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Plans for Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida revealed

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Published: December 31, 2011 at 4:03 PM

For our final post of 2011, I leave you with a little holiday present: The plans for the new Harry Potter land in Universal Studios Florida.

A source was kind enough to allow me a look at the plans - and they do appear spectacular. Before I get into the details, though, let me clarify a few points.

First, these are labeled "Concept," and dated last month (November 2011). There's no sign that these plans have been revised, or approved by engineers, so I am assuming that they are initial concept plans. Even though they are quite detailed, they are far from final, and anyone who's been involved in attraction development can tell you that much can change in the development process.

Second, I've seen only detailed plans for the main attraction in the new land, which appears to be set in Gringotts Bank. I've seen rough detail of the rest of the new land, though, and picked out a few details here and there.

Third, every page is stamped "Confidential," so I'm not supposed to be looking at them or telling you about them, and I'm certainly not going to tell you where I got access to them, so don't even bother asking.

So let's get to it, shall we?

The plans occupy the space between the Fear Factor Live theater and the Disaster! show building on the northwest corner of the Universal Studios Florida property - basically all the land now occupied by the Jaws attraction and surrounding Amity carnival games and shops. The northernmost section of the plot - almost half the land within it - is planned for a massive show building, which will house the Gringotts ride.

On the southeastern portion of the plot, a second attraction is designated. I can't tell from the plans what this attraction will be, but its position is consistent with the rumor of a Hogwarts Express ride connecting the two Harry Potter land, as this attraction points into the back-of-house access road that runs straight into the rear of Sindbad theater where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is expanding into in Islands of Adventure.

For pedestrians in Universal Studios Florida, there appears to be a single point of entry into the new Harry Potter land, one that requires walking around a center obstacle inside what appears to be an enclosed space. This would fit with being a "secret entrance" to Diagon Alley, from the Harry Potter books and films. There also is what appears to be labeled an 8,900-square-foot restaurant building located immediately to the left of the entrance to the land. Could this be the Leaky Cauldron?

From the entry, there is a street that proceeds straight back to the rounded entrance facade of the Gringotts building.

Gringotts exterior
The Gringotts Bank exterior, from the Harry Potter films.

Diagon Alley and Gringotts exterior
Diagon Alley, looking down toward Gringotts, from Pottermore.

Besides the restaurant to the left, I can't tell from the plans I saw what will occupy the other spaces in the buildings along the sides of this main street, which I presume to be Diagon Alley. There is a small, 500-square-foot "walk-through attraction" listed on a spur street to the left of the Gringotts entry, a spur that leads to the entrance to the second attraction. (Another Ollivander's? Your guess is as good as mine.)

Now let's get to that Gringotts ride.

It looks like we can expect another elaborately themed walk-through queue tour, along the lines of what we got with Hogwarts Castle in the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter. From the "Entry Hall," the queue appears to leave the building into shaded, then covered, areas before re-entering into the large "Bankers Hall." The next room in the queue is "Vault Display," then the "Reading Room." From there it's into what's labelled "Office Hallway" before we reach "Bill Weasley's Office." The next feature is labelled "Elevators," which take us up a level in order to cross over the ride tracks to access the center load island.

There are two load channels for the ride, with loading on the center island, and unloading off to the outsides. The ride vehicles are twin, 12-person, open-air cars, arranged in three rows of four. Each row is placed slightly higher than the row in front of it, in a "stadium seating" effect. The look of the cars is very Victorian, with individual lap bars and six Dolby speakers per seat for on-ride audio.

Front view

Rear view

After the load platform, the two load channels merge to the south, then bearing to the left and entering Scene 1: "Turntable." In this scene, you'll face a brick wall, with two tunnel entrances, to the left and right. But before you proceed, the track below the first of the twin cars will drop from underneath that car. The track will come to rest at a 40-degree angle. Then, the track under the trailing car will begin to rise, matching the 40-degree angle of the leading car.

At that point, the two cars will drop in tandem into a third tunnel, below the tunnel on the right. Basically, we've just ridden a teeter-totter-like vertical track switch, attaching to the roller coaster track for our initial drop.

From there, we drop into Scene 2: "Dark Tunnel," a kinetic ride section with a small bunny hop and a hard right turn before we hit a block brake in preparation for Scene 3: "Ledge."

The Gringotts ride won't be a traditional roller coaster. It appears to be a hybrid roller coaster and motion-base ride, a la Spider-Man and Transformers. There are 3D projection screens throughout the ride, embedded in the rockwork of the tunnel walls, creating an illusion of open space, within which we'll watch battles taking place.

The first is in the Ledge scene, where some concept art shows a battle with wizards and giant-like creatures. The plans detail a shaker table under the track, and there's a waterfall effect at the end of the scene, including a fogscreen and water spritzers.

There's a slight free drop and turn to the left as we proceed through the waterfall, leading us into Scene 4: "Thief's Downfall." There are wind and heat effects in this scene, along with our first look at a dragon. Meanwhile, the ride's making a chicane-type turn to the left, then the right.

That leads us immediately into Scene 5: "Sirius Black's Vault." We hit a fog blast before entering the vault, where we see illuminated treasure ahead. The car makes a turn to the right, where the physical show scenery opens up a bit, with a large vault area with a flat 3D projection screen along the far wall. We then bear to the left, turning into Scene 6: "Ruins."

We're curving to the right through the rubble of what looks like a collapsed tunnel in this scene, which leads us into Scene 7: "Chasm." We're inside a large projection cone for this scene, which appears to involve Harry, Ron, Hermoine and… could it be? Voldemort? (The concept art I saw wasn't clear - it almost never is.) I do see a heat curtain and cold-air blast noted in this scene, though. (Shades of Revenge of the Mummy?)

From there, we launch into another dark tunnel (Scene 8), which banks up and around to the left, taking us into Scene 9: "Passage," our finale, where Harry and company bid us farewell before we return to the load/unload platform.

And yes, we do exit through a retail shop.

That's all I've got from these initial concept plans. They lack any information about the narrative of the ride or the imagery we'll see on those projection scenes. But the plans do detail a unique hybrid ride system that takes us through scenes that set up a potentially ambitious narrative.

So, what do you think?

Me? I can't wait to ride.

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Readers' Opinions

From KJ Simpson on December 31, 2011 at 4:24 PM
AMAZING! A great leak to close out 2011- thanks, Robert!
From 208.54.85.195 on December 31, 2011 at 4:28 PM
I think someone doesn't exactly value their job at universal. Otherwise, cool story bro!
From Tim Chatlos on December 31, 2011 at 4:35 PM
Oh my! This is a heck of a coup for TPI! Can't wait to see how these plans play out.
From 72.202.156.121 on December 31, 2011 at 4:36 PM
I think it sounds awesome! Can't wait!
From Melissa Donahue on December 31, 2011 at 4:37 PM
YESSSSSSSS! Just the info I was wanting to hear as I celebrate the new year in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter tonight! My husband has been taking the final photographs in Amity Village over the past few days, and we can't wait for the new Potter addition! Thanks for the story, Robert!
From 97.102.131.7 on December 31, 2011 at 4:40 PM
Very cool! I'm impressed how USF is going to step up and really put some big bucks into this upgrade. I hate to see Jaws go. I will always have fond memories of the ride, but you have to stay current and the Jaws ride, well it "Jumped the shark" a couple years ago.
From guillermo diaz on December 31, 2011 at 4:46 PM
I Hate it with a passion. i never liked potter and universal will become potter world. they had a great opportunity yo make new atractions based on new licenses and got greedy with harry.
From 108.198.188.63 on December 31, 2011 at 5:14 PM
I agree with the comment above^^ Potter is great, but this is just exploitation. This idea/land is such a turnoff for me. This dark ride better be good tho.
From 71.50.160.169 on December 31, 2011 at 5:14 PM
US needed something over there. It has really been getting lame. When the wife and I went there last year the week after Thanksgiving, I bet we didn't see 200 people max. IOA had WWoHP so it was packed. But I might agree, this sort of seems like they want to change it to Harry Potter World, instead of Universal Studios.
From 108.198.188.63 on December 31, 2011 at 5:19 PM
This looks like Revenge of the Mummy: Potterized. Unfortunately,Mummy never had staying power for me.
From 200.117.55.214 on December 31, 2011 at 5:44 PM
im happy that im not the only one not pleased with this expansion, i would have been ok with it if the potter expansion took place in IOA, its a missed opportunity :( ...... Disney made the right call with avatar, this will only get the people that go to IOA for potter to universal, but will not atract new pleople. sorry if my english is bad :)
From Anthony J on December 31, 2011 at 6:07 PM
TPI broke the plans for HP2.0?? That's major! Congrats and thank you!
From José María Sandoval on December 31, 2011 at 6:08 PM
The ride look awesome! and a multi attractions land!!
From 72.189.120.151 on December 31, 2011 at 6:27 PM
Kudos to Universal - once again, they've stolen Disney's thunder! Nobody will be talking about tonight's leap-year announcement after *this* 'leak'!
From 98.183.16.69 on December 31, 2011 at 7:14 PM
Not excited. There is already have Wizarding World. No need for yet another huge Potter area. Universal Orlando should just be called Harry Potter Resort.
From Kevin C on December 31, 2011 at 7:21 PM
If executed as it's currently presented, it's going to be even better than the current WWOHP, which is a bit too cramped. Hopefully they'll get rid of the ridiculous Hogwarts Express decoy and move Ollivander's to its proper home in Diagon Alley!

This is all going to take some time, but good to see some love being poured into the original park!

From 71.181.244.128 on December 31, 2011 at 7:37 PM
Haters gonna hate on the best book series in YEARS! And also we can't help that Harry Potter is better that Gaysney can ever THINK of being! Go Harry Potter!
From 69.119.112.23 on December 31, 2011 at 7:48 PM
Why is everyone assuming this won't be in Islands of Adventure? Last time I went to Universal, I only did WWOHP but as far as I remember the Jurassic Park ride is in IOA just over the bridge you cross to exit the Harry Potter World. I am super excited about this, especially since I have wanted a Gringotts ride since the scene in the final film. I can see how some people would be annoyed at Universal becoming a total "Harry Potter Park" but I'm fine with that! Universal was never a draw for me when I went to Florida, it was always just Disney, but ever since going to WWOHP in July I can't wait to go back. The more they add to it the better, for entertainment and to lessen the crowds a bit. I don't think Universal is getting greedy with Potter at all, they are just capitalizing on what it popular. Since WWHOP opened, Universal has experienced record attendance, even beating out Disney on daily attendance on certain days. Harry Potter still has a lot of draw and still will for several more years, especially when the park is expanded. And lets face it, a lot of the rides they have now are EXTREMELY out of date. The Posieden ride is a joke and the Spiderman one is kind of boring. Sure ET, Jurassic Park, etc are classics, but the kids today who are going to the park are for more interested in and familiar with Harry Potter than those other movies.

The only gripe I have with this plan is, if I am wrong and the Harry Potter stuff will be split between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios is that now everybody who visits will have to buy the two park pass, which is double the price. Of course I understand the business strategy behind this decision, Universal will make loads more money because nobody will visit and see just half the Harry Potter stuff, but it is a little unfair, especially since a lot of people only go to do WWOHP without doing the rest of the rides. Perhaps they will create some special "Harry Potter" ticket which gives visiters access to both parks but only to the Harry Potter sections in each. They could use wristbands and those with access to the whole park wear one color while people who only have access to Potter wear another. This probably won't happen, but its a nice thought!

From 69.119.112.23 on December 31, 2011 at 7:49 PM
oops, let me amend my last comment. I re-read the article and realized it said the "Jaws" attraction, not Jurassic Park, so I guess that the new land WILL be in Universal Studios. My Mistake!
From 76.110.91.124 on December 31, 2011 at 9:11 PM
Sounds great! But, one thing... the area you are talking about (where they are getting rid of Jaws, between fear factor and disaster) is IN THE OTHER UNIVERSAL PARK. How does that work? The Harry Potter part of the park is in the Islands of Adventure park...
From Dominick D on December 31, 2011 at 9:40 PM
Gringotts seems amazing! However, are we sure it's not going to the Lost Continent?
From Robert Niles on December 31, 2011 at 9:48 PM
The "Universal Studios Florida" stamped on the plans, and the initial pages showing the land being sited next to Fear Factor Live confirm the location. It's replacing Jaws.
From Amy Smith on December 31, 2011 at 11:06 PM
YES! I have been waiting for the Gringotts coaster announcement since the movie premiered! Woohoo! I'm not really sure what Voldemort would be doing in Gringotts with Harry, Ron, and Hermione but it's okay because I'm getting my Potter Mummy I wanted all along. :)
From Tony Duda on December 31, 2011 at 11:08 PM
I looked at Google Earth and measured it as 1800 ft from the southwest corner of Jaws to the north edge of Sindbad along a direct road. It would be quite a feat to build a themed railroad connector between the two with the whole route lined by sound stages or similar buildings.
From 24.30.24.167 on December 31, 2011 at 11:21 PM
I just thought I would check Mugglenet tonight after watching the ball drop and the clock change. I didn't think this great news would come up. This is AMAZING! A great New Year's surprise! I can't wait to ride! Who knows what else is going to take place to keep the Harry Potter books and films alive? I'm excited!
From Robert Niles on January 1, 2012 at 9:16 AM
Tony, the rumor I've heard - for which I found no supporting information in the plans I saw - was that the train would be without "real" windows - just LCD screens that would play filmed scenes of English countryside, to create the illusion of traveling from London to Hogsmeade and back. All Universal would need then is to lay track down the access road, which I presume would remain closed during operating hours.
From 98.82.225.219 on December 31, 2011 at 11:33 PM
to the one that said they would just have harry potter tickets . i dont think so . how would they stop the other people from entering harry potter.
From Amy Smith on January 1, 2012 at 12:00 AM
^^ what he said. ;) However, that would require the Hogwarts express to stop functioning on Mardi Gras and Macy's parade times because that road is also how the parade marches out of the storage building and into the park. I'm also not sure it would be feasible for that road access to be shut for so many hours everyday (manager parking lots require access to the road among other things) and think it more likely that one lane goes by the wayside for the express and the road becomes a one lane, one way road.
From 67.85.114.34 on January 1, 2012 at 1:14 AM
I am one of the biggest Potter fans ever. But, I am not very pleased with this announcement. First off, why is the new land in Universal Studios Florida? It should take over the rest of the Lost Continent area in the Islands of Adventure. There is pretty much almost nothing to see in the Lost Continent other than the Sinbad and Poseidon shows. The Lost Continent has enough space for a Diagon Alley replica, a Gringotts ride, and maybe even for one or two other attractions. While I didn't really care when announced that they were closing JAWS, I was hoping that they were going to replace it with a new water ride. Second off, it sounds to me like they are slowly turning "Universal Orlando Resort" into "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Resort." Don't get me wrong. I left Universal Orlando highly impressed with the Wizarding World when I went this past summer. But I have been a big fan of Universal Orlando since before the Wizarding World was even announced. Also, the Wizarding World wasn't the only thing that I was highly impressed about when I visited this past summer. I absolutely loved the Spider-Man ride, the Jurassic Park ride, the E.T. ride, the Simpsons ride, and the Mummy ride. If Universal continues to expand the Wizarding World into areas other than the Lost Continent, all these rides will soon be gone. Third off, Universal is getting a bit greedy. Right now, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the most popular theme park area in the world. People from all over the globe are making trips to Universal just to visit the Wizarding World. This means that the Islands of Adventure theme park is selling more tickets than ever. Add in the revenue of the merchandise they are selling in the Wizarding World alone and they are looking better than ever. Not only that, but they are making another Wizarding World at Universal Studios Hollywood, so when it opens, they will look even better. They are now getting greedy because by building the new Harry Potter area at Universal Studios Florida, guests will have to buy admissions to both parks in order to get the full "Harry Potter" experience. In my opinion, that will just make them look bad. My only other gripe is the fact that the only entrance to Diagon Alley will be through an indoor restaurant. I understand that they are trying to make the "Harry Potter" experience as real as possible. But if you've been to the Wizarding World, than you know what the crowds are like. If the only entrance will really be through a restaurant, an enclosed area, than it might just be impossible to even get to Diagon Alley. The only thing I like is the new Gringotts ride. It sounds like it will be loads of fun!
From Domenik Jost on January 1, 2012 at 1:40 AM
In response to the train connecting the two parks, all Universal would have to do is build a monorail similar to one used at the WDW parks. 2 Stations, one or two rails that are above the ground yet low enough to stay behind cover of the park buildings. Like Robert said, they would just have to install some sort of LED or LCD or w/e kind of display technology (i know they are a fan of projection and domes at Universal) to make it appear as though you are really traveling to "Hogwarts" from "London" and 9 3/4 Platform. So the trains don't even have to look anything like the Hogwarts express at all on the outside. You can easily mock up a loading platform with train to look like the Hogwarts Express and while you board you never realize that the ride train doesn't actually look like it. Gotta love Facades!

And also to add to the Ollivanders being larger over at USF, the idea is to have 1 queue line and 3 different "show" rooms where the wand choosing display/show would happen like in the current Ollivanders in Hogsmead (hopefully this will make the line move faster!). And to those saying Ollivanders belongs in Diagon Alley, why yes it does, but there's also a branch located in Hogsmead in the stories (at least that's the way I remember it being).

From Marc Benz on January 1, 2012 at 3:58 AM
Also, they just could elevate the access road and have the train tracks underneath it.

A local funplace had an attraction, where you could do a simulated train ride through the french countryside. That was like 20 years ago and they used projections, but together with some movements and vibrations of the train car, it was quite convincing and with todays HD technology, it probably would work quite well.

From duncan henny on January 1, 2012 at 6:33 AM
this is great news makes sense to have harry potter london part of the universe at the studios good for them good for us glad these rumours from weeks ago have turned out to be true and with proper proof now thanks robert :)
From 99.116.228.197 on January 1, 2012 at 7:14 AM
It is still the old song and dance Universal and Disney competing against each other. Remember when Walter Elias Disney was drawing Oswald the Lucky Rabbit guess who he was working for hmm BIG mistake that they made. The two have been major rivals since then.
From 99.178.146.52 on January 1, 2012 at 7:44 AM
Now universal and Disney are on the same level
From guillermo diaz on January 1, 2012 at 8:05 AM
Good for who? for the people that like potter, i did not protest when the announce the world of harry potter on IOA, it made sense, this does not, they had a chance to attract a new demographics with a new license (tons to pick from: transformers, the hobbit that is comming soon, animated movies like how to train your dragon). This is great for harry fans, for all others it will fell like potter world. Im very dissapointed in universal, i visit florida once every year ( have been since 1994) and for the last 4 year the only parks i went to were IOA and universal studios, this changes everything. It will no longer be IOA and Universal studios anymore, it will be the wizaring world of harry potter world studios. Sorry if it seems im ranting, i love theme parks and immerse myself in the lands they provide, and harry potter is not one of those. More dissapointed i can not be in a park i have defended to dead, not anymore.
From Seth Kubersky on January 1, 2012 at 8:10 AM
@Amy Smith: That is precisely why the old Hard Rock Cafe was recently demolished, and a new parade warehouse built behind Simpsons/MIB - to allow parade traffic (and elements of the new lagoon show) on the opposite side of the park. Hogwarts Express will happen, if for no other reason than to compell people to buy 2-park tickets.
From Jay Glenn on January 1, 2012 at 8:12 AM
Whatever happened to the theme "Ride The Movies?" I mean you can argue and say well they are movies. However, they were books first. I'm not a Harry Potter fan so this does not excite me in the least. I'm questioning the crowd control and ticket sales now. If this "train" is built one ticket would have to cover both parks. Am I correct? Which means higher ticket prices. Well I miss Jaws already. I grew up on that ride. Hopefully these new plans work out for everyone.
From 69.47.149.246 on January 1, 2012 at 8:50 AM
People people.... Why are you complaining so much about this. You know just because YOU don't like the Harry Potter park doesn't mean a lot of other people feel the same way. This is the best idea I have heard in the theme park industry ever since the Walt Disney World Florida Project. Yeah its more harry potter, BUT look at all the fans Harry Potter has. Its another flipin Star Wars. They are going to make more millions of this. It will not only sell more tickets, but also sell a lot more merch.... think about it; wands and butter beer being sold at two parks instead of just one. This will also force people to stay at the resort for the duration of their vacation. Please don't hate Universal for trying to be a destination resort. Disney has done it for MANY MANY years. I think this is a better come back to Avatar. Disney is taking a HUGE risk with Avatar. Yeah, the first movie did VERY VERY well in the box office and dvd sales, BUT they are taking a risk and assuming the other two movies are going to do just as well. I hope they do and that we do get an amazing land off of Avatar because it will look beautiful and DAK does need more attractions desperately, but im sorry.... NOTHING can compete against the selling power of Harry Potter. It took a lot longer than expected because I think IOA is one of the best theme parks in the United States and one of the top competitors in the world, but Disney World has competition up the road, and it does bite back. Disney needs to build more to compete against this. A Fantasyland expansion (that really doesn't pack that much of a punch) and a expansion to another park that has needed it for a LONGGGGG time just to make it a full day park is not enough. Harry potter is an amazing move, and it will be fun and amazing to the theme park goer, and will make more money for Universal. In my opinion Universal Orlando shows a demonstration of Walt Disney's values a lot more than Walt Disney World resort does.... I know a lot of you will attack me for this statement, but it is the truth. Disney World is starting to become old and dull and neglected. A good example of it was the Space Mt update MK. I love WDW dont get me wrong because I love theme parks and everything, but over the last 8 years or so, Ive just been a lot more impressed with the strategy of Universal Orlando resort. Why can't WDW use the strategy Disneyland has been doing, and thats build build build until you win over the whole area.
From 68.24.131.88 on January 1, 2012 at 9:13 AM
So basically, you'll have to pay for TWO parks and not one? I don't understand why they can't just create a third park, calling it the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It would make It much simpler.
From Robert Niles on January 1, 2012 at 9:17 AM
Hat tip to Seth for an excellent point about the Hard Rock and the parade. It's all coming together, isn't it?
From 24.228.62.99 on January 1, 2012 at 10:14 AM
What a bunch of complainers! " Robert! I can't believe that universal would have the audacity to spend money and expand their park to upgrade and enhance our vacation experience!" I am not a big potter fan at all but I am a theme park fan, what we are getting is another state of the art ride experience, so embrace it. Potter is the best thing that ever happened to u.s. They now have more money to play with and expand, and if you don't like the fact that you will have to buy two tickets then pick one or the other, that's what theme parks do try to get you to enter their park. Now stop crying fork over the extra couple bucks for a park hopper and enjoy yourself. <@:)
From 166.216.162.180 on January 1, 2012 at 10:14 AM
The people complaining about this have no concept of how Universal functions or theme park development. Harry Potter does need an expansion, it is over crowded and we need room to spread the park guests out. Also, its not becoming an all Harry Potter park. They are removing one, dated area and converting it. Hate to break it to you, but Marvel will be changed over as well, Disney will have the rights to all of that soon. Latest I've heard on that is a LOTR themed area. Parks have to grow and change based on licensing agreements and what pulls in the most money. Harry Potter is what brought people back to IOA and they are wise to cash in on it. As a resident of Orlando, we benefit from the tourists coming and spending their money at our Parks. So I'm excited for Harry Potter expansion. I loved jaws but no one in the UK is saying 'lets fly to Florida to ride Jaws'...
From 217.44.57.109 on January 1, 2012 at 10:20 AM
Many people who visit 'Islands of Adventure' (IoA), only want to visit the 'Wizarding World of Harry Potter' (WWoHP). So Universal can't estimate how big crowds could be in IoA - 80% of people who buy tickets to IoA could visit the WWoHP, only. Meaning that 20% may be in the other six areas of IoA so crowds for rides and shops in WWoHP could be severely over capacity. Creating an extra area not only will split the crowd of Potter fans, theoretically, in half, but also allows Universal to split them off from their respectivie parks completely and make them one individual park with a separate ticket. This allows better crowd control and more value for money. It also means Universal own three different parks. Disney owning four, meaning Universal are catching up. I see it as a positive for Potter fans and non-Potter fans, who could previously be caught up in the crowds on their way through the WWoHP to get to the Jurassic Park area.

:)

From 99.252.249.131 on January 1, 2012 at 10:32 AM
I think it is awesome!! I couldn't wait to come and see WWOHP and when the new addition is added my daughter and myself will be back. Times change and what is cool and interesting changes...so hats off to Universal for keeping up with the times!! I love Harry Potter and look forward to whatever they do...just hurry up and do it so we can come back and visit...Loving you from Oshawa,Ont. Canada!!
From 189.139.129.141 on January 1, 2012 at 11:16 AM
I just hope they sell different kind of merchandises not like in hogshead that every merchandise is found in almost all the stores !!!!
From Colton McLaughlin on January 1, 2012 at 11:21 AM
I have a lot of mixed feelings. First, the plans seem awesome. They really do seem fantastic. But, at the same time, I am very nostalgic when it comes to Universal Florida. I was really hoping for a new King Kong attraction or a way-enhanced Jaws ride, but progress is progress. So, let me list my pros and cons.

PROS

1) An awesomely themed area with new rides, new restaurants, and new stores.
2) I personally love the Harry Potter series, and this seems complete with attention to canon, so fans won't be too disappointed.
3) Higher attendance for Universal = more money = better upkeep of attractions = higher ratings = more attendance = much more money = expansions of other areas/new rides. Sure, that's a stretch, but that is where this expansion will eventually lead.
4) The ride seems very innovative and on a level that none of us have ever seen before. I really hope it isn't 3D, though.


CONS

1) Universal is venturing away from its roots as a studio park. Yes, we're still riding the movies, but not Universal movies.
2) Jaws is gone. This makes me sad. One of my favorite movies and one of my favorite attractions, soon to be remembered as the ride that never worked the way it should have. Some people see this as a pro, but I'm going to miss Jaws.
3) Two park ticket. A lot of people are seeing this as a bad thing, and I'm not really sure why. Universal is a nicely themed park with plenty of good rides; I don't see why anyone wouldn't want to visit it. It's a little extra money, but at least you get the full experience.
4) Halloween Horror Nights. I'm sure for many of you, this means nothing. However, HHN is a huge moneymaker for Universal and it is also a really great themed event that attracts thousands every year. With Harry Potter in Universal and IoA, where does the event go? Not only that, but they lose a house from the Jaws queue, which held the first ever HHN house.

So, I'm not sure what I think of this. It seems like it will be great, but I think that maybe HP should stay in IoA.

TL;DR There are pros and cons and nothing will always please everyone.

From Giovanny Cruz on January 1, 2012 at 11:57 AM
I just can't wait for this ride it looks awosome even though It will lose the theming of USF but It will be a blast.Awosome way to end the year Robert.
From southie chick on January 1, 2012 at 12:08 PM
At this rate, they should probaly just redo all the rides & change the park name to The Harry Potter Studios. :(
From 68.114.244.66 on January 1, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Hip Hip hooray!!! Give me more Potter everyday!!!!
From steve lee on January 1, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Hey, where are all those folks who adamantly argued there was no chance Potter would be at Studios?
From Javi Badillo on January 1, 2012 at 1:00 PM
They are changing one outdated boring rode that for years caused numerous problems for universal! It's not like they are turning all of usf into Harry potter. Wow we lose a 20 year old attraction and a bunch of midway games. What a lost. Last time I checked mummy mib simpsons diaster sherk and twister hasn't been changed to Harry potter. Calm down people. What else would they put. How to train your dragon? Transformers? Nintendo ( this would have been awful)?
From 72.186.245.34 on January 1, 2012 at 1:07 PM
It's not like I am not exited to get to experience WWoHP Phase 2, but transportation issues between the two sections will be huge. Making a "Hogwarts Express" to transport you between the two areas would be difficult mainly because of the fact that when you enter Hogsmede at Phase 1, they have a permanently parked one. Also the train would have to be BIG. Sooooo many people would be trying to transport between the two areas so you would have to wait a while just to go to the other area. And no one wants to walk the distance between the two. It is enough walking around the parks all day. And putting it in two separate parks world mean having to have a set of turnstiles entering and exiting the area. So more waiting in line to experience Phase 2. Also I hope that Universal learned its lesson with phase 1 to make buildings and walk through attractions BIGGER! Going to the park often and always trying to get picked for ollivanders, being claustrophobic is not fun. Everyone is pushing you around so they can see. Plus isn't Ollivanders in Diagonal Alley? And right now it is in Hogsmede. So they will need a replacement for ollivanders. Overall, I think the expansion is leading to great things for Universal and it will be a GREAT experience!
From Daniel Etcheberry on January 1, 2012 at 5:37 PM
This is a bad idea. It would be like if Avatar were split between AK and Epcot. Every park should be unique.
From Stevo B on January 1, 2012 at 1:46 PM
As I've mentioned before I'm not a Potter fanatic but theme aside I think it's an extremely innovative idea to link two theme parks via a ride experience.
From Eric G on January 1, 2012 at 2:28 PM
Splitting Harry Potter into two parks? I don’t understand the business strategy with this decision. It sounds like a customer service nightmare. “What do you mean I only get to experience half of Harry Potter?” There was already confusion when they labeled it a theme park and when they advertised it as being at Universal Orlando Resort some were unaware of the fact that there are separate theme parks at Universal.

Also, why would Universal want to put itself in a position where people may actually label the two areas – one as better than the other?

This one boggles the mind two… Are they really considering combining the two parks into one? That strategy defeats the purpose of trying to sell guests on visiting for more than one day. It presents operational problems as well. Both parks would need to operate on the same schedule.

If they remain separate then there are issues with access control. Can you imagine turnstiles in the middle of an attraction? What about ticket sales? Do you sell tickets within the attraction to those who only purchased for one park, but change their mind? What a staffing nightmare.

Then, how do they handle the ticket pricing structure? Does Universal give away the second gate or do they hike prices to the current one-day, two-park price that will probably not be well received by the public.

It should also be noted that there is a large distance between Harry Potter (existing) and the Jaws/Amityville area that spans the back of house operations.

This plan doesn’t make sense. J.K. Rowling was apparently really demanding on the little details of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Splitting the attraction doesn’t sound like something she would endorse.

What makes sense is expanding Harry Potter within Islands of Adventure.

The Lost Continent has been the area of the park that guests have never really identified with it. Its two attractions - Poseidon’s Fury and Eighth Voyage of Sinbad - are both dated and arguably attract the least amount of interest of any of the park’s regular attractions. Poseidon’s Fury was poorly rated in its original form that they changed the story.

Clearly, Universal had no problem doing away with a large portion of The Lost Continent when they built the Wizarding World, so why not finish the job?

There are good reasons to expand Harry Potter in the current park. Demand exceeds capacity on some days and frequently during the busier periods. Also, the expansion would invite repeat visits from those who’ve already visited and continue the publicity machine that has benefited Universal.

Personally, I think much of this has come about from the timing of the two announcements – Jaws/Amityville closing and Harry Potter expansion. Do they really relate? I hope not.

So what I want answered is why keep what remains of The Lost Continent?

From N B on January 1, 2012 at 2:28 PM
I think it's going to be great. I'm sure Universal will take it up a notch from WWOHP at IOA with the detail and theming of the new area. I hope it is more wide open with larger shops.

Universal will be the new "must visit" park and attendance should increase on par with IOA. The drawback is the crowds, of course. I never wanted UO or IOA to become another Disney where you can't even walk around...

I am sure they will allow early access for on-site guests like they do at IOA, which will be nice as it's the only way we visit USF. The new area will also make the rest of the park seem less crowded for the first few hours after opening which I absolutely love.

From 108.198.188.63 on January 1, 2012 at 2:29 PM
I'm a huge Harry Potter fan, but this news upsets me. There are plenty of other franchises out there that deserve a ride. Don't get me wrong I love love love love new rides, but not at the expense of exploitation.
From 97.101.18.207 on January 1, 2012 at 2:55 PM
didnt they say a couple months ago... that none of this "expansion" would come to light without a successful run in the LA Universal first?
From Eric G on January 1, 2012 at 3:58 PM
Florida's expansion is not conditional on the success in Los Angeles. That make no sense at all. Orlando needs to expand to increase capacity. What happens in Los Angeles is irrelevant.
From Anon Mouse on January 1, 2012 at 6:10 PM
Universal Studios Florida isn't the Hollywood counterpart. It was never a "studios" park in the same way Hollywood was. I see no problem with Harry Potter expanding to both Florida parks. It just makes sense. It is replacing attractions like Jaws that doesn't have the same popularity that it once had. My preference is that they also get another intellectual property to give both parks a more cohesive experience in the same way Disney has exploited its princess properties. Universal can go with medieval fantasies by getting the Lord of the Rings.

I hope there is some news about Hollywood's Harry Potter project. They could take the best elements of Florida's projects and build them sequentially or together to have a big bang announcement.

From Anon Mouse on January 1, 2012 at 6:16 PM
"This plan doesn’t make sense. J.K. Rowling was apparently really demanding on the little details of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Splitting the attraction doesn’t sound like something she would endorse."

Assuming that Rowling can do what she will, apparently she hasn't objected.

"What makes sense is expanding Harry Potter within Islands of Adventure."

I think its safe to say that they will eventually change the Lost Continent to Harry Potter while also adding it into the Studios Park. What I don't get is why this is odd to you?

From 72.200.46.125 on January 1, 2012 at 9:15 PM
Howdy Pards,
The first thing I would say to all those who are complaining that Diagon Alley wont be in Islands of Adventure right next to Hogsmeade is...read the books or watch the movies. Diagon Alley is in London...and Hogsmeade is in Scotland...they ARE two different areas of the Wizarding World. Young wizards shop for their school supplies, robes, cauldrons, pets, books, etc in Diagon Alley...then head over to Kings Cross Station, platform 9 3/4, and catch the Hogwarts Express for their journey to Hogsmeade...a small village just outside of the Hogwarts Grounds. So...all this makes PERFECT sense! And, with Stuart Craig involved once again in the building of this new area...you can bet that Universal, once again, plans to be authentic and loyal to J.K. Rowling's vision.

The more you learn about the Harry Potter stories the more you will love them...and as wonderful as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been up to this point it is about to get more than twice as wonderful with these exciting new additions.

There is a reason that MILLIONS of people are coming back again and again to experience the magic of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts...that magic is found in the DETAILS that folks know and love from the books. Having tasted Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice...having flown with Harry and Ron...having listened to Professor Dumbledore welcome us in his office inside Hogwarts...of course we are going to want to return...to spend as much time as we possibly can in this wonderful, non-muggle place! And, having watched
Deathly Hallows...who wouldn't want to visit Gringotts? Who wouldn't want to eat in the Leaky Cauldron? Who wouldn't want to visit Weasley's Wizard Wheezes? Who wouldn't want to visit the shop where Hagrid bought Hedwig for Harry?

To understand Universal's decisions...all you have to do is look at the size of the Harry Potter fandom...how it has breathed new life, new excitement into the Universal Resort and ALL OF ORLANDO. Is it really any wonder that Universal plans to remain absolutely faithful to J.K. Rowling's vision?

It sure don't take a rocket scientist to imagine the size of the crowds in both Universal Parks when these new
dreams come true... Nothing breeds success like success.

I, for one, cannot wait to board the Hogwarts Express at Kings Cross Station...to eat at the Leaky Cauldron...to walk down Diagon Alley...to explore and boldly go where Muggles have never gone before...

There are truly magical times ahead...to enjoy it fully all you have to do is simply believe in the magic!

And, prepare to meet up with a few more old friends...
I can't imagine Gringotts without Goblins for instance...and who knows who we'll spot in Weasley's Wizard Wheezes? And maybe we'll be able to get Wizard Robes fitted to our size...just like Harry and Draco. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

Bring on the magic...build it...and watch those Harry Potter fans fly in, once again, from all corners of the world...I'll see ya there.

Adios for now. Talk to ya on down the trail.

Wild Ol' Dan

From 76.224.120.126 on January 1, 2012 at 10:17 PM
It makes perfect sense why they are splitting up the two Harry Potter areas. Universal realizes that they can get a higher attendance for the "regular" park because they got a higher attendance for Islands of Adventure. People are going to want to go to both parks now more than ever (especially the Harry Potter people). I'm not a Harry Potter fan, so it doesn't make me want to go to Universal because oh another Harry Potter area, but I know a lot of people will be traveling to Universal. When you have 7 or 8 movies alone, that's a following of people.

And someone has said, it's exploitation.. Well, that's what Universal does. They exploit good movies. They even exploit movies that don't even own like Men in Black; and Simpsons is not Universal either. Universal's goal is to increase their attendance for both parks, and thus that's what they are doing. If you really don't want to be ripped off by Universal, than just don't go. If you say that you aren't going to pay for 2 days, or a park hopper, than just go to one of the Harry Potter's, and be done with it.

From guillermo diaz on January 2, 2012 at 6:57 AM
I 100% agree that this will not be good in the long run, there was no need for HP in universal studios, just take of what is left of the lost continent... i also believe this will only divide the crowds into two, it will not attract new crowds to universal in general, yes it more money but the general appeal will be less diversified. i will also reconsider those season passes since i have no desire to go to potter world. this is probably the last thing i say about this subjet since it appears impossible to say something without being label a potter hater or to have your reasons to say this is not a good move with the generic answer that eveybody loves potter so you are wrong.
I have nothing against harry, the movies are just ok, i find the story bland and flat, and consider it to be a lesser fantasy compare to other fictional works. But its so hard to reason with a potter fan that i have just given up.
From TH Creative on January 2, 2012 at 7:50 AM
What's good for tourism is good for Central Florida ... and this is VERY good news for tourism! If even half of what Mr. Niles has posted (and frankly others [including Perez Hilton] have tipped their readers about this attraction) is accurate local leaders and businesses (hotels, restaurants, etc.) must be turning cartwheels.

While their parks may never compete with Disney's attendance its pretty clear that Universal's team will never be gun-shy when it comes to taking bold action.

The only question now is when the attraction will open? Think about it this way: The Fantasyland expansion opens in 2012-2013. Potter (maybe) Spring 2014. Avatar 2015-2016. Orlando WILL REMAIN the theme park capitol of the world.

From TH Creative on January 2, 2012 at 7:55 AM
And by the way: Sea World better step up with something HUGE by 2015.
From 67.54.196.220 on January 2, 2012 at 8:21 AM
This looks AMAZING! This just looks like a total blast. I, being a total Harry Potter fan, think that this is a great way to keep Harry Potter alive, even though I know as well as the rest of the Harry Potter fans that HP will never really die. Who cares if they are just building this attraction to make more money off HP? At least we get to enjoy it, and this looks incredibly enjoyable. :)
From 68.62.192.91 on January 2, 2012 at 9:26 AM
I just really don't understand how a Hogwart's Express between USF and IOA would work. They simply can't shut down the back of house road that it would travel down, because #1 it's where *EVERY* park employee enters for work (except I think the parking garage people and CityWalk employees) #2 it's next to the wardrobe building where *EVERYONE* has to stop each day and pick up their work clothes (no, they don't take them home at night) #3 it's where the main employee grill is for people to eat. They can't make it elevated, because then it would be seen over Quake and Beetlejuice. Plus the problem of how to keep everyone separated. Unless they make it so that you *HAVE* to buy a 2 park access pass, how would you keep people that "only" bought a pass for USF from jumping on the train and heading to IOA, or vice versa. Wristbands would not work, you'd have people pissed off all over the place if they show up at USF or IOA, see this neat "train ride" and get told "Oh, sorry, you don't have the right ticket, but you can pay $XX/person and go on it!"

I don't know the marketing / expansion plans for the parks, but from what I have seen and know about how theme parks operate (thanks to 10+ years experience working in them), this looks like an idea that, if it is true, would backfire completely. I think they should take out a couple of the soundstages in the back behind the Sinbad area, that would be plenty of space for expansion, and from my understanding those aren't used much for TV / movie production now. I think one is still used for storage of Mardi Gras and HHN floats, but any of the soundstages could be used for that. I personally feel that the Jaws area should be turned into the Transformers attraction similar to what USH is getting. I think the whole feel / design / theme of it would fit well with the MIB ride.

From 69.47.149.246 on January 2, 2012 at 9:44 AM
Bravo to Universal, seriously!!!! We have been to WDW, IOA, and universal for many, many years. We would feel so bad, IOA and Universal would be dead. Universal would look like a ghost town. My husband and I would think what a shame the parks are so nice. OMG....IOA theming is crazy, we just love that park. So I think it was a true blessing when they got Harry Potter. Using both parks for Harry Potter is excellent marketing on their behalf. You don't think WDW would not have gone nuts with Harry Potter. You have to pay to get into each of their parks. I love WDW, but I also think they really need to start concentrating on their parks again. I don't think Walt would be to happy right now. Once again I'm so happy for IOA and Universal, take Harry Potter and run with it. This comes from a person that is not a Harry Potter fan, but man they got them selves a gold mine with Harry Potter.
From steve lee on January 2, 2012 at 10:08 AM
So it has to be asked. What are the repercussions of posting this information? I can't imagine Universal is happy about this being leaked. Granted, a lot of folks already knew it was happening, but the level of detail provided here almost certainly must have raised a few eyebrows.

Is your name on a list now, Robert?

(personally, if I was Universal I'd be less concerned about who posted it and more concerned about who leaked it)

From 75.187.202.16 on January 2, 2012 at 11:29 AM
I love Harry potter world and I think it's great that they are expanding it. This defiantly won't be a waste of money as it will be very popular and people will come to this until the end of time. Harry potter forever! Save a Butterbeer for me!
From 71.192.236.199 on January 2, 2012 at 1:58 PM
I think it's a fabulous idea. The story line and movie takes place in 2 different places...why NOT incorporate that into 2 different parks. They need to expand WWoHP, it is too small to support the crowds that it gets. Similar to the Star Wars franchise, Harry Potter isn't going to die, simply because there is no new material. It's not a part of the park that will become irrelevant. They had a choice of taking an outdated ride in USF, and splitting the experience-and allowing it to be enhanced by a train ride (having it stop halfway, and chilling the cars to simulate the Dementors would be wicked, I think) OR taking the 2 areas in IoA that they have been planning to add to WWoHP (I've been reading about that since it opened originally) and also taking more current rides that are still big draws...it makes much more sense to rehab and refurb an older, less popular ride.

As for the 2 park admission option...they have one...it's pricy, but it's not double the price...the single park is 85 dollars for one day, both parks is 120 dollars for one day. If you are going to the park for WWoHP, you'll pay the 2 park pass price...if you don't care about it, you won't.

USF would be foolish to not capitalize on a money making opportunity. AND, if another film series comes about that has as much money making potential as Potter, they'll probably rehab other areas too...or, in 20 years, when there is something that will make money better than WWoHP, they'll get rid of that. They go where the money is...and they always will.

From Melissa Donahue on January 2, 2012 at 2:52 PM
@Steve - Maybe Universal wanted this info leaked... Just sayin'. : )
From Carrie Hood on January 2, 2012 at 2:53 PM
Hold it folks, a few questions need to be asked before we all girlie squee with joy. Who is this source and HOW they did they this information to the outside? Is it reliable and not faked?

I'm always suspicious of "Confidential" information coming from theme parks, specially one with Universals power and something as huge as a giant HP expansion. Mostly because they come with HUGE non-disclosure agreements everyone who sees them has to sign. From concept designers to everyday employees who are told what's going on. Something about this is bugging me, Seaworld made even us Part-time employees sign a NDA even to be TOLD about Journey to Atlantis before the announcement happened. I can't see USO being any less tight lipped about something THIS major. Which leads me to think it's either a fake or someone is in seriously deep trouble.

So unless this is the President of Universal Creative or some other Executive from the park doing an "publicity leak" I'm not buying yet.

Personally I'll wait for the announcement.

From Dionne Oliver on January 2, 2012 at 3:00 PM
I wish it was going 2 be something other than Harry Potter,im not a HP fan. They should get rid of Lost continent & have all HP in one place. Put something new & different where Jaws was. RIP jaws!!
From 173.215.145.88 on January 2, 2012 at 3:05 PM
How come no ones commenting on the rumored Dreamworks themed area that would replaced Woody woodpecker kidzone and the fast and furious show that would replace fear factor???
From 99.110.207.233 on January 2, 2012 at 3:15 PM
could some of the artwork have a ministry of magic in it or the headquarters for the order (aka Sirius Blacks house?
From Kevin C on January 2, 2012 at 3:48 PM
Theme Park Insider is the most professional and objective site that there is. If they were going to give an exclusive leak, this would be the place to put it.

I don't think Mr. Niles would risk the reputation of his site by running something that would bring TPI negative consequences. Given that every other theme park site I visit has picked up the story, not to mention the Orlando Sentinel, without questioning TPI's legitimacy or accuracy, I think it's safe to say that this is legit.

From 75.91.101.0 on January 2, 2012 at 4:25 PM
I came here to this site to find out what was happening at US and I'm reading all these coments about "I can't see how they are going to do this. Well, you can't see how because you do not have a engineers degree. Do you really think they are going into this half @$$ed? Trust me they have pourded over the numbers more then once. At least let them build it before you go slaming it. If you don't like the way they run THEIR park then go to the house of mouse, they will take your money too. I'm for one and looking forward to HHN 2012 because I think I'll spend the day at WWoHP.
From steve lee on January 2, 2012 at 4:37 PM
@Kevin, I agree about the standards Robert has in place here and it was certainly not my intention to insinuate that the story was in any way bogus. It lines up perfectly with what other people with inside information have been told.

@Carrie, just remember what I said back in the JAWS thread. I'll happily admit to being wrong as long as you do the same.

From Kevin C on January 2, 2012 at 4:46 PM
@ Steve,

I was responding to Annie. Sorry for the confusion!

From Robert Niles on January 2, 2012 at 6:02 PM
This stuff was rumored all over creation nearly the instant that Universal announced Jaws was closing. Come on, people, these aren't military or national security secrets. Information about new attractions flows freely through this industry.

And that's a great thing for the industry - it stokes enthusiasm among fans, and makes people want to start saving up for a trip, as opposed to budgeting their money for something else.

My attitude is this: If I get information that believe to be a) accurate, b) newsworthy, and c) of interest to my readers, I'm going to publish it. Frankly, I don't care what theme parks think about what I write. I don't get down when they get upset about TPI writing something negative, and I don't get too up when they're thrilled with what we write. I want our reporting to be accurate and the opinions submitted here to be honest. If they are, I'm satisfied. If they aren't, I want to fix that.

I work for you, our readers, and not for the theme parks. If someone at Universal did or did not want this information published, that's not of primary interest to me.

One more thing - it bugs me a bit when people who are supposed to be covering this industry act more like agents for theme parks - looking to parks for permission to post things, and allowing parks to pick up the tab for their visits and travel in return. That's not how I operate, and I am sincerely thankful for our readers who appreciate that.

From 65.8.179.166 on January 2, 2012 at 6:44 PM
I don't think reputation comes into question here as much as Ethics. It doesn't seem very ethical to run this post. Because of Robert's post, someone will lose their job. Guaranteed. Because of Robert's post, several large parks like Universal will not grant things like interviews to theme park sites, or allow them to have special access to events. Posts like these are the reason you see the exact same coverage all over the place. Theme parks are tightening the grip of information that is leaked out because even though some sites have gotten this information weeks ago, and sat on it...one site decides to run it in the name of "news". Because of this post, less and less information will be released, and less and less sites...including TPI will be given first shot at it. Parks will rely more and more on Social Media to release information. Credibility isn't the issue.
In the words of Ian Malcolm, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.
From Robert Niles on January 2, 2012 at 6:53 PM
I disagree strongly with the anonymous post above.
From 65.8.179.166 on January 2, 2012 at 6:54 PM
Robert, we're not talking about asking parks for permission. We're talking about risking someone's jobs because of the pursuit of a story. Rumors are one thing, even if they are based 100% on the truth, but if you label them as a rumor, it can be dismissed as just that. Pure speculation that happens to be on the mark.
And Robert did you not get flown out to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter grand opening? Are not your agents at every single park event?
From 98.85.118.60 on January 2, 2012 at 7:55 PM
The Gringotts ride sounds fantastic! I know it's just a concept now, but i'm already imagining a great ride. I also love the Diagon Alley and Hogwarts Express idea. However, allow me to add my thoughts, if I may.

As a former Universal employee of 6 years, I know that the backstage road you mention running past Jaws (where I worked!) is extremely busy day and night. To put a train running down the middle to IOA would be dangerous. The employee grill, wardrobe, and other service bldgs are just too congested on that back access road. That said...

I've heard a Transformers attraction was going to be built in place of Jaws/Amity. I've seen no plans and only heard it from a few Universal employees, but that doesn't mean much, either.

I think replacing the Lost Continent Gringotts, Diagon Alley, and even Hogwarts express would be a great idea. The entire area of Lost Continent would double the size of the The Wizarding World...and would keep it IN the Wizarding World. The current Hogwarts Express facade in Hogsmeade could be easily replaced with a real train attraction running within the Wizarding World. Kinda like the People Mover in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom.

Just my 2 cents...

Don

From Robert Niles on January 2, 2012 at 7:56 PM
First, no, I did not get my way paid out to the Harry Potter premiere, nor for any other theme park event. I pay my own way for travel to *every* theme park and theme park event I cover. I pay for my own tickets to every theme park I visit, except for when I am covering press-only events for which no public tickets are made available. (I even paid my own way into D23 last summer.) I believe that very few other people who cover the theme park industry online can say honestly the same thing.

Second, as I wrote in the post, I won't talk about where I saw this information, but I will say that I am completely confident that the individual who gave me access to this information will not lose a job with Universal. And that I go to great lengths when posting information to protect the identity of my sources. There is a *lot* that I saw in this information that I withheld from my report, out of concern for people's jobs.

From 76.171.250.154 on January 2, 2012 at 8:15 PM
Does this mean Dan, Emma, and Rupert will be reprising their roles again for the ride? OH---MY---GODRIC!!!!!!!
From Tim Hillman on January 2, 2012 at 8:15 PM
I find it highly amusing that someone who uses an anonymous post would have the temerity to talk about ethics.

And to top it all off you "guarantee" that someone will lose their job because Robert betrayed their confidence in his desire to get this information out on the web.

I say you are full of crap, Anonymous.

This site has been around for over a decade because Robert maintains high standards of journalistic integrity. This site is neither in the tank for any park nor is it a mean-spirited critic of any park. It provides a fair-minded view of the theme park industry without the distractions of the fanboys so prevalent on other industry sites.

Robert Niles and Theme Park Insider have earned the respect of the theme park industry through hard work and consistent fairness. I seriously doubt that Universal will take down the "Voted Tops on TPI" banner over the entrance to Mythos or deny Robert access to Thierry Coup because he violated some esoteric standard that you think journalists should adhere to.

Really Anonymous, you sound like a loser who runs a rival site that was scooped by TPI. If you are actually a Universal suit, sign on and get a handle, and have a respectable discussion instead of sniping from the shadows.

From James Rao on January 2, 2012 at 8:49 PM
Wow! Sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing, Robert. Great info as usual, and with this "scoop" you once again validate all the reasons why I check TPI first for theme park related news!
From 69.47.149.246 on January 2, 2012 at 9:16 PM
Robert please just pay no mind to people like that. They simply just do not have a clue how things are ran with the theme park industry. Those type of people are also the ones who start theories that really mess with people for no reason at all. This was a GREAT scoop.... THANK YOU and thanks to whoever you got the info from.... as a chicago man who's stuck in the cold, this information has been great to help me push through this bad time of year for a theme park junky.
From TH Creative on January 3, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Gutless ... er ... I mean Anonymous 65.8.179.166 writes: "Theme parks are tightening the grip of information that is leaked out because even though some sites have gotten this information weeks ago, and sat on it...one site decides to run it in the name of "news".

I Respond: Do you have ANY evidence that some sites have "have gotten this information weeks ago, and sat on it"? For crying out loud theme park muggles like Perez Hilton ... ("PEREZ HILTON?!") broke this story as early as December 6th (!!!).

Quoting from that story: "According to alleged PLANS (did ya get that Anonymous ... "PLANS"), this HP expansion into Universal Studios proper will be replica of London as portrayed in J.K. Rowling's books. Specifically, young witches and wizards will get to travel down through the gateway in the Leaky Cauldron and be transported to Diagon Alley. While some of the stores - such as Ollivanders Wand Shop - can already be found at the Wizarding World across the way, rumor is that this will be a more "true" representation fo (sic) the locale, as seen in the movies. The HIGHlights (sic) of this expansion will include a new dark coaster ride in Gringotts Wizarding Bank and the chance to ride the Hogwarts Express train from Platform 9 ¾."

http://perezhilton.com/2011-12-06-wizarding-world-orlando-phase-2-rumors-grow-plans-in-works-to-build-the-london-side-of-the-realm/?more=yes

Having said this (and so much more than my musings) Mr. Hillman nails it so definitively in a post that is worth repeating: "I find it highly amusing that someone who uses an anonymous post would have the temerity to talk about ethics ... Really Anonymous, you sound like a loser who runs a rival site that was scooped by TPI. If you are actually a Universal suit, sign on and get a handle, and have a respectable discussion instead of sniping from the shadows."

At this point I think the most affirming aspect of this thread is that Mr. Niles' loyalty to his sources is surpassed only by the loyalty of his regular readers. Readers who have the decency not to hide behind anonymity when questioning another person's ...(ahem) ... "ethics."

"Ian Maclom?" Please!

From duncan henny on January 3, 2012 at 4:19 AM
i look forward to seeing what they will do with the harry potter area during Halloween horror nights
From 178.76.144.156 on January 3, 2012 at 6:31 AM
I like Harry Potter, but taking apart Jaws? It is an icon. I think that is horrible.
From Bob Liebe on January 3, 2012 at 11:43 AM
First off I'd like to say great reporting Robert! I always check TPI 1st for all my theme park stories because of the quality of this website. Before I offer my opinion on the story I have a couple of questions first.
1. The coaster is described as a "hybrid" that is motion based. So I was wondering how intense the actual coaster part was gonna be? Is it gonna be high speed like the mummy or just have a few drops and be more tame like the flight of the hippo griff?
2. Do you think that the Hogwarts Express will be a ride itself or more of a people mover to and from but with LCD windows?
If you would be able to elaborate on any of these points Robert that would be great!
From 65.87.105.7 on January 3, 2012 at 8:03 AM
this is why universal will never out do disney. disney is constantly giving us new ideas while universal is going to overkill the harry potter theme. im disappointed.
From Jeff Elliott on January 3, 2012 at 8:38 AM
I must say that I don’t understand what all of the fuss is about.

Theme parks as well as movies have a great uphill battle to fight when it comes to publicizing their new concepts. Online is a vast network of theme park and movie sites that hang on every single bit of information when it comes to game changing concepts. What we are doing here is giving Universal free press directly to the people that want the information the most. Any bit of writing that we do in regards to a ride will never fully explain what it is like to actually experience the attraction….therefore since it is not possible to spoil the ride, the only thing we can do is market the ride directly to the fans.

Just like the White House, these leaks happen for a reason and usually with approval from the top. The key here is to prove yourself trustworthy by only letting as much out of the bag as the company wants you to know….a teaser, if you will….much like a movie preview….but by showing that you appreciate the source and will only go as far as the source allows you to go, then it opens doors to act as a trustworthy conduit for other “leaks”.

To be honest, I get the feeling that Universal just wanted to put to bed the wild speculation about what was really going on at their park and for once try and get the word out there to the people who are upset that Jaws is closing that they are really working in the interest of their loyal fans, working their hearts out to bring you something that you cannot get anywhere else. If you think deeply about this, the Jaws closure is a black mark in Universal’s book, therefore they want to turn around fan opinion and quickly. What you are not hearing about is what the plans are for Universal California…..a plan that potentially could spoil the attraction if it is in some ways similar to what is already in Florida.

This is all marketing on behalf of Universal……enjoy it while we are getting it…..

From Tim Odom on January 3, 2012 at 9:33 AM
You know, while I am late to this particular party, if all this ends up true, then it's just what I had hoped for. For everyone saying 'why is this not going into IOA?' the answer is simple: that would not solve the problem.

The problem, you ask? That the existing Wizarding World can get very overcrowded.

This is not a new problem theme parks have had. And the solution is always the same: build something people want to go to as much as they want to as the existing E Ticket attraction(s). But, the thing is, you need to do it far away from the existing stuff to make it work.

Think for a minute, why is DHS basically a half day park to many? Easy. Two of the main attractions are about 2 minutes from one another, with a major show for the park about another minute away. Building E ticket attraction next to other E ticket attractions makes it so the crowds hit one corner of your park and never go anywhere else.

Universal had this issue. One cannot argue that the existing Harry Potter stuff has been a success. But, due to the size of Islands of Adventure, along with existing contracts and the like, you could not build more Harry Potter stuff there and successfully split up the crowd there. Should the rest of the Lost Continent be taken down for Potter stuff? Yes. But, will that sold any overcrowding at Forbidden Journey? Nope. They needed a big, big attraction far away from Wizarding World for that to work.

Doing Potter phase 2 in Universal Studios succeeds in doing what they wanted. It will split up the crowds, getting some people to hit Gringott's first, and others to hit Forbidden Journey first. Which is what they want. It also has this nice side effect of making people go to 2 parks (and lets face facts, Universal wanted that, they like money.)

I, for one, am pumped about this ride. And about the Hogwart's Express thing I kinda called in an earlier post (though I thought it would be underground, since with LCD 'windows' you have no need to be above ground.)

From 65.87.105.7 on January 3, 2012 at 9:44 AM
If you read all the comments, the ONLY and i stress ONLY people excited about this expansion are potter fans. So apparently universal only care on drawing in harry potter fans. News flash, there won't be anymore movies or books so after a few years whats going to keep this attraction revelent?
From Bob Liebe on January 3, 2012 at 9:46 AM
So now to my opinion. On one hand I completely love the idea but on the other hand I'm slightly less enthused. I am a big fan of Harry Potter and even more so after I visited the WWoHP! I'm just a little upset if the Gringotts coaster is gonna be the only big ride. I'm not a fan of roller coasters except for The Revenge of the Mummy and I have to be persuaded by my family every time to go on it. (Even though I have a blast every time) My biggest concern with this is that 2 out of the 3 Harry Potter rides are already roller coasters (Dragon challenge & Hippogriff) and the Forbidden Journey is on the intense side. Harry Potter has such an appeal to young kids and it seems like Universal isn't offering much for younger people as far as rides go. I know that the Flight of the Hippogriff is a family friendly roller coaster but it still doesn't cater to all families. I took my oldest nephew to Universal last Sept and he had a blast but I know some of my other nephews wouldn't like those kind of rides. The ride that HP phase 2 is replacing, Jaws, was a ride that people of all ages could handle. I know and agree that rides will be changed and updated, but to get rid of a ride that appeals to most ages and put an intense dark ride / coaster in its place is taking away some of the family appeal in my opinion.

For those of you who posted that there is no way that they could pull a train off to both parks or that this isn't possible cause they are getting rid of a HHN haunted house area or that tickets would be a nightmare if you go back and forth between two park, just settle down and take a deep breathe for a minute. The people at Universal Creative wouldn't be doing this if they didn't have a plan in place. Are you really trying to tell me that the people who came up with WWoHP, Kong 360, Transformers, etc. couldn't figue out how to re-route a road to an employee parking lot? If this does happen you better believe that UC will have a plan and will make it happen.

All in all I have to say that that I like the decision by Universal and I know that they will do a good job with the detail as they always do. I just hope that they can add a more family friendly Harry Potter ride to one of the parks. Good bye Jaws you will be missed!

From Todd Houts on January 3, 2012 at 12:13 PM
After reading the article (Great as always, Robert) and looking at aerial photographs of the two areas, am I the only one that thinks long term this could set up Universal for a third gate? Sure they would have to lose many of the their production buildings (although anything not essential to running the resort could be housed way off site) but the land between has the size to accommodate a third park. Build another massive parking garage for the employees and you'd even recover some of the western edge of their property to either relocate production buildings or for additional harry Potter land. Build a third bridge across the crescent moon shaped waterway west of City Walk and you've got three parks. All told this would be one more step directing guests to a complete Universal Resorts on-site 4 or more day vacation. (This is where you watch the eyeballs become dollar signs. Oops - that's Warner Bros.)

Implied, of course, is that the HP worlds in IOA and USF would become part of the third park.

From 208.125.167.146 on January 3, 2012 at 12:22 PM
As much as I am absolutely in love with Harry Potter and this new expansion, I am very sad to hear that it will be replacing Jaws. Even though the Jaws ride may not be as exciting as Gringotts, it is still a classic part of Universal just like E.T. I think the new expansion should take place in the Lost Continent portion instead, because this would be easier for the guests of WWOHP and it would replace rides that were not as important as Jaws was to Universal.
From 12.8.73.2 on January 3, 2012 at 1:28 PM
Well here is some other inside news. From my contacts the above area is to replace The Lost Continent in IOA. Also the same builder that did the WWOHP will also get the contract for phase 2. US is still tight lipped on what is re-placeing Jaws due to they could loss the contract if leaked.
From Robert Niles on January 3, 2012 at 6:32 PM
As I mentioned in the piece, plans can change during the development process. The plans I saw explicitly sited the Gringotts ride and Diagon Alley within USF. But I wouldn't be surprised if at some point Universal also has developed plans for Diagon Alley in IOA. (Or even in USH - heck, that was my pie-in-the-sky pitch more than a year ago.)

Personally, I think putting Diagon Alley within steps of Hogsmeade "breaks the magic" a bit, if you will. Heck, I originally wanted Diagon Alley in Hollywood. But if it is to go in Orlando, I'm happy to see plans for it in USF - I prefer that site for it to IOA.

Placing Diagon Alley within USF also does more to grow attendance for the entire resort rather than one park, helping Universal to grow market share as a multi-day destination resort. Keeping HP in IOA leaves Universal as a one-day detour from Disney for most fans, nothing more.

Finally, the speed with which Universal has moved to start demo on Jaws and Amity point toward a replacement that's ready to go - not one where IP contracts remain to be signed.

Again, all we have here is a set of plans. We won't have a real attraction until it opens. But for that, well, I'm looking forward to that day!

From 72.188.148.119 on January 3, 2012 at 7:22 PM
I have to agree with the second post from the top...i work for Universal and all that is being said is just speculation.....Even us as TM's wont know until its officially announced....Ive heard rumors of WWoHP, Ive heard Transformers cus of the success in singapore and ive also heard of expanding MiB because of MiB3 coming out in May.....So yes, theres plenty of rumors and speculation going.....just dont belive it until you see the official release from Universal....
From TH Creative on January 4, 2012 at 4:20 AM
Incidentally (specific topic aside) how much of a tribute is it to Robert Niles, that he approves anonymous posts even when they are critical of either himself or the site. If I understand the process correctly, an anonymous post (once composed) must be approved by Mr. Niles before it can appear on the site. On this thread, an anonymous poster criticizes Robert and questions his ethics. Rather than delete the post, Robert demonstrates a great deal of integrity by approving it and answering the charges directly.

What makes TPI such an exceptional site is not just the content. It's also the site's proprietor who not only sets notably high standards, but adheres to those standards himself.

Bravo!

From Ricardo K on January 4, 2012 at 7:29 AM
All this sounds really exciting! Can't wait to see what gets created!
From 192.138.178.108 on January 4, 2012 at 9:19 AM
I went to Universal last summer and thought, (a) the JAWS ride is lame and outdated and (b) the Harry Potter stuff is absolutely fantastic - worth all the hype. I think these plans sound terrific and can't wait for it to open. Even if you dislike Harry Potter, the "ride" is just fabulous.
From 98.238.14.17 on January 4, 2012 at 11:39 AM
This is definitleyy a 2 sided argument. The pros are obviously more people-more money. Cons: no jaws more people
From TROY DAVIDSON on January 4, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Great article Robert. I love both Disney and Universal and have passes to both since I live in Orlando. I am a Harry Potter fanatic, so I love this information of an expansion. Honestly I have taken many of my friends and family who are not familer with Harry Potter and they all have loved the WWOHP and the ride itself, most of them have expressed a new interest in fiding out more about the world of HP. I am happy that Universal seems to be finding success and Disney needs to really step up it's game! Disney nostalgia can only go so far and most of their recent projects have been a yawn at best. At this point I am far more interested in what will happen to the rest of the Lost Continent and Posiden's Furry. Everyone has pretty much figured out what would go into the Jaw's area. (It just makes way too much sense to balance the parks out) I am stumped what will take over at IOA, since the Lost Continent section is dead space...Ministry of Magic? I guess only time will tell!
From TIMOTHY LOVELL on January 4, 2012 at 6:33 PM
Very sad to see jaws go, and especially to be replaced with more useless Potter. I see the business behind packing more freaks in both parks, but would have preferred ANYTHING to this.:'(
From Bill Manning on January 4, 2012 at 7:38 PM
Very cool news Mr. Niles. Everything makes sense and seems, for now anyways, to fit in place. I took the liberty of writing about this in my own Orlando site and credited you as my source.

However there is one big part that does not make sense. Let's say someone buys a one park pass to IOA. They go to WWOHP, and then want to ride the train that will hopefully be built, over to the other HP land at USF.

Would they not need to buy a ticket to the other park? If so it would be very inconvenient to find out when they are already over there ready to take the train. Would they sell tickets to the other park there?

That part makes no sense. Unless they decide to start charging a new price that includes both parks always. Other than that I agree this sounds exactly what they will do.

From 71.52.193.212 on January 6, 2012 at 12:03 PM
I love it when people post "inside information" from their "credible sources" about how the above area is going into the Lost Continent. News flash, kids... I have it from my credible sources that survey markers are running down that backstage road between Jaws and Sindbad. But wait, you don't have to believe that, because who the hell knows who MY credible sources are?! ;)

This post was incredible, Robert. Regardless of what anyone may say, the Wizarding World has brought a lovely respite of prosperity to a once fledgling Universal. As much as everyone wants to complain about how they feel it can't be done, or how terrible it is going to be, look back in time to the really bad whiplash everyone gave Universal when they announced the Wizarding World. Knowing the standards that Universal previously held themselves to, we all didn't believe it could be done. Yet, we walked in hoping that someone at Creative would make us, the consumer, proud. And there it was. The most amazing thing we had ever seen created by Universal. Something that we said was "Disney caliber."

Here they are, about to do it again, and here you naysayers are again, trying to tear it down. Believe me, they will do it again, it will be amazing, and all you crybabies who want to bash them for creating something truly wonderful don't have to come! I'm sure that Universal will survive and flourish without your 80-120 bucks per ticket you would have spent, because everyone else in the world will be here. There you go, they have let you off the hook.

Get over it. While Disney recoups and figures out a massive rebuttal with Avatar (one can only hope....), Universal is taking the opportunity to flourish and grow with the beauty that will be London.

And while we are on the subject, I say that instead of boo hooing about Jaws, we should remember that bad old shark for the fond memories he has given, and the Skippers who toiled out in the hot sun, the rain, and the freezing cold all to give a spectacular show for 21 years. It would not have been without them. And if you really are hurting for some Jaws action... Well... There's always YouTube.

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