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What if Disney got the rights to Harry Potter before Universal?

Walt Disney World: What would HP land look like if Disney made a Harry Potter land instead of Universal?

From Ryan Pickhardt
Posted September 4, 2013 at 4:49 PM
Imagine we were back in time and we just found out Disney got the rights to Harry Potter and were going to build an immersive land that would bring you into Harry's world. What would it be like, where would it be, and what rides would Disney add or change to make this magical land?


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted September 4, 2013 at 5:03 PM
I think it would have been much bigger. They would probably have the same rides.

From Cory R
Posted September 4, 2013 at 7:55 PM
Great question Ryan. If Disney would have gotten the rights to Harry Potter, you would have to assume the Wizarding World would've been built at Hollywood Studios; its the only logical place for it. It likely would've gone in the Echo Lake/GMR area where Star Wars Land will be going, or the Backlot Tour/Streets of America area where Cars Land and/or Monstropolis will eventually be going.

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.

From Phil B.
Posted September 4, 2013 at 10:46 PM
While I don't question Disney's ability to create an immersive themed land, I do question whether on not Disney would have created a whole land in the way that Universal did for Harry Potter. Remember, before The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was built, most theme parks didn't dedicate whole lands to one intellectual property. Universal of course had taken the first steps in IOA with Marvel Super Hero Island, Suess Landing and the beautifully executed Jurassic Park land. All very well done, but aside from Jurassic Park which centrally focused on the specific movie property, the other lands were areas that allowed for a collection of rides based off of other characters or stories that fell under the umbrella of that specific IP.

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)

From N B
Posted September 5, 2013 at 3:59 PM
I don't think Transformers would be at USF or the Simpsons area would be what is today. That is all wizarding cash. Diagon alley should be absolutely stunning.

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.

From TH Creative
Posted September 5, 2013 at 4:18 PM
I remember chatter about Harry Potter at Universal dating as far back as 2000.

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.

From TH Creative
Posted September 5, 2013 at 4:26 PM
Here's some Old School TPI ... And the "school" referenced would be Hogwarts!

http://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/200610/213/

From N B
Posted September 5, 2013 at 5:14 PM
TH? Still miffed about parking fees? You need to let go, buddy. $24 a day (valet) is worth the whole family getting free Unilimited Express.

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

Hotel Parking


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

Ouch....

From TH Creative
Posted September 5, 2013 at 6:26 PM
NB rose like a brook trout, didn't he folks?

(Chuckle)

From Cory R
Posted September 5, 2013 at 6:17 PM
Star Wars is still very popular with a lot of kids today. The Clone Wars series that was on Cartoon Network has really helped to reinvigorate Star Wars for kids. Star Wars has a much broader in age fanbase than Harry Potter, and will have more staying power. The films started almost 40 years ago, and there are still more movies coming out in the next few years. Harry Potter will no longer have any more books or movies. There are many more locations in the Star Wars universe than in the Harry Potter universe, more characters, and the stories span a lot longer period of time.

From N B
Posted September 5, 2013 at 7:17 PM
TH, I always wonder why you pull out the trump card (Universal's hotel parking charges) when Disney does the same thing. Yet, you continue to insinuate no Disney hotel charges for parking.

I can't figure out if you have convinced yourself this fact doesn't exist, or simply didn't know about it.

From TH Creative
Posted September 6, 2013 at 2:37 AM
Here's how I picture 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)."

(Chuckle)

From Apple Butter
Posted September 6, 2013 at 4:08 AM
The award for pushing TH's buttons goes to NB, congrats. Parking is a non issue unless your suggestion is that Disney would name some of the parking lots after HP characters.... This is a non helpful thread that festers these kinds of comments like what if Walt actually started Universal parks or what if the sky is green or the grass blue. It has not happened and will never happen so why think about something that will never happen.

From TH Creative
Posted September 6, 2013 at 6:36 AM
If "Walt actually started Universal parks" hotel guests would not have to pay for parking.

(Chuckle)

And I find NB to be a delight!

From Andrew Dougherty
Posted September 6, 2013 at 7:20 AM
If the sky was green I think we'd all be screwed. And if the grass was blue its probably radioactive.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted September 6, 2013 at 7:38 AM
^ Or sad.

From Ryan Pickhardt
Posted September 6, 2013 at 7:43 AM
^ Thank you for making me laugh Mike! Anyway, I don't see the big deal in paying for parking or not, so back on topic.

From N B
Posted September 6, 2013 at 1:13 PM
Sorry people, I didn't mean to hijack this thread. It turns out I was correct and we will just leave it at that.

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....

From TH Creative
Posted September 6, 2013 at 1:47 PM
NB writes: "It turns out I was correct ..."

I Respond: Really? Walt Disney World is charging resort guests to park?

(Chuckle)

From Andy Milito
Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:06 AM
No, don't start this again...

From TH Creative
Posted September 7, 2013 at 11:18 AM
But NB is adorable!

From N B
Posted September 7, 2013 at 7:11 PM
And TH is handsome...

From Apple Butter
Posted September 8, 2013 at 7:37 AM
Get a room, preferably a room at the Royal Pacific and write a review about it because that is where my family is staying at next fall to see the new Harry 2.0, Transformers, and Springfield. Thanks :)

From N B
Posted September 8, 2013 at 8:29 AM
We'll be at the Hard Rock.

From N B
Posted September 8, 2013 at 2:42 PM
You should love Royal Pacific, BTW. My only gripe was when the water taxis weren't running due to possible lightning, etc... The walk from RP to the Lone Palm Airport can be a bit long if you have to do it multiple times. Portofino is even farther.

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....

From April Lancaster
Posted September 10, 2013 at 2:25 AM
I think first it would become way bigger. And second it would be built for all age groups, even for really small children, who have maybe never seen a HP film.

From Apple Butter
Posted September 10, 2013 at 5:40 AM
Actually Disney would create a ride like Forbidden Journey but in a few years the execs would see that the spiders and dementors were too scary so they would replace it with Disney characters to make it more "kid friendly" and eventually crippling the ride to being one of the worst experiences in the park. Harry Potter and the Not So Forbidden Jourbey with Stich and Friends.

From Apple Butter
Posted September 10, 2013 at 5:57 AM
Thanks NB for the review of Royal Pacific. I'm excited about staying there. I've stayed at Portofino Bay twice and although expensive you can't beat the express pass. The chop chop restaurant looks amazing too. The luau looks good too, I wonder if its worth the price? I'm pumped and its a little more than a year from now :( I have my Hawaiian shirts all ready! Kidding but I can't wait!

From O T
Posted September 15, 2013 at 10:22 AM
I think Disney would have done an amazing job with the HP franchise. They would have build Hogwarts the size of the Beasts castle on top of a rocky construction. When you enter you'll get straight into the dining hall to...dine and eat stuff. They would have mugs with Harry, Ron and Hermione on them to collect.
Hogsmeade would have been build and would be one continues store with automatic sliding doors and would be as big as Wall-mart. There would be a dark ride with an omnimover ride system rehashing scenes from each movie telling the complete story under 4 minutes. There would have been many meet and greets with almost but not quite lookalikes and a wand training school rivalling the Jedi training academy. The evening will have a huge dance off on a large stage in the middle of Hogsmeade with all characters. First we'll see the kids and Voldemort dancing on Cee-Lo Green's F@(k You and later we'll see Dumbledore do PSY's Gangnam Style. Yep it would have been awesome, respectful and a fan favourite.

From Rob Pastor
Posted September 15, 2013 at 11:17 AM
OT: Great satire.

From James Trexen
Posted September 15, 2013 at 11:20 AM
Wow, three slamming posts in three consecutive threads. You're on an anti-Disney roll today, aren't you OT?

From O T
Posted September 15, 2013 at 1:04 PM
@James Nope, I had a lot of love for Disney but I don't like what they are doing now.
Take for instance the Villains character thing they had at DHS this Friday. The park was packed and got to capacity. Fans are asking for years to do something with it but Disney doesn't, to much into making money and not doing the right thing. It all could be so cool but it's not and it's disappointing. Sorry for pointing that out.

From N B
Posted September 15, 2013 at 6:23 PM
Wow...

From Cory R
Posted September 15, 2013 at 7:02 PM
I went to the Unleash the Villains at DHS Friday, and yes the parked was crazy packed, yes Disney planned for it very poorly by having the park understaffed, the parking situation a mess, and the ridiculousness of having only one toll booth open at the toll plaza off World Drive...however, the event was great. The fireworks was one of the best Disney has done in a while. Personally, it was the most epic 8 minutes of fireworks I've ever seen. And some of the villains at the event were awesome to see, especially Oogie Boogie, Shan Yu, Bowler Hat Guy, and Sheriff of Nottingham. And everyone at the event ate it all up, which is what ultimately matters most to Disney. That and money, which they made a ton of off the special merchandise and specialty drinks and desserts. And the fact that it was so popular shows that Disney still knows what its doing.

From TH Creative
Posted September 16, 2013 at 3:17 PM
OT writes: "Fans are asking for years to do something with it but Disney doesn't, to much into making money and not doing the right thing."

I Respond: Wait, so you're advocating attractions based upon the films of Spike Lee? Not sure how that would work.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted September 16, 2013 at 4:58 PM
Summer of Sam dark ride? I'm soooo there!

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