I don't think it would've been built at Magic Kingdom, because I think MK will always stick to the lands they currently have (and have had pretty much since opening), and just plus them, like New Fantasyland. And it'll probably always stick to Disney movies only. Which is why Harry Potter wouldve never worked at Disneyland Resort, unless they built a third park.
As far as what it would've been like, it probably wouldn't have been too different from what Universal did. Disney definitely would've built Hogwarts castle and put a ride inside it, but Disney's ride would have probably been a more traditional dark ride, in terms of the entire ride being physical sets, live effects, and lots of Audio Animatronics, much like Indiana Jones Adventure or Radiator Springs Racers. There would have been more live entertainment in Disney's Wizarding World, and most likely character meet and greets with Harry, Ron, Hermoine, Hagrid, Dumbledore, Voldemort, and more. The Butterbeer probably wouldn't have been as good, since I haven't been impressed by Disney's signature drinks so far. There may have been a nightly HP fireworks show behind the castle (like the one-time only show for WWoHP's grand opening), which would have been awesome.
Ultimately, I'm glad Universal got the rights, because they did an awesome job, and the money they have made from it has helped them to build more great attractions, which has upped the ante in the theme park wars with Disney. And if Disney built the Wizarding World at Hollywood Studios, there would have been no room for Star Wars, so theme park fans win by getting both franchises represented with immersive lands.
Now, while Disney always had "lands" that were themed, they were left somewhat vague and open ended, which when you think about it, lends itself better to the purposes of Disney and their expansive and ever growing Disney/Pixar movie properties. Lion King kills at the box office, let's drop a show in Fantasy Land. Monsters Inc. is a hit, Tomorrow Land seems like a good fit. Keeping their lands open ended in a sense, allows them to shuffle in and out attractions way quicker if a property becomes stale, as opposed to having to tear down a whole Monstropolis, or bulldoze several acres of a Pride Rock land. Because of this reason, and Disney's arrogance at times, I wonder if they would have just thought the public would have been fine with a ride inside of Hogwarts with a gift shop upon exiting and maybe a small stage show with a meet and greet in one of the corners of the park, which is what pretty much has worked for Star Wars for all these years in DHS, and that is THE cash cow, merchandise, license to print money IP to have. Just with that fairly small Star Wars presence in the corner of the park, DHS has milked it into a month long celebration of the franchise. I can almost picture the meeting about HP behind closed doors with the Accountanteers using this same model for a HP section and then designating October the official month for Harry Potter weekends, complete with special commemorative $14 cupcakes.
Enter Universal, hungry, willing to put up with Rowlings demands, and ready to shake up the whole industry with a completely new, highly themed immersive environment for people to actually wander around in. Not like in DHS where you just turn the corner and half an AT-AT is shooting misty water at you (mind you, I still geek out when I turn the corner, but you get where I'm going with this). No, WWoHP was to be an experience for all of the senses, right down to the taste buds with the creation of the extremely well received Butter Beer. What Universal did with WWoHP, was take proven formulas and crank the level up to the max, creating fan fare and global buzz and press seldom seen for theme parks in the mainstream media. Because of this, the whole landscape of what we envision when we dream of theme parks acquiring rights to build attractions based off of successful Intellectual Properties has completely been rearranged. No longer are we to imagine what current land an attraction for an IP may fit or get shoehorned into, now because of what Universal has done with WWoHP, we are able to imagine what full immersive lands based off of an IP might consist of, featuring not just one marque attraction, but even second tier attractions, meet and greets, stage shows, eateries and specialty foods.
So the question posed, "What if Disney got the rights to Harry Potter before Universal?", my answer to that, you would have never seen Carsland, New Fantasy Land, the upcoming Star Wars Land (which fans have been dreaming of and asking for, for decades now) or Avatar Land. Not to mention, Transformers East Coast, Simpsons expansion, Diagon Alley expansion, the acquisition of the Wet 'n Wild property or the upcoming Jurassic Park expansion heavily rumored to be happening. Disney missing the boat on HP was the best thing to happen to Universal, and the industry as a whole, and down the line will prove to be the shot in the arm Disney needed for an attractions renaissance at it's bloated and stale WDW complex, the likes of which haven't been seen in years. Of course, we as patrons of these parks are the biggest winners of all, and several years from now when you're being dazzled and enjoying the latest cutting edge Disney attractions in WDW, just pause for a moment and give a little tip of your wand to a certain boy wizard for making all that Disney magic possible :o)
That is why I have always questioned the Avatar idea at Disney. It doesn't appeal to kids, which is their main focus. Star Wars is another.. I love those movies because I grew up with them, but my children couldn't care less.
They grew up with Pixar movies like Cars, The Incredibles, Toy Story, WALL-E, Bugs Life etc.
That is why HP was perfect to bring in both families and teens. I know a few of us are excited about Star Wars, but it doesn't have a kids following like HP does.
I have also shared conversations with industry people that said when Disney looked at the franchise, they could not figure out how its presence would fit in its parks.
I'm also guessing that since Disney did not acquire the franchise it saved millions of dollars. And by avoiding that expense, it can continue to allow Walt Disney World resort guests to park for free at its hotels.
I know some Disney hotels charge for valet as well. What do you get in return? Free parking at the theme parks.
This is clipped right from Disney.go
For an additional fee, Disneyland Resort Hotels offer self-park and valet service for registered hotel Guests. Follow the Hotels signs directly to your destination; do not park in the theme park lot.
Rates For Hotel Guests
•Self-parking $15 per night for up to 2 vehicles
•Valet parking $22 per night per vehicle
Rates For Non-Hotel Guests
•Self-parking $15 first hour + $9 per hour per vehicle with a maximum rate of $51
•Valet parking $22 first hour + $9 per hour per vehicle with a maximum rate of $58
I can't figure out if you have convinced yourself this fact doesn't exist, or simply didn't know about it.
"What? Again?! I've had enough of this! Let's see ... (Tappity, Tappity, Tappity) ... 'Disney.go' ... (Tappity Tappity, Tappity) ... Right I'll type in 'Walt Disney World parking' ... (Tappity Tappity, Tappity) ... Um ... Drat! ... Okay ... Wait, I know! ... ... 'Disneyland parking' ... HA! Now I've got him! ... Sure TH posted "it can continue to allow Walt Disney World resort guests to park for free at its hotels" and of course Disneyland is an entirely different resort located on the opposite end of the country ... But I don't care ... I must post a response ... I must post a response ... I must post a response ... (Tappity Tappity, Tappity)."
And I find NB to be a delight!
I think TH and I should meet up some time, maybe near one of the Disneyland hotels. Don't worry buddy, I'll pay for your parking....
I Respond: Really? Walt Disney World is charging resort guests to park?
The Hard rock is set up so you can walk right through the pool and be on the path that takes you to the Universal front gate / bridge to the CityWalk in about 3 minutes, which is why I love it. That and the party atmosphere and non-stop music....
I Respond: Wait, so you're advocating attractions based upon the films of Spike Lee? Not sure how that would work.
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney California Adventure
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Hollywood