James Rao

Published: May 14, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Interesting. Gotta love how nothing remains secret for long these days!

Perhaps you have more info on this subject that you cannot share at this time, but I fail to see how any of the described interactivity is raising NextGen to a new level. Seems to me Universal is simply following suit with what is happening down the road. Which is fine by me as I support just about any attempt to make theme parks more immersive and interactive.

Robert Niles

Published: May 14, 2013 at 2:02 PM

I think it's scale more than anything else. The scale of individual elements, plus the number of elements in the land.
James Rao

Published: May 14, 2013 at 2:17 PM

Hmmm... still sounds like more of the same, but I am glad Universal is getting on the NextGen bandwagon nonetheless.

I wonder if the elements will react to visitors a la the RFID tech Disney continues to roll out? If so, will Universal implement some sort of high tech wrist band as well?

The wand stuff could be similar to Magiquest at Great Wolf Lodge but there just aren't enough details to make a determination yet.

Denise Rambo

Published: May 14, 2013 at 2:17 PM

I really hope the main areas of the new section are able to accommodate crowds better than the original WWOHP. It's like a nightmare over there and every time I'm there I wonder WHAT they were thinking when they designed it. I know they were trying to make it really FEEL like the village but OMG - it's ridiculous at times.
Robert Niles

Published: May 14, 2013 at 2:19 PM

The design for this new land really feels more like a traditional "hub and spoke" design with a central alleyway and four others than branch off of it. It should have better visitor flow than the original, though the placement of interactive and attraction elements throughout will affect that.
Ben Mills

Published: May 14, 2013 at 2:35 PM

I'm fascinated to see King's Cross - which has recently been redesigned into one of the most architecturally uninteresting buildings in London... Perhaps they'll just focus on the platforms and not so much on the shopping mall.
David L.

Published: May 14, 2013 at 2:40 PM

I'm really happy Universal is stepping up to the plate with this! However, it kind of seems like universal is finally copying Disney with this. Disney has had an incredible AA dragon lurking in Disneyland Paris for, like 20 years. Small interactive elements abound in the parks. Moving trashcans, talking suits of armor, AA parrots, and more. I hope Springfield and the area around Transformers will include these kinds of interactive elements too, then one corner of Universal Studios won't outshine the entire rest of the park.
Doug Jenkins

Published: May 14, 2013 at 2:43 PM

However Universal does it I think it will be miles ahead of Disney in creativity and technology. WDW still has not been able to match the Spiderman, Transformers and Potter ride and now new tech is set to debut. Can't wait!
Brian Bauer

Published: May 14, 2013 at 2:50 PM

I was wondering if they were going to put Ollivanders in the new section since that's where is belongs thematically. I also correctly suspected they would add more rooms.

The questions are:
Are they removing the old location?
If so, what will they replace it with?

Robert Niles

Published: May 14, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Given the amount of money Universal makes selling wands, I can't imagine it closing the IoA wand shop.
Dominick D

Published: May 14, 2013 at 3:11 PM

Amazing, thanks for sharing this Robert! Do you have word on restaurants outside of the Leaky Cauldron?

Published: May 14, 2013 at 3:21 PM

Sounds great I can imagine people running around triggering effects with wands and little kids begging their parents for wands of their own so they can join in on the fun.
Eric G

Published: May 14, 2013 at 3:43 PM

Universal has had 'Next-Gen' style interactivity for years and it didn't cost them billions either. 23-years ago E.T. started calling my name on the E.T. Adventure and he's still doing it today, though botching it nearly every time.
James Rao

Published: May 14, 2013 at 3:46 PM

^That's right! ET's been messing up names for years. No wonder Universal has waited so long to try again! ;) Thanks for the reminder, Eric!
Dan McNeely

Published: May 14, 2013 at 3:52 PM


What do you think about Gringott's being in 3D? I've always appreciated the fact that HPATFJ wasn't in 3D.

I'm not a fan of 3D movies and it seems like having glasses on your head may limit the amount of movement and speed of the ride.

What are your thoughts?

Rob Pastor

Published: May 14, 2013 at 3:54 PM

Robert: You da man!!! Watergate was amateurs compared to the Niles Big Leak Machine.
Robert Niles

Published: May 14, 2013 at 4:07 PM

I don't know what to think about the 3D. It's used so poorly in so many places, but I like what Universal did with it on Spider-Man and Transformers. Still, some people can't see it, and that makes Gringotts less- or in-accesible to them. In general, I guess I do prefer parks to stay away from 3D.
TH Creative

Published: May 14, 2013 at 4:20 PM

Nice photo!
Robert Niles

Published: May 14, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Does someone have a wand that they bought at Universal Orlando, and would be willing to tear it apart to see if there's an RFID chip or some other element in there that could be used to support some interactive effect? I wonder if what Universal's working on is something that will apply only to new wands, or if the capability on the wand end is there already. *UPDATE* Strike this. See my updates, above and below.
Melissa Donahue

Published: May 14, 2013 at 4:50 PM

Robert, I have multiple wands from IOA -- they all appear to be some sort of solid resin material that is made to look like wood. I would imagine that new, updated wands will be in order for these interactives. Another money-making gimmick, to say the least!
Dominick D

Published: May 14, 2013 at 4:51 PM

That's a smart idea, but I'm not willing to tear it apart.
James Trexen

Published: May 14, 2013 at 5:22 PM

I can already see some problems about the wands given how many have sold already. Can't you just imagine someone who came in 2010, returns in 2014 and sees someone else's wand interact with the land while they have to buy another one if they want to join in. I wonder how Universal will deal with this potential customer service nightmare.

Published: May 14, 2013 at 6:01 PM

It sounds like Universal is going all in on HP 2.0... can't wait to see it. It will just up the ante in the theme park wars and Disney will put their creative caps on when it comes to Avatarland.

I heard there are fences up at AK and preliminary work has begun, but no spy shots have surfaced that I know of.

I am also amazed when comparing TH's photos to the superimposed map I created a long time ago. It is almost a spot on match. Gotta love leaked blueprints, Google Earth and Photoshop.

Tracy Bates

Published: May 14, 2013 at 6:00 PM

I was thinking the same thing with making the wands RFID. Everyone who already has one will now buy another one.

Instant cash cow.

This might make some people angry, but how many people really bring their wands back to the park after they've bought them? I can't imagine it would be enough to really get complaints. I mean, it's not like it does anything at your house.

Evan  Lucas

Published: May 14, 2013 at 7:13 PM

I would personally love to see something like MagiQuest, with different quests that you can complete at your leisure and a collectible spellbook or something similar. One of the most memorable parts of the movie is the various spells, so being able to complete them using a wand would be remarkably cool and intimately personal at the same time.
Robert Niles

Published: May 14, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Just posted an update above. Yes, we're talking new generation wands here. The old ones won't work for whatever Universal is planning.

So, no need to break your old wands!

Dominick D

Published: May 14, 2013 at 7:35 PM

For some reason breaking the wand is reminding me of the end of Deathly Hallows. Won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read the book or saw the movie, but if you have you'll know what I'm talking about.
Robert Niles

Published: May 14, 2013 at 7:45 PM

Oh, no. Don't get me started railing against the inferior ending of the movie, compared with the book!

Published: May 14, 2013 at 11:09 PM

That is why I have never read the books....

Published: May 15, 2013 at 12:08 AM

Does the size of the Gringotts show building seem small? Currently on Google Maps Sat view you can see "inside" the building. The show floor is currently at ground level with the rest of the park. And it doesn't seem to have the height to accommodate a 2nd level like Transformers.

I'm excited for this expansion, but have a feeling that this ride could end up being the size of Mummy at USH.

Published: May 15, 2013 at 2:42 AM

The interactive wands sounds interesting - hopefully they will be even more interactive than the "events" that happen in Disney's detective-style cell phone activity at Epcot's world showcase.

Published: May 15, 2013 at 4:22 AM

Wasn't their talk about interactive wands before but was it cancelled because of the crowds triggering the effects every second of the day ruining the surprise (like now at Magic Kingdom).
I wish the parks wouldn't dumb down the "game" part of these experiences. Waving a card (or wand) is not a game.
Take notice of this that is more fun: http://us.playstation.com/games/wonderbook-book-of-spells-ps3.html
Anyway, June 2014! omg didn't expect that. I thought more closer to the holidays.
TH Creative

Published: May 15, 2013 at 7:02 AM

I agree with Mr. Niles! The ending of the movie was so much better than the book. I mean, Voldemort turns out to be Luke's father and Rosebud turns out to be a sled? I'm not buying it!
David Brown

Published: May 15, 2013 at 7:21 AM

I find myself wondering how unbalanced Universal Studios is going to be after the opening of Diagon Alley. From the sounds of it we shall have a totally immersion themed area, (although there's still way too little of it to call it a 'World') and it truly looks as if the level of attention to detail and overall 'feel' will be very, very impressive.

But boy is it going to make the rest of Universal Studios feel shoddy. It's already the least attractive theme park in Florida - basically just a series of boxes with attractions inside - and whilst some of the attractions are decent, (Mummy,Transformers, Men in Black), the rest is on the average end of the scale. I can see Diagon Alley totally dominating Universal Studios and drawing 90% of the crowds and sitting very awkwardly within the park.

I don't think there's as much of an issue in Islands of Adventure. Hogsmeade is so small it's basically just another of the themed lands around the lagoon and those other lands are generally well defined and well landscaped with good quality attractions in all of them. The whole park feels coherent even with the Potter boy in residence.

Robert Niles

Published: May 15, 2013 at 8:10 AM

David, I think that's why we're seeing Universal remake the area around The Simpsons Ride into a more immersive Springfield land. You've got theming around Disaster and Mummy now, and Men in Black is a nice building. Transformers is a box, but a well-decorated one. It's the strip between Shrek and Despicable Me that really needs the most help, after Springfield.

Shrek's not long for this world, I believe, so that's the next space I'd target for a big upgrade at the Studios. But once that happens, I think you'll have a pretty consistently well-themed park all around the lagoon.

Universal is spending its Potter money to upgrade elsewhere in its parks.

Tom Walljasper

Published: May 15, 2013 at 9:56 AM

We have two wands from 2011. We will GLADLY reach in our pockets and pull out some $ for two more...especially if there is interactive possibilities. I had read somewhere when rumors about WWOHP 1.0 was first announced, that the wands would have some "in park" functionality. So I think the idea was there all along. Maybe Universal just didn't have time to implement that aspect. But NOW??? Different story. So excited...will be there September 2015 ready to cast some spells, and head to our vault in Gringott's. Thanks for all the updates Robert! I come here everyday because I can count on information like this!
Anon Mouse

Published: May 15, 2013 at 10:54 AM

These updates are getting better every time. I love the wand rumors. In fact, a local park already has wands where the kids can make things happen when you wave a wand. Its at the dinosaur exhibit at the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana.

Diagon Alley will make people forget about the new Dwarf's roller coaster at the New Fantasyland. In this case, Disney's delay will not work to its advantage. Not only did its delay in completing the New Fantasyland hurt its attendance in 2013, they are unable to capitalize when faced with real competition in 2014.

Published: May 15, 2013 at 11:32 AM

Universal: "Your move Disney.."
Disney: "Oh yeah? Well take THIS!"
*POOF* *Another character meet and great attraction appears*
Universal: "......Ummm yeah....Nice try.."
Bryce McGibeny

Published: May 15, 2013 at 1:31 PM

David, I think it's a stretch to say that the rest of the park feels "shoddy". Only one portion is themed to a movie studio, and that's Production Central, which has the "boxes" that you're referring to. The rest of the park is very pretty and feels complete. Hollywood, New York and San Fransisco develop a strong sense of place and have excellent theming. MIB looks nice, as its themed to the World Expo.

And we're getting Springfield.

Anon Mouse

Published: May 15, 2013 at 12:56 PM

I wonder if they have considered the situation of the people who are going on a round trip instead of the second park. These passengers shouldn't have to exit the station and then come back to the original station.

I have a solution. They ought to have a specific car for round trips. Either the car goes half way along the tracks and returns or it doesn't leave the station at all. The passengers just exit the car when the show is over. They never really see outside of their window so they don't know.

David Brown

Published: May 15, 2013 at 2:16 PM

I realise I'm out of synch with most people here but Universal Studios just doesn't float my boat at all. My wife and I do it because it's there but very little actually excites, (that might change post Diagon Alley of course). It's good to know Universal are spending Potter money upgrading the rest of the park but Springfield leaves me cold - mainly because the attraction at its centre is appalling (The Simpsons ride is crude both technologically and stylistically). Even if they prettify the park itself, for me the attraction line-up remains weak, (apart from the afore-mentioned trio).
And nothing they can do will bring the park even remotely up to the Potter standard, especially if it's full of interactive next-gen stuff.
I stand by my prediction that the park will be a ghost town apart from the Potterverse...

Published: May 15, 2013 at 2:56 PM

It's hardly a ghost town now without Potter 2.0. Not as crowded as IOA, but quite densely populated these days.
David Brown

Published: May 16, 2013 at 3:00 AM

"From on May 15, 2013 at 2:56 PM
It's hardly a ghost town now without Potter 2.0. Not as crowded as IOA, but quite densely populated these days."

That's not my point - my suggestion is that once Diagon Alley opens the quality of that attraction is going to be so superior to everything else in US that it is going to draw a vast percentage of the crowds that currently populate US leaving the rest of the park relatively deserted and the Potterverse horrendously crowded.

Robert Niles

Published: May 16, 2013 at 9:23 AM

FYI, I deleted a few comments and banned a user. Debate parks and what they do all you want, but we don't take kindly to direct personal attacks on other members around here. Be nice to each other, please.
James Rao

Published: May 16, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Thank you, Robert. That banning has been a LONG time coming.
Dominick D

Published: May 16, 2013 at 11:43 AM

About time he got banned.

Published: May 16, 2013 at 11:45 AM

NB = Banned. No wait... I'm still here. :)

I will have to disagree about Diagon Alley making the rest of the park look shoddy. I have always loved the more open feel of Universal Studios compared to the way IOA is laid out. If you really take a look around at all the detail that goes into buildings that are just used for props sake, it is very impressive.

IOA has trees, shops and barriers that feel like narrow hallways and everything feels farther away than it is, at least to me.

I do think you will see some big changes for both parks when the Potter 2.0 bucks start to roll in.

Dominick D

Published: May 16, 2013 at 11:49 AM

I think London will fit in just fine. Production Central and New York are sets while the rest of the lands are on location.