What would you do? Bringing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Universal Studios Hollywood
If you were running the Universal Studios theme parks, wouldn't you want to replicate the success you've had with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
at all your Universal theme parks?
I know I would.
If you were a theme park fan (or Harry Potter fan), living in or near Southern California, wouldn't you want a Harry Potter theme park near you, at Universal Studios Hollywood?
I really know that I would. (Universal Hollywood is the closest theme park to my house, and as you probably know by now, I crave me some of that Butterbeer.)
Obviously, there are contracts and rights issues that will determine whether Universal can bring Harry Potter to its other theme parks. But beyond the work the lawyers do, there will be logistical issues, as well.
When Universal bought its property for an Orlando theme park, it learned a lesson from Disney, and bought more land than it needed for a single park. While Universal didn't buy nearly as much property as Disney did when it built Walt Disney World, Universal obtained more than enough space to develop a second theme park (which became Islands of Adventure - home of the Wizarding World), with plenty of room between attractions for future expansion.
But that's not the case back in Hollywood, at Universal's original theme park. Universal developed its Los Angeles-area property as a movie studio in the 1910s, later adding a Studio Tour and then a theme park around the tour's entrance at the top of a mountain on the studio property. There's simply no significant open space for expansion within or next to the theme park on Universal's property. If Universal wants to develop a new attraction for its Hollywood theme park, it must replace an existing facility within the park.
So... what goes if Harry Potter is to move in? What would you do to bring Harry Potter to Universal Studios Hollywood?
Let's take a look from an aerial view:
You're looking at the upper lot of Universal Studios Hollywood. The large white half-circle to the right is the Gibson Amphitheater (which, technically, is not part of the theme park). The blue space below it and to the left is the water tank in the Waterworld show theater. Below that in the photo is CityWalk - the large structure in the lower right corner is the movie theater complex. (Hold your mouse over the photo and you should get pop-up labels.)
At the end of CityWalk, in the lower right corner of the photo, partially obscured by a palm tree shadow, is the Universal globe. The pale red pathway that leads up and slightly to the right from there is the entrance to the theme park. The large fan-shaped building in the middle on the left side of the photo is the Terminator 2: 3-D theater.
If you look above the T2 plaza, you'll see a dark shadow over some green space. That's because the T2 plaza is built on top of the Frankenstein parking structure that hangs off the side of this mountain. It's the plaza/parking structure that's casting that shadow over what's actually the Jurassic Park ride on the lower lot. The Revenge of the Mummy building is just above that, in the upper left corner of the photo. Those blueish lines you see emerging from there - first up and to the right, then down and to the right, are the Starway escalators heading back up to the upper lot, where they end just between The Simpsons Ride (on the right) and the Special Effects Stage in the old Castle Theater (on the left).
That's what we're working with here. If you want to find space for a Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you've got to replace something on this map.
My two choices? Ditch either the amphitheater on the right, or the Terminator 2 plaza on the left.
Personally, I'd choose to redevelop the T2 plaza. Why? First, I think the Terminator franchise is less valuable to Universal going forward than continuing to offer a 6,000-seat live music venue. Plus, the T2 plaza's already well placed for a British-themed attraction. There's some London street scenery just to the right of the T2 plaza that could be repurposed, as Universal Orlando repurposed its existing Lost Continent to help develop its Wizarding World.
I'm proposing that the Hollywood version of Harry Potter be different than the Orlando version, and that it should be Diagon Alley, set in London, rather than the Hogsmeade village built in Orlando. In this plan, the current T2 building would become the site for an Escape from Gringotts ride, inspired by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
The Leaky Cauldron would stand at the entrance to this new land, serving Butterbeer and other English-themed fare from Orlando's Three Broomsticks. (The Leaky Cauldron probably would be a retheme for the existing International Cafe.) Shops would include Ollivander's, Flourish & Blotts (and the exit to the Gringotts ride) and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
There's a room Universal uses as a banquet hall behind the House of Horrors, just to the lower right of the T2 plaza, that could be repurposed as a Borgin & Burkes dark magic theater, at the end of Knockturn Alley, to provide a second attraction in this smaller Wizarding World.
The upside for this plan would be the creation of a complementary attraction to the Orlando Wizarding World, giving Harry Potter fans a reason to visit a second Universal theme park, rather than a duplication that wouldn't draw fans from across the country and across the Atlantic. The downside would be the exclusion of the iconic Hogwarts Castle and the already-famous Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. But if Universal Creative could create a ride of similar quality in Gringotts, I don't think that exclusion would cripple this project.
So, what do you think?
Do you think Universal should try to bring Harry Potter to Hollywood?
If you do, do you think Universal should keep the Hogsmeade theme, or try instead Diagon Alley (or something else)?
If you want to see Harry Potter in Hollywood, which current USH attractions should it replace?
I'd love to hear your plans, in the comments.
Previously on Theme Park Insider: More "What would you do?"
I agree wholeheartedly. Terminator is out. And those streets are just sitting there. Other option is to buy a whole other property and start fresh. Say closer to Magic Mountain or we have tons of room up here in the Antelope Valley.
I think Universal needs to really go big if it's going to add Harry Potter. I wouldn't just get rid of one attraction - I'd get rid of 3!
I think diagon alley is already in the planning stages in Orlando. The park is completely different so take a completely different approach. Do a Potter museum like the one being built in London and make a themed ride. Put the focus on the movie making side of things.
Why stop at Universal Hollywood? Should WWOHP be included in Singapore also?
I think Singapore needs to get its park fully operating and officially open before anyone talks about expanding it.
While I'm a huge fan of Terminator 2 as a movie, I agree that that attraction can go... I've always had a problem with that show as it starts with you being part of the show, then eventually back as only a spectator, then back to being part of the show... it couldn't make up its mind.
I agree 110% with your idea Robert! In fact I was just talking about that same thing with some friends the other day. Having just went to Orlando and revisiting both Universal parks, I realize just how much worse the Hollywood park and rides really are in comparison. It's downright sad. The mummy ride in Hollywood vs. Orlando is no competition. The small amount of rides at Hollywood is also a negative point for the park. They need to do something more than a 90 second 3D King Kong attraction that you wait an hour to see in the backlot tour.
If you see Google Earth, the piece of land where the castle was built was a very small one. The rest of the Harry Potter area was built on part of the Lost Continent. If Universal gets rid of the amphitheater (the castle could fit there) and of Waterworld (the Hogsmeade village could fit there) then they could duplicate it (without the rollercoasters of course)
I love your idea, Robert. Using a different part of the Harry Potter universe is smart on both a creative and economic level.
The Special Effects Stage and the stage next to it would be prime locations. If Hogwarts were built there it would even look imposing ( at least from below ) because of its location up on a hill. I vaguely recall shows in these theaters over the years, mostly a Frankenstein show in the '70's and a Conan one in the 80's. Every other show that's played there ( Creature of the Black Lagoon: The Musica, etc. ) are absolutely dead to me. The animal actor show is cool but all those other Beetlejuice and Fear Factor things? They're just dead to me. Move the animal actor show to the old western stage or better yet, reopen that gunfight stunt show as well.
Here's my plan: I wouldn't build an entire replica of Orlando's WWoHP, or even Diagon Alley; I would just replace T2-3D with Forbidden Journey (although the building would have to be expanded somehow), and place a Butterbeer cart (or two if it gets REALLY popular) outside the attraction. Done.
I think they get rid of Waterworld, place the castle/ HPFJ ride in its place, build Hogsmeade along the path to Waterworld, and feature a nighttime show including the castle in the story. You could have seating across a small river like fantasmic in DHS with the castle being where the island in fantasmic sits.
It would be less expensive and easier if they just place a Butterbeer cart in front of a wall with the castle and village painted over it.
Sorry but for self-proclaimed theme park geeks, you lot don't seem to know much.
I would also like to add (I made the previous anon post, too) my thoughts on Universal Hollywood.
The problem with building anything on top of the parking structure is that it can barely handle T2 let alone a Gringots coaster type ride.
Terminator 2:3-D rocks, but if Harry Potter would come to the West Coast than it may have to move on. Tearing down the T2:3-D attraction, Parisian plaza, Globe theater, House of Horrors, Coke Soak, and the old Wild West arena should dedicate about half of the upper lot to this new Wizarding World.
My idea for Harry Potter would be take out Water World and anything else in the area that is expendable. Then build Hogsmead or Diagon alley in the spot with the London train station. A train will then take you to the corner of the park where the War of the Worlds is located and Jurassic park movie prop. Right there you can build hogswart castle and other buildings. You can use the technogoly used by King Kong 360 around the train track to pull off England country side of any season and change different adventures while traveling to Hogwarts.
I think that USH is fine the way it is!
Yeah, just shut down the 10th most popular theme park in America. If USH is a failure, so are the entire Six Flags and Cedar Fair chains, as well as all but one of the SeaWorld theme parks.
The anonymous comment stating that USH is a failure is quite snarky. No one likes a know-it-all, and this is just an exercise in brainstorming for ideas. Contracts can be amended... if the price is right, other parks can get HP regardless of the current "USO only" contract.
I just want a whole Harry Potter theme park :P
The anonymous user made a good point, but Joshua made a better point :D
I am going to USH for the movie studio, not the rides.
Thanks, Andy. Nothing makes me feel bigger than ganging up on a faceless opponent.
@ Brandon - Thumbs up. Nice job.
Is it sad that Water World the stunt show is infinitely more entertaining than its source material? I honestly think that the stunt show is the best part of that movie.
I think Universal wants attractions that are unique to each park, hence their refusal to add Spiderman to the Hollywood park. Right now, Potter must be attracting people from the west coast, which wouldn't happen if they duplicated the land in Califoria.
If they were giving up on USH, they wouldn't build Transformers there. That attraction must cost at least $100 million.
I would not give Rowling or Spielberg another penny and rather spend the money on the attractions itsself. So no Wizzarding world for me at all.
I think if they ever brought HP to California...it shouldnt be a replica of the one in Orlando. People will be more likely to travel to Cali just to see something different. Most of the GP would say..OH, we did that alreay..let's go someplace else. Us enthusiasts would go anyway... I do think it should be either a different experience, or a different franchise all together.
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