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Insider's Update: Anticipation is Universal

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Published: June 14, 2014 at 11:48 AM

We're less than a week now from getting our first official look inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida. Universal Orlando is hosting a media preview for the new land next Tuesday through Thursday, and Theme Park Insider will there, bringing you full coverage (plus video!) of Diagon Alley, its attractions and the Harry Potter film stars who turn out for the opening ceremony. Please take a moment to follow Theme Park Insider on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so you won't miss a moment of our coverage. We've been your top source for Diagon Alley news for more than two and half years, and we intend to keep bringing you great coverage all next week. In the meantime, here again is our preview video:

If you're planning to visit Diagon Alley this summer, Universal Orlando has released a new smartphone app, with a better map interface to allow visitors to find rides, shows, and restaurants throughout the resort. (And restrooms, too!) Once inside the parks, the app includes current wait times, as well. (Search for "Official Universal Orlando.") To help you use the app in the parks, Universal also has expanded its in-park WiFi access, which is now branded to corporate parent Comcast's Xfinity service.

Universal Orland app

Universal's got plenty happening in addition to Diagon Alley. Tickets have gone on sale for this year's Halloween Horror Nights, and The Walking Dead will be back with an even bigger presence at this year's event. We're looking forward to more maze announcements in the weeks ahead, but there's one thing we know will not be part of this year's Halloween Horror Nights: Diagon Alley. Universal's website notes that the new land will be closed during the event.

One more Universal item: Universal Studios Hollywood is hosting a special Transformers fan event on June 20. Tickets are $75 and include park admission after 3pm, extended ride time from 8 to 11pm, as well as workshops by the Habro Transformers team and a performance by Stan Bush, who scored the 1986 animated Transformers movie. The event leads up to the two-day BotCon Transformers collectors' convention in nearby Pasadena on June 21-22.

Disney Springs garage

Over at Disney, work continues on the transformation (see what I did there?) of Florida's Downtown Disney into Disney Springs. There's a neat rendering of the new parking garage in a recent issue of Disney's cast magazine, The Eyes and Ears. It looks like maybe we've found Disney's answer to Universal Orlando's new London! (Look at the directions in which the cars are driving on the bridge.) Jokes aside, the parking garage and surrounding roadway changes really provide the key to the new development. They are not particularly exciting on their own, but together they should help provide the additional traffic capacity needed to make the location a more attractive one for bigger retail and restaurant partners. The old Downtown Disney too often became a traffic and parking nightmare, discouraging locals and even tourists from visiting the area and limiting its potential.

More changes at Walt Disney World: The American Idol Experience is going away in January, proving fans another opportunity to speculate about an attraction replacement. Long-term, that space in Disney's Hollywood Studios has been marked for the Star Wars Land project, so if anything is going into the Idol theater to keep it from standing dark in 2015 and beyond, it'll likely be for a short-term run. Maybe Disney can have it both ways, and bring back Snig and Oopla to host a show there. /sarcasm

(Update: Now here's another report that claims the Indiana Jones stunt show will close around the same time, too. That suggests that Star Wars Land construction might begin as early as first quarter 2015.)

Disney's new favorite princesses, Anna and Elsa, are appearing on a pre-parade float before the Soundsational parade at Disneyland. Some fans expressed disappointment with the rather humble float. Maybe Disney could throw Kristoff and Sven on there in the middle to fill up some of the empty space?

Finally, a former Disney princess just got a new gig. Nia Sanchez, who was a "close friend" of Belle and Snow White at Hong Kong Disneyland is the new Miss USA. Congratulations.

Readers' Opinions

From Daniel Etcheberry on June 15, 2014 at 9:51 AM
Robert, which Harry Potter celebrity would you like to ask a question? If my memory is good, I think Daniel Radcliff answered your question last time.

From 205.188.117.16 on June 14, 2014 at 4:55 PM
American Idol is an "attraction" in which no one in my family has ever shown the slightest interest. As for the Indy show, it's good, but 20 years is enough. Bring on Star Wars!
From David Matecki on June 16, 2014 at 9:40 AM
Going to Disneyland this year but Universal Orlando definitely will be next. Amazing.
From 75.22.38.64 on June 18, 2014 at 7:59 PM
Anyone who reads the Disney Parks blog already knew what to expect from the Frozen pre-parade. On May 16, 2014, the blog showed a concept rendering of it;

http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2014/05/more-frozen-fun-at-disneyland-park-this-summer/

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