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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  • 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.