Universal Orlando Despicable Me Family Suites and Diagon Alley Update

Written by Eric Davis. Posted in Features, Orlando Parkhopper, Other Destinations, Podcasts, The E Ticket Report Podcast, Universal Orlando, Universal Orlando Podcast, Universal Studios

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

frontpagepicUSS

Published on May 20, 2014 at 2:00 am with 69 Comments

We are back this week with another big update from Universal Orlando Resort, where we take a look at the progress that has been made on the Diagon Alley project, CityWalk, Hogsmeade, and we take a special look at the Despicable Me Family Suites at Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel.

Despicable Me Family Suites

This past year, Universal Orlando quietly opened new Despicable Me Family Suites at the Portofino Bay Hotel.

For those who haven’t been to Universal’s Portofino Bay hotel, it’s a beautiful facility designed to look like a quaint seaside fishing village boats and all.

IMG_7925

IMG_7927

IMG_7929

IMG_7931

IMG_7969

IMG_7999

When first entering your room, you are greeted by elegant decor, with the amazing amenities that come standard at the Portafino Bay Hotel.

IMG_7936

IMG_7943

As you make your way into the room, you’ll notice a door that will take you into a secret lair. Behind the door is an adorable room with two bomb beds, and fixtures that match what you might find in Gru’s Lair.

IMG_7971

IMG_7947

IMG_7950

IMG_7951

IMG_7952

IMG_7954

IMG_7956

IMG_7958

IMG_7959

IMG_7963

IMG_7966

IMG_7973

These room have proven incredibly popular with guests, and have remained fully occupied since they were completed last year.

Diagon Alley

This past week Universal sent out invitations to media, letting them know that from June 17th – 20th they will be holding a Diagon Alley press event. At this point, we anticipate both headlining attractions, The Hogwarts Express and Escape From Gringotts, will be ready for the big event. Contractors, engineers, and Universal Creative employees are all working around the clock to get some of the kinks ironed out and get this land opened on time.

Outside, at the London Facade, detail work continues. Lion faces are now being added and painted on the water front, and additional details such as window boxes are being installed.

IMG_8268

IMG_8270

IMG_8272

IMG_8273

IMG_8275

IMG_8277

IMG_8280

IMG_8285

IMG_8289

IMG_8294

IMG_8301

IMG_8303

IMG_8325

IMG_8328

IMG_8329

IMG_8330

IMG_8331

IMG_8333

The construction walls have receded a bit, allowing us to see some steps and other details emerge.  We simply cannot wait until the 17th, to experience this new exciting new land.

IMG_8307

IMG_8309

IMG_8312

IMG_8318

IMG_8322

IMG_8323

IMG_8324

 

New York Facades

The facades in the New York area of the Studios park continue to be refurbished and upgraded as every part of this park is being touched up as Universal Orlando approaches it’s 25th Anniversary in 2015.

IMG_8263

IMG_8265

IMG_8266

Hogsmeade Station for the Hogwarts Express

Over at Islands of Adventure, rock work for the Hogsmeade Station of the Hogwarts Express has been installed. Trees have been planted to obscure the giant wall that was erected a few weeks ago.  The entrance to the Hogsmeade Station is getting some finishing touches as we make our way towards the debut of this attraction.  Universal has been testing ride capacity with Team Members in the evenings, trying to iron out the kinks with the ticketing system, along with loading and unloading.

IMG_8334

IMG_8337

IMG_8339

IMG_8342

2015 Project

Over in Jurassic Park, land has been cleared for the project that will follow up potter in 2015 for the 25th Anniversary of the Universal Orlando Resort.  While we know what this project is and will have some clues for you in coming weeks, we are waiting for potter to open before we look too far forward to the future… there’s a massive land with 2 amazing attractions about to open, so we are going to live in the now for the next few weeks before casting our eyes to what lies beyond. but rest assured, Universal has monstrous plans for the future.

IMG_8348

IMG_8351

IMG_8355

IMG_8357

IMG_8363

CityWalk

Vivo

Over in CityWalk, Vivo continues to move forward, and as we shared before Vivo, and World Famous Hotdogs will be the two dining venues to open next.

IMG_8229

IMG_8231

IMG_8233

World Famous Hot Dogs

The gazebo has now been constructed, and is a bit of a design departure from what was original shown in the concept art, but it is a fun play on a ballpark concept, but we will wait to see the finished product and atmosphere.

IMG_8242

IMG_8244

IMG_8246

IMG_8248

 

Universal Studio Store

The Universal Studio Store is closer to completion, with the glass front now installed, and the interior being worked on, this should be open and ready to go by the time potter crowds descend on the resort this summer.

IMG_8237

IMG_8238

IMG_8239

IMG_8241

Breadbox and Menchies

Upstairs at CityWalk, Menchies and Breadbox are under full wraps as crews work on the facades and the interiors to get these two concepts open.

IMG_8253

IMG_8256

IMG_8258

IMG_8259

That wraps up this week’s update.  So what do you think about the family suites?  What do you think about the progress on London?

We will leave you today with the episode of the E-Ticket report with Chris Wakefield and Derek Bergan the Rush Limbaugh and Nancy Grace of theme park podcasts.

Direct Download

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.

Browse Archived Articles by

69 Comments

Comments for Universal Orlando Despicable Me Family Suites and Diagon Alley Update are now closed.

  1. Man, Potter 2.0 looks pretty freakin’ amazing, right?

    And I’m super impressed that they’re not laying off the gas: the idea that they’re going to open another island of stuff in 2015 is pure theme park fan bliss.

    • Hey Aaronius, we the only ones up? Have a good day.

      • You too!

  2. Universal is hungry to earn the theme park lovers time and money.
    Just an amazing amount of work going on here.
    Thanks Eric for the story.
    If you get a chance Eric, I’m also wondering about the progress on Phase 2 of Cabana Bay with the lazy river and all.
    Can’t believe they are doing ALL this at the same time at Universal.

    Has WDW opened the Dwarf Mound yet? The Dwarf Mound is approaching it’s 3 year anniversary and hasn’t even opened yet.
    After WDW opens Dwarf Mound, if it does ever open Dwarf Mound, I hear they are tearing something out at the Polynesian for a new bar and putting a new watershow in at AK sometime in 2020.
    Gotta be excited at WDW for that new bar and watershow in 5 years or so.

    Let’s show WDW our Disney Side! It’s our Backsides heading over to Universal, that should be our Disney Side.

    • Thanks for basically copying and pasting your comments like always, Captain.

      I wonder if you will be able to use your Universal Team Member discount at Portofino Bay?

      • It’s called substance. You should try it.
        Substance would be the opposite of vapid.
        Good luck.

      • Actually, substance is a noun and vapid is an adjective. So you could argue that substance is the opposite of vapidity, but your current comment is a false corollary.

      • I made a point and not a corollary. Corollaries are overated.

      • I’m not sure that someone who literally copies-and-pastes what they say in nearly every post has a right to accuse anyone of being vapid… Just like I’m not sure that anyone who likes Universal THAT much has a right to criticize Disney fans. Pot, kettle, black.

    • While I love how Universal is rapidly expanding, and my first visit this past March was absolutely mid blowing, the Disney “hate” is getting old.

      My sister doesn’t like roller coasters bigger than Thunder Mountain, or anything with big drops. At Island of Adventure, the only things she could ride are HP&FJ, Popeye’s, Spiderman, and Cat and the Hat. (The other Seuss rides aren’t really worth mentioning.) Universal is better for thrill seekers, but is no where near as child friendly as Magic Kingdom. While Disney is currently being out-performed by Universal, there is still a HUGE part of the population that Disney caters to more.

      • Disney is massively out performing universal, in everything but Attendance and Market share growth.

        And you can count DHS and DAK out as kid friendly, as by your definitions IOA, which is fairly thrilling park, has more kid friendly rides than both of those Disney parks.

      • My problem with Disney is that anytime that I go now…….it is a complete hassle. Both guests and employees at Universal seem happy to be there. Disney seems like a chore…..to both guests and employees. Every time that I check in at a DVC resort……..many guests are just plain rude and angry. One woman would not move when a an employee signaled to me to step up to the check-in desk and I basically had to push her out of the way……she was ready for a fight! It’s seems more stressful to stay on Disney property and attend their parks than ever before. I just don’t like being around those types of people…….high maintenance, stressed to the max, all wanting the “perfect” experience for their spoiled little brats who probably would be just as happy spending the day at home by the pool playing games on their phones. Ugh.

        Universal is laid back, exciting, refreshing, and truly seems to bend over backwards to please their guests. Love it!

  3. I have not commented on Eric’s articles for a while, as nothing much to comment on apart from the massive amount of work. I think today, Eric has shown the growth and expansion of the resort, and there plans to go further within the next decade.

    Captain Action, count me in, I am really excited for this and all of the projects coming soon.

    I have been reading on the Disney Parks Blog that we need 7 reasons to be excited for the Dwarf mountain, which at the time of writing, has not opened Still, as I rightfully, said, I need more than 7, as it is lacklustre beyond belief.

    still, people will show their Disney side because of the name. it has a part in our life, and like it r not, nostalgia comes to mind.

    However, this is where the line is drawn, as nostalgia, and attractions are two different things. People complain when a ‘classic’ attraction is removed, but then everything has to stay the same. I looked at the website at the weekend, and nothing has changed. I wonder if I am in the minority, but most, if not all of Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are the same, when I left in 2003. I want to go back for something new. it is not cheap to come across the Atlantic, and for that reason, I want more from 11 years of waiting.

    I look at Universal, and while they are not perfect, they are doing what Walt Disney wanted, more, and more. All Disney want is some money in the pot, and then we can rip you off when we have Rock your Disney side, which is awful. Why does Disney try hip, it looks stupid.

    Me and Eric spoke a while ago about the adverts that Disney has on the television, aiming at the female demographic, while Universal had an advert with families in mind and to holiday like you mean it. That is really inviting.

    People will flock to Disney for the brand, like Lambs to the Slaughter, and this is right, as the metaphor is correct for the wallets. While Magic Band might have a place, they are undermining the concept of Theme Park, adding attractions, to get people in their.

    For me, this is not how parks should be run, and if it is to be convenient and easy, then I worry about the IQ of the average guests.

    I think also there has been too much of an emphasis on Interactive queues. I always talked to my parents when in a queue and have a laugh, now do we have to have a queue where water can be splashed about and massive I pads keep kids distracted while mum and dad check their twitter feeds?!

    Maybe I am old fashioned, but so is Universal in how they grow their theme parks. Add new attractions and new shops and restaurants to complement. That is how it should be, but Disney enthusiasts, like Kevin Yee and Brady, will have lots of reasons that this is good structure and a plan, and there is no need for expansion, well Disney, you have lost my custom. I don’t care if I have not been in 11 years, I don’t need 7 reasons to like the new mine Coaster. Pay me to enter, and I will accept, but with what you are charging for entrance, food and drink and for the overall experience of a museum of old dated attractions, then come on, we need new blood on the board, but sadly, they would have ideas on attractions, not new colours of your magic bands.

    Also, Fire breathing Dragon coming to Potter land on top of the Gringotts Bank, eat your hearts out Disney!

    • Yes Trumpet, our family had a response like yours just a few years ago.
      My wife, our three kids, and I walked around Epcot. Not much enthusiasm from the kids or us as we realized it was just the same stuff from years past. Our kids are thankful little folks but you could just see that there wasn’t a lot to get pumped for.
      We ate nachos in Mexico, and shopped around the countries.
      As we left, my wife and I spoke quietly to each other away from the kids. We realized that we just spent $500 for nachos and the opportunity to shop.
      I think that as WDW has given less and less over the last 10-12 years and charged more and more, there are more families looking at each other and evaluating what they are spending this large amount of money on.
      That’s why WDW Parks only grew negative, flat, or 2%, depending on the park, between 2009-2013.
      That’s also why Universal Orlando grew 39% during the same period.
      We showed Disney our Disney Side; our Disney Side is our Backside heading to Universal.

      • You have got it right. People use Rose tinted glasses to describe Disney, they need to see for what it was.

        Glad you show Disney your ‘Disney side’, and by the way, what a lame advertising campaign!

    • Trumpet, is your purpose for posting to actually profess your love for Universal – or to go on a essay-length diatribe about why you hate Disney (which you admit you haven’t visited for 11 years…) Do you feel like if you write enough words that your side will “win”?!? Because, that’s really what its all about, right? Winning? Someone somewhere will declare a winner and then we’ll all know that one side is right… and the other side is wrong – that’s just how black and white the discussion is… right?

      You’ll never know whether you’d actually enjoy New Fantasyland, or the 7 Dwarves Mine Train – because you’ll probably never step foot on property to actually see for yourself what its like. You have become so complicit in this “war” that it is becoming less about what you want Universal to offer you, and more about how many ways can you look for problems with Disney… just re-read your post. Its sad, actually.

      Its easy these days to sit behind a computer and view thousands of images and read thousands of comments over many years and formulate an opinion – without really experiencing something firsthand.

      As much as I disagree with CaptainAction, I respect his opinion because he’s actually spent time at WDW and Universal recently – and for he and his family right now, it is very apparent where they would prefer to spend their time.

      For me and my family, we went to both resorts and had a great time overall. I would say our time at WDW exceeded that of Universal – mostly because there were more attractions and shows that we could enjoy together as a family, and we felt overall atmosphere and customer service were far superior at WDW than Universal. We loved New Fantasyland, and we felt that all the parks were in good condition, operations were strong, and our kids had an absolute blast. Still, there was much to enjoy at Universal as well – and WWoHP really knocked our socks off. I’m looking forward to what Diagon Alley has to offer, and we will definitely make Universal part of future trips. I wouldn’t say our experience was negative at Universal – we just enjoyed WDW more.

      Not knowing your age, interests, marital status, kids, etc., it could very well be that given your situation right now you would enjoy Universal more than WDW. I think if you really went in with an open mind, though, you might actually enjoy WDW, if you allow yourself to try and enjoy the moment, rather than concentrate on all the negative that has been festering for so many years. You never know… you might find yourself in a position later on in life where a visit to WDW might end up being downright fun.

      • Thanks for the response, glad you enjoyed my comment!

        Right, lets answer the question. First of all, I am looking this at three viewpoints

        1. As a consumer. I suppose I want to go to the park and feel that there has been a change. You are right, I might enjoy it, but the underlining theme is that it is expensive for a lack of new attractions. While what they have added is nice, I will not dispute that, I don’t feel that it is right for me.

        I have been to California numerous times, due to a more amenable climate, during the Summer, but DCA had a massive revamp, and it is fantastic, new attractions, and a feel of freshnesses. So saying I have not visited, well not to WDW, but I have visited a Disney theme park two years ago.

        2. As a fan. I love Disney, they have a hold on my childhood that I could not love Disney. The memories are there and important. However, despite nostalgia, I want to have some form of newness. Yes, classic attractions work, but some need replacement. New fantasy land is a start, but build more, you have the land, and the money, so build it. There is a wealth of ideas, so it can be done.

        3. As a guest returning back to Florida. I have my own opinion, and no one has influenced me in what to think. My opinion is formulated on one thing, what has changed. 11 years is for theme parks is along time. I am not saying that that I want it all new, but give me something different that is actually new, not a repaint. This is my main gripe, and not that I will hate it. I will probably love it, but I want to go back and have something new. The Mine Coaster is a great, but opening it after everything else makes it an afterthought.

        I suppose this is all about my opinion, and nothing else. Maybe when me and Mrs Trumpet have children, then Disney will be a favourite, but until then, I want to go back and see something new. That is where Captain Action and all the other suppose Disney haters are going for, everything is the same. You would expect some new attractions at least one for each park, but we have not got that, instead, we have closed buildings and only 1 new attraction.

      • I guess that’s where you and I differ. If I only went to Disneyland when something new was offered, I may have to stay away for years at a time. I’d miss out on enjoying many attractions that have proved over time to elicit smiles, laughs and good times… just for the sake of waiting around until the park opened something new. I would have erased years and years of great times, great memories, great rides, shows and attractions simply because I was upset the company didn’t build E-Tickets often enough.

        Of course, I’ve hit a time in my life when the overall experience that I had with my family at Enchanted Tales with Belle (start to finish) far exceeded the experience we had on Revenge of the Mummy or Rip Ride-n-Rockit (which my family has basically forgotten…)

      • From this site, MiceAge/MiceChat:

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

        “They [Disney peeps] need to know they’re not the best in the business of themed entertainment anymore.”

        So, really, not just Universal fan people, but this very site itself that has basically said the same stuff.

      • a-mad, I think the problem will be in the near future.
        WDW is very expensive and becoming more expensive every year.
        As Universal opens a third gate, 2-3 new resort hotels, a new waterpark, and then connects them all with a monorail type system to Citywalk as a hub; this will all become more expensive as well.
        I don’t think families will be able to afford a vacation at both places.
        Also, we had more fun at Disney when our kids were small, but WDW was also putting a lot of E Tickets and new things we hadn’t seen before.
        Now Universal is putting in all the E Tickets and things we’ve never seen before. The kids love Marvel Island, Potter, Transformers, The Mummy, MIB, Despicable Me, etc. now that they are older.
        Part of the difference of the parks we prefere is due to the age of our kids. Universal is trying to add more for smaller kids. My kids would much rather see some new fun stuff at Universal.
        Families are smaller and having less kids too.
        The future could be interesting here between Universal and AK, DS, and Epcot.

      • From this site, MiceAge/MiceChat:

        http://micechat.com/66881-singles-doubles/

        “And it’s around this time you remember that Disney already has a pretty solid line-up of “singles and doubles” in their parks. In fact, the deeper you scratch at this, the more it becomes clear that Universal has paid little attention to the “singles and doubles” segment of the theme park world. Can you name a dozen family rides in the Universal parks? I can’t, even when you add both parks together. Universal staked its claim early on as being more action-oriented and more edgy than Disney – this was decades ago – and the legacy of that early building means that Universal can’t really keep families around like Disney can. It’s a related, but separate, question to ponder whether Universal’s properties really have that much “pull” compared to Disney’s. Do they resonate as much with audiences? Some do, some don’t.”

        So, really, not just WDW fan people, but this very site itself that has basically said the same stuff.

      • a-mad, that MiceAge pull wasn’t directly to you, per se, but at some point the inevitable “this is a Disney fan site” comes up to somehow delegitimize critiques of Disney.

        As for the singles and doubles lacking at Universal, I totally agree. Completely and without reservation (and I can see how that relates to your post, personally, as well.) That’s a weakness in their theme parks. I’d also argue that when Universal runs out of money, it totally shows (Doctor Doom’s FearFall and the X-Men Tea Cups are INSANELY cheap.)

        Having said that, it’s a loooooot easier to fill in the blanks and round out an attractions matrix when one is building down from a home run to the singles and doubles. Disney itself used to practice this, with the “weenie” (Space Mountain) drawing people into the land and the singles and doubles (and shops and such.)

        Or…it may very well be that Universal thinks that families after their kids hit a certain age want more excitement and movement in the rides, and is basically forsaking the under 8 set. When I was a kid and I hit 10ish, outside of nerdy, pre-Test Track Epcot, I had little to no desire to go to the Magic Kingdom. I wanted coasters and movement and energy, so we went to Busch Gardens.

        That MiceAge article is more about the core of the critique of Disney: that they aren’t really doing “Disney” at Walt Disney World anymore. And because we all accept that, they’ll keep on keeping on not doing “Disney” but charging you more for the lesser experience.

        Kevin’s article that you quote is more about explaining how and why Disney can, in effect, get away with a singles and doubles strategy, which kind of ties back into the central critique: shouldn’t Disney be building “Disney” experiences and environments, even if the focus isn’t on Universal-styled excitement and thrills but on family-friendly, highly thematic environments?

        I think New Fantasyland is nearly there, actually (a “double,” if you will,) but it’s missing that one “weenie” to really make the expansion a home run, even if the “weenie” comes in the form of premium, family-friendly fun. It just doesn’t have it’s Space Mountain or BTMR or Splash…none of which are particularly thrilling in the extreme, but each of which centerpiece an entire land and complete the experience, and land the “home run.” Or, to put this another way, if there was a “Beast Mountain” featuring Pooh’s Honey Hunt Tokyo trackless tech, that’s a “weenie.”

        But that’s also expensive. And Disney has figured out, at least for now, and at least in Florida, that they don’t have to turn up the spigot to full on Disney to get people to come. And that’s worthy of a critique or a zillion. Certainly worthy of a vacation reconsideration.

      • a-mad, I think Magic Kingdom is just a great park for little kids or families with little kids.
        I really don’t think Epcot, AK, or DS are better kid parks than Universal and IOA though.
        Not sure a slow boat ride like Pirates would go over as well today. The only things I really miss at WDW MK are Pirates, HM, and Peter Pan. Not sure Pan and Pirates would go over so well today as new attractions though.
        Universal will probably have to put a little thrill in like minded rides for today’s guests.
        Epcot, AK, and DS have a LOT of ht reqs for kids.
        Universal and IOA have several shows for kids as well. Kids can ride things like Despicable Me in non motion seats without any reqs. I’ve done this myself after one too many Mummy rides.
        Our kids love Animal Actors Show, Posiedon’s Fury, Suess trolley (on both tracks), X Men, ET, Woodie Woodpecker, Buckbeak, Stunt Show, shooting squirt guns at the boats on Popeye and Dudley, touring Hogwarts and Hogsmead, Disaster (one of them almost always gets chosen), Olivander’s (chosen again), Twister, making all the interactive funny things work in Springfield, getting wet at Curious George, dumping the trough of balls on themselves at the Curious George ball area, dodging water on One Fish Two Fish, Cat in the Hat, etc. Next will be London and the Hogwarts Express.
        They really don’t have things they miss at DS, AK, Epcot except for maybe Test Track and Toy story. Those just aren’t worth $500/day.
        My kids all hit 40 inches around 5 years of age so they’ve enjoyed all the 40 inch rides for quite a while now.
        I think Universal knows they still need more for small kids, so Hogwarts Train won’t have restrictions and Gringott’s will be for smaller kids than Forbidden Journey was. I think they are working on that now where they are tearing out Barney and stuff. I’ve heard Spongebob.

  4. I appreciate Eric providing these updates. But I have to say that my mind is completely blown as I learned about the new ‘island’. I haven’t felt this way about a park in a long time since Indiana Jones came along… Universal is doing things right and keeping up the momentum. My last trip to FL was a Universal only vacation and I can only say that my next one will be the same too.

    One thing that I lament however, is that after Walt’s passing the Disney company has been nothing more than trading what makes them great (rides and experiences) for attempting to squeeze profit out of every nook and cranny of the parks. I really believe that with everything I know about Walt Disney, that if he was alive today, he would have been happily beside himself by having modest profits while providing vastly superior entertainment experiences for his guests.

    With Disney, I feel like a lobster where over time the heat’s been turned up and I’ve slowly been boiled to the point where… you guessed it… I’m done.

    I agree with CaptainAction: “Let’s show WDW our Disney Side! It’s our Backsides heading over to Universal, that should be our Disney Side.”

    • You hit it on the head with Walt’s passing.
      Walt left 43 square miles of land to hold all the creativity of the imagineers.
      Iger and the boys are motivated by lazyness, greed, and their yearly bonus.
      They tear out rides for new ones like they are landlocked.
      Depending on the park it’s been 10-22 years that any of them have had a new E Ticket attraction.
      These execs of the last 10-12 years have been very poor stewards of Walt’s gifts and legacy.

      Now the parks grew between negative, flat, and 2% from 2009-2013. The folks have just begun to notice the lazyness of WDW. When things get to running $500/day folks start evaluating pretty hard.
      For $500/day a family wants some new big experiences mixed with the nostalgia. Nostalgia alone is not going to cut it.

  5. 5 New Restaurants, two new world class attractions, amazing harry potter merchandise, a new slide at Wet n wild, the introduction of the best “value” resort in Orlando, Mardis Gras featuring huge artists, HHN continues to be the best halloween event in the world, and in 2016 we get the return of KONG.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9DIN0nFHvs&feature=kp

    • Careful BlahBlahson, When you list all the new things Universal Florida is doing, there are a few folks here who go nuts and start throwing unsults because it embarrasses WDW soooo bad.
      It’s really hard to defend WDW’s execs and their lazyness.

  6. It’s neat that they’re letting vacationing guests do work on the project. Those ladies will have something cool to tell their families when they get back from their trip!

    • Love it .It made me really laugh seeing those 2 and wondering what they were doing

  7. Thanks for the update! I can’t wait to hear the exact details on the new land/land expansion, but I have heard that a King Kong attraction is planned along with a T-Rex attraction, but who knows. I am waiting for the day when Disney gives the Florida parks a major boost due to either IOA or USF passing one or more of the parks in attendance. Avatar will boost DAK when it opens, but DHS is on the brink of being passed. I don’t care if they open Star Wars Land, or another Hollywood themed land, as long as it has at least one E-Ticket ride and interactive experiences. Disney’s motto seems to be “good enough” while Universal is saying “we can do better” and the future park attendance will reflect that.

  8. From this site, MiceAge/MiceChat:

    http://micechat.com/66881-singles-doubles/

    “And it’s around this time you remember that Disney already has a pretty solid line-up of “singles and doubles” in their parks. In fact, the deeper you scratch at this, the more it becomes clear that Universal has paid little attention to the “singles and doubles” segment of the theme park world. Can you name a dozen family rides in the Universal parks? I can’t, even when you add both parks together. Universal staked its claim early on as being more action-oriented and more edgy than Disney – this was decades ago – and the legacy of that early building means that Universal can’t really keep families around like Disney can. It’s a related, but separate, question to ponder whether Universal’s properties really have that much “pull” compared to Disney’s. Do they resonate as much with audiences? Some do, some don’t.”

    So, really, not just WDW fan people, but this very site itself that has basically said the same stuff.

    • 14 family rides at Universal:
      1. Cat in the Hat
      2. Despicable Me
      3. Men In Black
      4. Spiderman
      5. Bluto’s Barges
      6. Forbidden Journey – geared slightly older but if that doesn’t count then I will grab Flight of the Hippogryph
      7. Seuss Trolley (its a fun ride at any age)
      8. One Fish Two Fish (its the same as DUMBO so don’t say it doesn’t count.)
      9. Twister
      10. ET
      11. Disaster (its a show and a ride.)
      12. Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
      13. Storm Force Acceleration (its the Tea Cups)
      14. Simpsons Ride

      If you are looking for FANTASTIC things for kids between 1 and 10, visit these kids areas:
      1. Feivels Playland (water area)
      2. Camp Jurassic (water area, caves, rope nets)
      3. A Day in the Park with Barney (fantastic indoor play area with lots of things to touch and develop their motor skills)
      4. Curious George Goes to Town (water area and HUGE indoor ball area)
      5. If I ran the Zoo (water area)

      SOOOOO friggin tired of everyone stating Universal has nothing for kids. THEY HAVE A BUNCH OF STUFF. Just open your eyes and actually take a look. Oh and don’t forget about the 14 FAMILY rides I listed.

      • I took my five year old nephew to both Magic Kingdom and a parkhopper day at Universal, and I could tell no difference in which one he enjoyed more.

        He really enjoyed Men in Black, Woody Woodpecker’s Coaster, Curious George’s water area, the talking fountain at IOA, Drinking Butterbeer, and Spiderman. All of which he could do as a five year old.

      • In the old days of Universal, we would spend one day there because of the Animal Actors Stage Show. My wife and kids loved, and still love, watching that show.
        We would ride ET, Kong, Jaws and a few others too, but the trek was for the animal show.
        We didn’t suggest the park to friends very often in those days. We liked it fine for a day but knew most folks would rather spend the day at WDW.
        Back then, WDW was building big new things every year. There was always something big and new that we had to ride and something big and new coming soon.
        For $150/day for a family of 5, you might be able to get by on nostalgia only.
        For $500/day (and quickly rising) you better have more than just nostalgia.

      • Sorry Carrie, the FAMILY rides you listed include the following:

        1. Despicable Me – 40 inch requirement
        2. Men in Black – 42 inch requirement
        3. Spiderman – 40 inch requirement
        4. Bluto’s Barges – 42 inch requirement
        5. Forbidden Journey – 48 inch requirement
        6. Simpsons Ride – 40 inch requirement

        When I think of FAMILY rides, I think of rides that the entire FAMILY can ride together. When we went with extended family last year, we had several kids 5 and under. There were a lot of adults waiting around with a lot of kids for big chunks of the day… esp. at Universal Studios (IOA was better…and had more options).

        Yes, WDW has rides with height requirements, but they also have many rides and shows that families can do together. At one point when we were at Universal Studios, my exasperated sister-in-law asked me, “is there anything here that we can do together as a family?!?” Of course she was exaggerating a bit… but going to Universal after WDW, I could sense some honest frustration. Even Despicable Me had a height requirement so younger fans of the movie can’t even enjoy it. That’s basically Kevin’s point. He doesn’t consider Despicable Me a family ride, because the whole family can’t ride it together. Pirates? Haunted Mansion? Small World? We rode those as an entire group… and had great memories as a result.

        Our teens? They had a blast, obviously. I’m not putting down the parks on ride quality – they have some fantastic rides (I consider Spider-Man probably the best ride in all of Orlando)…. I’m just saying that if you have a family of ALL ages, there are a lot of signature rides that still have a height requirement that prevents you from riding together.

      • I swear – I might as well bang my head against the wall. Maybe if I do it enough, I will be a regular Disney fan and hate Universal.

      • What’s your point?

        Do you have a counter-argument?

      • There are a LOT of things you can do at Universal with the ENTIRE family. There are MANY shows (which I didn’t mention since I believed you were looking for rides ONLY.) There is the Animal Actors show, Grinchmas Show (at Christmastime), Mardi Gras Parade (they have a special area for the kids), Superstar Parade. There is also the Seuss carousel, Pteranodon flyers (designed EXCLUSIVELY for kids and parents to do TOGETHER), Poseidons Fury, Jurassic Park Discovery Center, Me Ship the Olive, Beetlejuice Review, Horror Makeup Show (yes I have gone a lot to this show and there are ALWAYS little kids in there), and lastly SHREK 4D which has NO height requirement. Most of the attractions I just listed have no height requirement and EVERYONE can go in, view or go on. Would like me to NAME all the places at Disney little kids under 40″ can’t go? How MANY rides does Disney’s Hollywood Studios have? I count 7 TOTAL in the entire park. A third of which, little kids cannot go on (Tower of Terror, Rock n Roller Coaster, and Star Tours). There are a lot of things to do BOTH at Disney and Universal for families. THAT IS MY POINT.

      • You listed rides that the family could do together… I argued that many of those are rides that an entire family with young kids cannot do together. I never brought up shows, parades or play areas. Your entire argument was centered on rides. I based my argument on personal experience while at Universal Studios. The kids under 5 in our group basically went on Shrek, Woody Woodpecker, Twister (which scared them to death) and E.T. (which our youngest was still too short to go on) We watched one animal show. We left the park before the parade and headed to IOA.

        Our families enjoyed our time there, and we really enjoyed IOA, especially. I’m simply stating that for our collective group, there was a lot of disappointment among many of the parents over the fact that their weren’t more signature rides at USF where an entire family, including young children, could go on together. Kevin Yee made that point in his article, and I agree with him. Collectively, WDW accomplishes this better, in my opinion.

      • Aaronius enters stage right, bangs head hard along with Carrie317 because WOW.

        After multiple concussions, Aaronius and Carrie tell a joke about a head and Uranus. It’s cosmic.

      • This is THE dumbest argument I’ve read on Micechat. Easily it’s the dumbest.

        We are literally comparing the most child friendly park in the entire world, WDW’s Magic Kingdom, with a park that in no way, shape or form, is trying to be the Magic Kingdom.

        Universal has plenty of rides that kids can ride, but it really obviously OBVIOUSLY is not trying to compete in that way.

        And as an aside, they do a better job of it than DHS, and arguably DAK depending on your kid’s interest in animals. But really, you guys are trying to argue whether Universal does a better job than Disney in catering to the under 7 crowd. Seriously, STOP.

  9. Wow nice update. I can’t wait to check this out next time I go to Orlando! Excited for the next bit of news too about ioa.

  10. June 17!

    June 17!

    That’s Tuesday, June 17!

    Eric, I look forward to your update after that.
    Thanks for all your work!

    I hope the Gringott’s ride is excellent.

    I hope the food in delicious AND British.

    And I’m curious to read the orlando theme park attendance numbers for 2014, 2015, and 2016.

  11. I love what Universal is doing, and I hope they keep it up. We are looking forward to being there again next year, which will put us at two years between visits. In the meantime, we still make Disney 2 to 3 times per year. It’s the type of parks and the service we always receive at Disney that keeps us coming back (myself countless times since 1971). The simple truth is, they are both great places; however, they are different. Some will prefer Disney, while some prefer Universal. You can’t really say (as some are trying) that one is better than the other, only that you like one better than you like the other. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

    • I think that misses the thesis: one is investing more and more regularly for your vacation dollar than the other. It’s not that Disney is bad, it’s the the Disney corporation isn’t investing as much in as premium of experiences as Universal is.

    • Hey! Stop being so sensible and fair-minded!

  12. Diagon Alley looks great, but one thing that worries me are the steps seen by the construction walls. I’m in a wheelchair, so I hope it won’t be bad getting into and out of this new area. It was already hard enough on the cobblestone trying to navigate the curbs throughout the park. I’m usually the last one to complain, but I don’t see why having small steps is really needed when designing a whole new land.

    • OperationsSupe, I thought the same thing when I saw those steps. I hope they have an easy way for folks who need to, to be able to have an easy ramp.
      I read that the Hogwarts Train was designed to accomodate wheel chairs, strollers, etc. So, I bet they have an answer to avoid the steps in front.

  13. I think it is a fascinating socio-psychological exercise to see that when Disney fans are together, they can talk about Disney without making reference to Universal. Universal fans, on the other hand, can’t seem to say anything about Universal that doesn’t break down into complaints about how much they hate Disney.

    • That’s really fascinating. I’d love to see a study on that, actually. I’d suspect that it has something to do with Disney being the standard bearer historically, them being the model of “what would Disney do” if you will, regarding theme park design and construction.

      Perhaps the more pointed question might be “what happens when Universal fans stop comparing their parks to Disney parks?” Or “what happens when Disney fans start comparing their parks to those at Universal?” Does that mark the paradigm shift?

      Personal anecdotes not remotely being evidence, I personally can’t help but compare them, or any other parks, either, and especially as it relates to the Orlando market/vacation.

      After all, there would be no Orlando (or at least, no Orlando that we’d all be visiting or talking about) without Disney in the first place. Disney World fundamentally changed what Orlando was all about upon opening. Heck, Disney World changed the dynamic in other Florida cities and metropolitan statistical areas upon opening. South Florida has a much more balanced economy because they had to react to Disney’s opening siphoning away tourism. It’s almost impossible not to talk about theme parks and tourism without talking about Disney, as they’re the power brand that defined the market in the first place.

      During the 1980s, scholars of film and Hollywood made a valiant, if bizarre, attempt to talk about the nature of stardom and longevity in the movie business without talking about Joan Crawford, whose reputation had been tarnished by the book and film Mommie Dearest.

      But…you CAN’T talk about celebrity, longevity and fame without talking about Joan Crawford; for her time, she WAS the model of how to do it and do it for a long time. She’s not a just a mere part of the story; she’s the center of the story. You can’t talk about Madonna without talking about Joan Crawford. Or Tom Cruise, for that matter.

      At least for me, the same is true of Universal’s ascendance regarding theme park excellence. You CAN’T talk about Universal’s theme parks without pointing to Disney as the historic model of excellence, and you CAN’T help but compare the two, regarding the attractions mix, the levels of investment, the levels of integrated resort experiences and so on. And especially in Orlando, which existed as little more than a swamp with orange groves because of Disney.

      Disney isn’t just a mere part of the story, they’re the center of the story. They’ve been the center of my (and no doubt countless others) theme park universe for a long time now. They may very well be the center of the theme park universe for a long time to come, as well.

      And as for the “hate on Disney,” I’m pretty sure someone else mentioned this on another thread, but hate is pretty close to love: people who’ve “turned” against Disney in the extreme or even those of us who critique Disney totally LOVE Disney. They’re the center of the theme park universe, after all.

      There may very well not have even been a theme park universe outside of the amusement parks defined by Blackpool or Cedar Point without Disney. All of us love theme parks because of Disney (and no doubt, Disney gets quite a few free passes because of that historical attachment and historic achievement.) I suspect that everybody just wants Disney to be “Disney” again.

      But, you know, you can’t talk about the zippy new compact sedan on the market that’s totally making waves and kicking tush without wondering how it compares to the Mazda 3. Why? Because that car, either as the 323 or the Protege or the #, has been the standard bearer for compact sedan excellence for many, MANY product cycles now. (I guess you can, but then you’re missing the center of the story that the 3 occupies.)

      The same is true of Disney and theme parks. They’re not just a part of the story. They’re the CENTER of the story. Whatever the competition does is invariably reflected back into the center…as in “how does this compare to Disney?”

      That paradigm hasn’t remotely changed yet. It will be interesting to see if it does, and if the reflection back to the center of the story is another player, such as Universal. (And mind you, Universal doesn’t even have to be the market leader in attendance and the like to be the thought leader or the innovative leader: Apple, for years, didn’t sell a lot of product and was entirely considered to be the thought “center” in the tech market.) We do live in interesting times as theme park fans!

      • …and Cory, having just watched the 2014 Disney-produced special on Walt Disney World on Destination America (Aaronius: you’ve got…insomnia!) I have to say that something that the Diz versus Universal crowd misses in the discourse is that a Disney vacation, for many people, isn’t an objective experience.

        It’s not a dispassionate choice between Toyota, Nissan and Honda, for example. Or to use vacation brands, between Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean, where, depending on your preference for “freestyle” versus “massive boats” versus “total tacky fun” divided by destination and cost determines your midmarket cruise.

        Disney is very much a subjective, emotional experience, and they are entirely selling that experience to their guests, where “once you enter the gates, you feel like a four year old again.” Or where you’re making memories at Dumbo (yes! The dreaded Dumbo ride that gets dissed so often here.)

        My sister and her kid are going to meet my wretched parents in Orlando and go to Disney World for the first time. They’re going to go on Dumbo, and trigger that emotional connection: to the present vacation, to past vacations where my sister went on that ride for the first time, and to potential future vacations, where my nephew brings his kids to ride Dumbo and feel that generational connection to my sister, his mother, his kid’s grandmother and so on.

        So, while Disney may ALSO be about attractions and thematic excellence and the integrated resort, at its gooey center, it’s about generating and perpetuating an emotional connection with the brand Disney on a generational level.

        It’s not about an objective “this theme park has X new rides and this theme parks has X+10 new rides” conversation when you get to that core.

        It’s about “this theme park provides my family/friends with an emotional connection to the very experience of being together and to the brand that stands for our generational togetherness,” and “this theme park doesn’t really do that. I don’t have that generational, emotional connection, even though the rides are newer and ‘cooler.’”

        To put this another way, only one brings ‘Disney’ to the table.

        Now, being that Comcast is a highly sophisticated media conglomerate, I’m sure they have a team of marketing and branding wizards working to generate their own differentiating generational brand and experience for consumers. And I’m also sure that they know it’s an uphill battle, marked by history and continuity over at the house of Mouse. Because I’m certain that they understand that it’s not an objective choice: it’s Disney, after all.

        Just saying that if we are to compare the two, that essential Disneyness needs to be a part of the story, because they’ve worked really hard and long to make Disney a lifestyle, emotional brand that creates advocates, lifelong fans and billions of dollars for the company. (To say nothing of goodwill and cheer.)

        It’s not to say that Universal isn’t providing great attractions and theme park goodness up the street, and there’s certainly an argument to be made that they have grabbed the constant improvement and striving towards excellence torch from Disney. But they’re still not Disney. And that’s absolutely a part of the equation.

        It’s also not to say that Universal Orlando may very well establish generational ties with ITS guests as it plows investment into the resort and garners more consumers (heck, there were people who were mad when Kong, Jaws and Back to the Future closed down because of their generational ties to the attractions, despite the fact that Kong and Jaws had Yugo-esque reliability.)

        But…we are remiss to remotely pretend that this is an objective math equation when we talk about Disney. It’s totally not on so many levels, and I suspect that a lot of people will choose “proven good feelings with my family” over “shiny and new.” As they have been doing.

      • “I have to say that something that the Diz versus Universal crowd misses in the discourse is that a Disney vacation, for many people, isn’t an objective experience.”

        Dude, I’ve been saying that all along. That is not only central to my argument, but central to my objections to being constantly insulted by the Universal fanboys who love hating Disney. They necessarily have to get personal (and boy do they) because attacking Disney involves, to a certain extent, attacking people’s tastes, personalities, and memories.

        What I was observing here is that it’s interesting how the Universal fanboys can’t seem to define themselves EXCEPT by their hatred of Disney and Disney fans.

      • Wow, AP, THANK YOU for writing so well! :)

        (Is the post-Wells Eisner
        or is Paul Pressler
        the Mommie Dearest Joan? Just kidding.)

      • Really Cory, cause I have had you personally attack me verbally on other boards and in private messaging. Who attacks who?

      • I don’t even know who you are, Carrie.

      • jcruise86, I write for a living, specifically for marketing and advertising. thanks! :)

        I’m debating on branching out into other avenues, however. 16 years of creating false emotional connections for faceless corporations can do that to ya. Also, working for dbags.

        And EISNER is totally Joan Crawford, down to a tee. Early on, right at the center of the bullseye. Later on, holding on to the success of youth and increasingly desperate irrelevance. Towards the end, full on camp.

        Pressler is Carmen Electra: lucky to have a job at all, and most likely working due to a willingness to sell out, sell less or sell one’s body to succeed.

        If we were to personify WDW right now, it might be Sharon Stone. “Yes, I am old and yes, you can still see my nipples and yes, I don’t care either way how you feel about said nipples as long as you keep on buying my celebrity.” In a way, it’s almost admirable for WDW to have this level of haughtiness, and it’s downright AWESOME that Sharon Stone does.

      • Cory, Cory, Cory.

        Oy, Cory.

        Yes, you’ve been saying that all along, but you’re still not getting the point. Since Disney isn’t selling an objective experience, their consumers and ardent fans have their objectivity skewered and distorted because of the power of the Disney brand.

        YOU are having an emotional experience with the brand.

        The COMPANY is using that emotional experience to generate profit, or to invest less or charge more. That subjective Disneyness makes bank for the faceless corporation that is Disney. But it doesn’t make Disney “feel good” to make you “feel good.” It makes Disney money when they make you “feel good.”

        And really, both the corporation and the parks that Comcast now owns should really take that lesson to heart, because if Disney has proven anything as a power brand, its that selling an emotional connection that happens to be realized in a product mix is vastly more effective, generational and profitable than mere product mix alone.

        But, if you strip all the sarcastic nonsense away, what Cap and the rest of the gang are presenting is objective in nature.

        Yes, calling it a Dwarf Mound is derisive, but the core of the critique that it’s not exactly the E-Ticket MK needs is at the center. It’s pretty snarky to look at DAK as “Minimal Kingdom,” but what’s worse? A bit of snark or a faceless corporation counting on your emotional connection to their brand to drive attendance to a park with not enough to do?

        I’m not going to get into a long row with you over this (lord, the other comments stream was like explaining Conceptual Calculus to Jennie Garth,) but it is precisely BECAUSE of that subjective, emotional resonance with the Disney BRAND that the Disney CORPORATION can provide less “Disney” for more dollars.

        But, you taking either measured critiques or downright digs at Disney in a personal manner is really your problem, not theirs or mine. I’ve made peace with the generational colonization of my mind by the Disney brand, and work to temper its influence so that I have and maintain a more objective view.

        I don’t agree with Cap and the Gang’s approach (hey, a new band!) But I understand the perspective behind the derision. They’re awake and running through Jamestown shouting “poison, poison” while everyone downs the Kool-Aid. Or Heston noting that “Soylent Green is people” while the folks chow down on a tablet. Or the zombies in Dawn of the Dead showing back up at the mall, even though they’re now zombies, because hey, that’s habit.

        No, none of these comparisons are remotely as benign as Disney the corporation using and manipulating consumer love for Disney the brand to generate profit, and no, I’m not of the belief that this subtle “killing me softly” approach is worse (please, by all means, kill me softly!) And nor do I think Universal is “above” this: if they had the level of emotional resonance with their consumers, heck yeah, they’d milk it for profit!

        But…while we all have to consider the subjective quality of the Disney brand and theme park experience (really, a way to live the brand for a few days,) it doesn’t change objective facts as they relate to the past decade or so of investments in the Orlando theme park market.

        QUOTE:
        “What I was observing here is that it’s interesting how the Universal fanboys can’t seem to define themselves EXCEPT by their hatred of Disney and Disney fans.”

        Thou doth protest too much. I see sarcasm and exasperation, perhaps frustration. And a whole lotta love for a Disney they see as slipping away, gone with the wind.

      • Aaronius, SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE! I love it!
        Got to meet Charlton Heston twice. Once at Disney MGM Studios for his book signing of , ” In The Arena”. Mr. Heston was very nice and a pleasure to meet.
        Mr. Heston was the action hero of my generation; Soylent Green, Planet of The Apes, The Omega Man, and of course Ben Hur.
        Ben Hur is one of my top 3-4 favorite films.

      • “Yes, you’ve been saying that all along, but you’re still not getting the point. Since Disney isn’t selling an objective experience, their consumers and ardent fans have their objectivity skewered and distorted because of the power of the Disney brand.”

        I don’t want to get all “am not, you are” about this, but honestly, genuinely, sincerely, I do not think you’re getting it.

        Case in point, your whole post here. You’re saying all this stuff to me like I don’t know it… You’re even using offensive analogies for how “it’s like trying to explain something really smart to someone who’s really stupid”… Does it occur to you guys AT ALL that I’m fully conscious of all the stuff you’re saying and DON’T CARE? Wow, Disney is a COMPANY and COMPANIES are out to make money?! NO!! My monocle just popped out from your shocking revelation.

        You’re talking at me about how it’s MY views that are distorted, and clearly so, because I still like Disney and only a stupid, deluded, sap could possibly still like Disney. With you guys it’s ALWAYS the DISNEY fans who have the problem, the DISNEY fans who are stupid, the DISNEY fans whose judgement is clouded, the DISNEY fans who are settling for less, the DISNEY fans who are your inferiors. Even when you acknowledge that there is more to Disney fandom than how faster, higher, and more hemorrhage-inducing the latest ride is, you ONLY use that as a weapon to debase and dismiss Disney fans.

        Here, let me run this by you in the simplest, most monosyllabic way I possibly can:

        I LIKE DISNEY.

        That’s it. There you go.

        Do I agree with everything they do? No. Do I have criticisms of them? Yes. But deep down, fundamentally, I keep coming back to Disney because I LIKE IT. Why do I even have to justify it?

        If you guys don’t like it, fine. NOBODY CARES. You want to go to Universal instead? Fine. You want to paint yourself blue and run naked through the streets? Go for it. But MUST YOU keep insulting Disney fans for being Disney fans? Seriously, and I’m genuinely curious about this, what are you Universal fanboys so insecure about that you HAVE TO keep insulting Disney fans ALL THE TIME? Why isn’t it enough to simply say that you like Universal and don’t like Disney and leave it at that? Why do you guys have to keep calling us names and things just because you don’t like what we like? If you take a sober step back, you might notice that the people who respond to you guys aren’t responding to your arguments in favour of Universal because we DON’T CARE ABOUT THAT. We’re responding to the fact that you have to keep insulting us as people BECAUSE we don’t care. We’re not cultists, we’re not idiots, we’re not zombies, we’re not eating Soylent Green, we’re not Jonestown freaks ready to drink the Kool-Aid, we don’t need you guys to “save” us, and you guys sure and Hell aren’t Jesus… we just like Disney. Get over it.

      • Thanks, Jennie!

        Glad you missed the point again because it’s sharp.
        Ouchie!

      • What is with you people?! Seriously. Why does it always have to be a contest with you? Why do you have to be such judgmental bullies? Why can’t you just let people like the things they like?

        No, Aaronius, I’m sorry but you still don’t get it. Until you let the above questions sink in, you won’t get it.

      • Thanks again, Jennie!

  14. You know what the next project is, but you won’t say?? What? Arn’t you allowed or what, because I don’t get why otherwise.
    Otherwise as always, great post!

  15. wow universal is going to be a must see destination. this is the year for universal studios. im happy for them. good pictures thanks