Universal Studios Florida
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---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(12/9/13) ThemeParkInsider has posted a new picture this week, giving us our first inside look at some of the buildings inside Diagon Alley. (MORE...)
(12/3/13) Attractions Magazine was at Universal on Monday afternoon and happend to catch the Hogwars Express train slowly testing (MORE...)
(12/2/13) Diagon Alley - New Pictures and Possible Grand Opening Dates
(11/24/13) Mannheim Steamroller will return to play at Universal Studios’ Music Plaza on (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Nothing is known at this time...
General Park News - (11/24/13) Mannheim Steamroller will return to play at Universal Studios’ Music Plaza on Dec. 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22 at 6pm each night. Universal Studios will also feature the return of the Macy’s Parade from December 7th to Jan. 4th, which will feature several new balloons. The parade will roll at 5pm nightly, except from Dec. 26-31 when it will begin at 8pm instead.
(11/13/13) Great news this week from ParkScope, confirming the previous rumor from HateToFly, that a new projection system is coming to The Simpsons Ride.
(11/4/13) Looks like the rumors of an updated Bettlejuice show coming to Universal Studios Florida in 2014 are true, as the part has sent out casting call sheets for new performers. Meanwhile I've also been told that Fear Factor Live will return to Universal Studios Florida on November 13th.
(10/21/13) New pictures from the Studios showing off the current progress on the London waterfront side of Diagon Alley have been posted to OrlandoParkNews this week as well as a look at the returning Chief Wiggim’s refurbished squad car in Springfield.
(10/16/13) More good news for Universal Studios Florida as the latest rumor from HateToFly / Orlando United is that The Simpsons ride is in line for a much needed high-def 4K or 8K style projector upgrade… or whatever would would work in there. I know it used to be IMAX in the BTTF days, but not sure if it still is or not.
Either way, I have to agree myself that this is needed. With the intense focus on the Springfield now by guests, I’m sure the ride is getting more attention now than compared to what it had the last few years. To be brutally honestly, after riding Spiderman, Transformers and Despicable Me, all with brilliantly bright and clear projection systems, I literally felt like I was riding The Simpsons ride wearing my sunglasses because it was so dim by comparison. Not a lie… in the middle of the ride I reached up to my face to take my sunglasses OFF only to discover I wasn’t wearing them. Wow… at that moment I realized that The Simpsons was in need of a little upgrade… sooner than later. Looks like I’ll get my wish.
(10/10/13) According to various social and media outlets, a train full of riders became stuck on the lift hill of the Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit coaster sometime after 7pm on Wednesday evening. From the sound of online reports the riders were freed sometime after 9pm.
(9/5/13) I’m not sure of the details, but Screamscape sources tell me that the Bettlejuice show will be getting a complete revision for the 2014 season, with all new music on the way. It also looks like the future of Terminator 2 / 3D is not only safe, but the show has even been approved to have a number of nagging issues with the show’s effects repaired or replaced.
June 2014 - Wizarding World of Harry Potter - DIAGON ALLEY - (12/9/13) ThemeParkInsider has posted a new picture this week, giving us our first inside look at some of the buildings inside Diagon Alley.
(12/3/13) Attractions Magazine was at Universal on Monday afternoon and happend to catch the Hogwars Express train slowly testing on the elevated tracks on video. Check it out below, and keep watching as the video ends with a look around the Diagon Alley construction site.
(12/2/13) A great collection of new images showing off the London façade for Diagon Alley has been posted to Orlando Rocks a few hours ago. Look carefully through all the scaffolding and you can see the finer themed details starting to emerge, like window décor and brickwork.
While we are dreaming about when Diagon Alley may open… the latest passholder news letter lists the 2014 blackout dates for PowerPass holders as June 14 to August 14th for Universal Studios Florida and no blackout dates for Islands of Adventure. I’d say that Saturday, June 14th could very well be the planned Grand Opening date for the public at this point in time.
With May 22nd listed as the last day to use 3rd Day Free promotional passes, I’d hazard a guess that we may see a soft opening sometime after May 22nd… ahead of a possible Grand Opening on June 14th. That said… a reader who has done a little extra research has also pointed out that at the moment all but one of the Universal Resort Hotels are listed as being booked solid on Saturday, May 24th. I’m not sure if there is a connection to Diagon Alley and May 24th of not, other than being the start of Memorial Day Weekend.
If nothing else, we have a fairly good looking window of dates as to when it could open between May 22nd and June 14th.
(11/1/13) I’m not saying that this is an animation of how the Gringott’s Bank coaster will work in Diagon Alley… as I’m sure Dynamic Attractions would never post such a thing on YouTube, but I’ll be darned if this doesn’t open your eyes to the possible kind of ride experience we may be in for in 2014. Speaking of which… this video has got me wondering if the coaster track that was quickly labeled as “Intamin” last year might not be from Dynamic instead as the track they produced for Space Mountain rebuild at Disneyland does share some similarities.
(10/24/13) A new extensive photo update of the Diagon Alley / London project area under construction has been posted to OrlandoUnited. Don’t miss it… the themed exteriors are shaping up and looking fantastic.
(10/16/13) One of our readers was searching through the patent database and uncovered a very interesting one filed by Universal for a “Flame Barrier” effect that sounds almost perfect for the Gringott’s coaster ride. You can see the patent here, but in short it talks about creating a transparent barrier that can be used repeatedly and remain transparent after multiple blasts of flame have hit it. The barrier is placed about 3 feet away from a flame projection effect device on one side, and guests / viewers on the other side. Flame shoot out, hit and are blocked by the invisible barrier as if you were protected by an invisible shield. Sounds like an encounter with the Gringott’s dragon to me.
To act as a thermal barrier and prevent soot from building up from the flames the flame side of the barrier will also be coated by a liquid resin with a conductive material and charged by an electrode to keep the soot from building up.
(10/14/13) HateToFly posted a fun image on Twitter showing off concept artwork that is said to bear a close resemblance to the coaster trains you will ride in on the Gringotts coaster ride. Also a new huge report about what we can expect to see inside the “North” side station of the Hogwarts Express, otherwise known as the Kings Cross train station, has been posted to OrlandoUnited by HateToFly.
While going over some light details about how the queue will flow, they also describe the trains a bit in terms of overall ride capacity. There are two trains in use, with one departing from each station on the line at the same time and using a bypass track in the middle to get past each other. Each train will consist of a locomotive, coal car and three passenger cars. Each of the passenger cars will have 7 passengers cabins, and each passenger cabin will hold up to 8 riders, so we are looking at up to 156 passengers on each train run.
(10/8/13) Who wants to know more about what we can expect from the Gringott’s coaster ride? I was fortunate enough to engage the infamous HateToFly in a quick conversation to talk about those awesome aerial photos of Diagon Alley posted to Orlando United. I missed it last night, but there is a video of the flight on this page, and several more pages of photos to be found here and the pages that follow. Again… jaw dropping amazing photos of everything… and perhaps causing far more questions to arise than answers given.
On the subject of Gringotts I learned a bit more about the coaster trains and station load/unload area this week. From what I recall, the overall design of the station will mostly resemble what Universal created for Revenge of the Mummy. Riders will climb up one of two possible round staircases to access the load/unload level of the station, and just like on Mummy, everyone will load from a middle island between two side-by-side loading areas. Unlike Mummy however, departing riders will also unload from this same location, leaving out to the far side of each car, with one side forced to exit up and over a staircase over the track at one point to get to the other side… again… much like Revenge of the Mummy.
The trains will consist of two cars, each with 3 rows that seat rides 4-across, giving you 12 riders per car and 24 per train. With the dual-sided station, this means 48 riders will be loaded at a time for each cycle. By comparison the Revenge of the Mummy trains hold 16 riders total compared to Gringott’s 24 seats.
I believe the car spotted being loaded into the building the other night was the rear car of the set, as the last row was tiered particularly high and would otherwise block the view if another car was behind it. The tiered seating concept should also provide some interesting thrills along the ride, as the higher rear rows will be subjected to more head-chopper effects than the front row. If there is one thing you can expect from this ride, it will be effects… but I’ll save that discussion for another day.
(10/7/13) An interesting picture was sent out over Twitter the other night, showing off what seems to be a coaster car for the Gringott’s bank coaster ride being loaded into the show building. While you can’t quite see how wide across it is, you can clearly make our three very tiered rows of seats on the car. Given the distance and lack of clarity of the photo, it also doesn’t appear as if the car had much, if any, external themeing to it. It’s my understanding that the ride is ready to conduct a pull-through test along the rails.
If that wasn’t enough the fine crew over at Orlando United took a little helicopter ride over Diagon Alley and the results were an amazing look into a very cluttered landscape of buildings, pathways, bridges and lots and lots of scaffolding. Above it all, you will get your first true glimpse into this latest real world version of J. K. Rowlings well fleshed out Wizarding World.
(9/11/13) A nice assortment of current pictures of the Diagon Alley construction site were sent in today. So much work to do… but you can
already tell how much detail is going into the themeing of these buildings.
(8/26/13) As progress moves forward on the Hogwarts Express, just a reminder that most of our coverage for that particular attraction will appear on the Islands of Adventure page, while the Studios page will continue to focus on Diagon Alley progress, local architecture and on the Gringott’s Bank attraction. If you haven’t seen it yet, follow the link and check on the latest progress as cars for the Hogwarts Express have arrived.
(8/19/13) OrlandoRocks takes a look at the Diagon Alley construction site this week, while construction workers begin to install the various glass windows in the London themed buildings.
(7/29/13) Orlando United has a new look at Diagon Alley expansion of the Wizarding World as well as a look at what looks like a giant cable system in place below the station rails for the Hogwarts Express station in Islands of Adventure.
(7/11/13) New construction pictures of the Diagon Alley construction site have been posted to Orlando Parks News this week.
(5/20/13) The Orlando Business Journal has posted an interesting article this week about the possibility of adding in interactive wands to the expanded Wizarding World experience when Diagon Alley opens in 2014. Of course regular Screamscape readers will recall that this was a rumor from the very start of the first phase of the Wizaring World as Screamscape sources had confirmed at the time that Universal had shown some initial interest in the technology behind the MagiQuest interactive adventure game attraction, but instead opted to sell replica wands from the movie series instead.
Could Universal be looking into this technology once again as they prepare to expand the Wizarding World by creating their own answer to Disney’s Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game? Having played MagiQuest with my kids at the indoor stand-alone locations in Myrtle Beach and Pigeon Forge, as well as the versions installed into the Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg and Concord locations, I’m not sure a busy and loud ‘outdoor’ location like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be the most ideal setup for this kind of thing. For my two cents… they might be better off trying to install it inside one of their resort hotels, or building an indoor location somewhere inside Citywalk instead perhaps. (NOTE - To learn more about MagiQuest, see the official Screamscape review of the Myrtle Beach location here.)
(5/16/13) I’ve got a couple of new pictures of the Diagon Alley construction project going on, said to have been taken from the crew member parking lot. Meanwhile MiceChat has a few new aerial photos of the construction site to share this week as well.
(5/13/13) Will that fire-breathing dragon sitting on top of Gringotts banks really be there? I figured it was just a bit of artistic fun, as I’m 99% sure the fire-breathing dragon will be present within the Gringotts bank attraction itself… but according to a report by the Orlando Sentinel, one of their sources indicated that the dragon really will be there, atop Gringotts. Universal on the other hand will not confirm that it will be in that spot, only that the artwork is intended to be “a good representation of what our guests will be able to experience within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.”
I’m more willing to take that as a nod that the dragon will be in the ride and maybe there will be a scene in the Gringotts ride that will show the dragon escape from the depths of Gringotts up to the outside world as seen in the film… but I have serious doubts we will see an animatronic fire-breathing dragon perched atop the building 24/7. Then again… maybe they’ll have a way to have a dragon pop out once an hour or so, howl and breathe fire then go back inside. Either way… there will be a dragon encounter somewhere. I can’t wait.
(5/11/13) Universal Orlando succeeded this week in making everyone forget whatever it was that Walt Disney World was trying to promote the week before with their announcement of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. It’s funny how so very few details were released, essentially only confirming the basic rumors that have been reported on the ‘net for the last year, while still driving Potter fans into an absolute tizzy with just once well done piece of concept artwork released. Well played Universal… very well played.
I suspect that over the next year we will see them crack open the PotterVerse faucet from time to time, letting a few more precious drops of news and artwork release into the wild, working up the ravenous Potter and theme park fans into a tizzy time and time again as they prepare to open the follow up to Universal’s most well known theme park project of all time.
One thing I’ve had readers ask me questions about is Ollivander’s wand shop and I’ll share what I know. Since Diagon Alley is being built here… we will see a new Ollivander’s wand shop built here as well as it is the true location of the shop in the books. This will not cause the closure of the other Ollivander’s shop in Hogsmeade which was officially confirmed as a local “annex” of the shop to be closer to Hogwarts. Given that the longest lines in all of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter are typically for the existing Ollivander’s, a second version was needed anyway, plus there will always be a number of guests who may only have time to visit only one of the Universal parks and not both, so this will give everyone the chance to experience it.
You can count on some design changes to take place in the Diagon Alley location however. Screamscape sources tell us that the Diagon Alley version will be set up to secretly have more than one “showroom” to greatly increase capacity. I’m not sure of the final design but I’ve heard it may have anywhere from 2 to 4 identical showrooms.
(5/8/13) Universal Orlando confirmed the new expansion to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter coming to Universal Studios Florida at last. The press release is below.
THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES:
THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER – DIAGON ALLEY
IS COMING TO UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT
‘London’ and Diagon Alley Will Come to Life at Universal Orlando in 2014
World’s First Centrally Themed, Multi-Park Experience
ORLANDO, Fla. (May 8, 2013) – Building on the global phenomenon that is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment today announced an expansion of historic proportion with the entirely new themed environment, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.
Scheduled to open in 2014, the world’s first centrally themed, multi-park experience expands The Wizarding World of Harry Potter across both Universal Orlando theme parks and allows Universal’s creative team to bring an unparalleled vision to this unique project. The new area will bring to life some of the experiences and places found in and around London in the Harry Potter books and films, offering brand-new adventures for fans and theme park guests from around the world.
Diagon Alley and ‘London’ will be located within the Universal Studios Florida theme park, which is adjacent to Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, where guests now experience Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. The new area within Universal Studios will be just as expansive, immersive and authentic as the existing themed environment.
And – just like in the books and films – guests will be able to travel between ‘London’ and Hogsmeade aboard the Hogwarts Express.
Work on the new area is already underway. When complete, it will feature shops, a restaurant and an innovative, marquee attraction based on Gringotts bank – all directly inspired by the fiction and films.
More details on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be released over time.
To bring Diagon Alley and ‘London’ to life, Universal’s creative team is working closely with Warner Bros. and the production design team from the Harry Potter films – just as it did for Hogwarts and Hogsmeade.
"I'm so pleased that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has proved so popular to date, and I'm sure that the attention to detail in creating the new Diagon Alley area will make this an even better experience," said J.K. Rowling.
“We are continuing the journey and adding an entirely new level of adventure,” said Tom Williams, Chairman of Universal Parks & Resorts. “And we are bringing the same drive, commitment, enthusiasm and innovation to this project as we did to the first.”
“We are thrilled to offer the legions of fans the opportunity to embark on this new journey and experience Diagon Alley as it was brought to life in the books and films,” said Brad Globe, president, Warner Bros. Consumer Products.
“Our vision is to create two amazing theme park experiences that combine into one, complete, magical journey,” said Alice Norsworthy, executive vice president, marketing and sales for Universal Orlando Resort.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in June 2010 as a fully immersive Harry Potter themed environment - bringing to life the bestselling books by J.K. Rowling and the blockbuster feature films from Warner Bros. Since that time, it has become a global phenomenon, entertaining millions of people from around the world.
Visitors to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are swept into the adventures of Harry Potter. They can tour Hogwarts castle, shop in Hogsmeade and dine at the Three Broomsticks. They can soar above Hogwarts with Harry, be chosen by a wand at Ollivanders, sample Butterbeer and much more.
(5/6/13) I did my periodic surveying of the government’s trademark database and came up with a few interesting Harry Potter related filings this week. All of the existing PotterVerse themed attractions have always been filed by Warner Bros., but we’ve got new April 2013 filings for the names, “Muggle”, “Platform 9 ¾” and “Dementor”.
Plus all new repeat filings on the same days for existing attractions like “Dragon Challenge”, “Honeydukes”, “Ollivanders”, “Three Broomsticks”, “Owl Post”, “Flight of the Hoppogriff” and “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey”.
(4/29/13) Curious about when Universal Orlando will finally pull back the curtain and reveal everything about the London themed side of the PotterVerse that has been under construction now for over a year? According to the latest rumors, Universal may continue to keep this secret very close to the vest for another 5-6 weeks… choosing to announce it all while they have the focus of the world’s media already on them during the opening of Orlando’s new Transformers: The Ride in early to mid June.
(4/17/13) This is just fan artwork, but damn they did a good job. Check out what the outside of the London / Ministry of Magic side of the PotterVerse may look like when finished.
(4/10/13) While the image appears to be about 4-5 months old, an aerial photo showing off the construction of the London side of the PotterVerse has been captured by Google Maps. You can see the large new attraction building and then pan down along the backroad where you can clearly following the newly constructed supports for the Hogwarts Express all the way over to Islands of Adventure.
Speaking of which, an anonymous source has also sent in a new picture showing off our first look at a section of the track installed for the new Hogwarts Express that will run from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure over to the new London / Ministry of Magic area. Visit our Islands of Adventure page to see it.
(4/1/13) While there is still a lot of work left to do inside the expansion land for Harry Potter, I’ve been sent information from a source showing that the estimated opening date for the new land is in early to mid June 2014, specifically looking to happen around the week of June 11th. With over a year left in the construction timetable, a lot can happen and dates can shift, especially with a project of this size, involving the construction of an entire new land with several buildings, and the Hogwarts Express to run between the two parks.
(3/14/13) Lots of steel is rising quickly into place over at the London side of the PotterVerse this week. According to the pictures posted to OrlandoUnited, they believe we could be looking at the structure for the Leaky Cauldron.
(2/19/13) One of our readers snapped off a nice shot of the Gringott’s building, as seen from the employee parking lot. I tried to zoom in a little and lighten it up a little, but you still can’t see a whole lot inside the building area.
(2/11/13) Construction is moving forward quickly on the London side of the PotterVerse. Work crews are focusing on finishing up the inside of Gringotts, while scenic crews should start preparing the exterior façade as well as crews working on the building up London. As for the Hogwarts Express, I’m told that the supports for the train ride between the parks all appear to be in place right now, so we should see the railways installed very soon.
(1/14/13) A few more pictures, aided by some good sunlight, looking into the interior of the Gringott’s building were added to OrlandoRocks this week, both from the typical in park view, as well as a view from some new angels where we can see interesting steel platforms in place as well as various concrete block structures.
(1/7/13) OrlandoRocks has added a couple of new pictures of the Gringot’s bank building in the London side of the PotterVerse this week.
(1/1/13) Today we have a new look at the latest goings on over at the London side of the Potterverse, courtesy of Orlando United.
(12/21/12) The latest update to Spins The World takes a look into a new potential shop we may see added as part of the Diagon Alley area. How would you feel about being able to tour the shop started by the Weasley twins… Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, a sort of magic effect and practical joke shop. But the question is… will it just be a shop, or could it also serve as a walk-through attraction area?
(12/18/12) Slowly but surely, little bits and pieces of information are starting to leak out about what is going on inside the Gringotts Bank structure. Don’t expect to find any close up pictures however, as sources tell me that Universal has essentially put Skynet on the job here and has security cameras watching over the entire building site. So we’re left with basic descriptions, but the stories are starting to come together enough to form a bit of a picture.
So far I’m told that the track installed does appear to be a dual sided loaded station setup in the back left side of the building area, and a flat straight piece of track along the back wall just before the track switch, which may actually be for a separate single-track unload area. So after the dual load station, the track appears to turn to the left and head towards the back of the building and into a right turn so far before we come to the end of what has been built and reported on.
Elsewhere in the building, sources tell me they’ve spotted what appeared to be up to four individual elevator shafts with access to two levels which are located next to the loading platform area. I wonder what kind of magic we will find inside a wizard’s elevator. I’ve also heard about a large themed “pit” dug down in approximately the center of the building.
The latest word on the ride system is that the cars themselves may be unlike anything we’ve seen before… incorporating a motion base system on top of a roller coaster car track system.
(12/13/12) SpinsTheWorld is back with some top secret close-up pictures of the Gringotts Bank coaster building, including a look at the installed track for is likely to be a dual-sided load station, much like Mummy. They have also confirmed the existence of the long-rumored freefall track section, with the added hint that Kuka robot arm technology may also be put to use for this effect somehow. Color me curious…
(12/12/12) UK newspapers are all abuzz over the gathering of several key Harry Potter franchise stars back to the Warner Brothers Studio for some top secret filming of a “mini-movie”. In actuality, select film performers are returning to film the needed media clips that will be used in the new and yet to be announced Harry Potter expansion phase under construction at Universal Studios Florida. Helena Bonham Carter who played Bellatrix Lestrange has already been spotted.
It stands to reason that Bellatrix Lestrange will play a primary villain role in the new Gringotts Bank coaster ride, as a trip into the Lestrange family bank vault deep in the bowels of Gringotts was a major plot point in the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2.
Also spotted on site, though possibly for another reason was Mark Williams who plays Arthur Weasley (father to the Weasley clan), who works for the Ministry of Magic and who I believe has a bit of a curiosity for Muggles and Muggle technology, which could make him a good character to deal with any pre-attraction videos used in the queue. That’s all speculation on my part however, but it was confirmed that Wiliams was on site on Dec. 8th to give a very special surprise tour to the one millionth visitor to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, which ended up being a young Harry Potter film fan.
Just for fun, here is another look back at the “coaster” style transport as seen in the movie.
(12/10/12) Several great photo updates of the huge attraction building under construction for the Gringotts Wizarding Bank coaster ride. The walls have been going up on the sides seen by guests in the park, but the back sides are still open where more black coaster track can be seen from afar. Check it out at OrlandoUnited.
(12/3/12) OrlandoUnited has posted some new aerial construction picture of the London side of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter this week (scroll down!). The building walls are going up very quickly, but you can see just how massive in size this building for the new indoor coaster is going to be. You can also make out early foundation work for the other nearby buildings as well as the clearing made in the midst of Dragon Challenge for the other side of the Hogwarts Express station.
(11/30/12) Who’s up for a visit to Borgin & Burkes? According to the latest update at Spins The World, one of the most fascinating new additions that will be part of the new London expansion project will be a visit to the infamous Borgin & Burkes, hidden in Knockturn Alley. Guess will be brought into the store and encouraged to explore the shop and interact with numerous items, including the “Hand of Glory”. The shop, as seen in the film series, was a dark creepy shop filled with the magical artifacts of evil dark magic. Sounds like a perfect place for theme park guests to explore.
(11/16/12) The first piece of track on the Gringotts Bank coaster (or first visible one at least) has been spotted and photographed by the team at OrlandoUnited a few hours ago. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page.) While the angle isn’t the best and much of the ends are covered in plastic, it does appear to match up with the latest Intamin track designs. In fact, it looks rather similar to the track Intamin used on SkyRush at Hersheypark, with a single spine instead of a double.
If Intamin does prove to be the company behind the coaster, then the rumors about using a bigger and improved version of the Freefall Drop Track gimmick are also very likely to be true as well. It certainly would fit in well into a Harry Potter themed coaster at the very least.
(11/14/12) ParkScope found another permit for the park this week, this time for Mosley, Inc to come on site and begin ‘Mechanical Equipment Installation”. Of course the Mosley in question is Mosley Erecting, known for their work putting up big roller coasters all over the South-Eastern United States. They’ve put up coasters at Carowinds, Kings Island, Dollywood, Hard Rock Park, Kings Dominion, several Six Flags parks… and were the ones brought in to put up the Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit for Universal a few years ago. So it looks like we could see the Gringott’s Bank coaster pieces being put into place before you know it, which also means that they’ve got to be on site already somewhere in Orlando.
(11/12/12) Want a sneak peek at what the London side of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter could look like? Some talented artists have drawn up their own ideas of what the land could look like, based on the leaked plans and artistic style of the films. One shows off a great aerial sketch of how the detailed land may look from the air, while the other is a computer simulated layout of how the maze of buildings within the London area may appear, creating an interested and cramped layout that appears to only have one major pathway in or out.
Next up are some spoilers about the two major attractions to be added, the Hogwats Express and Grincott’s Bank ride. According to this article at Spins The World, much as I’ve heard before, the train ride on the Hogwarts Express may very well be a surprise hit and far more thrilling than anyone expected. From the sound of things, Universal Creative have decided to take the ball from Disney’s Star Tours 2 project and create their own version of offering different possible storylines that you will encounter on your journey between the parks. The window screens will be aided by an arry of 4D theater technology gags to really drive the story home. One long rumored version of the ride would include a visit by the Dementors where the train would go dark and the cabin temperatures will drop as the windows frost up.
They also talk about a unqiue “elevator” simulator experience guests will go through before getting on the Gringottt’s Bank coaster.
(11/9/12) Local spies tell me that the back wall for the first large building in the London area is now going into place. Looks like they will be ready to start walling this one off from prying eyes before you know it.
(11/7/12) ParkScope reports that permits for Nassal to begin wall layout and installation work at the park have been filed. Nassal did all the scenery for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, so it sounds like they may be ready to start installing hardware inside the Gringott’s bank building or elsewhere in the London side of the new PotterVerse expansion. ParkScope also wonders if it could be for Tranformers as well, but I don’t believe Nassal had anything to do with Transformers in Hollywood or Singapore, but I have heard rumors of Potter themed scenery pieces under construction in Orlando.
(10/24/12) New pictures of the future London area have been posted to OrlandoRocks his week, showing off the locations of the two massive tower cranes on site. I’ve also heard that the heavy machinery has begun moving out the large mountain of dirt as well.
(10/17/12) One of the big questions about the London project has been an endless speculation about just who will build the coaster ride system inside the rumored Gringott’s Bank. Almost every coaster manufacture in the book has been mentioned once or twice, with only a few exceptions.
It was the mention of one of these rare exceptions to me earlier this week that just made my brain explode. While most have been expecting to see Premier Rides come in to work on the project, or one or two other choice favorites, someone slipped the name Intamin to me the other day. The primary reason behind the rumor was the idea that a Freefall Drop Track gimmick may be used at some point in the ride, very similar to the one Intamin build for Thirteen at Alton Towers. Unfortunately that ride, like many Intamin coasters, was plagued with issues and some extended bouts of downtime it’s first year, which was a primary reason Busch Gardens Williamsburg opted to try out Zierer’s version of the same element on Verbolten. (Not to mention getting stung by the Intamin downtime bug with Cheetah Hunt in Tampa just the year before…)
So would Universal opt to try out Intamin on Gringott’s of all things? On top of having their own rumored bad experienced with past Intamin products, I shudder to think that Universal would be willing to risk their big Harry Potter themed coaster ride, one that will have people lined up around the resort for hours, all hinging on the hope of little to no downtime issues from an Intamin coaster. After all, we saw what a quick poor choice selection of coaster manufacture did for Universal over at Hollywood, Rip, Ride, Rockit. And if Universal thought they had unexpected issues with the size of the restraint system used on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, most Intamin restraints are even more size restrictive to those who are overweight.
Anyone else know anything more solid about who may be behind Universal’s next coaster project?
(10/3/12) Three new construction pictures added.
(10/2/12) Screamscape sources tell us that large footer holes have been dug along the backstage road behind Mummy and Disaster about every 30 feet or so, which should be for the footers and support beams for the new Hogwarts Express attraction.
(9/26/12) AmusementPics has posted a new construction update from Universal Studios Florida as the construction walls have shifted over and moved the guest pathway right along the edge of the new waterfront that was just built. As you can see, the steel framework for one massive building is already up, including the roof’s framing. They also check out the new Simpson’s themed game area under construction, some Transformers steel and HHN merchandise stands.
(9/17/12) The dam is being removed from the London waterfront, and the water has been let back in to cover the new wall. Check out the pictures of the workers removing the dam over at Orlando Rocks.
(9/12/12) As suspected, new tower cranes are now on site in the London section of the PotterVerse this week. Check out the new pics over at Orlando Rocks.
(9/10/12) A new addition to the London PotterVerse was spotted this week at OrlandoRocks as a large crane was brought out on site and I’ve head bases for two possible crane towers have been spotted in the area as well, one near Disaster and one over on the Fear Factor stadium side of things.
(8/24/12) The first sections of vertical steel have risen up in the former Jaws area this week. Check out the pictures posted to OrlandoRocks.
(8/21/12) Orlando United has added some great new aerial pictures of Universal Studios Florida that show off the future Transformers and PotterVerse 2.0 construction sites. This gives you not only a good look down into the bottom of the Transformers site, but a couple of big holes have also been dug in the former Jaws area as well. Looks like the dirt may have been piled up closer to Disaster. Meanwhile I’m told that construction behind the scenes for the Hogwarts Express will go full tilt this week.
(7/27/12) New pictures of the former Amity area slowly being prepared to become London have been posted to Behind Universal Studios.
(7/16/12) New construction pictures along the water’s edge by the former Amity area have been posted to OrlandoUnited.
(7/9/12) Ever wanted to see what the bottom of the Universal Studios Lagoon looks like? Now you can via the latest Amity construction site pictures at Orlando Rocks. The construction crews have pumped out the water from behind the new barrier revealing what looks like a concrete bottom with a few pipes running around across the bottom.
According to the latest fact-finding mission posted to ParkScope, the plans submitted by the park to the county actually say that the square concrete sections of the existing shoreline will be demolished and be replaced with new wall segments to give the area a more smooth and direct shoreline. So in the end, the lagoon will actually get a little bit bigger, and not smaller as I had originally guessed.
(7/2/12) Construction in the former Amity area (soon to be London) has taken an interesting turn this week. Our local man Keith was on site earlier this week and snapped a few pictures showing off a large crane now on site. However new pictures added to Orlando Rocks shot on Sunday show off some curious new objects dropped into the lagoon. A large metal framework structure has been dropped into the water and topped off with blue tarp material, lining the entire Amithy area shoreline. This forms up a new interesting barrier, which I think is actually the start of a new shoreline for the lagoon in this area. Looks like the London project will require a little land-reclamation by filling in a portion of the lagoon from the bridge to Pier 51.
Just a hunch on my part, but since the London project is going to require reconstruction of the entire old Amity area, including the current main pathway, I’m guessing they’ll need to expand the lagoon to add in space for a new walkway to allow guests to go around the expanded construction site. This is similar to how they added the bridge across the lagoon over at Islands of Adventure when the Wizarding World was under construction.
(4/19/12) A reader sent in a final picture of the former Jaws / Amity area… now nothing more than a flat giant dirt lot. Kind of depressing… but something new will rise here very soon that I hope will make up for it.
(3/5/12) The local news has posted a picture of a new overhead basic plan Universal filed for the Amity area, showing off the layout of several new buildings to go onto the site. With the aid of Photoshop I was able to layer this new image plan over the Jaws site, where it fit in perfectly like a missing puzzle piece. As described previously, there does seem to be only a single entrance into the land, roughly mid-point between the old Jaws unload and load docks. To the left appears to be a medium sized building that has a connecting hallway that goes all the way back to the exact site where I was told to expect to find the loading platform for the Hogwarts Express.
Beyond there are three smaller buildings, various minor structures and one single massive building that takes up about about 40% of the old Jaws ride lagoon area. This massive building is where we can expect to find the Gringott’s Bank themed indoor coaster ride. The main guest pathway along the outside of “London” will remain the same as it always has. Looks like universal was also careful to leave the berm behind the Jaws ride lagoon in place, though I suppose they could use this site in the future for another new attraction a few years down the line as well. (Remember that rumored Knight Bus simulator ride?)
(2/29/12) Lets talk a bit more about that Hogwarts Express project today. According to Screamscape sources the transportation ride hardware may be provided by Doppelmayr, who recently created the Ocean Express themed funicular transportation system for Ocean Park in Hong Kong that travels through a 1.3 Kilometer long tunnel and through the use of a two train system, it can transport up to 5000 passengers an hour in each direction. Also of interest here is the fact that the inside of these trains were wired up with fake video screens pretending to be glass-ceiling panels for an undersea voyage. Sounds a little familiar?
While the Hogwarts Express wont be a Funicular going up a hill, or even through a tunnel, the company does also make a series of regular cable powered shuttles that transport riders on aerial tramways. You’ll find a few of these in Las Vegas or various airports around the world. Now, the insides of these cable cars will be an entirely different matter, and will appear more like the inside of what I believe is called a “sleeper car”. (Forgive me if I’ve used the wrong term… I’m not train person.) The interior will feature a narrow walkway down one side of the car, with individual doors leading into the separate rooms, each furnished with a pair of face-to-face seating bench seats, with a single large window (ie: video screen) to the outside world on the far wall end. This will be your window into the Wizarding World for the duration of your journey between London and Hogsmeade.
(2/13/12) Screamscape sources came through over the weekend with some new details about the controversial Hogwarts Express train ride that would connect the back of Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. From what I’ve been able to learn so far, which I was expecting to hear, the Hogwarts Express train ride should not be a true locomotive style train ride. There will be a locomotive and coal car, but purely for appearance’s sake, connected to a trio of passenger cars.
By design, there should be two separate train units which will load and depart their respective stations simultaneously, along a single section of track, that will split into two side by side rails only in the middle of the trip, allowing the two trains to slip past each other. The trackway between the two parks will actually be elevated up in the air the entire way, which will technically place Platform 9 ¾ on the second floor of the King’s Cross station on the London side. I’m not certain, but the raised ground elevation at Islands of Adventure may allow for the depot to appear at ground level. The elevated track system will allow for large trucks to still pass underneath along Universal’s busy back roads. I’ve also attached a graphic depicting where I believe the track and stations will be placed. As for the magic that will transpire inside the train cabins… I’ll address that at a later time.
(1/26/12) Screamscape sources tell us that those new survey markers spotted backstage behind Universal Studios Florida actually do run down towards the backstage area behind the Sinbad stunt show at Islands of Adventure.
(1/23/12) According to once source demolition work in the old Jaws area has been going full steam ahead this week, as Amity will soon be nothing more than a giant muddy crater as the work crews are said to be moving quite fast on this. Elsewhere, sources tell us that a bunch of survey markings can now be found all along the main backstage road leading towards the Jaws / Amity area. No word yet on if they stretch all the way from Amity to the Wizarding World at IOA or not, but this sounds like the start of the Hogwarts Express to me. So far markings have been spotted in the area behind Soundstage 33 and down behind the Revenge of the Mummy attraction building.
(1/2/12) Theme Park Insider posted a great scoop late yesterday, featuring concept artwork showing off the long rumored Gringotts Bank themed dark roller coaster ride cars as well as going over details from the proposed plan that sure seems to fit everything I’ve been hearing for the last few weeks. In addition, they describe your journey into the bank vaults will also feature a brief “elevator” ride experience. The coaster cars appear similar in basic design to those used on Revenge of the Mummy, but with only 3 rows of 4-seats across, but with two cars trains instead of individual cars. (24 seats per train).
The report also described how those motion-base platforms I mentioned previously will be put to use in the ride, as well as taking us scene by scene through the various destinations we’ll zoom through along the way including Thief’s Downfall (protected by a dragon) and Sirius Black’s Vault.
(12/22/11) Some great detective work linking the demolition permit of Jaws to the rumored new Harry Potter expansion project has been posted to HHN Rumors this week. Really worth checking out to see just what kind of people are linked to “Project 722”.
As for the meaning behind the 722 codename... it could just be nonsense... or on a hunch I did pull out a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to see what it had to say on Page 722. Sure enough... there is a line about being in King’s Cross where it would be possible to board a train. Of course I may just be reading a bit too much into that, but you never know.
(12/21/11) I’ve got a quick Studio item today, plus another interesting piece of the puzzle over at the Islands of Adventure side of things. Today… we’re going to talk about The Hogwarts Express. Most of the Naysayers out there immediately bring up the fact that any train that runs between the park’s backstage is going to run through some very unattractive behind the scenes areas along the way.
The report I keep getting on this issue is that the riders view of the world from the train will not be of the backstage area, or even the real world at all, but instead be an artificial view of the journey from London to Hogwarts. What is not clear is just how this will be accomplished… either through the use of video screens instead of windows… or the rumored use of the King Kong 360 technology that wraps projection screens around both sides of the Backlot Tour tram ride at the Hollywood park in an enclosed building.
Personally, I’m kind of hoping for the later, as it would allow for some unique thrills and sights to be had along the way during both sides of the journey. In the end, you never know… Universal Creative has some fine clever folks on the payroll like Thierry Coup. As the masterminds behind projection based attractions like Spiderman, Kong 360, Harry Potter and Transformers) who constantly break new ground, anything is possible for the Hogwarts Express.
(12/8/11) While I did speculate that the proposed Potter Phase 2 project could also take over the Fear Factor stadium area, I’ve heard elsewhere that is not planned to happen, and that the show theater will remain. No word on if they will keep it running as Fear Factor returns to the airwaves, or if there is some other kind of plan in the works.
While on the subject of Phase 2 of the PotterVerse (London), as I had suspected, the rumors of the Knight Bus attraction were wrong. This doesn’t mean that we wont see the King Kong 3D 360º technology put to use somewhere… it just wont be themed as the Knight Bus. The ride focus seems to be entirely on the Gringott’s Wizarding Back dark ride / coaster concept, as they apparently have some really grand ideas for this project. What kind of ideas? Remember that uncovered technology patent Universal files a couple of years ago that would have a coaster car ride up onto a detachable piece of track that was hooked up to the top of a simulator style motion base platform able to tilt and rotate in any direction? (Click here to see it) The latest Screamscape rumor claims that we may see this new idea brought to life as part of the Gringott’s coaster ride.
Meanwhile it seems like the Diagon Alley Olivander’s location will be much larger than what we’ve seen built at Islands of Adventure. Rumor has it that the store will feature up to three different “wand shops” instead, but a single queue that will keep them hidden apart from each other, so it looks like you are entering the one and only shop. I’m also hearing something about a possible Wizard’s Duel show… though I’m hoping this isn’t true, as I think the “magic” needs to stay indoors for the most part.
(12/7/11) During the big announcement in Hollywood confirming that a version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be coming to the California park, the company also confirmed that the Orlando Wizarding World would also be expanded, with details about that promised to come sometime in the future.
“This is an incredible moment for Universal Studios and the millions of guests who visit our theme parks,” said Ron Meyer, President & COO, Universal Studios. “The Harry Potter stories are some of the most powerful of our time and we are honored to expand our Orlando experience and bring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Hollywood, forever changing family tourism in Los Angeles.”
Keep in mind that they did not confirm if the Phase 2 expansion was coming to replace Jaws, or if it may go into Islands of Adventure instead, but at this point, every source is in agreement as to the location, confirming what I reported previously about the London focused expansion taking the place of Jaws, Amity, and very likely... the seldom used Fear Factor show theater as well.
(12/5/11) In case you missed the late breaking announcement on Friday afternoon, but Universal Orlando announced that the Jaws attraction and the entire Amity themed area around it will be closing down forever after January 2nd to make way for a new attraction. While they were not ready to disclose what is in the works yet… I’ve done a good bit of digging since then and have come up with an amazing proposal that is going to both shock and likely amaze you at the same time.
If my various sources are correct, the Amity / Jaws area will be replaced by the proposed Phase 2 expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Now, before you flip out… lets go over it all, because for starters this really isn’t going to be the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at all. Instead, from what I’ve been able to gather, the new land to be build in Universal Studios Florida will actually represent the “London” side of the PotterVerse… including an entrance to the infamous Diagon Alley.
Diagon Alley, as seen in the movies, is home to infamous locations such as The Leaky Cauldron, Gringott’s Wizarding Bank and the true Ollivanders wand shop location, as seen in the films. The London location is also said to be home to King’s Cross station, where students would board the Hogwarts Express train from Platform 9 ¾.
Many of these locations have been mentioned in the rumored development plans for Phase 2 of the Wizarding World for months now, including an innovative indoor dark coaster ride said to take place inside Gringott’s Wizarding Bank. It’s no secret that the Wizarding World has been popular…so much so that it needed to be expanded to spread out the crowds, and come up with a way to provide new locations for guests to buy Butterbeer, Ollivanders wands and more. But it seems that Universal Creative really decided to try a new idea… and think really outside the box this time. Literally… because this new expansion is going to allow for guests in both parks to get a taste of the PotterVerse… but to get the ENTIRE experience, you’d going to have to have a 2-park ticket.
Speaking of having access to both parks… connecting the dots is said to be a true recreation of the Hogwarts Express, allowing guests with two park passes (and Universal Resort guests) to recreate the true journey from the Muggle world of London and actually board travel to the train station and board the train for a trip over to Hogwarts and the rest of the Wizarding World at Islands of Adventure.
Now if all that wasn’t enough, I’ve heard some rumors about another possible new attraction likely to go into this Phase 2 project, that may attempt to take advantage of the new 3D projection tunnel technology Universal created for King Kong 3D 360 at the Hollywood park earlier this year. I don’t know if this may be put to use during your train ride on the Hogwarts Express, or if this will be an entirely separate ride experience. (One source suggested it could be a trip on the 3-decker Knight Bus, but I’ve heard that this isn’t likely to happen).
Either way this is huge… and apparently it all has a rather aggressive construction timeline as Universal is said to be shooting to have it all up and running by 2014. I’ve also heard that an official announcement or teaser could be released very soon, so stay tuned!
(12/2/11) While the overall theme of every rumor regarding Phase 2 of the Wizarding World is that it’s a sure thing… the one factor up in the air was the ‘when’. When will the construction start? According to new rumors starting to flow through the park staff, construction walls could go up for the first phases as early as February 2012.
With the various news sources all aflutter about the reports of a Hollywood version of the Wizarding World being finalized over the next week or two, it would only make sense to get those same people at Warner Brothers to sign off on Phase 2 of the Orlando attraction at the same time, don’t you think?
(4/8/11) According to a report at the LA Times, Universal has been conducting some guest surveys about a possible expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that could double the size of the entire land. Apparently the phase, "twice as big with twice as much everything." was used. From the report and rumors I've heard myself, the inclusion of Diagon Alley and a Leaky Cauldron restaurant are a virtual lock in at this point. Unfortunately, no new rumors about the possible Gringott’s dark roller coaster ride, but give it time...
2015/2016/2017 - KidZone Revamp / The Smurfs - Rumor - (6/27/13) I’ve mentioned it before, but the most likely new project coming to Universal Studios Florida once Diagon Alley opens may be a complete renovation and/or re-branding of the kiddie areas of the park. Curious George and Barney the Dinosaur are likely to be retired… and most certainly Fieval’s Playland will get a complete makeover along with rumors of a replacement for the E.T. ride.
What could replace E.T. you may ask? Well in Hollywood they replaced it with their own version of Revenge of the Mummy and in Japan the ride was replaced by the Space Fantasy indoor spinning coaster. So while I would like to think that Universal might try to reuse the massive E.T. building in a similar fashion, the actual rumor going around is that Universal may be in talks with Sony about bringing The Smurfs to Universal Orlando. In fact, one of our own readers was asked to take a survey in the past week which pitched new ride concepts based on The Lorax (for Islands of Adventure) and a “flying” dark ride concept based on The Smurfs that sounded very much like a plan to reuse the E.T. ride system
According to our source, the concept pitch for The Smurfs ride in the survey even mentioned having Papa Smurf say goodbye to the riders by name at the end of the ride… just like E.T. does. Universal has partnered with Sony to build an attraction before (Men In Black) and the Smurf village theme would actually be a good fit as a replacement for Fieval’s Playland as well. All rumors, surveys and concept pitches for now… but as Diagon Alley gets closer to opening we should know more about what the future may hold.
(11/15/12) While Universal Creative has their hands full right now with Transformers and then the Potter expansion, the early rumors for what could be next are already coming down the pipe. According to the latest buzz, the general plan right now is to overhaul the KidZone area in either 2015/2016. Expect Woody Woodpecker to say, but Curious George, Barney and Fieval may be given their walking papers. With the E.T. Adventure right in the middle of it all, it too may be either replaced or given an extensive overhaul.
???? - Project 766 - Rumor - (9/5/13) Still trying to figure out exactly what Project 766 is… though I’m told that map image that was previously seen may have been just an overall water drainage map and not a true representation of the true project itself… so stay tuned. In the meantime… it looks like all the new action is taking place over at Islands of Adventure where two new attractions are rumored to have been given the green light.
(9/3/13) A new project has come to light, as early permits have been filed for something called Project 766. The exact nature of the project isn’t quite yet known as some sources suggested it may have a tie-in with a new Jurassic Park development at IOA, while later sources suggest it will be a mysterious new project for the Studios side of things. According to some documents uncovered by Chris Con, the overall project areas seems to stretch from around the Men In Black area, behind the Simpsons ride and backend of the kiddie land area… but also stretches over into the parking lot and front lawn of the Hard Rock Hotel, coming to an end right up against the resort river.
At first I was wondering if perhaps they might be looking to expand the river past the Hard Rock and possibly into an area where they could build another resort hotel… but from everything I’ve heard, this all involves a new attraction of some kind and not a resort… though the waterway may very well be involved somehow as well. Very confusing so far… but this is definitely not you typical big ride/show in a box attraction for sure.