David Ackerman

Published: January 24, 2014 at 5:14 PM

Cool. Thank you!
Anthony Murphy

Published: January 24, 2014 at 6:02 PM

While I feel that this will be very well put together, I still do not see how this makes sense. If they really wanted to expand Harry Potter, just get rid of the rest of the Lost Continent. I feel that Universal is putting way too much into Harry Potter.

Also, what is there for the little kids to do? If Universal wants to make a dent, they need to make more family rides!

Rob Pastor

Published: January 24, 2014 at 7:57 PM

Not much for little kids to do will hopefully keep Diagon's narrow street from being clogged with strollers.
Phil B.

Published: January 24, 2014 at 9:13 PM

You think there's enough merchandise locations? There's certainly no shortage of ways to part with your money in this expansion. I half expect a booth for the DVC to eventually show up here.
Robert Niles

Published: January 24, 2014 at 9:15 PM

The Diagonalley Vacation Club? Something is going in on those third floor spaces!
Annette Forrest

Published: January 24, 2014 at 9:19 PM

I love that Universal is creating a park-within-a-park with all the Harry Potter attractions. My family previously didn't have much interest in Universal, but with all the Potter things to do we will be spending one full day at Universal from now on, I'm sure.

Someone commented above about "ways to part with your money". I see this attitude a lot on theme park sites and always think it's so strange and such a weird way of seeing a day in a theme park. I never understand this hostility towards retail locations or food places in the parks. I wish Robert would do an article on the psychology of that.

There's a distinct subgroup of the theme park fan community that seems angry at retail locations...and angry that there are things offered for sale in the parks. Well, don't buy anything if you don't want. No one is forcing you! That "parting with your money" way of putting it is weirdly passive-aggressive...like Universal is robbing you or picking your pockets.

Maybe going on cruises would be a better vacation for people who think like this. Go where all the food and drink is included in the cruise price, then you won't be upset about "parting with your money" for extra things after that.

Robert Niles

Published: January 25, 2014 at 12:50 AM

Let's not forget the role of Diagon Alley within the Harry Potter narrative is as the shopping mall of the Wizarding World. It's where everyone goes to buy school supplies. It's where the bank is. It's the commercial center of the wizarding community in Britain. So, yeah, it's within theme to build it out in a theme park with a ton of merch.

Typically, I don't write much about merchandise because, frankly, I don't care about it. I don't collect stuff. I have a Mickey Mouse watch and some nice fine writing pens. And a few T-shirts. That's all the theme park stuff I own, or care to own.

But I see the appeal of being fully immersed in a narrative's theme. And being in the Diagon Mall shopping district does that within Harry Potter. I might not buy much when I'm there. (Perhaps a Gryffindor pen, as that is my house....) But I will enjoy browsing each shop, having lunch at the Leaky Cauldron and riding the rides as much as I can stand.

None of this means that we shouldn't cover merch on TPI. We should. Many fans love it. But I'm a lousy writer to cover that topic, given my indifference. If someone else cares to step forward, the podium is yours! :^)

Published: January 25, 2014 at 8:58 AM

If I'm reading this correctly (and I like to think that I am), there's only one way in and one way out of the Diagon Alley area. A very narrow one at that. As a frequent visitor to Halloween Horror Nights, this does facilitate the ability to close the area during that event, which bums me out because I would love to get a few extra rides on Gringotts with slightly lesser crowds being around.
Robert Niles

Published: January 25, 2014 at 12:34 PM

There is at least one alternate exit in the plans for Diagon Alley, although I suspect those might be reserved for emergencies or, at the very least, periods of extreme crowds.
Phil B.

Published: January 25, 2014 at 3:50 PM

It's called satire Annette, which is something that Mr. Niles clearly gets, and my take on merch in the parks pretty much mirrors his. I'll spend a fair amount of time in shops when I visit the parks, and if I see something I like I buy it and don't think twice about the cost, but nobody has a gun to anybody's head to make a purchase and I spend more time browsing than buying. I also spend plenty of money at sit down restaurants in the parks, and I do it with a big smile on my face (far from the pouty scowl I'm sure you envision), happily opening up my wallet and generously tipping for the exceptional service I usually receive. So engage in extra expenditure during your theme park visits or don't, it's all up to the individual.

I welcome merchandise and food locations into themeparks and applaud how they have become so much a part of the show and a continuation of the themed experience. It's also not lost on me that people want to continue to connect with their in park experiences long after they have finished their vacations, and bringing home souvenirs, having something more tactile then just a digital picture, is a way to keep that experience fresh with something tangible every time you pick it up.

So if Mr. Niles chooses to explore the psychology of this hostile sub-group of theme park goers who come off as being weirdly passive aggressive, angry and upset at theme parks for trying to get guests to "part with their money", I'm all for that article, as I consider Mr. Niles editorial skills quite sound and I welcome his take on any theme park related topic. But to think any theme park in the world isn't trying to get you to part with more of your money than what you paid for to get through the gates is just naive. It's the reason rides exit into shops, premium viewing locations are offered with a dinner meal, non-alcoholic specialty drinks are created and on ride pictures were invented. Hell, Disney, purveyors of all things magical, dreamy and wondrous, just spent a Billion dollars on a system in hopes that it would see increased merch sales as a result. The theme park business is not an altruistic endeavor, it's the sugar coated height of modern day, synergistic capitalism. To think it's not would be an exercise in unabashed gullibility, and if that's the case, while I'm here, I also have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale if there's any interest.

Tim Hillman

Published: January 26, 2014 at 6:22 AM

Robert, if/when Universal decides to expand the Harry Potter areas at USO and IOA, is any expansion possible at Diagon Alley or is the remainder of the Lost Continent the logical place to see more Potter sequels?
Anon Mouse

Published: January 27, 2014 at 8:59 AM

"If they really wanted to expand Harry Potter, just get rid of the rest of the Lost Continent."

Why dump an adequate attraction just to give us more Harry Potter? They already dumped The Jaws attraction, which is older and more likely to be less popular than the Lost Continent. These "if" style questions are beyond their expiration date. It makes no sense to rehash "what ifs" if they are close to opening Diagon Alley.

I happen to think the genius of Diagon Alley is it creates more opportunity for Universal to cash into the popularity of the Harry Potter theme with 2 park passes as the norm. Expanding into the Lost Continent won't have nearly the same impact and it doesn't have much expansion space.

"Also, what is there for the little kids to do? If Universal wants to make a dent, they need to make more family rides!"

Wouldn't the train fulfill this requirement? Kids love to ride the train.

Anon Mouse

Published: January 27, 2014 at 8:56 AM

Merchandising is a hot topic for many reasons. I found it strange that there is a request to psycho-analyze those who hate the merchandising. It really isn't that hard.

I am indifferent to the topic to a point. While the theme park fan demands merchandise that fits the theme, they turn up their noses to generic merchandise. They want enough good merchandise without the cheap ripoffs. In other words, they want perfection. This they won't get.

Frankly, a theme park can sell whatever they want, but it does get annoying for the non-stop selling. They won't go away. Only a sucker will buy something to make them go away. Actually, if you buy something, there is a larger target on your forehead or back. They will be even more relentless.

Nick McKaig

Published: January 28, 2014 at 7:07 AM

It seems to me that they might run into a major crowd problem. Hogsmeade has the benefit of being a "through" land, with entry and exit points on two sides. Diagon Alley has a single entry point with Gringotts at the back end. Does Universal have a plan to be able to manage the huge crowds? Also, is there any more space between buildings in this land than at Hogsmeade? Universal went for authenticity so much in the original land that if there are any more than modest crowds it can feel very claustrophobic. It would be nice to have some more breathing room, especially with the tall facades surrounding guests on all sides and not feeling very open. Any idea what the capacity of this area is?
Dan McNeely

Published: January 29, 2014 at 3:19 PM

I know the official opening date hasn't been announced but I was thinking of booking some hotel rooms for a visit to Universal in Orlando in April.

My best guess has the Diagon Alley opening on April 12th. Does anyone have inside sources that can confirm or deny this date? :)

Terri Pierce

Published: January 30, 2014 at 12:44 PM

So what is the current olivanders becoming?