Universal Orlando Update – Kicking Off Wizarding World of Harry Potter Preview Week

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

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Published on June 17, 2014 at 1:45 am with 24 Comments

It seems like just yesterday that we here at MiceChat were covering the closure of JAWS at the Universal Orlando Resort.  And just a few years later, we are getting ready to experience part 2 of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley.

This week we will be brining you lots of coverage from the parks, along with some great photos, video, interviews and more as we experience everything that the brilliant minds at Universal creative have been working on for the past few years.  Before we kick off this week, let’s take a quick stroll around the resort to check-in on all of the projects.


Universal Studios

Media Set Up

Right now at Universal Studios, stages are being set up, and prep work is being done to get ready for all the media events, red carpet events, and for Jimmy Fallon to broadcast live from Orlando!  This is an exciting time for NBC|Universal as they now have the synergy machine working at full capacity.

Diagon Alley

Walls finally came down at the London Facade giving us our first peek into this amazingly detailed new land.  We can’t wait to walk through the walls and explore this land. Some great details to take note of are some of the craftsmanship, on the buildings, and if you catch it at just the right time, you can see Kretcher peeking out from the window.

At night Diagon Alley, has amazing character, with brilliant lighting, and textures that make this area of the park really come alive.  While Amity was cute, this is stunning.

Islands of Adventure

Hogsmeade Station

Next door to the Studios, where the Hogwarts Express will drop you off you have have the Hogsmeade Station area that has really come a live as the walls have come down.  It is hard to imagine that just a few months ago, this was a games of chance area for the Lost Continent.  At the front of the queue you can see the new turnstiles that guests will have to pass through and scan their park-to-park ticket in order to ride this experience.

Jurassic Park Changes and Future Plans

Over in Jurassic Park, while clearing is underway for the next big attraction for this park, the T-Rex photo op, as been moved next to the Discovery Center, where the foliage now better hides her undercarriage.

CityWalk

The progress of the projects at CityWalk is nothing short of incredible.

Universal Studio Store

The flagship Universal Studio Store is now open, and serving guests, with a  completely refreshed look and feel that is modern, clean and stylish with lots of HD Screens everywhere making the store feel action packed.

Vivo

On the day I was at CityWalk Vivo was doing test runs as it was putting it’s new staff through the paces.  As of the publication of this article Vivo is now open and serving guests for dinner.  While we have not been able to review this venue yet, if it is anything like Antojitos or Red Over Pizza Bakery, it is sure to be amazing.

CowFish

Up above Vivo will be CowFish.  This venue is probably the most anticipated venue of the CityWalk update, and will be the last to open.  With some cool architectural elements to come, CowFish add energy to the CityWalk plaza area with it’s balconies, and it’s large two-story entrance. We can’t wait to get our hands on some burg-ushi

Hot Dog Hall of Fame

Next to the Studio Store and across from Antojitos is the Hot Dog Hall of Fame where bleachers, Jumbo-tron, awning, gazebo have all been installed and is getting ready to open to the public.  Here you will be able to sample any number of offerings from your favorite ball parks across the country.

Breadbox

Upstairs, next to Menchies is Breadbox, the sandwich shop that will offer guests, simple, healthy options.  The outside has gotten a new paint job, and a lot of work is going on inside as they rush to get this complete as quickly as possible.

We will be back tomorrow with more updates as we get ready to experience Diagon Alley, and explore the amazing Wizarding World that the creative geniuses at Universal Creative have prepared for us!

What are you looking forward to experiencing the most at Diagon Alley?

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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24 Comments

Comments for Universal Orlando Update – Kicking Off Wizarding World of Harry Potter Preview Week are now closed.

  1. I know there is a media event this week, so I am assuming that soft openings will begin when it’s over (I believe it’s the 21st). It should be open to all a week after soft openings start.

  2. The new rides, Harry Potter restaurant & stores.

    Thanks for this update–I’m looking forward to the incoming HP updates!

    And the ones from Universal Japan,

    and the ones from Ratatouille’s area (land, ride and restaurant) at Disneyland Paris.

    The next few weeks should be interesting for Micechat.

  3. We can talk about all this at Universal or

    we can talk about the refurbished Frozen float

    and Soarin’ over Avatar due in 4 years (you won’t like it because it’s movie screens anyway).

    Thanks Eric! Looking forward to all your coverage in the days to come. London has to be one of the most amazing facades, which is just to really offer the gigantic contrast for the real attraction of Diagon Alley. Can’t wait to see the dragon blowing fire above the London facade. From what I’ve seen
    it seems that the dragon will be visible just behind London if you have the right vantage points.

    Great photos Eric.

    • Cap’n, are you claiming that you wouldn’t cross the country to experience the refurbished Frozen float?! Explain. Universal is so lucky that the millions coming to see this might also drop by to see their little bank/mine ride that is apparently connected those unpopular Harry Potter books & movies. As if kids even read books today!

      BTW, did the Wizarding World of HP’s first part (in Islands of Adventure with Hogsmead & and Hogwarts) increase Universal Orlando’s attendance? I bet not by very much.

      (Kidding.)

      • I gotta admit, that’s ONE really nice refurbished float!

        I also forgot we could talk about WDW tearing out of the Polynesian waterfalls.

        We could also talk about the bar that WDW is tearing out to replace with a new bar.

    • “We can talk about all this at Universal or

      we can talk about the refurbished Frozen float ”

      I’m sure you’ll be talking about both.

  4. Thanks for the update. I will definitely be checking in everyday to follow this story! Thanks to you guys I feel connected to events there even thought I’m thousands of miles away!

  5. Meanwhile, back at Disneyland: Club 33 and safety railings….

  6. Can’t wait to see Uni Fl take a chunk out of Dated World.
    Can’t wait for Uni Hollywood to show Datedland how it should be done.

    Disney parks are STALE! They’re stuck in a time bubble of monotonous dated attractions, from the 1980s. Uni closes stuff built in the 80s and builds Grand attractions. Disney adds safety rails and gift shops to it’s dated attractions; Then double the entrance price. What a rip-off!

    But, hey those Disney Vacation Club sucker booths are always up to date with the latest glossy’s for all the thoughtless pigeons.

    • This post is just more proof that even when a column CELEBRATES the updates and new stuff at Uni, you guys STILL can’t post anything positive. Your entire post is bashing and namecalling. Can’t you just wet your pants over the Universal stuff and leave out the crap?

      • “Can’t you just wet your pants over the Universal stuff and leave out the crap?”

        I’m not sure you can. It seems like a significant part of Universal’s appeal is being a Not-Disney fan.

    • Tooncity, how close do you think Universal and Islands of Adventure can come to knocking off Animal Kindom, Disney Studios or Epcot in the next 2 years?
      Universal increased 14% in 2014 and Transformers didn’t even open until June. Springfield opened in July.
      Animal Kingdom increased 2% in 2013.
      Disney Studios increased 2% in 2013.
      Epcot increased 1.5% in 2013 (I think).
      I think Universal and Islands are around 1.8 – 2 million behind AK, DS, and Epcot.
      This year Universal and IOA won’t have the full Potter effect due to the opening probably not hitting full steam until July.
      Next year will be a full effect Potter year and King Kong should open, and who knows what else, due to the rate of activity at Universal.
      Is WDW spending 50 years of goodwill, while ignoring making infrastructure keep pace with their guest attendance?
      Has WDW ignored building new attractions enough so that a parade float, themed restrooms, etc, don’t hold guests from attending Universal and skipping WDW weak links?
      Can WDW continue to keep guests from attending Universal with free food, bus rides, and magic handcuffs?
      Universal shouldn’t be within striking distance of anything at WDW since Universal doesn’t have the theme park history of Disney and the some of the cult like followers Disney enjoys.

      • IOA has a higher attendance than USF, but they will even out after Potter 2.0 opens. IOA had about 8 million visitors last year (USF only had 7 million), which was 2 million less than DHS or DAK and 3 million less than EPCOT. Universal will continue to grow with Potter, King Kong, and other future projects. DAK will definitely be ahead once Avatar opens, but DHS might get surpassed for a while if Star Wars Land doesn’t happen, or another major change.

  7. Captain Action, do you not see the irony of your many, MANY, anti-Disney parks rants?
    Universal Studios Hollywood and Florida are doing some incredible things in their parks and I’m as happy about it as anyone. But (and this is a Big ‘Ol But) they aren’t doing it to try to stay current or fresh, they’re doing it to be more like……

    Disneyland and Walt Disney World!

    Yes, trying to be more magical and immersive in the way that DLR and WDW already are. Do you know why USH and USF can remove their less than stellar attractions for new attractions? Because they’re less than stellar. Do you think that Jurassic Park: The Ride or Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey are going anywhere anytime soon? Or ever for that matter? Disney makes classic and timeless attractions and lands and you don’t remove classic and timeless attractions and lands. Universal is now making Disney like environments and rides, I can guarantee you that they aren’t going to be removing Hogwarts Castle or the Escape from Gringott’s in your lifetime.

    • You are correct Disney Adventure. WDW has lost the mantle of what it used to do well to Universal.
      Universal has the excitement of new creative lands, creative one of a kind rides, better themed and valued resorts, etc.
      WDW has dropped to how Universal was in the past. Not much new. Tinkering around the edges.
      WDW gave us a refurbished float. No NET new rides in YEARS (losing Snow White and 20,000 Leagues). New dress ups for old attractions. New lines. Themed restrooms.
      WDW has become slow and boring and cheap.
      Universal is busting it’s rear to deliver new creative experiences that surpass Disney’s new offerings of the recent 12 years.
      The difference…Universal hasn’t insulted guests with higher prices for less and less offerings.
      Trends take time. Let’s see how this plays out. This new attitude from WDW is 10 years old but not obvious yet to the theme park novice, only the theme park experts. It will take time for the theme park novices to notice there is nothing new since their last visit 8 years ago except the new gigantic prices.
      Universal’s new attitude only began 2- 4 years ago.
      Universal is right on AK’s, and DS’s tail.
      WDW had a good 40 year head start.
      This newness is in it’s infancy.

    • “Captain Action, do you not see the irony of your many, MANY, anti-Disney parks rants?”

      I’m not sure he does. Disney CLEARLY sets the pace. Not only does it set the pace in attendance, and attractions, and theme park design, but also in mindshare. I mean, here we are, in a post ABOUT Universal, celebrating what Universal is doing, full of positive stuff about Universal, and Cap is STILL complaining about Disney. Not only is he incapable of saying anything nice about Disney, but he’s not even capable of saying anything nice about Universal.

      • So true!
        Universal is about being “in the moment” – Just witness how often Uni rips out a ride that is only a few years old for their “latest and greatest” – Happens every couple of years out here in Hollywood.
        But when ever we go to Disneyland, which is very often, to this day their are long lines at attractions that have been around for decades and have lasting appeal. Snow White, Peter Pan, Dumbo, even the Carousel! There is a reason Pirates and Small World are still huge draws.
        Universal? Nothing! I don’t think there is one ride at Uni Hollywood that is still there from 30 years ago that people enjoy.. Well maybe the Stunt show?
        Figure it out!

  8. *Kreacher

    • I was going to say the same. Thank you!

  9. universal is doing excellent this year love the pictures the world of harry potter. looks awesome.

  10. Universal is betting a huge part of their future on Harry Potter, even though there is no new Harry Potter stuff on the horizon. Every year, Harry Potter books and movies get one year older.

    Disney is staking their future on Avatar and Star Wars and Marvel. Three brands with almost unlimited new products coming down the pipeline. They are building the whole MyMagic+ system to be able to deal with all the new millions of people who will flock to their parks to see what they come up with. They have the foundation of their legendary older characters and attractions. They also have attendance that is still growing every year.

    So to me, the 30-year outlook for Disney World is stronger than it is for Universal.

    People are too impatient. They think Disney should spend all of its money on new stuff and not build new hotels or infrastructure, even if the demand is there. They think prices shouldn’t go up, even though the cost of virtually everything keeps going up. Not everything a company spends money on is visible to the consumers.

    For one thing, Universal has FAR less land to maintain than Disney so they don’t have to spend as much on maintenance. And they’re building new stuff based on a hugely popular property, so of course their attendance is going to go up.

    Who knows what the next five years will bring? Disney could announce a huge Star Wars-type project at any moment. We already know Avatar-land is coming. They could decide to add Carsland to DHS. There are a ton of things they could, and probably will, do over the long haul. People who have watched Disney AND Universal (and SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, too) over the long haul, as we have, have plenty of reasons to be excited.

    • Also keep in mind that Universal is an also-ran, who has to spend money constantly to place as a “fifth gate.”

      Harry Potter jumped IOA from 5.9M in 2010 to 7.6M in 2011, and then it sat at 7.9M in 2012 and 8.1M in 2013. It bought them 3 million people, and that is where it has stagnated. Universal knows this, which is why they’re not trying to build it up so much as spread it out. They want those same 3 million people who are coming for Harry Potter to go to USO, so they’re forcing them all to buy parkhoppers to see all the Potter stuff (you have no idea how thrilled I am about that bit of added expense… but no, let’s give Uni a free pass on that transparent highway robbery and spend all our time crucifying MyMagic+ instead). Not only has Potter not dented WDW, but it actually sent some ancillary benefit WDW’s way. In that same time frame of 2010-2013, DHS went from 9.6M to 10.1M, DAK went from 9.7M to 10.2M, EPCOT went from 10.8M to 11.2M, and MK went from 17M to 18.6M (of which a full 1 million jump happened between 2012 and 2013… when New Fantasyland opened… so much for that “flop”).

      My reading is that people go down to WDW and spend 2-3 days in MK, 1-2 days in EPCOT, and 1 day each in DAK and DHS, and then another one or two days outside WDW. Universal isn’t actually competing with WDW. They’re competing with Seaworld and Six Flags and the Kennedy Space Center and all those other “what should we do on our extra day” attractions. Universal is certainly getting some people coming who weren’t going to WDW before, just to see Harry Potter, and even some of them are coming to WDW since they’re already in Orlando. Mostly, it looks like people from WDW who are deciding to check Universal out because they love Harry Potter too. They don’t have any more Harry Potter sized hits coming (no, King Kong is not worth 3 million people), so all they can do is just keep building new stuff in order to compel potential visitors to choose them on their fifth day over Busch Gardens or an airboat trip through the Everglades.

      You made a very good point about the kinds of expenditures WDW actually does. If you look at how much they have spent over the last several years (and will be spending in the next several to come) with building New Fantasyland, renovating resorts, refreshing “Disney Springs,” infrastructure improvements, and the dreaded MyMagic+, they spending a heck of a lot. It’s just not E-ticket attractions… Sorry to break it to people but “BUILD MORE E-TICKETS!!” is not the solution to every problem. WDW has a much different set of challenges than does Universal. Universal needs to figure out how to get people to their parks at all, WDW needs to figure out how to manage the tens of millions of people who are already there. I have my pocket list of everything I would like WDW to import from Asia, but when it comes down to what I think WDW’s most economically smart response to Harry Potter would be, my answer is “a bus to Universal.”

  11. This does look great! The only problem I have with this is that to experience the whole Potter world, you need to buy a park-hopper ticket (unless I am wrong?). That’s pricey, and will leave out a lot of folks who don’t have the time or $ for both. A big downside in my opinion.
    It is why we won’t be taking a side to trip to Uni on our trip to WDW next month as even a single park would add a minimum of $500 for a single day (tickets for 3, transportation over to Uni, food, etc.). Not worth it at this point for us – but a good option for locals with Uni APs, or for people staying at Uni hotels.

    I find it interesting that if Disney did this (requiring a park hopper ticket to enjoy the whole experience) the Disney haters would be bitching all day – but when Uni does it, hey it’s ok!!

  12. What I wouldn’t give to be there.