Rumor round-up for May 2, 2014: New Harry Potter food & souvenirs, clues to Early Park Admission, but where’s the grand opening announcement?

Rumor round-up for May 2, 2014: New Harry Potter food & souvenirs, clues to Early Park Admission, but where’s the grand opening announcement?

Rumor round-up for May 2, 2014: New Harry Potter food & souvenirs, clues to Early Park Admission, but where’s the grand opening announcement?

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Eating, drinking & buying your way around Diagon Alley

It’s already May, which means that (more than likely) the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be open next month.

So it should come as no surprise that Universal employees got a special sneak peek at future culinary and merchandise offerings this past week inside the Garden of Allah building in USF’s Hollywood backlot. And although these were only snippets – relayed from the Team Members to Seth Kubersky and Derek Burgan (a name which should be familiar to long-time Rumor Round-Up readers), who were nice enough to post them on their Twitter accounts – they do provide a very compelling look at just how fundamentally Universal Creative is expanding upon the theming possibilities of this second phase.

Harry Potter shopping in Diagon Alley.
Now that I’ve gotten all my souvenirs, it’s time to start shopping for Mum…

Let’s get to it, shall we?

  • Borgin and Burkes – the latest in Dark Arts fashion to be sold here includes dark mark scarves, bone candlesticks, crystal skulls, Death Eater cloaks, and Malfoy and Karkaroff character wardrobes.
  • Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor – one of those roughly two dozen unique flavors we’ve been yammering on about has now been revealed: chocolate chili ice cream, which will be available in a collectible sundae bowl, but of course.
  • Gringotts Bank – a whole slew of tchotchkes – not surprisingly – will be themed to the famous wizarding bank, including wallets, coin bags, gold bars, coins, and goblin t-shirts. What isn’t known is where, exactly, these wares will be on sale; some might end up in the queue to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, but others will undoubtedly go to the rumored goblin bank teller’s window, where guests can “exchange” their Muggle money for the wizarding equivalent.
  • The Hopping Pot – a brand-new venue (oddly) based off of one of the tales of Beedle the Bard, the Hopping Pot will apparently be a bar serving eight different beers, Wizard Ale, Dragon Porter, and a steaming, non-alcoholic train-themed drink similar to a Flaming Moe.
  • King’s Cross Station – for one of the very first times, Universal will be offering refreshments in the queue to one of its attractions.  Expect to see “prepackaged food items,” not unlike those currently on-hand at Lisa’s Teahouse of Horror, in the Muggle section of the train station.
  • The Leaky Cauldron – pumpkin juice will be on tap at Diagon Alley’s main eatery. It’s no big surprise, but it’s still good news. Also, despite Universal Orlando’s website saying otherwise, it seems that the Cauldron will be open for breakfast from 8:00 to 10:30am.
  • London waterfront – one of the two cabman’s shelters will be dedicated to (sausage-focused?) food, while the other will be given over to merchandise. Although we don’t have any word on what kind of wares will be peddled, it’s very likely that they’ll be geared towards British Muggles.
  • Magical Menagerie – plush pixies, snakes, and even Dobby have officially been added to the likes of Hedwig, Scabbers, and Buckbeak.
  • Ollivander’s/Gregorovitch’s Wand Shops – in addition to the standard and interactive wands for sale, we can now also expect to see toy wands with lighted tips for children.
  • Quality Quidditch Supplies – complete Quidditch sets, replete with gloves and pads, will be on hand, along with banners and pins for all the various wizarding teams.
  • Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment – a watch with Hermione’s Time Turner on it will be on the shelves of this very cool-looking shop.

Just in case all of these tantalizing first-looks weren’t enough for you, we got a few other random bits and pieces of merchandising heaven. It sounds as if the drinking options inside of Diagon Alley will be greatly expanded and will include a number of teas, such as boba mint tea with blueberry tapioca, as well as flavored, fresh-squeezed lemonades. And if it’s more collectibles you’re looking for, how do iPhone and iPad cases, luggage bag straps, and baby outfits all sound?

Harry Potter's Sorting Hat.
This guy’s going on all three of my cats.

It would sound cool, we think, if it weren’t for our two personal favorites here at RRU headquarters: a talking sorting hat and a Howler, which you can record your very own 15-second message onto. Now that’s what we’re talking about!

 

The mystery of Early Park Admission – solved?

For months, ever since January’s first Diagon Alley press event, when Universal’s PR representatives refused to be pinned down on specifics, rumors have been swirling that perhaps Early Park Admission (EPA) would somehow be limited once Diagon and, more importantly, Cabana Bay Beach Resort open. This is no small matter – with 1,800 rooms that can hold anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 people at any given time, Cabana Bay promises to significantly disrupt the early traffic flow and touring patterns of the two Wizarding Worlds.

Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando.
Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando.

Now it seems that Universal is confirming the rumors and assuaging the looming problems in one fell stroke.

On Diagon Alley’s official site, this enigmatic fine print can now be found:

Early Park Admission begins one (1) hour prior to regular scheduled park opening to one (1) Universal Orlando theme park as determined by Universal Orlando. Valid at select attractions at each park. Additional restrictions may apply.

Only one park will be open for early entry? While that is certainly a possibility, the far more likely scenario is Universal dividing up its on-site guests between the two Wizarding Worlds; all the visitors at, say, the three deluxe hotels – Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Portofino Bay Hotel – will be admitted to Diagon Alley, while everyone at Cabana Bay will be routed to Hogsmeade. This would not only help with crowd control, it would also result in yet another reward for those willing to spend the extra money to stay at the more expensive resorts.

There is still one work-around regarding the class barrier, though: the Hogwarts Express, which, of course, allows patrons to hop from one park to the other. It’ll be interesting to see how – or if – Universal deals with this. We also await word on exactly how the company will handle guests who book Universal Orlando vacation packages with off-site accommodations, as these guests have been promised access to Early Park Admission, as well.

Finally, on a somewhat related note, the “Terms and Conditions” on Universal’s on-site hotel page have been updated to confirm that neither Escape from Gringotts nor the Hogwarts Express will have Express Pass access.

 

Quick hits from all over the Wizarding Worlds

What? You’re still hungry for more Harry Potter morsels? We can’t blame you, given the just-around-the-corner opening date. Chew over these little nuggets, then, to help while away the time:

Our friends at Theme Park Insite report that the Team Member training dates for the Hogwarts Express will be on May 5, 6, 10, and 17. We can expect to see soft openings (for the train, at least) as soon as May 18.

Local news station WESH has some gorgeous aerial shots of Diagon Alley, showing the progress of construction (Gringotts Bank’s dragon should be installed any day now) as well as some great advertisements/signs, such as the Society for the Reformation of Hags and the Black Carp Co. taxi service.

Diagon Alley - March 29, 2014 (courtesy of WESH).
Will we ever discover all of Diagon Alley’s Easter eggs?
Diagon Alley - March 29, 2014 (courtesy of WESH).
No dragon yet, but it’s coming.

WESH posted a total of 40, but they use a small file size, so we reposted our favorite 19 – enlarged and enhanced – right here in the OI Forums.

Last but not least, another week of Today Show broadcasts has passed, and there’s still no word about a Diagon Alley grand opening date. (If you’re just joining us, Today was supposed to appear live at Universal last Friday, but the broadcast was canceled. Then came rumors that a pre-recorded segment would air this week, but that never materialized.) It’s back to the drawing board as we wonder when an announcement will come, and, more importantly, if the announcement delay is a sign of construction delays.

One way or another, as long as Universal can get Diagon Alley built and opened in less than four years, two months, and 25 days, they’ll have beaten the pace set by Disney and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. (Come on, we’re just having some fun on a Friday afternoon… although it’s true.)

Learn more on our Diagon Alley page, or discuss it all with us in the OI Forums.

 

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

Orlando Informer will be viewed over 10 million times in 2014, and among those viewers are some folks with pretty strong connections to Universal Orlando. As they contact us with insider intel, we collect their information and combine it with our own research to produce our weekly Rumor Round-Up. When information comes to us directly, we cite “our sources”; when information comes from outside our network, we always cite it as such and provide links to the original source. This is our 111th rumor post, and we’re proud to have provided our readers with compelling stories as we share our thoughts and actively promote dozens of other websites.

Despite the excitement that can come with covering rumors, we ask our readers to be ever-mindful that, unless explicitly stated as fact, everything we cover here must be considered a rumor and unofficial. If you’re ever confused by what is what, we invite you to join us for free in the OI Forums, where you can ask our vacation planning community for clarification and seek advice for anything else regarding your plans to visit Orlando.

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[sws_author_bio user=”msunyata@yahoo.com” size=”105″ authorposts=”More OI posts by Marc” name_format=”About the author”] [/sws_author_bio]

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Marc N. Kleinhenz Marc N. Kleinhenz’s first dream in life was to be an astronaut. His second was an Imagineer. While neither completely worked out, he now works exclusively for Orlando Informer as a writer, editor, and podcast co-host. He’s also written for 32 other sites (including Screen Rant, IGN, The Escapist, and California Informer [OI's sister site]), has had his fiction featured in several publications, and has even taught English in Japan. Imagineering school won’t be too far behind.

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Beki Hough
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Beki Hough

Vicky Hough

Sophie Parker
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Sophie Parker

Ryan Parker

Sinead O'Brien Burke
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Sinead O'Brien Burke

Sean Burke!! Christmas!!! 🙂

CJ Bodiford
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CJ Bodiford

Emily Smith

Cheryl Reeve
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Cheryl Reeve

OMJ i best start saving even more spending money. I have a feeling i will be doing some major shopping in DA

Ann McLuckie
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Ann McLuckie

Can’t wait to spend loads of money here!!! Roll on the end of June!!

Misty Jenkins
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Misty Jenkins

David Jenkins

Sian Adams
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Sian Adams

Thanks kinda answers my question from earlier .

Rachel McNeilly
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Rachel McNeilly

Nicola Pye, Emily Harrison

Larissa Pontes
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Larissa Pontes

Leticia Simoni e Flavia Brandao. As novas lojas do Beco Diagonal!

Melissa Will Donahue
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Melissa Will Donahue

As always, thank you for a detailed Rumor Round-Up! The early entry notices are very intriguing… Wonder how they are going to handle that one with the new resort adding thousands of guests…

Jamie Chrisman
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Jamie Chrisman

Ooh I’m even more excited ! Now if someone will just say that all will be accessible the 2nd week of June!!!

Debra Lynn
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Debra Lynn

Does Universal realize how much money they’re losing by not having Express access for Hogwarts Express or HPatEfG (we NEED to give this a better acronym)?

James Galliford
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James Galliford

great article totally agree with splitting cabana bay and the other 3 on early park admission that would be the right solution and just not open the HE. keeps crowds controlled more and sounds like a better way of doing it than “extra magic hours” to all of your hotels at once on the same day

Laura Weatherill
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Laura Weatherill

Thanks for the update 🙂

DragoHarley
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DragoHarley

It’s funny…Universal keeps ADDING things to Diagon Alley when they don’t really have to. How to put this? It’s like, what they are already have been doing is A+…but it’s like they are doing extra credit to get a 4.5 or 4.8 unheard of grade point average. They are doing above and beyond what they needed to do to have an A+ attraction area and keep adding more cool things, just because they want this to be monumentally impressive.  Across town, Disney keeps value engineering and cutting budgets in contrast. While not a big fan of Avatar, I had been… Read more »

KevyB
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KevyB

It’s pretty obvious what Universal will do with the Hogwarts Express if this EPA split does happen: Hogwarts won’t open until the park does. Or maybe even later! They certainly don’t need EVERYBODY that went to IOA early heading into Hogwarts right at real park-opening. If it were me, I wouldn’t open it until an hour or two after opening the park to everyone.

Jacob Izreal
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Jacob Izreal

They definitely love to add as much detail as possible as we’ve seen with the simpsons area. But also the creator of harry potter is being very picky (rightfully so) about how perfect she wants this area, so they have to meet her standards above all.

Jacob Izreal
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Jacob Izreal

They definitely love to add as much detail as possible as we’ve seen with the simpsons area. But also the creator of harry potter is being very picky (rightfully so) about how perfect she wants this area, so they have to meet her standards above all

CaptainAction
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CaptainAction

Thanks Marc. Great as usual. Everything looks so amazing.
Do you think Univeral parks might pass up AK, DS, and/or Epcot in the next year or two?
Thanks again.

andrew marcou
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andrew marcou

I cant wait for the other uni parks to be built. I see potter quality.   Get away from the whole studio look.  I want more!

CaptainAction
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CaptainAction

Ok. Thanks for the response.

CaptainAction
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CaptainAction

It is just amazing what Universal Orlando has accomplished while WDW built ONE C Ticket attraction.
Despicable Me, Transformers, Hogsmeade Expansion, Hogwarts Train, London, Diagon Alley, Gringott’s, Springfield, Cabana Bay, and I’m sure I’m missing some things.
Then add the breaking ground on Kong, coming Land to replace Barney area, a new waterpark/themepark (wouldn’t this be the place to relaunch a “Jaws” attraction?!), a rumored third gate, 2-3 more resort hotels, and then connect them all to a Citywalk Hub! Wow!
I don’t think the years 2002 and forward will ever be referred to as “The glory days of WDW”.

CaptainAction
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CaptainAction

I think JK’s demands have helped Universal realize what they are capable of. Now Universal has cracked the code for becoming the theme park leader in so many ways.  I think we will begin to see WDW having to copy major elements from Universal.
Pretty amazing.

KristopherEnglish
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KristopherEnglish

Theme Park insider has received a media invitation to a ‘media & VIP’ preview from 17-20 June so it looks like the Grand Opening will be the 20th June, too late for when I got out there but it does look good.

Tom Picket
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Tom Picket

Why hasn’t there been any new rumor round-ups for two weeks.  They are always very informative.