Hogwarts Comes to Hollywood, Cars Testing at Disney, Merry Grinchmas
by, 12-08-2011 at 10:13 PM
It's been an amazing week for Southern California theme park enthusiasts. We started with the lovely Candlellight Processional over the weekend at Disneyland with its classic Christmas pageantry. Then came the official news that Hogwart's is coming to Universal Hollywood. The same day, we caught our first glimpses of Radiator Springs Racers testing in the new Cars Land at DCA! But that isn't all, not by a long shot. Universal then kicked off Grinchmas with a special press event on Thursday morning and we find ourselves ever closer to the Transformers ride opening. We'll cover all this news today, plus construction pics from Disneyland, DCA, Universal Studios and even take you on a brief trip to the San Diego Zoo.
Let's not waste any time, here is the biggest news to hit the SoCal parks since the announcement of Cars Land.
HOGWART'S IS COMING TO HOLLYWOOD:
The sign says it all. We got a call on Monday asking us to be at the park bright and early the next day for a Butterbeer toast. Well, things began with the right amount of anticipation and gravitas with people like Barry Meyer (Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros.), Ron Meyer (President and COO of Universal Studios), California's Governor Jerry Brown, and even the Weasley twins from the films.
Of course, something in this pic give away the reason for the event right off the bat
And this was about all we learned at the event as well
That's it. Hogwarts is coming to Hollywood and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be greatly expanded in Orlando. No mention of location on the Hollywood lot, no mention of a year it will open (though it would likely take 3 or 4 years to build such a project), and even more interesting was no mention of what attractions, if any, would be included in the Hollywood version of Hogwarts.
The only telling comment given was by Ron Meyer, President and COO of Universal Studios, when he mentioned that the addition will be built within the "existing theme park boundaries". According to Al Lutz, the Gibson Amphitheater, Waterworld, Shrek 4D and Curious George would all give way to Harry Potter with possible phase 2 expansion taking over the current tram tour loading area and even part of the lower lot if necessary. We also picked up a shot of a few people looking at Blue Prints near the Shrek 4D building on Thursday. Related? From what we could gather, yes!
The Weasley Twins, actors James and Oliver Phelps, announced the news.
Outside Shrek 4D on Thursday.
Going bye bye in the future?
Is Water World drying up soon?
Los Angeles Supervisor, Zev Yaroslavsky, talks to the audience.
Governor Jerry Brown made an appearance.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sent a taped message all the way from China.
And the Butterbeer TOAST!
Confetti was shot...
and got in everyone's buutterbeer. DOH!
Let's think about this further. They said Hogwarts was coming, but didn't mention Hogsmeade (that doesn't mean it isn't coming, just that it wasn't mentioned). But there would be little chance that they'd build a Dragon Challenge or Flight of the Hippogriff as those were retrofitted coasters from the area Potter consumed in Islands of Adventure. And space-wise, it would be nearly impossible. But, what if they built one of those proposed new expansion attractions for Orlando in addition to the Forbidden Journey? Or enhanced the attraction to fix quibbles with the current attraction? All these questions remain unanswered at the moment.
Some Hogwart's students joined in the fun.
The speculation is half the fun! In the end, the event proved to be nothing more than confirmation of the rumors that started by the Wall Street Journal last week.
Here's some video of the event. Let us know below if you think of any other clues which will help us piece this project together.
As long as we are on the subject of Universal . . . the mean, green, Christmas Machine known as the Grinch made his return to Hollywood yesterday in a grand ceremony honoring a new Who-Manitarian. Fran Drescher, yeah the actress from The Nanny, whose nasally exploits have charmed folks the world over was awarded for her efforts in fighting breast cancer.
Grinchmas banners have been strung over the entry plaza.
Entering the Grinchmas arena - Former wild west stunt show arena.
Children were invited to play in the snow.
Drescher receiving the Whomanitarian award
Learn More about Fran's charity, Cancer Schmancer, HERE
Just look at that massive tree. The Whos at the bottom will give you a sense of scale!
Grinchmas starts this weekend and runs December 10th and 11th. Then runs daily from December 17th through January 1st.
From the upper lot, let's take a ride down the Starway and check on the Transformers ride and surrounding areas. The buildings adjacent have been reworked to better fit into the new aesthetic leading to Transformers. Also, the mural on the show building has been completed and is now awaiting installation of exterior set pieces.
Brackets are on the exterior wall to hold something. The mural is just the backdrop.
All of the shops leading up to Transformers are being reworked.
Here are a few bits from the Studio Tour.
The Whoville set along the route has been prepared for Grinchmas fun.
As your tram approaches, the Whos will put on a little show for you. Grinchmas starts this weekend.
It seems that zombie stink is hard to get rid of. These bodies from Halloween Horror Night still have not been removed. Merry Grinchmas indeed.
Scary Christmas everyone!
Days after the weekend performances, the set for Candlelight was struck and the train station on Main Street was fully operational again. But, next week begins the Cast Member Christmas parties on both Monday and Tuesday night which will result in Disneyland closing at 6pm those days. It's okay though, the CM's deserve a little fun. We're just glad the Disneyland Resort employees (and Disney Company employees in Southern California) are still able to enjoy this perk at all, since it has been removed from Disney World (now those executives are real grinches).
The Main Street Train Station all back to normal after the weekend performances of Candlelight.
There is still no exterior progress visible on the Jolly Holiday Bakery.
Big Thunder is up and running again after last week's brief refurb.
Great new photo-heavy eBook gives tour of Disneyland during the holidays
Our friend Tom Bricker who runs the excellent Disney Tourist Blog with his wife Sarah has released a new eBook extensively covering Disneyland's line-up of holiday offerings. Everything from attractions to shows to decorations and food are covered here. It's a great trip-planning tool for those who are planning a visit to the parks during the holiday season.
If you're a pro and don't need tips to plan your holiday visit, the book is still worth the ridiculously cheap price of $3.99 for the excellent full-color photography found inside. Tom has made a name for himself with his excellent Disney photography and this great eBook doesn't disappoint.
Also, between now and December 23, half of Tom's proceeds from the book will be donated to Toys for Tots! So, skip your Starbucks gingerbread latte today and check out this book instead!
A Disneyland Christmas
A detailed tour of Disneyland Resort at Christmas, featuring over 170 full color photos of decorations, fireworks, the Christmas parade, "it's a small world" holiday, Haunted Mansion Holiday, and many other seasonal offerings at Disneyland! A Disneyland Christmas also includes descriptions of the decorations around Disneyland Resort during the holidays, including those at Disney California Adventure, Disneyland, Downtown Disney, and the three Disney hotels.
Reviews of the many holiday desserts sold in the restaurants during the holiday season will assist you in always picking the most tasty desserts at Disneyland. A great guide to Disneyland at Christmas-time!
Half of proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to Toys for Tots.
Get the book!: Amazon.com: A Disneyland Christmas
Disney made a little bit of showman ship this week as well. Just as Universal Studios was holding its big Harry Potter press event, Disney did something sure to get some attention . . . and we were right there to take the bait (and happy to be there to see it) . . .
What do we have here?
There's a bright light on for something. What could it be?
It's a Radiator Springs Racer ride vehicle slowly testing
Notice how small the 6 person car is in comparison to the rest of the land.
More from Cars Land in just a bit.
BUENA VISTA STREET:
That big construction site at the front of DCA continues to progress slowly. What has changed at Buena Vista Street since last week? Let's see.
Construction to the left of the gate.
Construction walls at the front turnstiles have been moved out, expanding to the newly planted trees.
Yes, right up against them.
The Buena Vista Circle area has grown store-front awnings and the theater has been surfaced.
Inside the stores, more metal framing has been installed.
Entering from Condor Flats, you really sense the scale of Buena Vista Circle.
The backside of the Carthay Circle Theater.
The land that Cars will call home is in the home stretch. This construction update shows more details and advances in the less complex buildings toward the front of the land.
Mater's shack at the Junkyard Jamboree is pretty much done.
An overview of the Junkyard.
It's getting more difficult to get a good shot into the land due to all the trees which have been planted.
The main strip.
The Cozy Cones are still having exterior surfacing applied.
Looking into the center of the land we see Luigi's and the tower of tires
The rocky bluffs on the Paradise Pier side are looking pretty good.
The old tortilla factory is being converted into the new Ghirardelli Chocolate shop and soda fountain. The new chocolate store and soda fountain is practically in Cars Land, and that means care needs to be taken for sight-line purposes. To give you an idea of just how close it is, here are a few pics.
See the red building at top right? That's the location. The construction walls are the entrance to Cars Land.
Here it is at ground level.
It may seem like a shame that most of the exterior theme for the chocolate shop had to be sacrificed, but it makes sense for Cars Land, which is really the more important project.
Christmas has also come to the wild in the form of simple light displays throughout the park. There are also some new up charge experiences making their way into this zoo. Good thing or bad thing?
The biggest reason visitors come to the zoo is, obviously, for the animals. This is where the San Diego Zoo has excelled for years. Here we take a look at some of this extraordinary facility's inhabitants.
Cats gotta sleep.
These puppy dogs were having a great time.
Lorakeet chilling in the aviary
San Diego Zoo is famous for their Panda breeding program.
This bird actually posed for us.
THE 4D THEATER:
Last Year, the Wild Animal Park re-launched as the San Diego Safari Park. The park re-opened with an emphasis on activity and a slew of new up-charge enhancements to the park. Zip lining over lions, feeding animals and so on, are all available for a price. Now, it seems that the San Diego Zoo is following suit. Yes, they have always had the Skyride as an additional priced attraction. But there are more of these extra cost attractions popping up. A new 4D movie experience tied into the film Happy feet 2 has been constructed just a short walk from the Polar Bears.
Permanent facade, temporary theater.
The building looks like a bathroom
Pay to get into the zoo, then pay nearly regular movie theater prices to see a short 4D movie. We'll pass.
Today through Sunday only, one of our favorite Haunted Houses will reopen for Christmas. It's a horror holiday you won't want to miss.
Something wicked is coming to the neighborhood for Christmas. The popular Sinister Pointe haunted house will be reopening for Christmas and decorated for a scary Christmas. You can stop by on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. But the tickets are very limited and will go quick.
Get your tickets here.
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Today's update was edited by Fishbulb and Dustysage and brought to you by members of our fantastic and talented crew of photographers and news contributors. (If you've got breaking news or photos to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact Dusty today.)
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