws a crowd, mermaid is a once ridden never again, by the number d\isney dark ride.
        Unless Disney get their arses in to gear with Avatar and Star Wars, I honestly believe that UOR will eclipse, at least, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.
        Oh and as far as IOA being a 4 – 5 hour park if you’re not a coaster fan, you are completely missing the point of a “theme park” there are only two major coasters in IOA, 3 if you count DC as 2, yet we easily spent 4/5 days in Islands on our August trip and only rode hulk twice and DC twice.
        Islands is a park that you can happily just spend time in.
        I love Disney as much as Universal, but WDW pales in comparison to UOR at the moment and for what is on the horizon, it’s Disney that needs to bring it.

      • Dusty Sage despite the verdict on New Fantasyland. The Magic Kingdom is still the park to beat. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Coaster will just further enhance the experience of what’s already at the park. Even with Diagon Alley, Universal without millions of dollars worth of investments is still no match for what Disney offers at the Magic Kingdom. Diagon Alley and Despicable Me are replacements for pre existing rides. And Simpsons despite the cute theming is a glorified food court. I’m not convinced after my recent experience at Universal that Disney need to be concerned. I’d much rather see Disney ignore the Universal threat and instead concentrate on improving facilities and stuctures within its Parks while adding new attraction experiences that the Guests want to see. Its going to take millions to bring the Universal Parks up to the standard found at Disney. And so right now Disney does not need to bring it!

        Lee I don’t think you can make comparisons between three spinners being the same ride experience vs two (what would at Disney be considered E Tickets) rides like Spider-Man and Transfomers. Besides once Diagon Alley opens the two parks will be more connected as a one day experience then ever before. The reason why Potter draws a line is because there is very little else to do of interest in IOA. You saying that you can spend 4-5 days here truly amazes me and all I can imagine your doing with time is spending money on those midway games that seem to clog up every corner of the park. Yes I get the appeal of a Theme Park and I can hapilly enjoy for instance exploring the unique shopping and dining opportunities around World Showcase or soaking up and enjoying the atsmophere of Animal Kingdom. Both which have a even more limited number of attraction offerings then IOA. If IOA was a 4 – 5 day experience then why on earth is Universal parent company needing to spend so much money on investments. Right now the rides I find appealing at IOA are Spider-Man, Jurrasic Park, Potter and Poseidon’s Fury. I care very little for the Seuss Landing area which was poorly maintened, dirty and full of kiddie rides. Despite the remarks about the Little Mermaid I would pick it any day over The Cat in the Hat or The High in the Sky Suess Trolley Train Ride. And if you can’t see fault with these two rides then nothing I could possibly say would change your mind. And why its not Disney that need to bring it!

      • It’s so cool that WDW management can post on MiceChat.

        I agree with your comment that the Magic Kingdom is the ultimate attendance goal to beat for any competitor, but honestly, it’s the NUMBER ONE ATTRACTION IN THE THEME PARK WORLD! If anyone overtakes that prize, then Disney will need a complete management rewiring (although I think they need some of that currently). I think the expectation that Uni must surpass that before they will be a legitimate theme park is a bit of a farce.

        While your preferences may be different than many others, IOA has an equal amount of quality attractions compared to the Magic Kingdom. The difference here is that Uni is ADDING more attractions; whereas Magic Kingdom has reached the M-A-D (Maximum At Disney) ride quota and when they add something, they take attractions out to do it. Magic Kingdom will forever have 26 attractions (many loved by all of us). But one can’t argue that when any theme park is adding 1 or more E Ticket attractions per year (without removing an equal amount), they are clearly on their game. Disney has not been on their game for quite a few years now.

        I believe that Universal will definitely “bring it” next year. Disney, not so much.

  2. We drove by the backside on the Cabana Resort on our way to HHN. It’s really nice!, The picture while nice, doesn’t do it justice, the colors are really retro, and beautiful.

    • I believe it will have a wave pool and lazy river too.

  3. Once again a fantastic update Eric. Can’t wait to get out to USO again next year to see everything since the last time we were there (2006) and of course hang out with the famous Eric Davis. :D

  4. It’s such a shame that all of those steel coaster tracks are just so in-your-face at Universal parks. Reminds me of Six Flags. I hate having to use my imagination to ignore the coaster tracks when I am in a themed area. The Hogsmeade station will be gorgeous…but then there are those ugly coaster tracks right by it. It’s like wearing a pretty prom dress with ugly torn up gym sneakers. But, that’s “good enough” for Universal I guess.

    • I personally enjoy the coasters. I love roller coasters, and I think that they help differentiate Islands of Adventure from say, Magic Kingdom. Both parks are similar and gorgeously themed, but they really help to clarify that Islands of Adventure is more of a “big boy Magic Kingdom”.

      Not everything has to be enclosed in a giant box or be built around elaborate rock work. And having a visible roller coaster track is Six Flags like? Do you know how many other theme parks have visible roller coaster tracks? A ton. Including Disney California Adventure (gasp!). Some of the most beautiful theme parks in the world have visible roller coaster tracks, such as Islands of Adventure or Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

      • Good point……..and we all know that Disney DOES love their rock work!

    • I think you should withhold judgment of that until the ride actually opens. You don’t know what kind of forced perspective and sightlines are going to be present there. You’re looking at the construction area in the picture which is not what you will see when walking within the @land.
      Id also call your attention to the recent brilliant addition of cars land to DCA. You know one thing I dislike about the land. The giant tower of terror you can see from just about any point in the land! I’m pretty sure that doesn’t belong there but what do you expect? Disney to dismantle it and move it? That’s rediculous. Sure in an ideal world we would see dueling dragons track or the ToT from carsland. Poor planning happens sometimes but that is not a reason to discredit universals monumental and aggressive shift towards high quality attractions and immersive environments.

    • I think you may be a tad jealous of the attention Unversal is giving to it’s guests. Why don’t you imagine how cool it will be to fly over and around Hogwartz Express and Hogsmead Station?
      When WDW fans have to get excited about a themed restroom and a 3 years in the making Kiddie Coaster, you really do have to feel a little neglected.
      Give me your comparison of WWOHP to New Fantasyland please. Remember that New Fantasyland was built completly after WWOHP.
      Thank you

      • Why is everyone struggling to understand the reason why Universal is investing money into its parks is because there are absolute crap in the first place. Disney fans get excited about Rest Rooms because we are already fully satisfied with its current offerings. While Uinversal get excited about Potter because its never seen this scale of theming inside any of its parks before…

      • Malin,
        You must be a WDW castmember. You are hilarious. Excited about themed restrooms! That’s where WDW leads you because they aren’t working on anything for their guests. Themed toilets?
        Walt would fire all of you.

      • Malin,
        WDW hasn’t got any theming equal to WWOHP. They turned down JK because they didn’t want to work that hard or spend that kind of money.
        Come on every one say it with me, AVATAR, AVATAR…hello? Anyone? AVATAR…? hello?

      • Captain America its a good job Disney didn’t accept the JK offer. Imagine how much more lame the Universal parks would be without riding on the suscess of Potter. Its the only reason people still visit right?

      • Malin, the Universal parks are not absolute crap. I’m sorry they don’t appeal to you, but I do believe they are some of the greatest theme parks out there, especially IOA. I find IOA to be one of the best parks ever designed, even with it’s current flaws. The detail in lands such as Port of Entry, Lost Continent, Seuss Landing and Jurassic Park is something to behold. I actually liked IOA better before WWoHP. Don’t get me wrong, I love WWoHP to death, but I also loved the originality of the Merlinwoods section of the park, especially the old Dueling Dragons and Enchanted Oak Tavern.

        I’m sorry you don’t like the Universal Orlando parks, but they are not crap and you know it. You’re either saying that to get a rise or to just be ignorant. It’s fine if you don’t like them, but your statements are just plain ridiculous.

    • BradyandBradleysmum,

      Yes, the new themed toilets at WDW are really exciting, aren’t they?

      I hope the kiddie coaster is finished before 3 more years pass.

      And all your criticism is always toward Universal?

      What wiil you say if Universal paints the tracks? Ah oh, look hard and long for something new to gripe about in the middle of all the cool stuff Universal is doing for their guests.

      • Hey CaptainAction, I don’t work for Disney… I never said anything about being excited for Rest Rooms. I was just pointing out with a hint of sarcasim and humour why WDW Fans get excited about this stuff. Sorry if you missed it!!!

      • I dislike your comments the the new Mine Train is a kiddie coaster. I’m coaster buff, Big Thunder Mountain was a disappointing ride to me when I was 8 years old. This new ride, MAY go, what(?) – 4 mph slower? Not to mention some dark ride elements.

        My opinion, BTMR is an average mine ride – a beloved WDW attraction. And the SDMT, may have taken a year to long to build, but thats all I hear. “A kiddie ride that took three years to build, what a waste of time”. The element that is being forgotten, is that this is an attraction based off of Walts first ever motion picture. Don’t Disney folks salivate over the thought of that? This isn’t a Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, Wall-E, Pixar ride. This is a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train! With the same height limit as BTMR I will bet, with an all new, never before utilized train mechanism, and a new centerpiece to WDWs fantasy land.

        It seems like a great addition. Agian, it may have taken a year to long to build – but it seems like a ride a whole slew of this generations kids will grow up with, and likely have fond memories of(possibly I bet, excedding that of BTMR).

        Stop calling it a kiddie coaster and call it by its real name, its a Mine Ride. Not exactly the most exciting ride, but a whole new twist on a ride you all seem to think is the bees knees, Big Thunder Mountain.

        Mine ride – say it with me. “Mine ride”. A kiddie mine ride coaster, just like Big Thunder mountain. With moderate top speeds of 40mph, just like BTM. But with audio animatronics. Audio animatronics, don’t you all just dream of the day the add new attractions with audio animatronics? Well Disney is, and it’s happening right now!!

        This new ride seems to be all you guys ask for, and your being handed it on a silver platter, A MOUNTAIN! Give WDW a break, you got what you asked for. A highly themed, not aimed at the under 42 inches crowd, based off of the classic Disney library, brand new mountain, a brand new ride mechanic, and audio anamitronics.

        Sorry about the rant, and repeating myself. But these are important points many seem to be overlooking.

        To Malin ———— You sound like a castmember. Your rationalizing the bathrooms by saying WDW fans were excited for them, because the park was already good enough? Walt said (paraphrasing) “Disneyland(world) will never be finished”. Not, “Disneyland(world) will never be finished, untill we add some slick bathrooms instead of attractions that will draw a crowd, and boost profits, make people happy, create buzz, create new memories”.

        A highly unlikely scenario. — An adult, its the year 2035, he’s speaking to his mother. “Mom, my favorite Disney memory from when I was very little was the time we went to the bathroom, the people on MiceChat called/call it the Tangled bathrooms. I dreamed of climbing up her long hair and saving her. I wanted to be a price. So you bought me those stupid overpriced pirate crap they sell”. Point being, the bathrooms are vanity, not what we cherish and care about.

        PS, Zombies are dumb. So are pirates.

        PSS – Pirates of the Caribbean is not dumb
        Sorry again, thanks for reading.

      • I would have been thrilled to welcome the new Snow White Mine Ride if it didn’t come at the cost of the old Snow White dark ride. They appear to be very different concepts so why did one have to die to bring life to the other? The Magic Kingdom needs MORE rides to expand capacity. They could put 10 additional E Tickets into the Magic Kingdom and still have people lined up for hours to get on anything. But it is nice to see that we don’t have to stand in line as long for the washroom now.

  5. Now Starbucks is at Universal??? That only makes Disneyland’s Main Street even more generic.

  6. Great article as always Eric, can’t wait to hear about it from the horses mouth on your next “What’s Newniversal” segments which will be on episode 67 of UUOP.
    The London facade has come on SO much, even since we were there in August.
    There is so much going on at the moment that it just makes me so excited.
    Thanks again.

  7. Harry Potter was a big deal in the 1990′s – 2000′s. Eventually the relevance of the Disney franchises will surpass Harry Potter.

    • Harry Potter is still relevant, if not even more so(everyone who read the books is growing up, and will pass the love of HP to their kids).

      As people have pointed out, Star Wars came out in 1978 and is still going strong.

      And with JK Rowling writing a screen play for a Harry Potter spin off, and Universal trademarking several other Harry Potter related things, the inevitable next book in the series, and the even more inevitable reboot of the franchise. I think universal is in a great position.

      On a side note, everyone is doubting the success of Avatar land and the Avatar sequels. But we all should have learned by now, is that you never doubt James Cameron – he will make you cry.

    • The Harry Potter books are some of the highest selling books of all time, like Lord of the Rings, they will be passed down from generation to generation. They WILL stand the test of time!

  8. Bb5 if the Universal Parks were that appealing then why the need to invest so much money into them? It’s that simple and you like others should not allow your love for the parks to get in the way of seeing the major flaws. The Universal is actually quite a decent park anyway and will only improve next year. But that’s only thanks to the DCA style makeover it’s had in recent years to add Despicable Me, Transformers, Superstar Parade, Night-time show and Potter. You fail to understand the real reason behind the investments and why full attention will be given to IOA next to try and fix the park. If IOA was as great as many of you believe it to be then the need for such an investment would not be valid. If you can’t see this then it’s you that is ignorant!

    Kenny B first I’m not even from the US and so I am certainly not a Cast Member. I am instead someone who visited Orlando last week on Holiday and became very disappointed in what I found at IOA. And Rest Rooms aside since everyone is failing to understand the sarscasim I was making… My experience at Disney was a much happier one to what I had at IOA. Disney could always do with new experiences and attractions. I hear several new projects will be coming soon. But what it offers right now is still much superior to what I had to see at IOA. And so I fail to fault them right now when each of the Disney Parks offers a better overall experience to both Universal Parks. When I next visit a Disney Park and become bored after 3-4 hours then I will change my view. But even the smaller Hollywood park offers a much more awarding day out compared to IOA.

    • But new rides, and WHOLE LANDS(alas, Dragon Alley) draw people, therefore money. Allowing more money to be directed to new rides.

      I love WDW, way more then any new Universal property (granted its been since 2000)—- I know, and can still see the difference(pictures)………. But no theme park enthusiast can deny the tear Universal has been on, especially at USO. So many new C-ticket(+) attractions, it reminds me of the late sixties at disney land(not to compare).

      Give credit where credit is due is what we ask. —— The Harry Potter addition was/is brilliant, it could always be rethemed in a more traditional matter if need be.

  9. Malin

    I think where we champion Universal over Disney is that they are investing money of rides and attractions now. Disney biggest investment in recent years was Expedition Everest, but New Fantasyland doesn’t cut it with every theme park visitor. The main problem is the ratio of attractions to meet and greets. WDW has a large number of meet and greets, which is too many. They also have spent billions on MyMagic+ and other lackluster investments which does not enhancement any of the parks. The sad thing is when the Tangled Toilets opened, yes they were very nice to look at, but this was one of the main areas in New Fantasyland?! They are Toilets! In my opinion, they need to be clean and functional, and have some theming, which USO has. At WDW the build up to the opening on the New Fantasyland on Disney’s official website and many Disney blogs showcased this as a major attraction, when in fact, it is a convenience.

    I think where you state that USO have reskinned rides, and it s not big, just look at what they are basing them on. The Simpsons, the longest animated TV programme in the world, and with fans all over the globe, people would love to visit this area, as it is filed to the brim of clever touches that will bring a smile to all Simpsons fans. Despicable Me is a very profitable franchise, due to its Minions. Kids love it, and so do adults, because of its humour. Transformers has the same ride layout, but the story and the experience is just fantastic as it really pushes the boundaries. For the Magic Kingdom, you have duelling Dumbos, which is the same, along with the spinners in Tomorrowland and the carpets spinner. Now, yes they look different and are in different lands, but to be fair, it is the same ride, just 3 times. Clearly, you would remove two of them because you could put something different in its place! However, they keep it, which is fine, but to say that Universal has cloned rides and Disney is unique is wrong. They have many cloned rides and as proved above, rides that are shelf, just with a different paint job.Universal invested in its parks because they knew they could increase their portfolio of attractions.

    After Potter opened, they went on a construction spree, like DCA, and the resort will benefit. While, the park was not as sound as WDW, just wait until next year, when it is expected that attendance of USO will pass DAK and DHS. WDW have had new attractions, or reskinned attractions. We have had meets and greets and cloned rides (of a ride that didn’t need to be cloned), along with massive restaurants and nice toilets! There is a need for all in a theme park, but WDW has lacked the rides parts, and that gets people visiting again. Otherwise, attractions become stale. Jaws was old, and USO removed it because they could put a more relevant franchise in its place, which Happy Potter. It is a British franchise that has changed Universal all together. Disney do not need to compete, because of WDW still has the ‘magic’ that surrounds it. However, looking realistically, we have had no evidence of construction for Star Wars Land, it is a rumour set up by the fans and sort of agreed by the men in suits at Disney, but we have not got a official conformation, nor any concept art. If Disney didn’t do anything, just more meet and greets, and from what hear, this is just the beginning of Universal’s construction, with rumours floating around on Micechat that there could be a Lord of the Rings area, then look at who needs to bring their A-game. While Disney is doing alright now, they need to have serious investments in new rides, and for that reason, why Universal have got it right. I know that you are not going to be convinced Malin, but think back to all of the rides that have appeared in all of the Disney parks, new of reskinned, since Potter has been opened.

    Guests want something new, not all of the old rides, which if WDW doesn’t follow Universal’s trend, then Disney will turn from a theme park into a museum.

    • Country Bear, Transformers, Despicable Me and Diagon Alley all have replaced previous rides. And for some of us the decision to remove Jaws is still an unpopular one. I also expect any upcoming rides will replace pre existing ones. I was actually shocked to still see ET at the park. His days are numbered for sure. You are kidding yourself if you think Universal will not be replacing rides in the future. And thanks for agreeing to my point that the Magic Kingdom will remain on top no matter what Universal builds against it!

      Trumpet, the Tangled Rest Rooms have never been an important part of the Fantasyland expansion. The area is not even on the plans its a seperate project to provide a better crowd flow with Rest Room facilities and seating areas. This sort of area might not thrill you but its an important part of the park experience. Expect similar areas will be made available when Diagon Alley opens up. For the record I actually enjoyed the Tangled area and the Rest Rooms are much needed.

      Jaws was very much a beloved ride. The fact you refer to it as old is exactly the reason for the investments. The Park needs help and yet you and others are failing to understand this!!! Its not a case of Universal having two stand out parks and are building more stuff. Wall Street would be all over them if there felt the money being poured into the parks was not warrented. Universal parks need the investment and it was clear to me on my trip last week this was the case. Personally I’m glad the new projects are in the works. Oh and what Universal did with Despicable Me and The Simpsons is no different to what we have seen from Disney with Test Track or Star Tours recently. End of the day all that matters to me is that Steve Burke unlike most of the people posting on here is smart enough to see the parks need help and much more money to fund new rides. He’s providing this but also realises the Orlando Resort will never be able to challenge Disney. He just wants to provide potential growth for the company through more people staying longer at Universal and possibly staying longer. Right now Universal once Potter opens will become a full day experience. IOA needs a lot more to bring it up to this status.

      • Actually, I think the Magic Kingdom is stale, but the families with young children love it because of the magic, but as there is nothing new, Universal, in will supersede WDW next year because of new experiences.

        I like reskinned rides, as it is cost effective and if they are done right is seamless. Removing old rides and replacing them is a good idea and putting new rides in, not meet and greets! This is where WDW is being left in the dark. Not everyone likes meet and greets and where is the magic in knowing where they are. I still get goosebumps meeting Pluto on Main Street USA when I am walking down there. The best bit is I do not know when your favourite character appears without you knowing when and when.

        All theme parks need help, they are never perfect, but replacing rides with new ones is perfect and should be continued, but WDW doesn’t get that. Look at Epcot, they close down rides and open the areas up when there is a festival, but there is no year round attraction. Surely you can’t support this?

        The toilets debacle has gone on for too long, they are nice, very clean and needed in a theme park, it is just that it looks from the outset that they look like an attraction, and Disney believes that because they are themed, they are one of the main selling points of the New Expansion!

        Finally, Universal working with an outside brewer came up with Duff Beer and the Flaming Moe for Springfield. WDW have a red berry drink for Gaston’s Tavern, which was already made for Cars Land, and then put into the Fantasy Faire. While Universal have created a unique drink you can’t get anywhere else, Disney have copied a drink. I would love to know your comments Malin

      • Ok I think we all need to take a step back off the edge! lol I have often contended that Disney and Universal are NOT interchangeable experiences. I do not think going to Universal = going to Disney and I do not think going to Disney = going to Universal.

        They are both experiences that are worthy of people’s time. Now where I as a journalist, blogger, theme park addict come in with my commentary, is the Time vs Value

        My time is valuable, and my money is also valuable. so to me I am going to spend my money at the place that I feel is going to deliver the most and best entertainment for my money spent.

        I am more than happy to pay insane sums of money for an entertainment experience if it delivers.

        So a premium price for a premium product.

        This is where I being to feel let down at Disney. I feel that for the money I am spending, they are not delivering on that experience.

        I feel this goes across all verticals at the resort.

        Rooms: sub-standard with the industry

        Attractions: aging, and stale and now behind the industry

        Food: a grab bag of horrible, to over priced, to gourmet that is worth the splurge but the guests in tank tops and crocs ruin the fine dining experience

        Grounds: overall beautiful, but you feel the aging infrastructure everywhere. Monorail breakdowns, dirty buses, aging cement structures

        Merchandise: nothing special or unique

        Price: outrageous for the experience and quality offered.

        That is why I began to look else where years ago. And I did. I fell in love with Islands of Adventure instantly.

        The studios actually took me a little bit longer to fall in love with.

        What Universal is doing is constantly adding value to the parks! As someone who goes EVERY week, I am constantly surprised and delighted by what I find in the parks.

        But to end this rant… if you feel like WDW is delivering a quality product for a price you are willing to pay, then GREAT, please enjoy that resort.

        However I think most people are discovering they can have a better experience, with a better price point just up the road at the beautiful Universal Orlando Resort.

      • That is why WDW is losing so many folks to Universal. You don’t like the timing and the money spent but what happens when Universal passes up AK, Epcot, and D studios in 2015? That will be something to see.
        Any Universal trend of folks to WDW? Nope.

  10. The Magic Kingdom is stale in areas although the overall look of Fantasyland has greatly improved. Not just with the new expansion but areas like Tangled and even the Winnie the Pooh facade looks much better then it did before. I also love that so many of the classics are still here like the Country Bears, Peoplemover and Carousel of Progress. But Universal despite the new stuff still looks dated. ET despite being a loved classic is very dated. Rides like Shrek 3D and even Men in Black are looking tired. Which is very surprising because these are newer park rides. So your right no theme park is perfect. But we shouldn’t in that situation be suggesting and hyping Universal up as a Resort it’s not ready to be yet. If it was then the need for expansion would not be required. Comcast is not the sort of company to just throw money against a wall.

    I have not seen anywhere the Rest Rooms being a major selling point of New Fantasyland. The Rest Rooms are not even situated in the same area. I think it’s more a case of fans remarking to how nicely themed the area is and Universal and critical Disney Fans jumping to use this in future arguments.

    Flamin Moe was a right disappointment. It’s orange soda with dry ice. Not something I’ll be rushing back to try again. Le Fou Brew is a frozen apple juice with a hint of toasted marshmallow, then topped with all-natural passion fruit-mango foam. Not sure where your getting that its a berry drink. I loved it and found it very refreshing. Much better then Butterbeer. Disney has also created the pork shank for Glaston’s and it had much more flavour and taste to eat then any of the food I had at IOA. And that includes the overrated Mythos.

    • Malin,

      Your opinion is your own! And it is great! And just FYI for everyone, Malin is NOT a Castmember, heck he doesn’t even live in North America. lol

      Now Malin, the problem for myself you list out those improvements, and great those are improvements, and each one has it’s merits, and it’s positives.

      The problem I face personally and subjectively, is that when I think of the Magic Kingdom, I don’t get excited about experiencing anything there any more.

      That is a subjective observation, but, nothing at the magic kingdom begs for me to come and experience it. I feel that they ripped the charm out of Pirates, they ripped the soul out of Haunted Mansion, and everything else to me just feels so blah now.

      Again subjective. But I am not alone.

      I am sorry that you didn’t have a great experience at IOA or USF. It breaks my heart because I love those parks so much.

      But again to each their own.

      • I find it funny that when someone loves WDW, but becomes TOO used to it, Uni. seems to be doing more building, and quicker. Look at how much construction was already done before Uni. announced D. Alley.The new coaster at WDW is intended for everyone to ride it. Coasters at Uni. are after thrill seekers and adrenalin junkies….lol. I doubt very much that WDW would ever have a ride with “Hurl” in its name, but its totally accepted at Uni. Why? Because they are after 2 different types of customers. 2 different parks. WDW is alittle stale right now, especially for those who live in Florida, and visit the parks a lot. But, I see that situation will change.

        My last vacation to Florida, I spent a day at UNI ., and enjoyed what I did, but , im not into the “extreme” coasters, nor the games, but I sure wasn’t bored. Uni. needed, and still needs to keep doing more building. But like I view DL, Uni. is just an amusement park, WDW is a resort. Each park, in the future, will have its ups and downs, and each person who loves one park more than the other, is what it is. For people who only visit WDW every couple years, they easily catch “the magic”. Uni. is fresh right now, which the locals are loving. Disney wont go away from the top billing anytime soon, but Uni. is making great strides . Im moving back to Florida this winter, and I hope I don’t become “stale” with WDW.

  11. Eric you are the voice of reason. It is all down to personal opinions. Despite the way my comments are coming across my Universal experience is not really a negative one. Yeah I would like to see more done to improve IOA. And I do feel its a weak park. But I had a good time at Universal and the Horror Nights event was so much fun. Easily the highlight of my entire stay in Florida was attending Horror Nights. I just feel we need to stop being so hard on Disney until Universal can fix its own issues. Which you have assure us is coming soon.

    • If anything needs investment, it’s Epcot, DHS and DAK. Not IOA. Journey into Imagination with Figment? Yuck. Ellen’s Energy Adventure? Lord have mercy. Indiana Jones Stunt Show Spectacular? Backlot Tour? The list goes on and on…

      I don’t know what you have against IOA, but it does not need as much help as you’re preaching. It could use a few more family attractions, but that’s really it. Also some of the games in the park need to be removed, like the Toon Lagoon ones. At least The Lost Continent ones are leaving.

      • Last time we sat in Indy Jones Stunt Show and the stunt guy came up in the pink flowered shirt and the MC said that he was brave for wearing that shirt…ugh. We just all looked at each other and said we couldn’t sit through it any more. Same exact jokes since it opened.

  12. This has brought out the handbags again hasn’t it…

    Thanks for the excellent photos as always Eric.

    We all spend your money where we like, that’s what drives the changes in any of the parks. Universal isn’t spending this money for the love of the fans, they’re doing it to increase their revenue, they are being very clever and it’s working for them. If I put myself in the place of a ‘suit’ at Disney, am I panicing by the impending opening of Diagon Alley, probably not. Looking at the attendance figures over the last 5 years Disney is maintaining top level attendance, as are all the other parks. IOA looks like the only one seeing an upturn (surprise surprise) with a 50% increase (50% of pretty bad numbers though to keep it in perspective), but the other parks are all holding their own, what does that say to Disney? It says ‘wait and see’. I’m betting behind closed doors there are all kinds of levels of response being considered to HP phase 2, when they know what they need to do, they’ll move forward… good business.

    I’ve always considered myself an Orlando fan, but the hairs on the back of my neck only stand up when I’m in a car driving under that big sign that says ‘Walt Disney World’. I have so much fun and get so much enjoyment out of Universal, but it doesn’t have that spark that Disney has, but that’s me, whatever works for you is where you spend your time and money.

    I’m looking forward to the Mine Train, Diagon Alley, whatever Star Wars attraction gets built, Lorax, Avatar land, Jurassic Park/World and I personally have everything crossed for Radiator Springs Racers (not bothered about Carsland). It’s all win win for me.

    Here endeth another rant…

    • Many great comments. I see that Malin has pretty much inspired a hoard of strong, emotional responses from people on both sides of the fence. Really the only comment you make which concerns me is this one…

      “But we shouldn’t in that situation be suggesting and hyping Universal up as a Resort it’s not ready to be yet. If it was then the need for expansion would not be required.”

      Since Bob Iger took the helm of Disney, this kind of thinking is all too real. And it’s not just for Disney anymore. There is only one reason any theme park expands or changes and that reason is attendance. New developments/attractions/re-skins drive attendance (as do discounts). As I mentioned earlier, with the busiest theme park on the planet, Disney doesn’t need more attendance at its Magic Kingdom park. Through marketing and discounts, it has continued to see increases each year with virtually no investment. So why would they spend money on improvements if they don’t have to (Guest Experience aside)? Well, they wouldn’t.

      Universal does want/need to improve its attendance at its parks. Universal has not had the consistent marketing machine that WDW has had for over 40 years. Universal needs to create talking points to market. Comcast is looking to make more profit off of these parks and historically that means adding things that will drive the gate. They have found the right people, properties and the money to do this now and they are reaping rewards that would make most companies eye’s water. New attractions means higher entry fee’s (because of higher value of experiences), it means more people through the gate (substantially more in the last couple of years) and it means improvement for overall Guest Experience. They are creating experiences that they can market for years to come that people will want to ride over and over. All of this means more money coming in and that is really the only thing that matters in this day and age.

      The argument that Disney is a complete resort and doesn’t require any investment to improve, is based on attendance and nothing else. Magic Kingdom is the one park in the world that is so “attraction challenged” it has suffered from a serious capacity issue for a very long time. You are forced to spend more time there just to stand in line and wait for a ride. Perhaps Disney is smarter than I think – make the line ups more interesting as this is much cheaper than building another ride to consume these people. But what about the Guest Experience? Disney is basing that on history, not on innovation.

      Frankly, I have often wondered why Disney hasn’t takes a more aggressive approach to its other parks at WDW. If they really have 18 million people a year visiting the Magic Kingdom, why aren’t they trying to make all of those 18 million also visit their other “on property” parks? I think it’s buried treasure that they don’t seem motivated to dig for. Probably another subject that’s worthy of a 400 page debate.

      I love both resorts and all of the parks. I personally feel that right now, Universal is speaking louder to me and I know they are investing heavily to justify my reason for visiting/revisiting. I do not believe Disney is in a position to counter this for at least 3 years as they have announced little and broken ground on only one potential new ride/area. Next years Mine Train ride will likely be a solid D Ticket, but not really worth planning a trip just to see on its own. Diagon Alley, well that’s another story. I am going to judge both resorts based on their actions and nothing else.

      End rant.