Rumor round-up for December 6, 2013: Gringotts coaster details, exploring Avatar’s opening-day attraction & more
EXCLUSIVE: Shedding light inside Gringotts Bank
A new source has recently conjured himself up here at Orlando Informer, speaking to us in the back alleys of Universal Studios Florida. He’s been most happy to share just a few tidbits with us – hey, we don’t want to get anyone exiled from the Wizarding World here – about Diagon Alley, generally, and Gringotts Bank, specifically. While some of this has already been reported in various outlets over the past two years, some of it is brand new and exclusive to this report. We’ve just gone ahead and bundled everything together for you in one great big package – think of it as an early Christmas present from us at OI to you.
First and foremost, let’s go ahead and expressly confirm some previously rumored information: Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor and Knockturn Alley are not only certainly coming to the new Wizarding World, they’re both already in walk-through condition. So is the new, bigger version of Ollivander’s Wand Shop, which will now feature three wand-choosing-the-wizard show rooms instead of Hogsmeade’s paltry one, as well as a climate-controlled extended queue (anyone who has waited in the Ollivander’s queue in Hogsmeade will appreciate this!).
Guests will head past all of these attractions on their way to Gringotts, but there’s one more stop they’ll need to hit before arriving at Universal’s new flagship ride: the dreaded locker room, which is making a return appearance from Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The bad news here is that the room itself will be in a rectangular/square shape with the lockers being located in the middle, like an island – in other words, a traffic trap, just as with Forbidden Journey. However, the good news is that the lockers themselves will be slightly bigger, and they won’t be located in the queue; as with attractions like Dragon Challenge and Revenge of the Mummy, the locker room will be situated externally, freeing up a great deal of time for those already in the show building.
Once inside Gringotts Bank, the first room riders will find themselves in is the famous entry hall, replete with goblins behind the counter and the grand chandeliers dominating from the ceiling. (The word our source used to describe this section of the queue is “amazing.”) Next up is Bill Weasley’s office, which is where the backstory of the attraction is delivered – you know, why Muggles are being admitted into the wizarding world’s only bank – and where the first major difference with Forbidden Journey manifests itself: rather than getting exposition delivered in bits and pieces all throughout the queue, primarily through talking portraits, Gringotts takes the traditional approach of depositing a group of guests into a holding room to be debriefed (think Haunted Mansion or The Simpsons Ride).
From Bill’s office, guests will hop on an elevator (which really isn’t an elevator) that plunges them down into the depths of the bank. There, they’ll grab their obligatory 3D goggles and work their way through a series of stairways, including a spiral one, before finally coming face-to-face with the ride vehicles. (Why so many staircases? Because of the way the building was designed and the demands of the ride platform.)
Want some more highlights? A waterfall effect that doesn’t actually use any water is being employed to mimic the Thief’s Downfall in one scene, while, in another, goblins come out and shake the ride vehicle.
It all sounds incredible, even if just a few of these rumors turn out to be true!
Soarin’ over Pandora
If you’ll recall, Pandora: The World of Avatar’s main E-ticket ride is going to be a Soarin’-esque flight simulator that puts you on the wings of your very own Banshee. Not only does Robert Niles over at Theme Park Insider confirm that this will be one of the day-one attractions (remember, Avatar will be opening in phases, not unlike Disney’s recent New Fantasyland expansion at Magic Kingdom), he’s also gotten his dirty mitts on a copy of the ride’s blueprints, and he’s more than happy to spill the beans with all of us.
The “Banshee” show building will be massive, calling for four different theaters – each with its own giant IMAX screen – and a total of five or six stories, making it somewhere around 80 feet tall.
The indoor portion of the queue actually starts out in a shorter, ancillary building next door before filing guests into a central hub in the main structure. Here, the queue splits up into two different directions: the left ramp takes riders to the first floor, while the right ramp goes up to the second level.
Once divided, guests on each story get divided again, into four groups – one for each theater. They’ll snatch up their 3D glasses and enter one of the four pre-show rooms, getting the set-up of the ride’s story, before finally shuffling into the theater proper. (Theme Park Insider notes that some of the second-story riders may actually be directed up yet another ramp, depositing them on the show building’s third story, perhaps depending upon that day’s traffic.) The whole loading sequence, Niles says, is not unlike what happens with Universal Studios Florida’s Simpsons Ride.
Once the attraction’s over, all four theaters disgorge their patrons into one massive exit corridor that crosses underneath the show building, allowing all and sundry to exit (through retail!) at the same spot.
While short on actual ride specifics, the blueprints do reveal quite a bit about the mentality Disney has adopted not only for the “Banshee” attraction, but for all of its Pandora expansion: big, elaborate buildings typically require big, elaborate rides to go into them and be surrounded by large, elaborately-themed areas. Such expense should make theme park enthusiasts giddy at the experiences that Disney is cooking up – and it should also (hopefully) justify the extraordinary amount of time the company has been using to develop them.
Universal holding a press event next Thursday, December 12
There has been a lot of work happening at Universal CityWalk: the closing of the Pastamore Market, Latin Quarter, and Endangered Species; the opening of Red Oven; and the rumors about Starbucks, Cold Stone, Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar (via us), and now a Jekyll & Hyde Club (via Screamscape). Through these many months of construction, Universal hasn’t made an official announcement about any of these changes.
That ends next Thursday, when the resort is set to announce its plans for CityWalk, along with some new details about Diagon Alley, Cabana Bay, and possibly Jurassic Park thrown in for good measure. You can expect full coverage of everything that was announced, and everything that wasn’t announced, in next week’s Rumor Round-Up!
Camera test & guest trip report are a #win for OI readers
That headline makes no sense, right? What I’m trying to say, first, is that Dan has been testing a new camera he picked up (a Sony Alpha 7 for those interested), and his testing means we win with a gorgeous collection of new Harry Potter expansion photos. These are just a few:
To see all 50 of the new images in ultra high-resolution, check out the December 5 photoset on the OI Flickr page. If you’re not familiar with the Harry Potter expansion project at Universal Orlando, learn everything there is to know on the Diagon Alley page in the OI Universal Center.
Second, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend that you check out this guest trip report from Universal Singapore that OI published earlier this week. It has nothing to do with rumors, but as a fan of Universal and of theme parks in general, I found it to be truly entertaining.
DISCLAIMER FROM THE EDITOR
Please remember when viewing this post that a rumor is a piece of unverified information of uncertain origin; a statement whose veracity is not quickly or ever confirmed. So even though we try our best to present solid speculation, there’s no way to guarantee any rumor will come true (then it wouldn’t be a rumor anyway).
Thanks to Marc for researching the latest rumor buzz from sources across the Internet and condensing it down into a single post for us each and every week!
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