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Hogwarts Comes to Hollywood, Cars Testing at Disney, Merry Grinchmas

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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 Weasley Twins, actors James and Oliver Phelps, announced the news.

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!


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.



GRINCHMAS:
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.


TRANSFORMERS:
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.








STUDIO TOUR:
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.



WOW







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.



CARS LAND:
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.









GHIRARDELLI:
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 ANIMALS:
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.


Hello Rhino!


Giraffes grazing.




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.




Very festive!




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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Updated 12-09-2011 at 08:59 AM by Dustysage

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  1. Emmanuel_4's Avatar
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    Great Update !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  2. bamato's Avatar
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    Awesome update! Thanks everyone!
  3. DisneyResort's Avatar
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    Unlike the mad scramble at WDW to compete with Universal's Wizarding World (Fantasyland expansion, Avatarland), bringing Harry Potterland to Universal Studios Hollywood will have little impact on The Disneyland Resort's attendance.
    Every year Universal offers a "buy one ticket, get in the rest of the year for free" for Southern California residents. That's an indication of how desperate they are for repeat business from the locals. But it has never had an impact on attendance figures at The Disneyland Resort. Many locals, who even live near Universal, still prefer heading down the road to Disneyland.
    So bring on Harry Potterworld. Universal needs to generate more attention from out of town visitors, and that's a good thing for The Disneyland Resort. You see, unlike WDW where the resort is designed to keep you on property during your entire stay, The Disneyland Resort promotes a "Southern California" vacation. The Disneyland Resort website even offers the [B]Southern California Citypass[/B] which includes admission to Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and The Disneyland Resort. It's one big happy theme park family out here.
    Updated 12-09-2011 at 06:14 AM by DisneyResort
  4. KingEric's Avatar
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    Love all the photos! Love the San Diego zoo pics! Thank you so much!
  5. WheresMickey's Avatar
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    Great update!
  6. Truecoat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DisneyResort
    Unlike the mad scramble at WDW to compete with Universal's Wizarding World (Fantasyland expansion, Avatarland), bringing Harry Potterland to Universal Studios Hollywood will have little impact on The Disneyland Resort's attendance.
    Every year Universal offers a "buy one ticket, get in the rest of the year for free" for Southern California residents. That's an indication of how desperate they are for repeat business from the locals. But it has never had an impact on attendance figures at The Disneyland Resort. Many locals, who even live near Universal, still prefer heading down the road to Disneyland.
    So bring on Harry Potterworld. Universal needs to generate more attention from out of town visitors, and that's a good thing for The Disneyland Resort. You see, unlike WDW where the resort is designed to keep you on property during your entire stay, The Disneyland Resort promotes a "Southern California" vacation. The Disneyland Resort website even offers the Southern California Citypass which includes admission to Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and The Disneyland Resort. It's one big happy theme park family out here.
    Do you really think Universal will offer the ticket offer after Potter arrives? They will not and won't have to. Especially since they will have Transformers also.
  7. Barbossa's Avatar
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    Great update. Not too sure about those extra cost offerings at the zoo...
  8. DisneyResort's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Truecoat;bt20730]Do you really think Universal will offer the ticket offer after Potter arrives? They will not and won't have to. Especially since they will have Transformers also.[/QUOTE]
    Last year Disneyland's attendance was 16 million. Universal Studios Hollywood was 5 million. They're not going to turn down any extra traffic that the Southern California Citypass can bring them, even with the added excitement of Wizarding World and The Transformers ride, they'll still rely heavily on the promotion Disneyland can give them.
    It's also important to point out that, of the top ten most visited cities in the United States, Anaheim is number four. Los Angeles isn't even in the top ten. That means the majority of people vacationing in Southern California are staying in Anaheim. Universal Studios Hollywood is going to need that push from Disney to send people 35 miles up the road.

    [I]Source[/I]: [url=http://www.consumertraveler.com/today/forbes-lists-top-10-most-visited-u-s-cities/]Forbes lists Top 10 most-visited U.S. cities[/url]
  9. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barbossa
    Great update. Not too sure about those extra cost offerings at the zoo...
    I'm actually quite worried about the direction that the Zoo and Animal Park Safari Park are taking.

    [BEGIN RANT]

    On the one hand, they are doing an amazing job of creating naturalistic animal environments and interactive exhibits. That is a major plus and what makes these parks the leaders in the industry.

    On the other hand, for the last several years they have begun cluttering the parks with upcharge experiences (many of which are VERY expensive). Further, the Safari Park has nearly been ruined. Keep in mind that the bulk of the animals in that park are in massive enclosures and you can only see them if you take the special tram or truck tours (both of which now cost extra - hundreds extra in the case of the truck tours).

    At one time, the Wild Animal Park included a monorail tour around the entire enclosures area. It took about an hour and was worth every penny of the gate admission. Today, that tour has been broken in half and a loud and fume belching tractor pulls a tram (the old monorail was a silent and clean electric system) around the half of the enclosures closest to the Wild Africa section of the park. The other half of the enclosures can only be seen by purchasing expensive Segway or truck tours. Great if you can afford it, but pulling nearly half the park out of the public eye for the average guest . . . UNACCEPTABLE!!!

    It is heart breaking that Zoo executives don't understand what made that park special. They literally ripped the heart of the park out and only half replaced it with something not only inferior but environmentally damaging (one of the zoo's missions is environmental responsibility). The hypocrisy is infuriating.

    If they didn't do such a great job with their breeding program there, the Safari Park would be a total failure.

    As a result of all the terrible changes at the Safari Park, we can NOT currently recommend spending your time or money visiting. We suggest you visit the San Diego Zoo instead. We hope that situation changes soon. Perhaps it is time for Zoo directors to look for a change in leadership of the parks before the World Famous San Diego Zoo suffers the same fate as the old Wild Animal Park.

    If you ever get the opportunity to express your opinions about the Safari Park to Zoo officials or via survey, please be sure to speak up and demand the return of a silent and environmentally safe public conveyance around the enclosures. That is the only way this park can become whole again.
    [/RANT]
  10. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DisneyResort
    Last year Disneyland's attendance was 16 million. Universal Studios Hollywood was 5 million. They're not going to turn down any extra traffic that the Southern California Citypass can bring them, even with the added excitement of Wizarding World and The Transformers ride, they'll still rely heavily on the promotion Disneyland can give them.
    It's also important to point out that, of the top ten most visited cities in the United States, Anaheim is number four. Los Angeles isn't even in the top ten. That means the majority of people vacationing in Southern California are staying in Anaheim. Universal Studios Hollywood is going to need that push from Disney to send people 35 miles up the road.

    Source: Forbes lists Top 10 most-visited U.S. cities
    While true that Universal and the other City Pass parks currently benefit from Disneyland's association with the program, Universal won't need City Pass (and perhaps won't be able to accommodate it) once Potter opens.

    During this terrible economic downturn, Disney World attendance has declined. HOWEVER, Universal Orlando Resort has significantly increased and has sustained at record levels for the resort as a result of Wizarding World. In addition, hotels around Universal have seen their highest sustained occupancy rates ever, while hotels around Walt Disney World continue to struggle (Disney World's own hotels hold their own just fine).

    We fully expect Harry Potter to boost Universal Hollywood's attendance on its own, without the help of Disneyland, City Pass or anything else. In addition, hotels around Universal are likely to not be able to meet the demand. Universal only has two official hotels of its own and a few partner hotels. That is the weak link in the expansion.

    Unlike Orlando, where people are shaving a day off of their WDW trips to visit Universal, we don't expect Potter to hurt Disneyland Resort. WDW tries to capture guests for 3 or 4 days. Disneyland only has two parks, so there is much more room for other parks to coexist here in SoCal than in cutthroat Orlando.

    Also, Universal and Disneyland attendance can not be directly correlated (as Disneyland and DCA can't) because the parks have MUCH different capacity. Universal Studios Hollywood has been having solid attendance since the opening of Kong 360 and massive attendance gains during Halloween that have far surpassed their projections. Universal's main concern will NOT be trying to get people to the park, but rather what to do with them once they arrive (in other words - lack of ride capacity). There is simply no way that the park will be able to meet the demand of the massive crowds who will want to visit Harry Potter. At first, they will likely have to do all ticket sales in advance, or charge separate for Wizarding World to control traffic flow. The park is simply too small to absorb a massive attendance spike and already comes to gridlock conditions on busy summer days. There isn't enough hotel rooms, parking, walkway space, additional attractions restaurant tables, or ANY other theme park amenity to absorb the projected demand. By itself, Wizarding World could double or triple Universal's current attendance - an impossible amount of traffic to accommodate without significant changes to the resort.

    I do hope that Universal comes up with a comprehensive plan to add some huge capacity rides, shows, restaurants, shops and facilities in addition to their new Wizarding World. Without it, their biggest problem will be their own success.

    Goodwill only goes so far. If you love a new ride but had to spend 8 hours to ride it and then saw nothing else for the day because the lines were all 3 hours, what sort of word of mouth would you give the experience (even if the attraction itself was the best in the world)?

    Universal ABSOLUTELY needs to be working on building high volume attractions right now, BEFORE potter opens. I couldn't be more excited about a theme park project. I think it will do the sort of record breaking business that will change the SoCal amusement industry . . . but I foresee disastrous consequences if Universal doesn't address their capacity problems.

    A Dusty Sage has spoken!
  11. crankypage's Avatar
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    Harry Potter is of course the larger overall franchise, probably because it appeals to both genders for a wide range of ages (maybe, help me out 9-15 year olds) but don't discount Cars, even if you didn't like the movies the thing is a marketing juggernaut. My son (5 at the time) had no interest in pictures with characters UNTIL he saw Lightning McQueen...
  12. Wreckless Abrandon's Avatar
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    Love the fact that HP is coming to Hollywood! Hate the fact that Water World may disappear. USH can't lose their only stunt show! It's what makes a movie real! Actual stunts... heck even the visual diarrhea known as Transformers used actual stunt people! And that mural just looks cheap and tacky for Transformers. I hope that's not complete yet.

    I'm not even a fan of Cars and that place looks amazing so far! The sheer scale is just... WOW.
  13. SummerInFL's Avatar
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    Great update! I love the progress of Carsland, especially for those that can't get there to see it in person!
  14. yoyoflamingo's Avatar
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    Fantastic Update, as usual! It just gives us another reason to stay longer when we visit CA to experience HP onoce it opens. Can't wait for it!
  15. KENfromOC's Avatar
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    Amazing - Universal announces a great new addition and for some reason the trio of political idiots have to get their ugly mugs into it. Zev, Moonbeam and the weeble-big eared face of Mayor Tony Villar (his real name - like everything else about him, he's a fake!). They has nothing to do with this, so why are they included? Hopefully Jerry will not be at the opening of Cars Land!
  16. DisWedWay's Avatar
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    Glad to hear there's Thunder in the mountains again over Rainbow Ridge. That means the Thunderbird God is hard at work for the Holidays. Love the facts and comparisons between Universal and Disney parks and the fact that Anaheim is no 4 on the guest list of favorite destination city's. Would love to hear some number comparisons between all the Disney parks. I remember in the late 1970's having a management meeting and talking about why Disney should not build in Las Vegas which is the no. 1 city destination now in another pole on line. I remember the answer well. That pole shows Orlando at no. 3 and Anaheim at no.7? I do trust the Forbes list more however which puts Vegas at no.6 and Orlando at no.1. PD
    Updated 12-09-2011 at 01:56 PM by DisWedWay
  17. Timekeeper's Avatar
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    Nice update! I thought the name change from Animal Park to Safari Zoo was bad, but it got worse internally!? And now, slowly but surely, the main San Diego Zoo is succumbing to the problems that plague the Safari Zoo Animal Park too?! Bring back the old "Animal Park" name and the slow monorails! Don't corrupt and cheapen the main Zoo with licensed characters!


    Timekeeper
  18. Aladdin's Avatar
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    I agree with Wreckless. I hate to see the only stunt show at Universal go, escially one with such a huge ending. Is it possible though, that some sort of HUGE Harry Potter live action special effects show could go into the Waterworld theater, with some even more amazing effects? If they could do this, then I would be ok with this part (I'm still sad that the Wild West Show is gone.) Losing too much variety is also a bad thing.

    It is great to see Universal Hollywood bringing in some things to freshen their park, and parts have become old, don't belong, and need to be removed (the kids water play area), some need to be downsized but not necessarily completely removed. Shrek 3D does take up too much room. Isn't there some way to downsize these 3D theaters, keep the best part of the themeing, but in a smaller theater space, create more of a personal interation with the guests.

    It's sad that Universal thinks they have to get rid of several attractions, in order to bring new attractions. I still miss ET, and wish they would have just upgraded certain parts of that attraction. Some attractions, even older ones DO play an important part. It would be like DL getting rid of Snow, Peter Pan and Mr. Toad! ET was that important of an attraction to Universal.
  19. Baloo's Avatar
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    the harry potter addition is great news but if they open the land with only one attraction that has limited capacity then it will be a nightmare. unless your a huge potter fan i doubt the regular guest will line up for hours to walk in a store. if the location of this land is where most people think the park is going to suffer from the removal of two high capacity attractions.

    the increase in attendance they see when potter opens will be huge but one of the main reasons will be because of lower numbers between now and the premier opening.

    I think USH will have similar patterns as orlando. Big attendance increase reported because of previous low numbers then once all the fans invaded the place the numbers will again dip somewhat. The good thing is that if this addition follows the same pattern as in Orlando, revenue should increase pretty well allowing for future additions
  20. Indiana Joe's Avatar
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    I heard on the radio on NPR the other day, that Harry Potter will replace T2:3D. Not sure where they got that info from, but take it for what it's worth
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