May 8, 2014

Park News: Diagon, Disney & Aquatica

A bit of a grab bag today in Theme World. It's a busy time as you'd expect as Summer season nears.
I'll start with the question everyone keeps asking me: When will Diagon Alley open at Universal Studios. I hear the resort delayed the announcement, but the news should be out soon.  Maybe next week. There is a week-long set of Potter 2.0 previews on a network morning show that promises revelations every day. Of course the chairman of  Loews Hotels may have  tipped Universal's hand. Hat tip to MuggleNet for finding and posting an interview he gave recently about his company's Cabana Bay Resort: "the rest will open when Harry Potter II opens in mid-June…"
Universal also posted a YouTube video today of the impressive animatronics of the goblin bankers from "Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts"


The detail is impressive, and I understand the whole land will be, too.  I have heard from several sources that they are on schedule for most of the land, but there are some (understandable) issues with timing and noise on that groundbreaking ride, which we have learned will allow riders 42" and over. That's 6" shorter than "Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey."  I may have more news tomorrow. I understand Universal Creative is meeting with Universal Team Members (ie park workers) tonight.

Here's the video of the bankers.  



Next up: an early opening for Ihu's Breakaway Falls at SeaWorld's Aquatica water park..  

My friend and colleague Erik Sandoval was on hand today for the media preview. It officially opens tomorrow -- with its 80 foot drop that takes hiking more than 120 steps before you get to take the plunge (the bottom literally drops out from under you). Already, some people are already posting on FaceBook that they survived.


Here is more on Ihu's Breakaway Falls from a previous Theme World Report.
 


Moving over to Disney, say aloha (in this case goodbye) to that beautiful view.  As I mentioned a little while ago, Disney is making major changes to the beloved Polynesian Resort.  The big one: The waterfall and planter that has dominated the lobby for 42+ years now is about to be bulldozed. The first walls went up today to block the view of the project.  No more of this.




The new lobby will look like the art right above this text. If you look closely, the tiki statue in the center is actually a much, much teenier waterfall and planter. Look for the new lobby to be finished early next year.  I'm working on a detailed update on what's going on with the Polynesian and the future of Disney's Vacation Club. I'll bring it to you soon.


Hopping over to a crowded Magic Kingdom, we now know the new "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train" will officially open on May 28th. Soft openings could start in a week or two.


  The ride is all but done now, and the new "mountain" (really a hill, IMHO) and cottage really fills in the rest of New Fantasyland.




 I was lucky enough to get a preview ride the other night. It is exactly what I expected: a fun attraction that is midway in-between "Goofy's Barnstormer" & "Big Thunder Mountain" in terms of thrills. It is very family friendly, and is a good addition to the park with several nods to the now-demolished "Snow White's Scary Adventures" ride.   I'll take a deeper look at Fantasyland as a whole, and the Mine Train in particular soon.

That's all for today!

Keep your emails, questions, tips and comments coming! I always appreciate the feedback. You can always find all of my blog entries atwww.clickorlando.com/themeparks