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May 8, 2013
Universal's Potter Part 2 Will Be a Game Changer
I promised you a construction update -- but little did I know Universal picked today to make one of the most-anticipated announcements in theme park history. And it is a game changer in the theme park wars.
And they did it over Facebook -- posting this beautiful rendering of the entire Potter realm -- which, as we've told you for months, is going to span both parks.
So what is Universal finally admitting is coming? And what did they leave out or hint at?
Let's start with an overview of the construction area from Sky 6.
Pretty much everything you see in that image is part of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley. It is an enormous plot of land. Below -- from Sky 6 you can see in the bottom center-- the pointy roofs so typical of the existing Wizarding World.
The Wall of metal in front will face the waterfront lagoon -- and will represent the Muggle world of London. Somehow (Universal's being purposely vague) you'll magically enter the previously wizard-only shopping area of Diagon Alley. The courtyard you see in the middle is believed to be that shopping area.
But that won't be the only entrance.
The concept art shows a Hogwarts Express train and the King's Crossing station (home to Platform 9 3/4)
Sky 6 shows you what we've previously told you is the King's Crossing station. Now Universal is confirming it.
Board the train here -- and you will take a real train ride all the way from the far corner of Universal Studios -- to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts at Islands of Adventure.
And as we first showed you Monday on Local 6 News at 7pm -- there is already quite a bit of elevated track laid in backstage areas...
Linking to a new Hogsmeade station under construction near the Dragon's Challenge coaster at Islands of Adventure.
No word yet what this construction will mean for the popular Hogwarts Express photo op train. But the ride itself promises to be a magical journey. Insiders tell me that to avoid seeing the ugly backstage of Universal and IOA, the train will be wrapped in ultra-high resolution screens instead of windows -- to make it feel like you are travelling to/from Hogwarts. From what I hear -- you should also expect effects inside the train cars. We'll have more on that soon -- and on the centerpiece of the new land:
At the heart of the art released today -- is Gringott's bank. That's the ginormous building in the lower right of the Sky 6 wide shot above.
You can't see from that angle -- but the front is already shaping up to look just like the bank in the film.
Fans of the films will recall the trip through the vaults felt like a theme park ride -- and now it will be. From what I understand -- Helena Bonham Carter has already filmed new scenes for the ride as Bellatrix Lestrange. Universal's not saying this - but Gringott's will be another ground-breaking ride aimed at topping Forbidden Journey. If insiders are correct it will be part roller coaster -- part dark ride. And like Forbidden Journey -- there will be both screens and physical sets and props.
We brought this to you many months ago -- but here's a look at early concept renderings of what the Gringott's ride vehicles will look like,
And here's another look at what the Diagon Alley will feel like. It may not be final -- but gives you a feel.
Universal says there will be a new restaurant and new shops. But a closeup of the art released today apparently reveals one of those shops:
I hear Weasley's Wizard Wheezes will be more than just a shop (much like Olivander's at IOA is also a show)
We will have a lot more on Potter 2.0 soon --And as I mentioned - it really will be a game changer. It builds on momentum started with Potter 1.0, Despicable Me, and in just weeks: Transformers: The Ride-3D
And don't forget -- Universal and its partner, Loews, are ramping up the resort's hotels with the more-value-oriented Cabana Bay well under construction.
It's 1,800 rooms are due to open early next year. Diagon Alley is due just a few months later.
So what does this mean for Disney? They are taking a different strategy. Since 2010 -- I understand Disney Big-Wigs have been really unhappy with the amount of Universal souvenir bags and Potter robes and wands parading through their resorts day in and day out. Disney's Magic Express bus ride has helped keep guests on property.
And during yesterday's 2nd Quarter earnings report with Wall Street -- CEO Bob Iger & CFO Jay Rasulo hyped the importance of the $1Billion+ My Magic+ program being tested and rolled out.
In Rasulo's words: "If we can get people to plan their vacation before they leave home...we get more time with them, we get a bigger share of their wallet."
And by that he hopes you spend more money with Mickey and skip all of the new attractions announced and in development at Universal, Sea World, I-Drive and others.
I hear Disney is closing in on a plan to respond with actual attractions, too -- but let's just say Disney isn't spending a billion bucks on technology for nothin'.
It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.
Keep your emails, questions, and comments coming! I always appreciate hearing from you Muggles.
Today's full Universal announcement is reprinted below.
See you in the parks.