Universal has created an excellent interactive "walk through" experience on its Harry Potter website, but it only allows you to walk up the main path of Diagon Alley. It doesn't give you much information about the relative location of other features in the land. And good luck getting it load, with the traffic it's been getting the past two days!
As long-time Theme Park Insider readers know, I first saw the plans for Diagon Alley back in December 2011, and have seen more detailed versions of the land's blueprints since then. I agreed not to publish those plans, but with Universal's recent announcement, I think it's fair if I share my own (crude) attempt at a map of the land.
The main entrance (and exit) for the land will be through the Leicester Square Station facade. I've left the area for Knockturn Alley blank, but that's simply because my limited drafting skills do not allow me to reproduce the elaborate, twisting collection of paths and stairways you will find in that section of the new land. Do note that Knockturn Alley will be covered, as will the Carkitt Market area, so even in Florida's afternoon thunderstorms, Diagon Alley will provide not just mood-appropriate settings, but protection from the elements.
I've also not included detail about the various facades you will find on these buildings, simply because I don't have space on this page to accommodate that level of detail. The Ollivander's building will include facades for the Daily Prophet, Wands by Gregorovitch, Flourish and Blotts, and more. (The Hogsmeade Wizarding World also includes multiple such "fake" storefronts.)
As I mentioned yesterday, plans call for a beverages stand in the middle of the Carkitt Market area, which I suspect will be Diagon Alley's version of the Butterbeer cart. There might be additional portable merchandise and food and beverage stands in that market area, as well.
The sketch above also should provide you some idea as to the relative location of the Hogwarts Express to the rest of the land. Platform 9 3/4 will be a bit of a hike through Kings Cross station from the entrance on the London waterfront. Plenty of room for a long queue there!
In yesterday's presentation, Universal Creative President Mark Woodbury teased more details to come about Diagon Alley. One detail Universal's not yet mentioned has been the new interactive wand that it's been developing, which would have the ability to trigger multiple "magical moments" within Diagon Alley. Knockturn Alley is designed to be filled with these interactive elements, as are some of those other false storefronts I mentioned above. Whether this functionality is ready for the opening remains unclear, but Universal is working on it for the future of the land.Tweet
Also, what is there for the little kids to do? If Universal wants to make a dent, they need to make more family rides!
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.
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! :^)
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.
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.
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.
My best guess has the Diagon Alley opening on April 12th. Does anyone have inside sources that can confirm or deny this date? :)
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