Published: December 2, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Now that I've gotten over my nerd rage (thank goodness for unfiltered forums elsewhere), I think I can look at this with a little more balance.
Jaws is a great ride, but when's the last time you had to wait more than 10 minutes in the off-season? I can't remember the last time it wasn't a straight walk-on. Factor in how much the ride probably costs to operate (the boats, having a cast member on every ride vehicle, the pyro effects) and you have an attraction that probably costs more to operate than the crowds warrant. Factor into that the fact that the film is 36 years old (and I say that through gritted teeth, since it's easily my favorite film of all time) and you've got an attraction that's ripe for the chopping block.
Meanwhile, over at Islands you have a license to print money based on a themed area, some re-themed rides, and one new attraction. While we may think the idea is crass and myopic, it doesn't change the fact that Harry Potter has taken IOA from a has-been to a contender (and please understand that I love the park. But ten years without a new attraction is practically unsustainable in a market as competitive as Orlando). The suits see that Harry Potter money and they want more.
So while Robert scoffs at the Harry Potter rumor, I can't see a single reason (apart from the aforementioned myopic crassness) why they wouldn't want to double down with Potter attractions on both ends of Citiwalk. I don't think it's a great idea and I honestly think it messes with the whole theme of Studios, but when you're dealing with the money men, the money is going to win.
And here's the thing that they know - it doesn't ultimately matter what any of us think. We'll still go. Just like people who hate Avatar will still have to go to Animal Kingdom. Just like people who hate Harry Potter still went to Islands (and begrudgingly rode and enjoyed Forbidden Journey). This may not be the greatest long term plan for the parks, but this is still the same company that built Islands in a manner where true expansion was never a viable option.
As for Transformers, I think they're going to sit on that one. As Robert mentioned in the first response, the technology is basically Spider-Man 3.0. Just as Disney balks at adding Indiana Jones at DHS because of Dinosaur, Universal will balk at putting in two rides with such incredibly similar ride systems next-door to each other. They'll sit on it until they're good and ready to let Disney have the Marvel brand and they'll be able to make a faster conversion thanks to the current HD upgrades.
Going back to the train going through the backlot, I have to ask why that's a problem. What's getting filmed nowadays at USF that would really be disrupted by a train passing through? Now, I don't think we're talking about a train like at MK, with steam and loud whistles and all that. If I was planning this (and thank goodness I'm not), I'd make the train its own E-ticket attraction. It won't be a real train, of course. It's a ride vehicle. You don't have to worry about what it looks like backstage because there aren't any windows - all the "windows" will be HD monitors synchronized to show our journey from whatever will be at USF over to Hogsmeade at IOA. Yes, in my entirely made up version of the entirely made up train, the whole thing is nothing more than a modified next-gen version of the old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride. Onboard, you'll think you're traveling through tunnels and over bridges and it's all magical and OY watch out for those Dementors. Outside, you're in a slow moving vehicle chugging past an employee parking lot and a building holding Halloween Horror Nights props.
So to sum up for those of you who skimmed this (and why on earth wouldn't you skim this? What are you, some sort of masochist?):
1. Jaws had to go. Lack of interest trumps history.
2. I think the Harry Potter rumor is true.
3. I think Transformers will eventually replace Spidey.
4. I should never be allowed to design attractions.
I would be perfectly happy being completely and utterly wrong about 2 and 3 (feel free to debate my points, preferably with a better argument than "but I want this"). Ultimately, though, I think the temptation to double dip the Harry Potter crowd is going to prove too strong (hey, it worked for the WB with those last two movies, didn't it?).
EDITED TO ADD - I actually really like Aaron's suggestion about making a Dreamworks area to rival Disney's Pixar area (actually, I couldn't care less about Kung Fu Panda or Madagascar, but if a How to Train Your Dragon area was in the works I'd drive down and help them disassemble sharks next week). But would that become animation overkill when combined with Shrek and Despicable Me? I know it's silly for me to say that would be overkill when I just finished making an argument for two Harry Potter areas, but I think the Potter argument is overkill-proof because of the almighty dollar.