Universal Studios Orlando Unveils Diagon Alley Animatronics and more

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

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Published on May 13, 2014 at 5:00 am with 91 Comments

We are back this week with a massive Universal Orlando update, where some amazing new details have been revealed about the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, Gringotts Bank and more.  The look inside will amaze you.

Diagon Alley and Escape from Gringotts

We are just a few weeks away from the opening of this amazing new land, and while people might be focusing on the Magic Kingdom’s Mine Train, Universal Orlando has unveiled more Harry Potter project details and a first look with what the animatronics guests will encounter in the queue for the Escape from Gringotts attraction. Universal has also made sure the height requirement for this ride comes in at 42″ to make this attraction more accessible to younger visitors.

Goblins on Gringotts

The very detailed animatronic

Gringotts Bank Lobby Queue

Gringotts Bank Lobby Queue

Escape from Gringotts Ride Vehicle and Loading area

Escape from Gringotts Ride Vehicle and Loading area

Guest will encounter Bellatrix Strange on their journey into Gringotts

Guest will encounter Bellatrix Lestrange on their journey into Gringotts

When watching the preview of the ride, you learn that guests will come face to face with Voldemort on this new attraction… along with a dragon!

Dragon on the Escape from Gringotts Ride at Universal Orlando

Dragon on the Escape from Gringotts Ride at Universal Orlando

 

Construction Update

As we look at the construction of the London Facade, we see that some of the amazing finishing details are being added to the London area.  The street light poles have been installed, the amazing fountain with angel on top has been installed, the berm is almost complete, and the old Amity bathrooms have received a muted brown paint job that will allow it to blend into the existing area.  The clock is counting down and soon guests will be able to explore this area.

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We’ve been expecting light poles to be installed here, but these are just amazing.

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On the side of the new land, they are obscuring the show buildings with a tree and shrub covered berm.

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We can still see what they are trying to hide here . . . for now.

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With the video and concept art, this ride is going to be groundbreaking on so many different levels.  We can’t wait to experience it when it opens this summer.

Hogwarts Express

Universal also unveiled some video of the Hogwarts Express, where we get our first peek at the London to Hogsmeade and Hogsmeade to London trip that guests will be taking.  From the screenshots we took from the video, it looks like this will be a journey that young and old will enjoy.

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CityWalk

Over in CityWalk all the projects are progressing quickly as they try to get things complete for the big summer crowds.

CowFish

Upstairs at CityWalk, above what will be Vivo is CowFish, guests will enjoy Burger-Sushi fusion cuisine and will be able to enjoy beautiful views.

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Universal Studio Store

The studio store is now enclosed from the elements and it’s main facade is moving forward.

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World Famous Hot Dogs

Next to the Studio Store and Antojitos, World Famous Hot Dogs is getting closer to opening. They are currently building the Jumbotron, over hang, and gazebo.

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Breadbox and Menchies

Breadbox and Menchies are now under wraps as they get built out.

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Did anything spark your interest in this week’s update? What you are looking forward to most this summer in Orlando?

Now, we invite you to listen to the exciting E-Ticket Report.

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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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  • michael darling

    Why? Why are so many of you on MiceAge? It boggles my mind. Go to the Uni boards and froth at the mouth. Why continually bash Disney on a Disney board? You come across as so angry and bitter at WDW. IT’S A FREAKIN AMUSEMENT PARK, for crying out loud. Let people go where they want. Why do you constantly and DAILY feel the need to ‘open our eyes’ and celebrate the fall of Disney at the feet of Universal? It’s quite tiring.

    • cruise

      We’re on MiceAge because we love theme parks? I don’t know where you’ve been, but this place provides pretty comprehensive coverage. And in case you hadn’t noticed, this isn’t a Disney update, this is a Universal page (and, you know, stop bashing Universal on a Universal post)! So maybe you should hightail it over to a Disney update and post your thoughts there.

      This is the problem with posts like yours, and a lot of the people on these boards. It isn’t primarily about Disney vs. Universal, most of us genuinely love theme parks in general, and just feel Universal is doing it better right now (not indefinitely and for all time). The problem comes in where the staunch Disney supporters criticize Universal for attractions that, if built in a Disney park, would be given praise. Would Gringotts and this update really get any criticism from any Disney supporters if it were built in WDW? NO!

      I don’t think most are celebrating the fall of Disney, I think we’re lamenting it. I’d say 90% of the Universal enthusiasts here fell in love with theme parks BECAUSE of Disney. I’m just not satisfied with mediocrity and I certainly disagree with those who defend it.

      I’m certainly happy to let people “go where they want,” but in my assessment, most of the bad blood between these two “sides” here comes from an almost immediate dismissal of anything Universal does.

      I think the Dwarfs Mine Ride is a great C/D ticket addition to WDW, but Potter is WAY more exciting and grand. It doesn’t have to be an either or.

      • Park Hopper

        I agree 100%!

    • danielz6

      If it’s tiring then don’t view the comments. Disney parks blog is full of censored pro Disney commentary if that’s what you want.

    • Cory Gross

      Because it is VERY IMPORTANT for them to let us know that they disapprove of the things we like. It wouldn’t do to forth at a Universal fan site because they wouldn’t be able to forth AT us. That’s the point of it.

      • cruise

        No one disapproves of what you like! We’re just saying Universal is doing it better currently! Your quote on the previous page “Disney has already won” posted on a Universal update really makes it seem like you are the one who feels it is VERY IMPORTANT that everyone know Universal is playing second fiddle, wouldn’t you say?

        Gawsh.

        Also, can we stop calling Miceage solely a Disney fan site? The frequency of their updates on things not Disney really makes it a theme park site, IMO.

      • cruise

        No one disapproves of what you like! We’re just saying Universal is doing it better currently! Your quote on the previous page “Disney has already won” posted on a Universal update really makes it seem like you are the one who feels it is VERY IMPORTANT that everyone know Universal is playing second fiddle, wouldn’t you say? Also, that’s exactly the kind of dismissive attitude that contributes to the problem that I discussed above.

        Gawsh.

        Also, can we stop calling Miceage solely a Disney fan site? The frequency of their updates on things not Disney really makes it a theme park site, IMO.

      • Cory Gross

        Cruise, yes they do disapprove, and they make it personal. It’s not enough that they like Universal and we like Disney. It’s that we’re WRONG for liking Disney… We have some kind of character flaw, we’re blind, we’re “stuck in the past,” we’re “extreme brand loyalists,” we’re dumb idiot sheep, we’re enablers, because we happen to like what Disney is doing. We don’t even necessarily have to dislike Universal (FYI, I read this because I am interested in the Harry Potter stuff), it’s bad enough that we still like Disney. You’re not allowed to like both. It’s gotta’ be a contest and they have to win it. They can’t leave it alone. I’ve met religious fanatics who were less obsessed with converting people than Universal fans are.

      • CaptainAction

        Cory, you always ignore this. I’ve written it to you several times.
        We don’t hate Disney. Most of us are upset with WDW leadership for the last 10-12 years. In our opinion, they’ve been greedy, lazy, and motivated only by each years bonus.
        The reason many folks are telling folks to try and wake up and quit acting like WDW hasn’t changed for the worse in the last 10 years.
        The more folks that hold back their money, or support their competition, the sooner we get better leadership at WDW.
        That’s why folks use the word enabler.
        Honestly, there is no way to compare how much Universal Florida is doing for the guests, to earn their money vs. WDW in the last 10 years.
        I know you hate Universal Florida and I know you’ve never been to Universal Florida.
        You may be too invested to be able to admit, in September, that you and your wife may like a few things at Universal when you go.
        You can stop saying everyone hates Disney now.

      • Cory Gross

        Cap, and you keep ignoring everything I’ve said…

        1) If you say you love your wife but only ever complain about her and badmouth her to anyone who will listen (and most people who won’t), that’s not love.

        2) The rest of us who still do love and enjoy Disney are not brainless sheep who need you to “wake us up.” We are conscious, conscientious consumers who are interested in the product Disney is selling. Maybe YOU don’t like it anymore, but that doesn’t mean you have to personally insult US. Like, really, MUST you call us names?

        3) You treat it like this is some kind of political debate when, really, it’s just people getting tired of you bashing things they like all the time. And not just the things they like, but them, as people, for liking them.

        4) I’m the one who has been saying that it’s not a contest and you can like both. I don’t hate Universal. I hope I DO enjoy Universal. I BETTER enjoy Universal for what I’m spending to go. I just don’t like Universal AS MUCH and because of my experience at USH, I don’t expect AS MUCH from them. Stop projecting.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        You say potato, I say enabler!
        You say enabler, I say Big Meanie!

        Potato! Enabler!
        Enabler! Big Meanie!

        Let’s call the whole thing off!

        Seriously. That’s a nut you’ll never crack.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      For the record:
      A brilliant critique of the laziness of WDW.
      From MiceAge. Not a blind fandom Disney site is this.

      http://micechat.com/36201-throwing-in-the-towel/

      Direct quote from MiceAge, which could have been written by anyone on this thread:

      “Repackaging what’s there can no longer succeed in the face of real competition. Disney needs to regain that fire that stems from their inferiority complex. They need to know they’re not the best in the business of themed entertainment anymore.”

      Cheers!

  • BlahBlahson

    The argument that Disney is doing just as much as Universal, it’s just not in Orlando…

    Is completely VALID. The new ratatouille ride/Mystic Manor/the level of quality all the way around in Tokyo, DCA Remake, New Fantasyland, FREAKING Shanghai, Fantasmic TDS and Disney Dreams Paris…amazing. No complaints. Phenomenal stuff I’d love to see one day. There’s a ton of blindness about this. Disney as a company is doing incredible and treating each of their parks in a business appropriate manner.

    However, it’s also completely valid to be annoyed with the state of progress in Orlando for reasons discussed ad nauseum. For supposedly being the industry leader, Jack is actually happening to improve DHS or Epcot or the Waterparks, and the progress at DAK and MK has been SLOOOWWW when compared to Europa Park, Phantasialand, Efteling, Heide Park, Liseberg, Port Aventura, Alton Towers, USJ/USS, Lotte World, Ocean Park, Happy Valley, Other Merlin Attractions, Schlitterbahn, Dollywood, Cedar Point, Canada’s Wonderland, Hershey Park, Knoebel’s, Holiday World, even some freaking Six Flags parks, and locally and most intriguingly, Universal Orlando, Seaworld Entertainment and EVEN FUN SPOT USA.

    I don’t know what the future holds, but it’s really hard not to feel like the present at WDW is undercapitalized. It’s entertainment, we demand new and fresh more than in any other industry.

    • Park Hopper

      I don’t agree that Disney is treating its parks in a business appropriate manner. And apparently neither do you, since you think WDW is under capitalized.

      I think they’re spending way too much money on My Magic +. The original price tag was bad enough, and now that the early numbers are reportedly not giving them the results they expected, they’ve canceled just about all North American new attractions.

      That’s the opposite of what they should have done. They should have canceled the failing My Magic + and thrown all their money into new attractions. Unless they start using hypnotism, people aren’t going to change their spending habits so easily.

      Now, I’m watching television commercials telling me I should visit WDW because I can now use a wrist band instead of a ticket…. really…? really…?

      Then I see a Universal ad saying I should visit Universal because they have an awesome new land based on one of the world’s most popular film series, with a new ride using ground breaking technology–an experience never before available.

      Let me think…. Where should I go?

      • CaptainAction

        That’s a pretty well thought out argument.

        I saw that commercial with the band…it made a light turn green! I’m there, and you say it’s only $100/day-how cool!

        See, everybody keeps thinking of this from a historic point of view but WDW has never done SO LITTLE in a 12 year span as what we have just experienced.
        This is a new floor which the WDW execs are trying out.
        The numbers from 2009-2013 for WDW, in terms of attendance were not good. Growth of NEGATIVE, FLAT, or 2% is not good.

        Now they are milking more $’s out of each guest but that just makes the guests more discerning.
        At over $100/person/day guests are starting to really examine what they are getting. If it’s starting to look like they are paying out the nose for the same vacation the family had in 2002 – well, that doesn’t feel good.
        Over time, this is what worries the “WDW Can Do No Wrong” folks.

        The tip of the iceberg has only just become visible at WDW.

        Universal just grew 39% and that didn’t measure anything but Hogsmeade and Forbidden Journey.
        While WDW has been testing a new floor for 10 years, Universal just began testing a new ceiling of how much they can attract new guests with.

        Could be a perfect storm.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Regarding the business appropriate manner, I’m sort of inclined to agree with you, BlahBlahson, but it doesn’t make it better for theme park fans (and Disney World fans, for that matter.)

        Theme parks, and particularly American theme parks, are Disney’s most stable business. Outside of a major downturn in the travel industry (such as post-9/11,) the Disney Parks & Resorts division generally just churns along making money, and especially in the United States.

        (Notably, even Disneyland Paris makes money and would be profitable, without the overbuild of hotels at that property. And should they get DSP off the ground and change the travel pattern there, those hotels might very well become profitable as well.)

        WDW, in particular, is Disney’s cash cow. Not only does the resort host the most visited theme park on the planet (MK,) but the resort has successfully created a business paradigm where a massive chunk of their guests are long-term, exclusive Disney property guests and spenders.

        This cash cow is basically funding or helping to fund theme park expansions elsewhere, or the purchase of other franchises and businesses by Disney. And that’s fine and correct as a business model: why not use your successful business to shore up struggling business or expand the overall business? That’s correct.

        …except that its been a long time now, where WDW has basically been printing money for the Disney company, and not really investing in their cash cow. It’s been basically since WDW trotted out some attractions and DAK to combat the non-threat that IOA turned out to be more than a decade ago.

        A lot of this has to do with WDW never going through a public shaming like the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim did with the opening of DCA.

        WDW opens up a third-of-a-day animal park? People still come.

        Half of Epcot turns into a dead mall? People still come.

        DHS basically stalls out for the decade between Motors and Toy Story? People still come.

        MK allows entire sections of its signature park, the most visited park in the world, to calcify and fall into irrelevance? People still come.

        I’m uncertain if that day of reckoning is now.

        After all, the theme park market and Disney itself expected that day of reckoning to come with the opening of IOA. Cap’s figures aside, Disney grew by 2% from a loooooooot of people and Universal grew by 39% from as nooooooooooooot a lot of people (some years 1-2 million less than SeaWorld.)

        So, at the very least, up until now, Disney’s visitation patterns have been stable without investment. Indeed, Disney clearly expects even more visitors to MK at least, considering the hub project. Will Harry Potter 2.0 change that dynamic?

        I hope so, if only because it will force Disney to invest in their signature park and the massive integrated resort surrounding it.

        I understand the current business reasoning why they don’t, and we, as park guests are part of that problem, because we keep rewarding the company financially even as they don’t reward us with “Disney” level stuff to do.

  • Jmullen23

    So I think it’s awesome what Universal is doing with their property! I’m very excited for these new additions to the park. I was there a few weeks ago and things looked amazing.

    Now, about all the Universal/Disney fighting, they both have their pluses, but nothing beats that feeling I get when walking into the esplanade at Disneyland or through any Disney park at night. I don’t think universal will ever be able to match that, regardless of how much money they pump into attractions.

    Also, I wish Universal would spend some money on higher quality shows. Their rides are awesome, but Sinbad, the parade and even the Cinematic Spectacular were just okay! Didn’t blow me away like Remember…Dreams Come True or Believe or World of Color.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      JMullen23, I’ll agree with that. Disney owns ambiance and shows. But, to be fair, Universal is certainly learning.

      I never thought that they’d have churned over as much of the original park in Florida as they have into more distinct “lands” and “blocks,” like Springfield. They still have a ways to go (can anyone explain why a new build like Transformers wasn’t placed in World Expo as a sci-fi ride? Or, for that matter, Terminator) but they’re getting there. I suspect that in a few years, when the trees fill in along the lakefront by Diagon Alley, that area of the park will look simply stunning.

      Regarding the shows, parades and night spectacles, I sort of agree, but I also think that Disney has an over-reliance on them. If Universal’s weakness is an emphasis on big, E-Ticket attractions and they could use some smaller stuff, some parades, shows and spectacles to fill out the day, then Disney’s most certainly is a dearth of new, invigorating E-Tickets with a wealth of “shows” to choose from.

  • DisneyHokie

    Have to get on on the projections argument, just because it’s fun. Projections at Universal:
    Spider-Man, Forbidden Journey, Poseidon’s Fury,
    Despicable Me, Twister, Transformers, Mummy, Simpsons, and Men in Black. Plus Gringott’s will have projections and Hogwart’s Express will basically be a traveling theater. I’m not including film attractions because that’s just being asinine. That’s a large chunk of their big rides, especially at USF, especially considering their newest and “greatest” attractions all feature, sometimes heavily, projections.
    Both UO and WDW use projections to help tell the story. With films and simulators, that can’t be helped. I haven’t seen the Mine Train animatronics yet but they sound similar to Radiator Springs Racers, and I don’t hear anyone complaining about those animatronics.
    The bitterness displayed on these boards is sad. It’s like discussing politics or religion, just don’t do it. You’re not going to convince the “other side” that they’re wrong. Just enjoy the park(s) you like and don’t go to the ones you don’t. That way everyone’s wait times will be less!