The latest on the Wizarding World expansion
In surprisingly quiet fashion, Theme Park Insider posted a story this week that seemed to confirm many rumors on what would be involved in the heavily guarded Potter expansion at Universal Studios Florida. We also saw a couple new tidbits of information as well, including the entrance to Diagon Alley being hidden behind Grimmauld Place (headquarters of The Order of the Phoenix), Wyndham’s Theatre, and other locales of the famous West End of London. We all saw the beginning of this transformation months ago, when Universal worked on the waterfront area of this section of the park, and the recreation of this part of London looks to continue in a major way.
We’ve discussed several of the rumored shops and storefronts in previous Rumor Round-Ups, and now we can add a couple more to the list. The gift shop at the end of the Gringotts coaster attraction looks to be themed after Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment. You want to talk about detail? This is a store that wasn’t even mentioned in the Harry Potter books, it was first revealed as an extra on the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets DVD as they toured the Diagon Alley created for the movie. Later, JK Rowling’s Pottermore site confirmed the store’s existence in the Potter universe. Madam Malkin’s Robes store is a Potter staple, being mentioned in several of the Potter books, and it’s where students of Hogwarts get their school robes. This is also the very first place where Harry Potter met Draco Malfoy. With sales of $100 robes surprisingly high over at Hogsmeade Village, expect a store dedicated to Potter related apparel to do gangbuster business.
Theme Park Insider also wrote that Diagon Alley will open in July 2014, which may be the biggest bombshell of all. While nothing would surprise me after seeing Universal destroy Soundstage 44 and create Transformers: The Ride 3D in less than a year, I don’t think anyone thought the Potter expansion would be open before 2015. That said, Universal taking reservations for its new hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, for dates starting on March 31, 2014 makes a lot more sense now. If the new Potter area is just half as good as it looks to be, masses will be swarming over to Universal, even more than the insanity of crowds that came this week, and those guests are going to need plenty of hotel rooms!
Visit the Harry Potter expansion at USF page in the OI Universal Center to learn more.
Goodbye Swiss Family Robinson, Hello Tinkerbelle?
Several years ago, when New Fantasyland was first presented to the public, guests were told that Magic Kingdom was going to receive a massive expansion dedicated solely to the Disney Princesses and the Disney Fairies. Somewhere along the way Disney management realized that there was almost nothing for young boys in this new area, and New Fantasyland became what we have today, with Storybook Circus and the areas for Beauty & the Best and the Little Mermaid. The Seven Dwarves mine train will complete the project in late 2013/early 2014, but the announced Pixie Hollow walkthrough area was completely jettisoned from the project (along with an elaborate, next generation technology-driven meet n’ greets with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.)
Now, thanks to Jim Hill, we’re hearing rumblings that the Pixie Hollow idea may come back to the table. However, instead of Fantasyland it will be recreated in Adventureland as a replacement for the Swiss Family Treehouse.
While many attractions in Magic Kingdom have stood the test of time and become iconic, such as Pirates of the Caribbean or It’s a Small World, the Swiss Family Treehouse just seems dated. Reimagining the Treehouse to the “Pixie Dust Tree” where Tinkerbelle and the other Disney Fairies hang out at would be new relevance to a “dead” attraction that never has a wait.
Disney Hollywood Studios to get another name change
A lot of buzz is flying around concerning Disney Hollywood Studios, with many feeling a major announcement concerning the future of the park is coming in May when the insanely popular Star Wars Weekends begins. While a Disney survey being sent to many people online is leading some to believe a bigger Star Wars presence will be coming to DHS, this week on the DisUnplugged podcast Dustin West discussed the building rumor of the park having yet another name change. When it originally opened in May 1989, DHS was known as Disney-MGM Studios. In January 2008 the name transitioned over officially to DHS, although many long time Disney fans still refer to the park as “MGM,” a fact that must drive Disney branding executives crazy.
The word going around is that the name will change to simply “Disney Studios,” which is definitely more in line with the naming of the other Walt Disney World parks, and it has a much better chance to catch on and finally move the phrase “MGM” out of the lexicon of park guests. With the rumored focus on an expansion of the Disney owned Pixar and Lucasfilm properties (like Star Wars), the Disney Studios name as a brand is much stronger and memorable than the current DHS. We’re also hearing again that the hated-by-many Sorcerer’s Hat – the icon of the park – will be removed. What’s interesting is that the Studios probably won’t go back to its old icon, the Earful Tower, as Disney Springs looks to be using a water tower as its icon. Disney also can’t use the Great Movie Ride façade, a recreation of the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater, because they don’t have the rights to use that image for any merchandise or advertising. As anyone who has shopped for items from t-shirts to magnets, the icons of all four parks is a big deal. Magic Kingdom has the castle, Epcot has Spaceship Earth, Animal Kingdom has the Tree of Life and as of now DHS has the much reviled Hat, but what will we see in the future…
Agree, disagree, or have your own rumors? Leave a comment below. Or, check out all of our rumor posts.
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