Why Harry Potter Must Win


I love having my Universal AP’s back. You really can see the progress happening from week to week between our visits. Of course, it’s not a lot of visible progress, but it is progress, none the less. And geeks like me eat that stuff up! (See pictures below). But with such a huge undertaking, what if this thing bombs? It is possible, afterall, nothing is a guaranteed success anymore.

First the photo update:

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As you can see it’s more orange paint, and more rockwork. The inside of the greenhouse looks to have cement just poured on the walkways (hence all the caution tape) and trees are starting to fill in the little spaces around the bottom. This whole castle is going from a theme park prop to an actual living and breathing world right before our eyes. I have every confidence that it will work….look at the detail, look at the time being put into it.It has to work!

But what if it doesn’t?

There’s a lot at stake here in this one little section of the park. But let’s take a look back at what we got here.

The Beginning

IOA was opened in 1999 as the “Worlds most Technologically advanced theme park”. Five Islands each representing different pieces and styles of literature (Yes even Jurassic Park…you do know it was two books first dont you?)  Each island was centered around the Lagoon which was as central to the park as the rides around it. I didnt visit until 2004 so I missed a lot of the original attractions and the rides at their best. What I did see was amazing. Poseidons Fury was in it’s second incarnation with the God of the Ocean Poseidon battling the evil Darkenon. The first version had Keeper telling you the tale of Posiedon and ended in an epic battle with the God Zeuss. Tricertops Encounter actually let you relive the moment from the movie where Dr. Gran hugs the Triceratops. Island Skipper tours also added to the nuance of the park and made everything tie together. So many little details went into the park from all different angles, that the park, when all was said and done cost almost a billion dollars. One of the most expensive parks of that time (the refurb of Disney’s California Adventure is said to cost that now.)

Did you know that the bridge behind the Mythos resturaunt is inhabited by a troll? You can also hear dinos in the bushes of Jurassic Park, and see Dino eggs in a certain spot (though some say it’s completely gone now). The names of alot of Marvel characters can be seen in little nooks and crannies all throughout the park.

The Cut

With a lot of debt accumulated and the ownership of the park changing hands, things didnt stay as advanced as they should have. A lot of the effects in many of the rides no longer work, and some of the attractions..albeit smaller attractions have closed down to either be just fixtures of decoration or just gone altogehter. The park hasn’t seen a new ride since 2001 (Storm Force Acceletron) although many will say “The Seuss High in the Sky Train Trolley Ride” is new, when it’s actually just a finally finished ride. (It was supposed to be Sylvester McMonkey McBeans Very Unusual Driving Machines but was scrapped at the last minute due to safety concerns and contract disputes…it also doesnt help that the original company went bankrupt.) Many rumors swirled around a new big attraction coming to Jurassic Park…the long conceptualized but never confirmed Jeep Ride. It was to be an amazing combination of Roller Coaster and dark ride combining effects and animatronics, and should have been outdoors. Perhaps Revenge of the Mummy became the replacement?

In 2007 it was announced that Harry Potter would be coming to Islands of Adventure. Many had wondered just where this new land would go, they got there answer. The Merlinwood section of the Lost Continent was walled up and many attractions like The Enchanted Oak Tavern, and the Flying Unicorn were closed and completely torn from what they were. Dueling Dragons, while still open, had part of it’s queue shutdown and will be rethemed. It was considered to be one of the most elaborate and immersive themes in the theme park world, and it was destroyed. The whole Lost Continent now consists of two attractions and a resturaunt, and one of those attractions only half works with the water vortex in Poseidon MIA. Seems like a lot to destroy just for one little boy wizard.

The Need for Success

Disney has always been the Elephant in the room no one talks about. Universal, since its inception, has been the redheaded stepchild to the Mouse. When planning vacations, families don’t plan out months in advance for their stay at Universal. They use it as a sidetrip on a day when they don’t feel like having so much Pixie Dust. This has been the bane of Universal’s existence. So something huge is needed to bring in the almighty dollar that Disney is so good at getting. Many think that Potter is the chosen one and can push Universal in the direction its been teetering on for so long. Many others think that it’s too little too late. How can this franchise be the saving grace? Many say that they waited to long to get a Potter theme park attraction in the works and that it’s success will be short lived due to the final movie coming out next year. One only need to look to rival Disney for proof that age doesnt matter. One of the most succesful attractions is based on not only a movie that came out in the 60’s but is so racist they can’t release it! Yet Splash Mountain is a steady draw. If you build it they will come. If you build it right, they will stay. And there’s where they have to do it. They have to build it right so that the millions of Potter fans will be happy with their world. They have to build it right so that the thousands of fans of the park won’t be disappointed with the sacrifice that it made in the name of a boy wizard. And most of all they have to make it timeless so that it’s just as relevant ten years from now as it is today.

Fact, Rumor, Crap

The Wizarding World has been almost three years in the making since it was announced in 2007, and we know almost nothing about what it would entail. Correction, we knew almost nothing. Why the secrecy? Many feel it’s because of the competition with Disney. Disney is afterall, in one of the worst creative slumps of it’s existance, many say, using other parks rides and concepts and opting out for cheap replacements of existing rides (such as the latest onslaught of Pixar Inspired attractions) instead of using the vast ideas of the Imagineering team it was once so proud of.

A lot of fans would be more excited if they knew just what we were going to see when the World is revealed this Spring.

Here’s a list of Facts:

Enchanted Oak has been torn down and replaced with The Three Broomsticks where Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice will be served.

The signature attraction of the area “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” will use Kuka Roboarm technology and be housed in the huge Hogwarts castle.

We will see Hogsmeade come to life with Olivanders Wands, Zonkos Joke Shop, and the Owlery

Dueling Dragons will be rethemed to Dragon Challenge, utilizing the story and props from “Goblet of Fire”.

Flying Unicorn will be rethemed to Flight of the Hippogriff, utilizing the story and characters from “Prisoner of Azkaban”

Here’s a list of Rumors:

There will be snow. All the time…even in the summer. While this has been hinted at, its just a rumor at this point.

The ride will not be in 3D but will use the same screen technology that all the other simulator type rides at Universal use.

Wizards will roam the streets and duel.

There will be live and animatronic owls.

You will be able to use your wand (which you purchase at Olivanders) all around the park and in the ride

An actual Goblet of Fire will be burning in the Dragons Challenge

There will be annual events such as Halloween and the Yuleball

And now the crap

You can use your wand to determine the outcome in the ride.

The castle will also double as a hotel

They will use real owls to deliver letters in and out of the post office

The Hogwarts express will be a ride

I think the area is going to be huge, though hardcore fans may be disappointed as the hype machine get out of control as they always do. Universal has even rolled out a new ticketing structure in order to take advantage of the huge crowds that are sure to gather. Read more about those here.

But so much can go wrong with this. It really needs to be dead on in order to work out for Universal. If not, they have torn apart a whole land that was really a great stand alone area. The confidence in Universal will be lost, and the crowd that it manages to steal away from Disney for the opening of the area will go back with bad stories and sour faces to the Mouse in droves discouraging any from venturing outside the walls of the Great Mouse City.

What do you think?