Overall it looks like WWOHP 2 is exactly what we all expected and hoped it would be four years ago when the rumors of this expansion first started flying. Immersive, narrative, exciting, and true to its source material. While I certainly won't be one of the first to visit the new land I do plan on getting back to Orlando for a visit next year. And I am excited at the prospect of that visit.
Wow. The new land just looks unreal. I mean that in as good a way as I could, and I admit one of the things I'm really looking forward to is the train ride. From what I could tell, and from what I've heard, with the screens being removed from the windows to give it more depth, I really hope it delivers on its promise of realistically transporting you from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley or vice versa.
One of my constant nitpicks of EPCOT's Soarin is that the screen is too often dirty, with black flecks that I imagine are birds because I know they're flecks of dirt. One of my great fears is that Universal will let the train screens lapse or deteriorate and the effect will be lessened with time.
But as of right now, this is truly amazing and I couldn't be more excited to get back to Orlando and check it out.
I guess I'll be the first to address it, but $45? Ouch! Unless that price goes down, I'll have no problem watching others wave wands and activate effects (at least until I have a full time job).
And be sure to give Brian kudos from me. I sure wish my video skills were as professional as that. The next generation of TPI is here and I'm liking it.
1) A poster above hinted at this but the first question that raises itself to me is 'how will Universal be able to follow this?' And I don't mean just more Harry Potter. But now they've shown us this level of immersion, this level of detail, this level of theming, this amount of CARE in an environment, will everything else they ever do be judged against this? In which case I can't wait for Jurassic Park/Kong/whatever to arrive. But if they don't - if the JP expansion is 'just' as good as, say, Transformers,will they be praised for what would anywhere else be a great attraction or slated for not being as good as we know they can be? So have they created a rod for their own back?
2) By all accounts Diagon Alley is now in a different league to every other attraction in Universal, even Hogsmeade. It's even been said on another blog site that Diagon Alley/Hogsmeade is worth the price of admission on its own - and can keep a family entertained for an entire day. I now find myself wondering whether it's going to overbalance the studios side - creating a theme park within a theme park. When I next ride the Mummy will I be comparing it to HP and thinking 'I used to think this was good but now....?'
These are not criticisms. As I say, Universal has raised the bar for all theme parks. But I can't see them being able to sustain this level of brilliance in everything that follows. Although wouldn't it be fantastic if they did....... I'd pay VERY good money to experience Jurassic Park in the same level of immersive detail as the Wizarding World...
I was shocked the interactive wands are only $10 more expensive. With the demand on them they could have asked $60 and tell everyone the do it to lower the amount of guests to use it due to congestion but they didn't.
Regarding the extra expense, I don't get it. Go 2 days to Universal, buy a 2 day ticket and you have 2 amazing days and it's cheaper per day then the single day ticket. Why do people complain? O right they only want 1 day to visit the multimillion dollar expansion to run back to Disney to see the same old rides they have seen for many years. Disney is doing the same, if I only want to ride their e-ticket rides I need to buy a 1 day hopper to ride Splash, Test track, the broken Yeti and Tower of Terror. They both do the same, no problem, right?
The pictures I have seen so far don't seem to show riders on the Gringott's Ride wearing 3D glasses, yet I keep hearing that it's a 3-D attraction. Does anyone know whether we have to wear glasses or whether they have somehow managed the 3D without the need for them?
Also in regards to your theming question, we have already seen universal step up their theming and immersion game. Just last year they revamped the Simpsons area to be a more cohesive and immersive full land, giving us duff gardens, moes, a new spinner etc, as well as many little Easter eggs of sorts in tribute to the Simpsons. Now we have diagon, I expect this trend to continue with their future projects
So, I'll do the 2 days at Universal as you suggested (maybe even four days if you don't mind), but I'll buy single park tickets and skip some of the miscellaneous HP related expenditures. Now, my $485 + tax can be a bit more wisely spent, and now my family can experience some of the other excellent thrills central Florida has to offer.
As for me "complaining" about the prices, I really am only "complaining" about the up-charge on the train. If Universal wasn't trying to gouge the customer (another lesson they seemed to have learned from Disney) they would offer a round trip option for one-park-per-day guests. And I am sure that when the crowds stabilize as the newness wears off, Universal will make the right choice. I can wait. I am a patient man. Besides, I can always ride Spider-Man or Mummy one more time instead!
I bet Your son was going nuts there....
Also, on the ticket thing, I pretty much expect that Universal will phase out the single park tickets over time (which, of course, will be a price increase to anyone just wanting to do 1 park.) It sucks, but they are gonna have to make money off of this (and a lot of it.)
But anyways Diagon Alley looks AMAZING! I am really hoping that Universal has a AP preview so maybe I can get in there before the July 8th craziness starts.
Robert any word if there will be express pass for Gringotts?
Keep in mind James I am not at all bashing what you are doing fanatically at all. I understand the need to save money, but to say that Universal is price gouging I just feel is unfair when you compare to Disney's prices for parks, food, hotel, merchandise, ext. I have annual passes to both Disney World and Universal and I love both places, but I defiantly feel it in my wallet a lot more on the days we go to Disney rather than when we go to Universal. Plus James you are one of my favorites on here because we share a love for SDC! :)
More importantly, if you reread my post carefully you'll see I derided both Universal AND Disney for price gouging.
When you compare Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, the difference is so much more clear. For one day at Disneyland, you get a full year at USH.
@Anon, there's not enough to do at USH for one day, let alone a whole year!
Universal hotel guests will get early access before the park opens, and I suspect that the timed entry system will last as long as Universal deems it necessary to keep the crowd levels manageable.
I also don't understand the concern for the new standard that Universal is setting. Would it be better if Universal created average attractions so that they could always top it?
The opening of DA has been the most hyped (theme park) event I have witnessed. Week long broadcasts of Jimmy Fallon at Universal, and every theme park web site scrambling to convey the latest news and reveals.
The original WWoHP had a great grand opening event, but this is unreal. I have to say, Robert's coverage has nothing less than amazing. I am sooooo hyped for this because of TPI.
This is why I still don't understand Avatar or Star Wars expansions. One movie had lush colorful forests and the huge tree, but no real way to tie in all of these additions like the shops and stores from the HP movies.
Any concrete in Avatar Land would totally throw off the illusion.
Then there is Star Wars. What do you base it on? Tatooine? Death Star? That futuristic city in Attack of the Clones? I just don't understand it. Maybe something completely new from the upcoming movies? That would really tick off the Star Wars purists who grew up with the original three in the 80's who are not fond of Episodes 1-3.
Cars Land was brilliant. All sorts of possibilities for merch tie-ins, shops, restaurants, and a ride through Radiator Springs, etc...
Why, oh why Disney did you pass on HP? I for one am glad they did....
You want Avatar to look like HP in concept? What nonsense is that?
Star Wars will not be like HP (in concept) either, but Star Wars has it's own following that exceeds the fanaticism of Harry Potter fans.
You keep talking about "stores" and now "stores" is the standard that Disney should do now. How ridiculous. Disney will capitalize on the merchandising of Avatar and Star Wars, but it will be different than HP.
The concrete in Avatar will be hidden in the foliage. What do you think that big tree in Animal Kingdom is made of?
I am sure Star Wars will mainly comprise of Episodes 4 to 6, but include 1 - 3, and maybe a bit of the new trilogy. So what about the purists? I don't care. They already ruined it with the parodies, thus they are the problem.
@Questions relating to the term "up-charge" where the new train is concerned: "up-charge" simply means, "an additional charge". If you buy multi-day, one-park tickets at Universal, you do not have access to the new train ride because Universal has decided not to offer a round trip option. Therefore, you must buy a park to park ticket which is "an additional charge". It similar to the up-charge to ride a sky coaster, the go-carts, or climb a rock wall at your local Six Flags. If you traditionally buy park to park tickets, no big deal (although the price did go up with this expansion). However, if you do not traditionally buy park to park tickets, you either skip the ride or pony up "an additional charge". For a family of five that up-charge is $200 (not sure if it includes tax or not).
I completely understand what Universal is doing, and I understand why. I get it, I really do. I just don't like it. Seems to me the smart folks at Universal Creative could have developed a more equitable solution for all Universal fans.
The horse is dead. I am done talking about it and done detracting from an otherwise excellent new themed expansion.
My feeling is Universal has every right to do this new thing. I don't consider it an upcharge since this ride is considered a park hopping ride. It's an entirely new category. It's an innovation. It encourages guests to visit both parks. It also alleviates congestion at the entrances. Why not bypass the entrance gates?
I can imagine Disneyland in Anaheim doing the same thing to transfer to DCA via the monorail.
I was wondering if there are any Disney higher ups at these media events. I know they can buy a ticket after the grand opening like anyone else.
Second, as to what else Universal can do: Bring the House of Horrors to Orlando. It was the most fun I had at Hollywood. From what I saw, it was the most fun others had as well. Obviously, it might not sit well with parents of young children, as it is very scary, but it would not be too expensive to make and is a blast.
First of all, it is amazing how TPI has grown and changed over the years. Before 1999, if you wanted to read and share your opinions about theme parks and theme park rides, you were largely limited to the saccharine sweet Disney fan sites where "Cinderella Girl" and her friends shared their thoughts about whether Sleeping Beauty looked better in blue or pink, or you were relegated to the roller coaster fan sites where the discussions centered around pulling Gs and getting airtime and whether Magic Mountain was better than Cedar Point. Nothing wrong with those discussions if that is your thing, but thanks to TPI and a few other thoughtful sites, we now get some real topics to discuss.
So, thanks Robert, for 15 years of TPI and the excellent articles, discussion forums, and inside information that you've given us. You earned the right to break the Diagon Alley story by being fair and honest throughout the years to all of the players in the amusement and theme park industry. The excellent video that you just provided us about the opening of Diagon Alley is just the tip of the iceberg in years of hard work. Congratulations!
Secondly, congratulations and thanks to the Universal Creative team and the NBC/Universal/Comcast management team. Back when Islands of Adventure opened up, it was apparent that greater things were possible and yet to come, but with with the right creative and management team a new paradigm has been established in the theme park industry. Many of us have been predicting this for years, but with the opening of Diagon Alley, Universal Orlando has become the measuring stick for high tech rides and immersive lands, and provides the best value for a theme park vacation in Orlando.
TPI and Universal Orlando - flying under the radar for years, but now getting their just due for providing high quality entertainment to the theme park enthusiast community!
I have to point out that you said "Universal (or some other theme park company) could have slapped some posters on a wall, piled stock-ordered desks with merchandise, ordered an off-the-shelf ride system with a Harry Potter skin, and raked in the cash.", and no, they coulnd't have. J.K. Rowling would never have allowed that to happen. Ever. She was very specific in that regard.