What would you do? Bringing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Universal Studios Hollywood
Published: March 7, 2011 at 9:32 AM
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?"