What would you do? Bringing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Universal Studios Hollywood

March 7, 2011, 9:32 AM · If you were running the Universal Studios theme parks, wouldn't you want to replicate the success you've had with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at all your Universal theme parks?

I know I would.

If you were a theme park fan (or Harry Potter fan), living in or near Southern California, wouldn't you want a Harry Potter theme park near you, at Universal Studios Hollywood?

I really know that I would. (Universal Hollywood is the closest theme park to my house, and as you probably know by now, I crave me some of that Butterbeer.)

Obviously, there are contracts and rights issues that will determine whether Universal can bring Harry Potter to its other theme parks. But beyond the work the lawyers do, there will be logistical issues, as well.

When Universal bought its property for an Orlando theme park, it learned a lesson from Disney, and bought more land than it needed for a single park. While Universal didn't buy nearly as much property as Disney did when it built Walt Disney World, Universal obtained more than enough space to develop a second theme park (which became Islands of Adventure - home of the Wizarding World), with plenty of room between attractions for future expansion.

But that's not the case back in Hollywood, at Universal's original theme park. Universal developed its Los Angeles-area property as a movie studio in the 1910s, later adding a Studio Tour and then a theme park around the tour's entrance at the top of a mountain on the studio property. There's simply no significant open space for expansion within or next to the theme park on Universal's property. If Universal wants to develop a new attraction for its Hollywood theme park, it must replace an existing facility within the park.

So... what goes if Harry Potter is to move in? What would you do to bring Harry Potter to Universal Studios Hollywood?

Let's take a look from an aerial view:

You're looking at the upper lot of Universal Studios Hollywood. The large white half-circle to the right is the Gibson Amphitheater (which, technically, is not part of the theme park). The blue space below it and to the left is the water tank in the Waterworld show theater. Below that in the photo is CityWalk - the large structure in the lower right corner is the movie theater complex. (Hold your mouse over the photo and you should get pop-up labels.)

At the end of CityWalk, in the lower right corner of the photo, partially obscured by a palm tree shadow, is the Universal globe. The pale red pathway that leads up and slightly to the right from there is the entrance to the theme park. The large fan-shaped building in the middle on the left side of the photo is the Terminator 2: 3-D theater.

If you look above the T2 plaza, you'll see a dark shadow over some green space. That's because the T2 plaza is built on top of the Frankenstein parking structure that hangs off the side of this mountain. It's the plaza/parking structure that's casting that shadow over what's actually the Jurassic Park ride on the lower lot. The Revenge of the Mummy building is just above that, in the upper left corner of the photo. Those blueish lines you see emerging from there - first up and to the right, then down and to the right, are the Starway escalators heading back up to the upper lot, where they end just between The Simpsons Ride (on the right) and the Special Effects Stage in the old Castle Theater (on the left).

That's what we're working with here. If you want to find space for a Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you've got to replace something on this map.

My two choices? Ditch either the amphitheater on the right, or the Terminator 2 plaza on the left.

Personally, I'd choose to redevelop the T2 plaza. Why? First, I think the Terminator franchise is less valuable to Universal going forward than continuing to offer a 6,000-seat live music venue. Plus, the T2 plaza's already well placed for a British-themed attraction. There's some London street scenery just to the right of the T2 plaza that could be repurposed, as Universal Orlando repurposed its existing Lost Continent to help develop its Wizarding World.

I'm proposing that the Hollywood version of Harry Potter be different than the Orlando version, and that it should be Diagon Alley, set in London, rather than the Hogsmeade village built in Orlando. In this plan, the current T2 building would become the site for an Escape from Gringotts ride, inspired by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The Leaky Cauldron would stand at the entrance to this new land, serving Butterbeer and other English-themed fare from Orlando's Three Broomsticks. (The Leaky Cauldron probably would be a retheme for the existing International Cafe.) Shops would include Ollivander's, Flourish & Blotts (and the exit to the Gringotts ride) and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.

There's a room Universal uses as a banquet hall behind the House of Horrors, just to the lower right of the T2 plaza, that could be repurposed as a Borgin & Burkes dark magic theater, at the end of Knockturn Alley, to provide a second attraction in this smaller Wizarding World.

The upside for this plan would be the creation of a complementary attraction to the Orlando Wizarding World, giving Harry Potter fans a reason to visit a second Universal theme park, rather than a duplication that wouldn't draw fans from across the country and across the Atlantic. The downside would be the exclusion of the iconic Hogwarts Castle and the already-famous Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. But if Universal Creative could create a ride of similar quality in Gringotts, I don't think that exclusion would cripple this project.

So, what do you think?

Do you think Universal should try to bring Harry Potter to Hollywood?

If you do, do you think Universal should keep the Hogsmeade theme, or try instead Diagon Alley (or something else)?

If you want to see Harry Potter in Hollywood, which current USH attractions should it replace?

I'd love to hear your plans, in the comments.

Previously on Theme Park Insider: More "What would you do?"

Replies (32)

March 7, 2011 at 10:00 AM · I agree wholeheartedly. Terminator is out. And those streets are just sitting there. Other option is to buy a whole other property and start fresh. Say closer to Magic Mountain or we have tons of room up here in the Antelope Valley.
March 7, 2011 at 10:00 AM · I think Universal needs to really go big if it's going to add Harry Potter. I wouldn't just get rid of one attraction - I'd get rid of 3!

I think a perfect spot would be the area taking up the Gibson Amphitheatre AND Waterworld AND Shrek 4D! I'd move Shrek 4D over to the T2 building and retheme that entire area. That would make the Harry Potter area huge and breathe new life into this park. I think the park would be changed for the better.

Having seen Waterworld numerous times in both Hollywood and Singapore, in my view it's kind of a dated show now. I realise that Waterworld soaks up a lot of guests, but maybe they could consider a Harry Potter live action show replacement?

March 7, 2011 at 10:09 AM · I think diagon alley is already in the planning stages in Orlando. The park is completely different so take a completely different approach. Do a Potter museum like the one being built in London and make a themed ride. Put the focus on the movie making side of things.
If you want to know what it could look like then check this out:
March 7, 2011 at 10:21 AM · Why stop at Universal Hollywood? Should WWOHP be included in Singapore also?
March 7, 2011 at 10:29 AM · I think Singapore needs to get its park fully operating and officially open before anyone talks about expanding it.

But yeah, I'd love to see Universal add it there, and in Japan and Korea, too.

Not to go off on a tangent, but I wonder where other countries' wizarding schools were in the Harry Potter universe? There was a crowd sign in the Quidditch world cup scene in HP4 that suggested America's school was in Salem, Mass. (Nice touch, BTW.) But one presumes there would be wizarding schools elsewhere in the world.

March 7, 2011 at 10:33 AM · While I'm a huge fan of Terminator 2 as a movie, I agree that that attraction can go... I've always had a problem with that show as it starts with you being part of the show, then eventually back as only a spectator, then back to being part of the show... it couldn't make up its mind.

I would love for HP to arrive on the West Coast. Maybe have a slightly different version? I'm not sure how, but find a way to make it different enough to make people want to go to both parks? As old as Jaws is in Orlando, I appreciate how different and entertaining it is compared to the Hollywood version.

March 7, 2011 at 12:29 PM · I agree 110% with your idea Robert! In fact I was just talking about that same thing with some friends the other day. Having just went to Orlando and revisiting both Universal parks, I realize just how much worse the Hollywood park and rides really are in comparison. It's downright sad. The mummy ride in Hollywood vs. Orlando is no competition. The small amount of rides at Hollywood is also a negative point for the park. They need to do something more than a 90 second 3D King Kong attraction that you wait an hour to see in the backlot tour.
HP World would be EXACTLY what they need. And it should absolutely be in place of terminator 2.
I was talking about Terminator 2 being re-themed as Iron Man, but now that Disney owns Marvel, I doubt that could happen. Knock it down and build an epic Hogwarts Castle (Or Gringotts!) in place. It would look even more amazing being on the upper lot, and not down below.
Get rid of the entire street leading up to that point too, and retheme it all. Do it right. The Orlando version is so detailed it's incredible, and Hollywood needs to keep this aspect. Also, don't shorten the ride, like with The Mummy. Make it something that Orlando guests want to travel cross country to see as well.

The park desperately needs it.

I have high hopes for the Terminator ride being something like Spider Man at Islands of Adventure, but until they step up their game, the park is not worth going to.

March 7, 2011 at 12:39 PM · If you see Google Earth, the piece of land where the castle was built was a very small one. The rest of the Harry Potter area was built on part of the Lost Continent. If Universal gets rid of the amphitheater (the castle could fit there) and of Waterworld (the Hogsmeade village could fit there) then they could duplicate it (without the rollercoasters of course)

I live in Tampa, so the only reason for me to travel to Universal Hollywood is if there are different attractions. For this reason I agree with Mr. Niles that a different experience of Harry Potter would be a good idea.

March 7, 2011 at 1:18 PM · I love your idea, Robert. Using a different part of the Harry Potter universe is smart on both a creative and economic level.

I also like the idea of creating a new, unique, American wizarding school. Think of all the American fanboys that would go nuts for something new from the series, imagined by J.K. Rowling and designed by Universal Creative. You could even give it a cheeky name, like Ghouliard.

March 7, 2011 at 2:08 PM · The Special Effects Stage and the stage next to it would be prime locations. If Hogwarts were built there it would even look imposing ( at least from below ) because of its location up on a hill. I vaguely recall shows in these theaters over the years, mostly a Frankenstein show in the '70's and a Conan one in the 80's. Every other show that's played there ( Creature of the Black Lagoon: The Musica, etc. ) are absolutely dead to me. The animal actor show is cool but all those other Beetlejuice and Fear Factor things? They're just dead to me. Move the animal actor show to the old western stage or better yet, reopen that gunfight stunt show as well.

Alternate plan, remove Waterworld. It was a terrible movie but a pretty good stunt show. No matter how good the stunt show is, it can't redeem an unpopular movie and quite frankly has had a very long, long run for such a poor source material.

The idea of making it Diagon Alley is a winner, Robert.

March 7, 2011 at 2:33 PM · Here's my plan: I wouldn't build an entire replica of Orlando's WWoHP, or even Diagon Alley; I would just replace T2-3D with Forbidden Journey (although the building would have to be expanded somehow), and place a Butterbeer cart (or two if it gets REALLY popular) outside the attraction. Done.
March 7, 2011 at 3:14 PM · I think they get rid of Waterworld, place the castle/ HPFJ ride in its place, build Hogsmeade along the path to Waterworld, and feature a nighttime show including the castle in the story. You could have seating across a small river like fantasmic in DHS with the castle being where the island in fantasmic sits.

If it is too confusing to understand, please ask for a better explanation.

Then I think the Terminator 2: 3D in Hollywood and Orlando can be replaced with an Avatar atraction like the one that is being rumored currently.

March 7, 2011 at 3:37 PM · It would be less expensive and easier if they just place a Butterbeer cart in front of a wall with the castle and village painted over it.
March 7, 2011 at 5:09 PM · Sorry but for self-proclaimed theme park geeks, you lot don't seem to know much.

It specifically states in Universal's contract with Warner Brothers Films that only in the ORLANDO resort can Harry Potter-themed leisure attractions be built. And even then, the contract is only for films 1-4. Universal are not allowed to include anything from the later films, not even the soundtracks, in the WWoHP until an option to expand the WWoHP is taken up by both parties.

(I would highly suggest this option has already been taken up, seeing as it is simply a money-making machine)

J.K. specifically demanded Universal Orlando Resort as it was the main (only) Universal resort that BRITONS visit frequently, and this was a key factor in her decision (ultimatum).

Much like Universal's deal with Marvel which allows it to use characters ONLY in Orlando and Japan, Universal's deal with the Harry Potter franchise is solely for Orlando.

And for the record, if you're talking about expansion of WWoHP at IOA, then it is written into the contract that further attraction(s) built must utilise films 5-7.

March 7, 2011 at 5:15 PM · I would also like to add (I made the previous anon post, too) my thoughts on Universal Hollywood.

Quite simply, the park is going downhill. Nobody cares about USH anymore. It is making a loss for Universal, and it would make good business sense to shut the park down and plow all their money and resources into A) Universal Orlando (third gate, water park, at least 2 new resort hotels, plus new rides at IOA and USF) and B) Universal Studios Japan.

Universal Studios Hollywood, and the planned Universal Studios in Dubai and South Korea should be shelved.

We can see from Universal Singapore and that the business is simply not there any more, and also from Hong Kong Disneyland. If a resort has a worldwide reputation (such as WDW or UO) then people will travel long distances to be there. Why do we need 3 Universal Studios parks within a 7hr flying radius (SIN-OSAKA-SEOUL)? One would be sufficient.

There was a reason Universal pulled out of Port Aventura in Spain, and I hope to see them do likewise with shabby parks like USH some time soon.

March 7, 2011 at 6:46 PM · The problem with building anything on top of the parking structure is that it can barely handle T2 let alone a Gringots coaster type ride.

They would have to tear down the parking structure and either reinforce it or build up more hill where it is.

As much as I hate to say it, they really need to just shut down for a year or two. It would give them plenty of time to rework everything and figure out what they want to do with the land. (Condos, CityWalk, Theme Park, Movie Studio, etc.)

We all know that will never happen though, as they would rather have a mediocre park and the revenue it generates than to close for a few years and reopen as a park on par with DL.

March 7, 2011 at 7:15 PM · Terminator 2:3-D rocks, but if Harry Potter would come to the West Coast than it may have to move on. Tearing down the T2:3-D attraction, Parisian plaza, Globe theater, House of Horrors, Coke Soak, and the old Wild West arena should dedicate about half of the upper lot to this new Wizarding World.
March 7, 2011 at 7:52 PM · My idea for Harry Potter would be take out Water World and anything else in the area that is expendable. Then build Hogsmead or Diagon alley in the spot with the London train station. A train will then take you to the corner of the park where the War of the Worlds is located and Jurassic park movie prop. Right there you can build hogswart castle and other buildings. You can use the technogoly used by King Kong 360 around the train track to pull off England country side of any season and change different adventures while traveling to Hogwarts.
March 7, 2011 at 8:09 PM · I think that USH is fine the way it is!

It seem intersting to me that USH is really what USO and DHS is trying to emulate: a real live movie studio! I was very impressed with USH and I feel that too many attractions would muddle up its charm.

March 7, 2011 at 8:23 PM · Yeah, just shut down the 10th most popular theme park in America. If USH is a failure, so are the entire Six Flags and Cedar Fair chains, as well as all but one of the SeaWorld theme parks.

It's Yogi Berra logic - nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded.

While USH doesn't draw in the locals for repeat visits the way Disneyland and Magic Mountain do, it hauls in visitors by the bus- and plane-load, and ask anyone in the industry which they'd rather have, a million locals or a million out-of-town visitors? They'll take the more lucrative out-of-towners every single time.

If Universal wants to pay the money to build a Wizarding World at USH, I have every confidence that it would be able to make all necessary legal arrangements with Warner Bros and Jo Rowling to proceed.

That said, yeah, this is a creative thought exercise. The siting issues at USH might be too much for Universal Creative and Universal's budget to overcome in developing a first-class west coast version of the Wizarding World. I'd give this less than 50/50 of ever happening.

But I sure do find it fun to think about. ;^)

March 7, 2011 at 9:33 PM · The anonymous comment stating that USH is a failure is quite snarky. No one likes a know-it-all, and this is just an exercise in brainstorming for ideas. Contracts can be amended... if the price is right, other parks can get HP regardless of the current "USO only" contract.

That being said, I wouldn't want to remove Water World because of how awesome the stunt show is... USH needs as many attractions as it can get.

March 7, 2011 at 10:49 PM · To anonymous:

Perhaps you missed the title: "What Would You Do?", not "What Will They Do?"

March 8, 2011 at 5:17 AM · I just want a whole Harry Potter theme park :P
March 8, 2011 at 5:22 AM · The anonymous user made a good point, but Joshua made a better point :D
March 8, 2011 at 8:56 AM · I am going to USH for the movie studio, not the rides.

I might be in a minority!

Though, the logicial location seems sound!

March 8, 2011 at 2:02 PM · Thanks, Andy. Nothing makes me feel bigger than ganging up on a faceless opponent.
March 8, 2011 at 2:53 PM · @ Brandon - Thumbs up. Nice job.

@ - You sound knowledgeable but without proof of your claims, you're another anonymous poster trying to sound like an expert but being condescending in the process. Your IP comes back to the Netherlands in Amsterdam. Odd, your rudeness is more on par with France.

March 8, 2011 at 3:48 PM · Is it sad that Water World the stunt show is infinitely more entertaining than its source material? I honestly think that the stunt show is the best part of that movie.

I do like the idea of the American Campus of the Wizarding World. I'm not as familiar with the books or the movies to be honest as I can't recall many characters' names, but I do enjoy the fantasy world of HP. Almost an expanded universe... as long as it's not like Star Wars and George "I think everything looks better in CGI because I say so" Lucas. I love Star Wars, but there's something soul-less about the newest three movies as well as the inexplicable Unleashed games.

March 9, 2011 at 8:57 AM · I think Universal wants attractions that are unique to each park, hence their refusal to add Spiderman to the Hollywood park. Right now, Potter must be attracting people from the west coast, which wouldn't happen if they duplicated the land in Califoria.
March 9, 2011 at 8:58 AM · If they were giving up on USH, they wouldn't build Transformers there. That attraction must cost at least $100 million.
March 9, 2011 at 2:18 PM · I would not give Rowling or Spielberg another penny and rather spend the money on the attractions itsself. So no Wizzarding world for me at all.
March 13, 2011 at 7:33 AM · I think if they ever brought HP to California...it shouldnt be a replica of the one in Orlando. People will be more likely to travel to Cali just to see something different. Most of the GP would say..OH, we did that alreay..let's go someplace else. Us enthusiasts would go anyway... I do think it should be either a different experience, or a different franchise all together.

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