Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Preview, Part 2: Red Carpet Event

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

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Published on June 19, 2014 at 4:25 am with 90 Comments

After a crazy kick off day, Universal, hit the gas, and wasted no time, getting everyone up to speed on the incredible changes they have made to the resort since the first phase of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which opened in 2010.  So Grab your wand and butter beer, it’s time to continue our Diagon Alley Preview of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.  And we have some amazing Red Carpet Coverage… and a tease of what is inside Diagon Alley.

The State of Universal Orlando

Universal kicked off the day back at the Blue Man Group theater, where the previous night had ended. Bill Davis (President of Universal Orlando) and Theirry Coup (Universal Creative) spoke. They used their time to talk about all the major additions to Universal Orlando since 2010, such as the Universal Super Star Parade, Universal Cinematic Spectacular, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, Reanimated Adventures of Spiderman, the new Blue Man Group show,  Hollywood Drive-In mini golf, Transformers, Springfield USA, Antojitos, Vivo, Breadbox, Menchies, Coldstone, Red Oven Pizza Bakery, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Cow Fish, and the fabulous Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

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After talking about what has been accomplished over the past few years, it was time to talk about the main event, Diagon Alley. Universal brought out four stars from the films: The Weasley twins (James and Oliver Phelps), Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) and Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch). The stars announced that Diagon Alley would officially open July 8th, 2014.

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After the state of the Universal, we trekked across the park checking out some of the updates and speaking with some of the brilliant minds at Universal Creative who have brought these amazing changes to life

Springfield USA

Over at Springfield USA, we had the opportunity to interact with Mike West (Executive Producer of Springfield, USA) and chat about this amazing place-making addition to the park. Mike shared that since Springfield had opening last summer, they have served over 300,000 Krusty Burgers. For him, being able to see families, kids and people just smile and enjoy what he spent years developing makes it all worthwhile.

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Since Springfield USA opened, I have enjoyed many Flaming Moes, Krusty Burgers, and Duff Beers as I watched Diagon Alley grow across the lake.

Transformers the Ride

Over at Transformers the Ride, Universal Creative Executive Producer Theirry Coup shared with us again the engineering marvel that Transformers was. From ground breaking to opening it took just 12 months to build. For those of you who have followed this blog, you can all attest to how incredible it was to watch that quick project unfold.

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Interactive Wands

One thing that we will be talking A LOT about tomorrow are the new interactive wands.  Over the past few months, Universal Creative has been stealth while they have been installing interactive elements all over Hogsmeade.  On the ground all over Hogsmeade you can now see medallions where you can use your wand to cast a spell.  Let me just say, that this has me feeling like a little kid all over again, and I can’t wait to share with you this experience in Part 3.

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Hogsmeade Station

While you will have to wait until Part 3 of our coverage for our full review of the Hogwarts Express… it is fair to say that this station is beautiful, the costumes are detailed and realistic… and the ride… check back tomorrow.

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Red Carpet Event

Now on to the event you have been scrolling furiously to see! This was a TRUE red carpet event.  National Cable Stations were there, national TV stations were there, media from all around the world were gathered at Universal Orlando to experience this new land.

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Stars from the film walked the red carpet.  You had the actors who brought the iconic roles to life, taking waving at fans, talking to media from around the world, and hyping the whole event. The stars who came were Domhall Gleeson (Bill Weasley), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Warwick Davis (Professor Filus Flitwick), Helen Bonham Cater (Bellatrix Lestrange), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Bonie Wright (Ginny Weasley), James Phelps (Fred Weasley), OliverPhelps (George Weasley), and Robbie Coltrane (Rubeus Hagrid).

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Fans of the books and movies were cheering as they caught glimpses of their favorite characters.

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Opening Show

No Universal Orlando attraction can open without a special show, and for this show they had Tom Williamson (President of Universal Parks), Ron Myers (Chairman of NBC|Universal) and the CEO of Warners Brothers speak about the collaboration it took to bring the Wizarding World to life.  After that, the stars lined up together on the red carpet, and with the use of some magic, they opened the wall to Diagon Alley. And with some fireworks the gate was opened and everyone was invited in to experience Diagon Alley.

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Diagon Alley Preview

We were asked to leave our fancy cameras outside for this event, but we were allowed to bring our iPhones.  While a full review and photo spread will be coming in tomorrow’s update, we have some video vines to tease you with today.

 

Pardon my excitement, but I have never been so impressed with a press event in my life.  I can’t wait to share with you all the details tomorrow.

Cabana Bay

We will tie up this update with some amazing little nooks we found at the MiceChat Harry Potter HQ at Cabana Bay, where we found some cute little pay phone booths with vintage phones, and a place to print your boarding passes. We’ve previously covered the hotel, but these little details escaped us previously.

The details of this property never cease to amaze me.

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So what do you think so far of what Universal Orlando has accomplished in the last few years?  We can’t wait to share with you our full Diagon Alley review in Part 3 tomorrow!

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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  • BradyNBradleysMom

    Not sure how the wands are going to work. I want to be optimistic, but the amount of people who will be trying to do the wand tricks all at once is gong to be very high. Hope the system can keep up with demand.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      I’m sure it’s going to work in the same manner that Disney’s in-park interactive games at MK and Epcot work: via RFID technology and in-park effects.

      But I do appreciate your concern as there will obviously be a lot of people waving wands and such.

  • CaptainAction

    Amazing! Thank you Eric. Universal is kicking all kinds of rumps!
    Just look at that list of new additions that the Universal execs spoke of.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      Everyone at that company and resort should be insanely proud of all that they’ve accomplished in a mere few years. Bravo to that team.

  • JCSkipr79

    But Iger said the future is rubberbands making 3 circles light up and waiting 4hrs for cosplay Princesses.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      I seriously just shot iced tea from my nose, JCSkipr79. Thanks for that hysterical snark.

    • CaptainAction

      I’m with Aaronius, very funny JCSkipper!

      • Marko50

        Yep. Funny, but outta line.

  • BlahBlahson

    A few points about Universal and IOA.

    One, every American loves an underdog, which is why the totally money grabbing move to require a parkhopper for the Hogwarts Express is better received at Universal than it is at Disney. That’s my opinion on it. And make no mistake, they intend to make BANK from that decision.

    Why do I support it however? Because it will be funding Kong, the rumored second waterpark, and the rumored third gate. More experiences. At Disney I’m pretty sure at this point the same move would be funding shareholders pockets, which is great because I know some shareholders and I’d be happy for them, but still, more excited about the Universe.

    Two, to anyone saying they only want to go to Universal for Harry Potter…SERIOUSLY STFU. Here is a list of attractions at the universal parks that are unquestionably more fun and higher quality than the majority of attractions at WDW: Incredible Hulk, Spider Man, Dudley Do Right, Bilge Rat Barges, JP River Adventure, Camp Jurassic, (Poseidon’s incredible water tunnel, Cat in the Hat is pretty good), Despicable Me, HRRR=Rockin’, MUMMY, Transformers, Earthquake, Men in Black, Simpsons Ride, Horror Make-Up Show, and Terminator. Go see those rides and shows with an open mind and I assure you, you will have non-harry potter fun. They’re great.

    Third, I Can’t wait for my journey into gringott’s and my first taste of butterbeer ice cream aaaaarhgh.

    • They require a parkhopper because you’d be visiting the other park if you took the Hogwards Express. If you want to take Disney’s Monorail from Magic Kingdom to Epcot and plan to visit both parks in a single day, you’d need a parkhopper as well. There’s no controversy here other than what Disney social media is trying to whip up to make folks upset.

      Yes, Universal will undoubtedly make a bit more money. But Parkhopper tickets have been the default ticket at Universal Orlando for years. I’ve never visited those parks without one.

      • BlahBlahson

        I see four options:

        One, don’t have the attraction in the first place. I mean, it is the very first of its kind anywhere. Themed park-to-park transportation. Craziness.

        Two-Combine the parks under one admission because of this ride…Nah

        Three-Design it so that you are essentially exiting the park to go on Hogwarts Express and you need a ticket for whichever park you came from to go back in or something….which would have been a mess. Lots of back and forth riders, lots of confusion. lots of lost tickets. Would have to funnel all riders into non-park hoppers and park-hoppers and move them into different lines.

        Four-What was finally put in place, which is actually the easiest solution. Show me your park-to-park admission, have fun. It’s also the one that generates the most upselling, and to prove that’s their aim, they upped the parkhopper tickets by 20 bucks or so earlier this year.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        BlahBlahson, there could have been a fifth option, which would be to build London/Diagon Alley where the rumored Kong Island is currently being constructed between Jurassic Park and Toon Lagoon in IOA, and have the train ride be akin to a highly thematic version of the late, lamented skyway, for example.

        I agree that the ride represents a total cash grab from Universal, an evolution of the park hopper experience. I’m frankly amazed that Disney didn’t think of it first, actually.

        I think that Universal is getting less dinged for this for two reasons:

        1. You’re right. They’re the underdog and not the big dawg, or rodent, as the case may be. If the big dawg is going to get a series of free passes for their divestment in the form of actually increased attendance, then the underdog should get some props, as well.

        2. That there’s actually somewhere new, exciting, premium and over-the-top to go to on the other side of that park hop. Which is to say that Universal couldn’t be pulling this off if the train stopped in a half-measured experience.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        ^THIS. Infinity.

        What else ‘ya got, Mouse Patrol? ;p

      • solarnole

        They had to put in Universal to balance the parks because some people only go for Harry.

        It’s like Disney having a Pixar attraction in each park. Why do I have to go to animal kingdom and epcot to see Nemo? Put them all in one place and people would not pay for the extra park.

        It’s a business move for sure but in this case it helps the Harry Potter theme and leaves move room for future expansion.

      • Cory Gross

        Dusty,

        “If you want to take Disney’s Monorail from Magic Kingdom to Epcot and plan to visit both parks in a single day, you’d need a parkhopper as well.”

        My understanding is that the monorail is free and you don’t have to visit MK and EPCOT on the same day. I’m banking my WDW vacation on not having to buy parkhoppers. Universal is forcing you to go to two parks on the same day in order to experience all the Harry Potter stuff. That is substantively different.

        ————————————

        solarnole,

        “They had to put in Universal to balance the parks because some people only go for Harry.”

        They didn’t HAVE to. They CHOSE to. As one of those people who is only going for Harry, you have clearly articulated exactly why I feel exploited.

      • solarnole

        Universal did have to put it into the studios to have the room to build diagon alley on the grand scale that they did with a working train otherwise it would be jammed into a small area like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and the queue would be larger then the ride.

        Universal is also not today’s Disney they were not going to do a cheap four year Mickey Mouse overlay of an existing area like Toontown fair in new fantasyland. Walt’s dream of his parks not being a circus were exploited by that.

        Plus it’s still cheaper to book a deluxe hotel at Universal with unlimited front of the access then it is to book an Disney hotel with 3 tiered fast passes a day and you have no chance at getting some rides.

        Universal is exploiting Disney’s weaknesses right now. Hopefully Disney will create something new this time instead like the last round when they ripped off butter beer and charged the guest more for an inferior drink which was true exploitation.

      • Cory Gross

        “Universal did have to put it into the studios to have the room to build diagon alley on the grand scale that they did with a working train…”

        The “train,” as everyone is pointing out, is just a glorified peoplemover made necessary by the fact that Diagon Alley is in a separate park. The problem with this argument is that 1) if you look at a satellite map of Universal Orlando Resort they don’t appear to be hurting for space if they’re willing to knock down some buildings and/or parking lots, and 2) you just totally shot down this King Kong expansion that is supposed to jack IOA’s attendance up by 10 million visitors. If the will had been there to build Diagon Alley in IOA, they would have done it.

        “Walt’s dream of his parks not being a circus were exploited by that.”

        This is an incorrect statement. I wrote a whole article on it: http://micechat.com/65453-yesterday-tomorrow-fantasy-disney-circus/

        “Universal is exploiting Disney’s weaknesses right now.”

        Looking at the attendance figures, apparently not.

        “Hopefully Disney will create something new this time instead like the last round when they ripped off butter beer and charged the guest more for an inferior drink which was true exploitation.”

        This is where I find the biggest incongruence between how Universal fans feel exploited and how *I* feel exploited. You’re saying here that you’ve been “exploited” because you don’t think Lefou’s Brew tastes as good as Butter Beer. I’m saying I feel exploited because, as YOU YOURSELF SAID, Universal split up the Harry Potter stuff to force me to buy a parkhopper. Universal fans seem to like to complain very bitterly about how Disney is “exploitative” because they’re too slow in building attractions, or don’t have enough new E-tickets, or another park has some rides you like more, or they charge a bit more for things than you think they’re really worth… Lots of really abstract stuff that comes off as really self-entitled. My complaint has an actual dollar value attached. $129.84CAN + tax. I haven’t particularly cared much for how snarly Universal fans get at Disney fans (clearly), but when I can put an actual dollar value on how Universal is exploiting me and you all give a free pass to it, that frankly crosses the line.

      • solarnole

        I’m sorry I think it’s great that Disney decided to build an area that celebrates a bygone business like the circus in the age of Blackfish. Maybe the walk around clowns can whip the Dumbo ride car when it starts to make it more immersive in the magical circus theme of animal abuse for profit.

        The train is horrible they should had just made it one sided and had it bring you to a petting zoo after passing back stage areas like the one at Animal Kingdom. So magical!!

        As a Disney fan you should be grateful that Universal pushed them to build new fantasyland and raised the standards. It’s Walmart vs Target, Apple vs Microsoft, Coke vs Pepsi etc I’m happy that Orlando is getting new rides. Even Sea World the Kmart/Linux/RC cola of the group added a new ride. You can bash Universal all you want but remember a rising tide lifts all boats and this tide cycle was started by Universal with Harry Potter.

        Look at the bright side Disney might replace Captain EO now and stop exploiting the dearly departed Michael Jackson if Diagon Alley does really well. At least Universal has standards. I will gladly pay $30 more to upgrade my ticket. At magic kingdom it costs $67 just to see the Christmas parade.

      • Cory Gross

        “I’m sorry I think it’s great that Disney decided to build an area that celebrates a bygone business like the circus in the age of Blackfish. Maybe the walk around clowns can whip the Dumbo ride car when it starts to make it more immersive in the magical circus theme of animal abuse for profit.”

        You are entitled to whatever opinions you want to have about the circus as a business. You are not, however, entitled to your own facts about what Walt Disney did or did not originally want to do with Disneyland. The mystique of the circus was something he wanted to incorporate into Disneyland from the very beginning.

        “The train is horrible they should had just made it one sided and had it bring you to a petting zoo after passing back stage areas like the one at Animal Kingdom. So magical!!”

        If I had to buy a parkhopper to ride that train to the petting zoo, I would be pissed off too.

        “As a Disney fan you should be grateful that Universal pushed them to build new fantasyland and raised the standards.”

        Competition is great, but as a Disney fan, I am NOT grateful for Universal fans constantly berating, belittling, demeaning, and disrespecting Disney fans over what amounts to LITERALLY a difference in taste. You LITERALLY tried to compare Universal extorting added parkhopper fees out of me to you just not liking the taste of a drink served at WDW. I’ve certainly seen my share of people who feel the need to judge others because of their taste in music or clothing or whatever, but you guys take it to a whole new level.

        “At least Universal has standards.”

        Have they fixed Jurassic Park yet? Nearly every single effect was broken when I rode it back in 2012. I’m not sure what you mean by “standards” but apparently park maintenance isn’t one of them.

      • CaptainAction

        Cory, you visited Universal Hollywood once.
        What if we who criticized WDW had never been to AK, DS, Epcot, or MK? That would be nuts.
        Well, since you are soooooo ticked that Universal is making you go to one of the two parks, of which you’ve never entered the gates, maybe you should stop talking about them. You certainly should stop criticizing them.

      • CaptainAction

        The LINE for Transformers is better than anything WDW has done in the last 10 years save Dwarf Mound.
        Just the Line of Transformers is better than Little Mermaid, all the cheap overlays, and the themed restrooms.

      • CaptainAction

        Only Cory can look at all this at Universal and find something to gripe about.
        How do you argue with a guy who is excited about themed restrooms and a new hub?

      • solarnole

        Jurassic Park is a hundred times better then Captain EO or Universe of Energy.

        By standards I meant that Universal has enough respect to not exploit a dead pop star or force guests to pay $67 to see a Christmas parade.

        I want Disney to build great attractions again but if people accept themed bathrooms, circus overlays and Avatar their penny pinches will not make anything of value. Seven Dwarfs was added only because people made noise about how stupid the princess meet and greet houses were.

        Sorry but in America I can say what ever I want. Walt’s original vision for Magic Kingdom has been destroyed with a huge bus terminal, a Main Street mall and a hub parking lot. If you want to believe that Walt wanted his park to be a cheap circus carnival that’s fine by me. Now WDW has two one in Dinoland and one in Storybook Circus so they are really completing Walt’s vision.

      • Cory Gross

        Hey Cap, have you even ridden the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train yet? You didn’t mention having gone to WDW in the last two months since I’ve seen you griping endlessly, tirelessly about all the stuff they JUST opened.

        Right, you don’t want to go to WDW anymore. Which is fine. Ain’t nobody making you go to WDW if you don’t want to. In the words of a very smart and good friend of mine, “Keep your money but stop complaining.”

        And no, I wouldn’t say I’m EXCITED about new washrooms, but I certainly don’t want to be left peeing in the streets either.

        ———————-

        solarnole,

        “By standards I meant that Universal has enough respect to not exploit a dead pop star or force guests to pay $67 to see a Christmas parade.”

        I actually did think the resurrection of Captain EO was creepy and gross (just like Michael Jackson, actually), so I will agree with you there. You’re going to have a hard time selling me on the $67 for a Christmas parade when you yourself are perfectly okay with Universal charging me $120US to ride the Hogwarts Express. I guess it’s easy when it’s not your money.

        Harry Potter is primarily a shopping experience. Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are ultimately malls with a weenie at the end to draw in guests. Both have a ratio of about 7 stores to 1 ride (no, I’m not counting the repurposed roller coasters because YOU GUYS COMPLAIN ABOUT DISNEY DOING THAT). To take the Hogwarts Express you have to buy a parkhopper pass. To activate the interactives you have to buy a $50 wand that you waited in line an hour to buy. It’s not like they’re giving out free samples of Butter Beer. When you actually start crunching numbers, it comes off as really tawdry, transparent, and commercial. I get much more a feeling of impending exploitation from Universal than I do from Disney, and we’ve already paid for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Desert party and the Wild Africa Trek. Where Universal has excelled is in making the shopping experience into a themed experience.

        This is where I give them credit: they did very well to recognize that people like Harry Potter because they want to BE students at Hogwarts, so Universal is prepared to sell you all the stuff to pretend you are, in a very well-themed set of shoppes. They turned buying a $50 wand into a $50-wand-buying-experience that you want to wait an hour in line to do. They have unique shoppes selling unique sets of merchandise, which of course you’re going to buy because they’re well-done, movie-accurate props. They tried to cover the transparent pick-pocketing of forcing a parkhopper on you buy dressing up the transport between the two parks. It’s all pretty genius… evil, but genius. And as we can see, you guys lap it up (and then insult Disney fans as being “suckers” to, presumably, make yourselves feel better).

        “I want Disney to build great attractions again but if people accept themed bathrooms, circus overlays and Avatar their penny pinches will not make anything of value.”

        WDW has a different set of problems than Universal. The latter is in a position of trying to compel visitors to go there for their “fifth day.” WDW is in a position of trying to manage tens of millions of visitors. Their problem isn’t needing more E-tickets in the most visited theme park in the world. The problem is needing hub renovations and bathrooms and charge stations so people can use the app they rolled out for their seamless payment/ticket/key/fastpass system. WDW has to deal with crowd management issues.

        Now granted, I would love to see them import all my favourite things from Asia. Seriously, I would die to see Mysterious Island imported to Animal Kingdom. But I’m not naive or unrealistic about what WDW actually NEEDS to do vs. what I would LIKE them to do. I’m not going to get mad at WDW because they haven’t read my mind.

        “Sorry but in America I can say what ever I want.”

        Yes, I would agree that America’s… flexibility… towards the idea of well-researched, factual, evidence-based opinions is certainly a thing in your country.

      • danielz6

        /\—– haha I’ll insult your country since my contestant insults to universal aren’t working wah wah wah

      • Cory Gross

        Nah, solarnole brought up the whole “In America I can do what I want” thing.

      • darkridelover

        YOU ALL HAVE IT WRONG. UNIVERSAL WANTED TO BUILD THE EXPANSION IN IOA WITH A SIMULATOR FOR THE TRAIN AND JK AND WB SAID NO. IT MUST BE A REAL TRAIN THAT TRAVELS. WITH THAT BEING SAID MOST PEOPLE PURCHASED PARK HOPPER TICKETS IN THE PAST ANYWAY.

      • solarnole

        Universal added a new E ticket with a brand new first of its kind ride system for both Harry Potter expansions. So it’s not all shops and no E ticket ride like new fanastyland at Magic Kingdom.

        Disney’s most recent E tickets just reuses old ride systems. Carsland is a slower version of Test Track and Avatar is using Soarin’s ride system. Universal since Spider-Man has been better at pushing the bar and wowing people like Walt used too.

        Disney needs more rides it’s the best way to deal with huge crowds. Epcot and Hollywood Studios have so few rides that the Fastpass + is tiered and only lets you pick one good ride or show. Sorry you cannot book Soarin and Test Track you have to pick one or the other.

        Since you love facts so much you should look up how Disney had the first chance at the Harry Potter theme park rights but lost them because of their cheapness and inability to see JK Rawlings vision.

      • Marko50

        Really, Solar?

        “Disney’s most recent E tickets just reuses old ride systems. Carsland is a slower version of Test Track and Avatar is using Soarin’s ride system. Universal since Spider-Man has been better at pushing the bar and wowing people like Walt used too.”

        Radiator Springs Racers may be a slower version of Test Track (speed only) but it’s certainly not a more boring version. Of course, that’s only my opinion.

        As for old ride systems being reused, have you forgotten Transformers? That’s CERTAINLY since Spiderman and used the same system. Yes, Spidey’s been upgraded, but it had nothing to do with its ride system.

    • ayalexander

      BlahBlahson, I’ve been on most of those Universal rides you mentioned… in my opinion, there is nothing to brag about. Those rides stink. And with Jurassic Park being one of my all-time favorite movies… I was disappointed with the quality and experience of the attraction. And don’t even get me started on Transformers…

      • BlahBlahson

        Aww…you poor thing. I’m sorry.

      • ayalexander

        BlahBlahson, don’t act immature. We are having a discussion.

      • BlahBlahson

        Thanks, but there’s not really a discussion to be had.

        Everything about your post red flags that you are not interested in a quality discussion, or capable of a debate. I’m sorry you thought everything at Universal was bad. I’m not responding to you from this point.

      • Country Bear

        Oh dear, that’s a pretty strong response.

        There seems to be little debate that Universal has been the most innovative of theme park companies for the last 10 years so I hazard to think what impression Disney’s parks have left you with? I know many of us have our own vision of what we think a ride “could” have been, but there is usually still an appreciation for what was accomplished by some very creative folks.

        I think they both have great experiences, but it sounds like you think that no theme park has great experiences.

        Such a sad place to be in.

      • MikeBlakesley

        You think all the Univeral rides “stink?” What are you, 12?

        Universal has been building Disney quality rides lately. Some of their older efforts are lesser in quality — such as Dudley Do-Right, it’s trying to be Splash Mountain but it’s laughably inferior. But Spider-man is as good as anything Disney has. So is the Simpsons ride, the Mummy, Popeye/Bluto, HP’s Forbidden Journey, and a few others.

        What’s funny to me is how everyone keeps going on about how Universal is out-gunning Disney. What they’re doing is, they’re doing what Disney has been doing all along, which is building high-quality immersive experiences. Disney doesn’t NEED to be building a whole lot of new stuff right now because they built theirs years ago when Universal was still pinching pennies.

        Magic Kingdom is still what, 10 or more million people a year ahead of Islands of Adventure? When they get tied, then let’s talk.

      • Bb5

        Most? Haven’t you never been to Universal Orlando Resort? So, you’ve only done Transformers, Jurassic Park and I’m guessing T2:3D before it closed, since those are in Hollywood as well as California. You cannot even compare the Revenge of the Mummy in Cali to Florida’s version. You haven’t stepped foot in Islands of Adventure, walked through the meticulously designed Port of Entry, turned left and ridden Spider-Man and Hulk. Or kept walking into Toon Lagoon to find the most fun rapids ride ever.. Popeye. Then there’s Forbidden Journey, Poseidon’s Fury, Camp Jurassic, Cat in the Hat, etc. The only ride in Islands of Adventure that is also in Hollywood is Jurassic Park River Adventure, and here in Florida, we’ve got a whole LAND that you would love, with the Discovery Center and Camp Jurassic.

        Don’t get me started on the other park, which also has many brilliant attractions that you can’t experience in Hollywood… such as Men in Black, E.T., Horror Make-Up Show, Disaster!, etc.

        Don’t bash somewhere you haven’t even been. That doesn’t make sense. I had never been to Disneyland until this past spring, and I wouldn’t dare to make a comment or criticism about the park, such as “those rides stink”. Besides, after visiting, I had no criticisms anyways. 😉

      • ayalexander

        First, Country Bear… I honestly do like the idea of potter-land. I really do. I want to see the one here in Hollywood when its completed in 2016, I truly am excited for it. But other than that, I will not be spending time in the rest of the park… I just don’t like it. That’s just simply how I feel… but I do recognize the amazing attention to detail they have been putting toward their parks. I do. I just didn’t mention it because it didn’t fit in with the comment I had to say, but for anyone reading this, I think Universal’s new attention to quality is amazing and it makes the experience more enjoyable for guests.

        Second MikeBlakesly, I used the word “stink” for the same reasons I also use the words “crud”, “crap”, and “cheap” when I reference Universal Studios parks, because I think it is highly unnecessary for me to use harsh or strong language when referring to a theme park… its just a theme park, I’m not gonna say: “Holy S***, I think all Universal Parks are f****** nothing but a load of money grabbing rides full of s*** and made for people who don’t know their a** from a hole in the ground” -see…that would be uncalled for, and completely disrespectful -especially to fans of those parks- and because I do NOT think Universal is a load of s***, I only find that it “stinks”.

      • ayalexander

        To Bb5 and anyone else that thinks I’m criticizing USO even though I’ve never been there… I DID go to both USO and USH I went to USH when I was 8 and 18, and again when Transformers opened (but only went JUST for transformers cuz I thought it would be awesome, I was wrong)… I despised my experiences each time. And I went to USO in the year 2006, I’ll admit I didn’t ride many things… but I did ride more than just the two rides that I mentioned. I’m sorry people, it just wasn’t my thing. The 2006 trip to Orlando when I went to USO was also the same trip that I first ever visited Walt Disney World and in fact, stayed on property. Yes, I “liked” Walt Disney World (3 of the 4 parks -I kinda hated MGM Studios) …but in all, I thought WDW was crap too, few rides, parks were too big for how few things were in them… I think my favorite of the 4 parks was DAK… but even then… I finished the whole park in 4-5 hours I think. I would have to say I disliked WDW just as equally as I disliked USO.

      • Bb5

        So you don’t enjoy any theme park except Disneyland?

        Maybe theme parks just aren’t your thing. Maybe doing other things in your travels would be better suited, since you can’t seem to enjoy yourself and you have to unleash it (on MiceChat) like it’s some massive weight on your chest. Maybe you’d even enjoy Dollywood, Silver Dollar City or Busch Gardens Williamsburg. They’re are beautiful theme parks with some nice theming and are landscaped to perfection. I highly recommend them.

      • ayalexander

        Well actually Bb5, the reason why i mention my likes and dislikes for theme parks on this site is because i like to hear what others think about the things I don’t agree with. I love to hear and understand what people like about these things. And you are correct, theme parks aren’t my thing, I actually love to travel, and I’m constantly on road trips.

      • Cory Gross

        OMG Ayalexander! How DARE you not like something at Universal?! Don’t you realize that it is only appropriate to harp on endlessly about how much you dislike Disney?

      • ayalexander

        oh no, its Cory Gross!! please don’t swat me with your love of Universal and your CaptainAction/AaroniusPolonius type criticisms! And please, whatever you do, don’t try to shove Universal’s apparent flaws down my throat and pass it off as quality entertainment!

      • Cory Gross

        BUT ERHMAGERD!! Disney only has the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan’s Flight and Splash Mountain and Tower of Terror and Indiana Jones and Star Tours and Space Mountain and Radiator Springs Racers and Splash Mountain and Soarin’ and California Screamin’ and the Matterhorn and Big Thunder Mountain and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and the Jungle Cruise and Enchanted Tiki Room and submarines and a fully functional paddlewheel steamer and a fleet of steam trains and a silent movie theatre and amazing theming and stuff, but what have they done for me LATELY?! Universal has a Jurassic Park ride that hasn’t been fixed since 1996 and a simulator of a cartoon that apparently people still watch I guess!

      • solarnole

        Universal should had just added minions to Jaws and passed it off as a new attraction. I will be happy buying a trading pin, a silly hat, and a minion cupcake. Maybe they can keep the park open 24 hours and sell special special special merchandise only one day.

        Who goes to a theme park for rides? I go for hats, pins and cupcakes.

      • CaptainAction

        Hey Country Bear, I’ve been wondering where you were.
        Always like your posts.
        Welcome back.

      • CaptainAction

        Hey ayalexander, the LINE for Transformers is better than the all the recent stuff WDW has done in the last 10 years except for Dwarf Mound.
        If you don’t like rides with movis screens then I know you hate Toy Story Mania, Star Tours, Mission Space, Soarin’, and you won’t like the value budgeted Avatar Soarin’ Ride either.
        The Transformer ride is great and they put more creativity at Universal in the Line than WDW does for there cheap overlays and themed restrooms they’ve been dribbling out the last 10 years.

      • CaptainAction

        Cory, you still criticizing rides you have no intention of riding and parks you have never visited?
        No defense possible for this.

      • Cory Gross

        Cap, that is exactly what YOU do.

      • Marko50

        Geez, Cap. Not only did you copy & paste for this, you did it in the SAME THREAD!

  • Eric, thank you so much for your amazing coverage and dedication. What an amazing time for Universal and its guests.

  • MyFriendtheAtom

    Cabana bay tho

  • Ravjay12

    Fantastic coverage on the media event! Universal’s Diagon Alley is going to be amazing! Can’t wait to see it in person. Sorry New Fantasyland, you’re not even close.

  • Skimbob

    Universal has been busy and yet it appears Disney is not worried. You make the call is Disney deaf, dumb and blind or do they feel that their market share is safe so they don’t need to do anything. I honestly wish I knew.

  • ChrisNJ

    Most people would visit both parks even without the HP split between the two parks – and the split makes the most sense so the lands feel removed from one another as in the books. Besides being a smart financial move, it also can help spread the crowds a bit (once the newness wears off a bit)

    And how about we give some praise to Universal for their tickets prices. If you buy multi-day online they are discounted by $20.

    I’m already book for my 4th trip to UO in 3 years. I think they have won me over.

    • CaptainAction

      ChrisNJ, that’s how it begins for guests. We experienced the same thing in our family that you guys are experiencing.
      As theme park fans we catch things earlier than the general “make 2-3 trips a lifetime to a theme park” families.
      It’s been 12 years since WDW stopped doing anything creative. The average family who visits maybe once every few years is just begining to notice that WDW is way more expensive than our last trip and we did the EXACT SAME STUFF from 8 years ago…Hmm, what’s all this new stuuf going on at Universal. Then you go to Universal, see and do creative things WDW has never done, see all the new stuff still coming – and Universal and IOA replace Animal Stinkdom, Disney’s Lame Studios, and EpOLDcot.
      It takes a long time for the marketing of all the new things and the momentum to build for Universal.
      Folks are only BEGINING to notice what has been happening over the last 12 years.
      WDW hasn’t done anything of note except maybe Dwarf Mound which is cute but not a very big deal.
      Universal only began their big run up against WDW 4 years ago.
      The public is noticing.
      AK, DS, and Epcot all grew between 1.5%-2% in 2013.
      Universal grew at 14% in 2013.
      Let’s see what the numbers look like in 2015 when the Potter lands have a full year added to Springfield, Transformers, Despicable Me, Kong, Cabana Bay, etc.

  • jcruise86

    “Those rides stink”? If you’re claiming that Universal’s Spiderman and Transformers attractions “stink,” I have one question for you: it’s sucked working in the PR office for Walt Disney World the past 10 or so years, hasn’t it?

    • jcruise86

      (I was responding to Ayalexander’s post above.)

    • manifest

      Meh, Spider-Man really does suck though. It really is an overrated ride. It’s up there with Fantasmic and Soarin’ in how much unwarranted popularity it has in my opinion.

      • Bb5

        Oh.

    • redrhino54

      LOL…jcruise, how can you know what stinks, and what doesn’t? Have you ever been to Universal or Disney in the last 12 years? Come back when you have first hand knowledge and then , you can stomp on someones opinion. PTSSS….youtube videos don’t count…..lol

      • Marko50

        Maybe redrhino should figure out what quote marks mean.

  • jcruise86

    Eric Davis, THANK YOU for another outstanding report! (I imagine it helps that Universal is giving you exciting & magnificent things to report.) The teaser to come back tomorrow for the ride review was cruel though. 🙂

  • Pingback: Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Preview, Part 2: Red Carpet Event | Everything TravelsEverything Travels()

  • Country Bear

    Thanks for the ongoing coverage Eric!

    I have been looking forward to this moment for a while now and it looks like it will not be disappointing. So many wonderful new experiences for people to share in. Naturally, all eye’s are focused on the new attractions mostly. Regardless of which corporation you are the dedicated fan of (many are both), new attractions are what brings us to your facilities.

    I look forward to hearing about what Universal Creative will be taunting us with now. The small snippets of info released over the last few months indicate a pretty big payday for their guests. I already enjoy both of their parks so this park-hopper requirement for the one ride is of no consequence to me as I would have had multi-park tickets regardless. This addition will actually make it easier to hop from park to park now. I suspect that is true for most Universal visitors.

    Keep the good news coming!

  • BigBobxxx

    Is a Krusty Burger any good?
    (It can’t be any worse than the food at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe.)

    • BlahBlahson

      The Krusty Burger is standard fare other than the…interesting…cheese sauce they put on the burger. IMHO, the better food options in Simpsons land would be anything from Cletus’ Chicken Shack or the taco truck outside. I think you could get a better burger at Wendys or other fast food than at Disney or Universal’s QSR locations.

      Or a good burger at any of the Citywalk establishments…and don’t forget SUSHI-burger is coming soon as well.

  • Baloo

    Everything looks great.

    Other reports I have read from other media outlets say that
    The only issue they see is that the land is full of shops and only one ride plus of course the train transportation and that it might appeal to Harry potter fans but might not to others not looking to buy high prices merchandised.

    Most articles also say that during the Thursday media preview the main attraction was not working so they were not able to ride it.
    So does that mean that they finally got it running afterwards or they will try again tomorrow and that is the reason it was not reviewed today?

    From what has been shown though, it looks like the land (or park as they refer to it) looks great. The amount of detail is amazing

    • CaptainAction

      The Hogwarts Train is an E Ticket attraction. Folks are going to love it. Ton’s of creative detail and imagination here.

  • Baloo

    Oh by the way, last time I was in Orlando I had a better time in universal then WDW
    But I do have to admit that I really don’t understand why people find The Hulk so exciting its a big mostly unthemed coaster and the whole land that it is in is plain ugly. LOL
    Only good thing is Spiderman.

    Transformer was ok but not as amazing as people made it to be but definitely the best ride in that park which has some rides that feel outdated

    • Bb5

      Love Hulk. Maybe it’s the beginning that does it for me… “I think… I think this time it’s gonna work!” with all of the flashing lights and sounds… then boom. The feeling of being blasted uphill into a zero-g roll is one of my favorite roller coaster moments.

      I think Hulk is themed decently enough, with the way it interacts with the park’s lagoon and the gamma ray accelerator. However, the back half of the ride offers many backstage views which are very disappointing. As a whole, I love Marvel Super Hero Island. I think it’s themed very well for it’s supposed to be (a 2-D comic book city). I feel like I’m in a 90s Marvel comic book/T.V. show and I love it. Some spots are weak though, and the music should be changed and/or turned down.

      • CaptainAction

        I’ve never been in the tunnel, listening to Dr. Banner, and looking up at the sky at the end, waiting for that launch, and not been really hyper about that moment you shoot out, roll and drop toward the water. My favorite coaster moment as well.

  • SxcyMike

    Such an anomaly of response. WOW….you would think some ppl on this post sit in on the board. Smh. They can’t please them all, and I’m sure both parks/companys aren’t trying. Both are doing outstanding when it comes to gate numbers and I’m happy with that. Disney could use some polish in a couple of parks but hey…..let’s be happy

    • ayalexander

      that is a very well thought comment. I admit, I’m not exactly fighting to end the arguments lol but I’m certainly not trying to start any. I’m glad that you can see things from a healthier perspective.

  • danielz6

    I find all of this misuse of the words exploitation and extortion dramatically in these last few comment pages entertaining. Both have to do with actions against your will and on a criminal level. If you are willingly visiting a theme park, then by definition you are not being exploited or extorted. Nobody is forcing you to visit universal, or buy a park hopper if you don’t want to! I find this complaining about having to do all this against your will like you are a POW or something. You should be happy to visit an awesome theme park like universal not acting like a victim of some sort. The underlying truth is that the rise in admission prices are ridiculous for both Disney and universal but universal has been following Disney’s lead as their price increases usually occur first.

    • Cory Gross

      Considering how much Universal fans make WDW sound like a gulag, and then PERSONALLY insult Disney fans for going there, calling out Universal on a bit of clearly transparent exploitation is pretty mild.

      • danielz6

        Funny I’ve never heard anyone refer to disney world as a gulag?

      • Cory Gross

        Not that exact term… You guys use many, many, many, many more words to convey the idea that WDW is pretty much the worst possible thing you could do with your time.

        It has a lot to do with Universal fans’ totally aggressive lack of perspective. For you guys (yes, you included, and the rest of you know who you are), there is no such thing as “Hey, I liked some of the rides in Universal more than I liked the rides in WDW. I think Universal does a great job at what they do and prefer to spend more of my vacation dollars there. Oh, you still prefer Disney? That’s okay to, it doesn’t bother me if you like WDW a bit more than Universal. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train isn’t really my thing, but I guess Spiderman isn’t really yours, so it’s all good. People have different tastes, and after all, we’re only talking about theme parks here.”

        Instead, it goes like this: “WOW! Universal is SO amazing! You’d have to be STUPID to think WDW was worth visiting now! What kind of idiot suckers could ever like Disney anymore?! That place is so old and dated, and everything I liked about it 4 years ago DOESN’T COUNT ANYMORE!! DISNEY SUCKS SO HARD AND YOU SUCK FOR LIKING THINGS I DON’T LIKE ANYMORE!!!1!”

        And then God forbid if you say anything less than complimentary about Universal. People who spend all their time complaining ceaselessly about how much WDW sucks sure have a thin skin when the thing THEY like gets criticized. There was a definite richness in Captain Action telling ME to get over it, stop complaining, and just not go to Universal if I didn’t like it. Of course, all you guys seem to miss that I am going to Universal because I actually do want to see the Harry Potter stuff (though I still don’t have to like the transparent forcing me to buy a parkhopper), because you guys can’t really see that it’s okay to like both Disney and Universal, or to like one just a bit more than the other, or to be like “hey, I just want to see Harry Potter stuff but don’t really care about Transformers or Popeye.” You’re full-on “You have to HATE EVERYTHING about either Disney or Universal! Choose this day whom you will serve!!”

        That insistence that you have to HATE Disney makes you guys lose perspective. That inability to say that Disney still has lots of amazing things they spent 40 years building up, and then say that if you still enjoy those things then you are an idiot-moron-sucker-enabler, really gives it that “WDW is a gulag” feel.

      • danielz6

        Haha Cory I think you have me confused with someone else. I’m a fan of both Disney and universal. I point out their flaws when I see them and applaud them when they deserve it. I’ve never said anything rude or insulting or devolved into childish name calling to anyone on this website. Feel free to quote me if you can find an example otherwise.

      • CaptainAction

        The only person who has EVER referred to WDW as a gulag is CORY.

        The person calling others TROLLS is you again CORY.

        Then you try to blame Aaronius for calling us TROLLS!?!

        Then you claim we call WDW a gulag!?!

        These are all the things you do and blame then on others!?!

      • Cory Gross

        “Honestly, y’all miss the point of Captain’s posts. He CLEARLY wants you to respond with an emotional retort to “out” you as one who will offer excuses in defense of Disney divestment. And you all clearly keep taking the bait.”
        – AaroniusPolonius,Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: A Fun and Solid “D Ticket” Attraction (Spoilers Only at End), May 20, 2014, 4:51am

        “In Internet slang, a troll (/ˈtroʊl/, /ˈtrɒl/) is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people,[1] by posting inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[4]”
        – Wikipedia, Troll (Internet)

        Now clearly Aaronius said what he said in a way that was meant to defend you (he went on to say “but watching the responses, as well as the impact he has, is pure theme park fan bliss.”). However, I think it’s telling that your own cheerleaders can’t help but describe your actions in the exact same way you would describe a troll, even when they’re on your side and trying to make you look good. Aaronius fully admitted that you were a troll, the only difference being that he enjoys seeing the reactions you provoke (because I guess it’s fun to watch people freak out when they get judged, demeaned, and insulted because of something they like).

        In many ways, though, your own friend admitting that you behave like a troll was therapeutic. I really shouldn’t take your direct personal insults that personally, because they’re not REALLY personal… Disney fans are just collateral damage in your trolling. If I look back on some of your greatest hits – complaining about Be Our Guest and then suggesting I’d like Monsters Cafe, complaining about Seven Dwarfs Mine Train but then suggesting they build Casey Jr. Circus Train, complaining about WDW Fantasyland having less attractions than DLR Fantasyland but not having actually counted them to find out you were wrong, complaining about Disney being money-hungry but then totally ignoring that Diagon Alley has 7 stores for 1 ride and $50 wands to activate the interactives and that they make you buy a parkhopper just to get there, complaining about Disney all the time every chance you get but then pitching a fit if I say even one unkind (but totally true) thing about Universal, complaining endlessly and being a total buzzkill about anything new Disney does but then telling ME to “Keep your money but stop complaining” because I was killing your buzz about this – it all kinda’ comes together. The total inconsistency, if not blatant hypocrisy, in your argument makes perfect sense if you are just trying to provoke a reaction by being negative and aren’t actually intending to offer anything positive. You even admitted that you don’t know how to say anything positive about Universal without complaining about Disney. That’s actually really sad, but definitely fits the profile provided by Wikipedia and your friend Aaronius.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        “Take a XANAX!”

        –Ramona Singer, Real Housewives of New York City.

      • Cory Gross

        Yeah I know… You get to insult people, and if they react, obviously something is wrong with them. It’s the troll paradigm.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      So much THIS^ Danielz6.

      • CaptainAction

        Yes Aaronius, and I saw him try to blame you for calling us TROLLS when CORY is the only one calling anyone TROLLS.

        He uses gulag and Trolls and then blames others for it.

        It’s fun to visit Fantasyland but this is what happens to someone who LIVES in Fantasyland.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        CaptainAction, it’s all good.

        I’m not going back in thread-time, but that quote was in support of a larger thesis, which is that your posts, sarcastic and biting though they may be, are specifically designed to evoke an emotional reaction in one who defends Disney with zeal and fervor.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but your posts:

        a.) attempt to jolt a wake-up call, as in “hey, you’re spending hundreds of dollars a day to go visit a place that has pretty much been lack in their investment in new stuff for a long time now.”

        and

        b.) expose the ardent, fervent Disney fans as they ardently and fervently defend their theme park brand of choice, despite that lack of investment and innovation…despite not exhibiting all the ‘magic’ traits of the brand itself.

        So, fine. You’re a troll, I’m a troll, everyone’s a troll, troll.
        Wouldn’t you like to be a troll, too?

        I believe I also noted that in his own manner, he acts as the flip side of the coin, with this insistence on being right, of always getting in the last turd, of being a victim of “online bullying” and, of course, being a fervent, ardent defender of the Big D, the last of which was your original intent, yes?

        So, congrats on a job well done.

        I know we’re not supposed to get personal on here, but I find the comparison between forum spats and bullying to be deeply offensive.

        In junior high, I was “that kid” who consistently, constantly and relentlessly got decimated by the student population, so I’m well aware of what actual, violent, demeaning and humiliating bullying is like. It was HORRIBLE (laughs on them: I hit puberty and got hot, and went to a magnet high school and reinvented myself as a “Heather,” if you get the reference.)

        And one of my cousins has tried to kill herself twice because of systematic, unbelievable cruel and horrible bullying in the modern era, using all the technological and social media tools at the disposal of these wretched kids in her wretched high school.

        It’s a far cry from sarcastic snark meets Disney disciple in an online forum, yes?

        In all seriousness, it was that moment, a board or two back, where I just decided to back away and let him rant and rave without response. He’s clearly offended by the snark on here, and I’m utterly offended at what I perceive to be false equivalencies and a total bastardization and rape of the actuality of bullying.

        So, for the most part, unless I see fit, I’ve decided to basically ignore him, much like in that Simpsons’ Halloween episode where they turn away from the advertisement signs come to life and then the now-living-signs die from lack of attention.

        Ironically, this is exactly what I suggesting that he do with “offensive” responses on these boards. If he doesn’t like you pointing out all that’s wrong with WDW and how insane it is to reward the resort with your money when they don’t reward you with premium, comprehensive investment, then simply don’t read them.

        Anyhoo, I’m a big boy.

        I have a thick skin.

        I appreciate the defense, but it’s totally not necessary.

        I’ve considered the source and decided that its not worthy of my consideration.

      • Cory Gross

        “I believe I also noted that in his own manner, he acts as the flip side of the coin, with this insistence on being right, of always getting in the last turd, of being a victim of “online bullying” and, of course, being a fervent, ardent defender of the Big D, the last of which was your original intent, yes?”

        This is what you guys don’t get: I’m not defending DISNEY, I’m defending ME. As I said to Daniel, I could care less if you guys didn’t like Disney. The problem is that you have to get personally insulting about it, and when you’re called on it you go even deeper into the “you’re just an irrational Disney goon” routine. But again, you guys don’t get it.

        And now you’re “ignoring me,” which is okay. You actually did that before, in the single most disrespectful display I’ve seen towards me here. It was a bit of a laugh before when you said that you “still like me” because by that point you had already attempted to publically humiliate me for disagreeing with Cap’s opinion. For someone who claims to have been bullied and is so disgusted by bullying, you sure do a good impression of a bully. I get the exact same feeling reading posts by you and your friends as I did from getting bullied myself.

  • Sifferz

    MANY COMMENTS.

    MUCH FLAME WAR.

    Anywho, I think Diagon Alley looks absolutely amazing. I will always love the Disney parks, but I probably won’t hit East Coast until Avatar is done… and when I do I’ll definitely be hitting Universal. Potterland looks absolutely amazing, and I’ve been curious about some of the other attractions for awhile anyway.

  • daveyjones

    i’ve never read any of the potter books or seen the movies, so i don’t understand the appeal. were they really interesting enough to build entire themed lands around?

    • Cory Gross

      I’m not as big a fan of Harry Potter as my fiancee. I’m actually looking more forward to Jurassic Park (Despite how much Universal fans are trying to poison my wanting to go to Universal at all, by being aggressively confrontational and insulting about it). I haven’t read the books, but I have seen the movies and visited the Harry Potter exhibition when it was in a neighbouring city, at which I duly bought my Gryffindor tie and scarf, and all the candy and stuff. Oh, and I have the game for XBox Kinnect.

      I think Harry Potter has two main appeals, one of which is really what Universal is tapping into. The first is that it’s just a darn good story that is well-told. It has heroism, fantasy, whimsy, and gravitas, with really engaging characters and lots of good moral drama. It is easily the equal of anything by Tolkien, Lewis, Baum, Milne, and every other comparable classic.

      The other, which Universal is nailing, is that it crafts the kind of world you want to be *in*. The real appeal of Harry Potter is that it makes you want to become a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You want to whip your wand around and play Quidditch and fight Death Eaters (or be one). There are people who have turned Quidditch into an actual sport you can play. In Harry Potter, there are four “houses” that students belong to… Harry and his friends are all members of Gryffindor, and all the bad guys are in Slytherin (which is why I think anyone sorted into Slytherin should be automatically thrown into a meat grinder, but I digress). Now I can understand why people would want to play at being in Gryffindor or Slytherin. But get this: fans are totally into being members of the sidekick houses too. They’re seriously considering the merits of Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff because they’re meaningfully projecting themselves into this fictional world and deciding what house best matches their traits and interests. That is, to me, a perfect example of how fans want to become a part of that fantasy world.

      Is that enough to base a theme park off of… Yes and no. As you can see from the photos, Harry Potter gives some really good, concrete PLACES to make into theme parks. Hogwarts school and the village near it, Diagon Alley, and the upcoming Ministry of Magic are just three. And they do a very good job of realizing those into dimensional environments that look pretty much exactly like the movies. But because Harry Potter is primarily ABOUT imagining yourself as part of that world, the theme park is primarily a shopping experience. Like I’ve mentioned in all the flaming before, both of these areas have a ratio of 7 stores to 1 ride. The weenies – Gringott’s Bank and Hogwarts School – draw you through what is essentially a themed mall of Harry Potter merchandise. People are generally cool with that because BUYING STUFF IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE HARRY POTTER EXPERIENCE (not screaming, just emphasizing). To be a part of that world, you need your school uniform and your tie and your scarf and your wand, and Universal is right there to sell it to you. The movies have Bertie Bott’s Everyflavour Beans and Butter Beer and Chocolate Frogs, so to be part of that world you want to buy them and taste them for yourself, and Universal sells them to you in movie-accurate packaging for a premium price. Harry going into Olivanders to buy his magic wand was a memorable part of the movie, so they replicate that experience to induce you to pay $50 for a wand of your own. Universal did very well to integrate shopping as a themed experience so that people think of the act of shopping as an attraction unto itself. You don’t have to look any further than everybody here going “ooo” and “ahhhh” over these shoppes when they grabs the torches and pitchforks any time Disney even opens ONE shop. They’re buying into shopping as a themed experience.

      COULD Harry Potter furnish a full theme park experience that has actual rides and not just a themed mall with one ride? I think there is a richness in the material to do that. There is a lot of cool stuff in the books and movies that could conceivably be made into actual rides. I don’t think shopping could ever be left out of the experience though (Heck, I’m not even THAT big of a Potter fan and I still came out with all the stuff after just going to the exhibition). I aim to give the Harry Potter stuff the benefit of the doubt, despite (or even in spite of) all the Universal fans telling me I’m not allowed to like Universal because I’m just some low-class, low-rent Disney fan idiot.

  • danielz6

    Daveyjones….I am not a fan of Harry Potter at all and have only seen 2 of the films (girlfriends wanted to see them), but I will say visiting Harry Potter 1.0 in 2012 was one of the best theme park experiences I’ve ever had. Now they’ve doubled that same experience and created 2 more innovative e ticket attractions! I’m still not a Harry potter fan but I can’t wait to see Diagon alley and ride Gringotts. If you are a fan of immersive story telling and theme parks, then you need to get to Universal Orlando. I strongly encourage you to visit. If anything, the innovative new rides are sure to impress you.

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