Countdown to Diagon Alley:  What if the new Wizarding World sucks?

Countdown to Diagon Alley: What if the new Wizarding World sucks?

Countdown to Diagon Alley: What if the new Wizarding World sucks?

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On Thursday, January 23, Universal is going to finally blow open its most-anticipated attraction yet, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, in a webcast announcement. To mark the occasion, we here at Orlando Informer are kicking off a countdown to the two-years-in-the-making event with this new blog post series, exploring – and celebrating – all things Wizarding World.

 

Diagon Alley is going to do nothing less than revolutionize the theme park industry. According to Dale Mason, the project’s executive art director, they’re “building it so much bigger than, I think, anybody can imagine.” The latest insider intel promises that it’s going to feature never-before-seen methods of crowd control and merchandising opportunities. Suits of armor are going to tumble apart and then rebuild themselves right in front of guests’ eyes, while the Hogwarts Express is going to connect with Hogsmeade over at Islands of Adventure – the first time in theme park history that multiple locations will be linked together in one seamless experience.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.

That’s quite a tall order to fill – perhaps a little too tall. The question, then, very quickly becomes: what if Diagon Ally doesn’t end up becoming the greatest and most immersive theme park land ever devised, as has been foretold over these past many months? What if it, well, sucks?

Okay – “sucks” is perhaps too strong of a word, particularly given the track record that Universal Creative has established for itself as of late, including the first wondrous Wizarding World. But it turns out that the new expansion doesn’t have to drop the ball more than just an inch in order to be branded a failure in the hearts and minds of theme enthusiasts the worldwide web over, let alone that sometimes-cantankerous lot known as journalists; with the sheer amount of hyperbole that has saturated every press release, every dedicated forum, and every churning of the rumor mill, it will be nearly impossible for Universal to deliver on the now-sky-high expectations.

And it’s not like our (pop) culture hasn’t led us astray before, exponentially increasing hopes and, even, demands of the fanbase until they’re well past the point of any sort of reason. The advent of the long-awaited Star Wars prequel trilogy is perhaps the best example of this, causing all sorts of fanboys to commit virtual seppuku for some misperceived slight or another, but the more recent release of the latest Song of Ice and Fire novel (you know, the book series that HBO’s Game of Thrones is based off of) also falls neatly into this category. And the most confounding instance of them all is the last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which was branded disastrous all because a number of fans who knew nothing of the filmmaking process managed to spy videos of the on-location shooting and didn’t like what they saw. (The irony here is that, even though the finished film went on to rave reviews, it was a substandard product, especially when compared with its predecessor, The Dark Knight.)

Beyond the grandiose promises of Universal’s Creative execs and marketing team, the company is investing well over $400 million in Diagon Alley – nearly double what it spent on Hogsmeade. Cabana Bay Beach Resort, another multi-million dollar project, is being built entirely on the back of the expansion. And the company has already pledged some $500 million for next year and the year after, building new attractions and upgrading older ones, which has only been made possible due to the success of its Wizarding Worlds. To say that Universal has a lot riding on Diagon Alley is a profound understatement – so what happens if it does, indeed, face a backlash, deservedly or not?

The Potter gang screaming.

The answer is, more than likely, a good one for Universal and for most fans.

What’s important to understand is that most of the park-going public cares very little for which rumor did or didn’t pan out, which ride was toned down from its earlier incarnations, or which ultra-diehard fan who has literally spent hours looking at just one set of construction photos – yes, they really are out there – doesn’t like the modeling of Diagon’s rooftops. After all, there was a consistent, if not overpowering, amount of blowback when Hogsmeade first opened its doors three-and-a-half years ago: the presence of two rethemed rides was detrimental to the land’s originality; there wasn’t enough street-level atmosphere; the lack of queuing (for Ollivander’s Wand Shop and, even, for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey) showed just how far over its head Universal really was. And yet none of that made one dent in public demand for Harry Potter’s first theme park outing — as you can see in this video from the 2013 holiday season:

[youtube_video]0UD4BNXZrfY[/youtube_video]

Perhaps an even more illustrative example is to look at Universal’s main competition down the street. Disney-philes have been complaining, sometimes strenuously so, about Walt Disney World for at least half of its existence, and yet they still flock to their favorite – and make no mistake: it is still their favorite – resort year after year, decade after decade. New hotels are descended upon en masse, new attractions (even if they’re simply character meet-and-greets or rethemed restrooms) are passionately followed every step of the way, and, of course, pins are greedily acquired and traded. If Universal is successful in replicating this type of dedicated fanbase at its own resort, which, by all accounts, it is clearly in the process of doing, then it has nothing to worry about, negative feedback or no.

But, still, it’s an interesting situation – and an indication of Universal having officially “made it” – that we can even contemplate arriving at this situation. Will Gringotts Bank be the best ride ever made in the history of man? Will Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes offer the most inventive array of merchandise? Will the RFID-equipped interactive wands ever arrive? Will Universal Studios Florida’s attendance rate beat that of Magic Kingdom’s this year? Will Diagon Alley suck?

The only worthwhile answer, as in any such case, is to pose another question: will an insane amount of magic be had in the experience, regardless of its exact details?

 

Stay tuned for our next Countdown to Diagon Alley article to be published soon! In the meantime, you can check out our other installments in the series:

Top five vacation planning tips for visiting Diagon Alley

Compete telling of the Gringotts Bank ride experience

Four burning questions we still have about the new Wizarding World

New details on Diagon Alley – story, food, actors, previews & the name of the Gringotts Bank attraction

How Harry Potter is defining the next-generation theme park experience

After the webcast: Step-by-step guide to EVERYTHING we now know about Diagon Alley

After the webcast: Six incredible Diagon Alley secrets that weren’t mentioned in the webcast

And of course, to start back at the very beginning and review everything we know about the Harry Potter expansion at Universal Orlando, visit the Diagon Alley page in the OI Universal Center.

 

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

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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Gina Nicole
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Gina Nicole

I don’t care – if it does ‘suck’ then I’ll use my imagination and make it awesome.

Amy Gurnett Hamilton
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Amy Gurnett Hamilton

Not possible. Diagon Alley will be amazing. I know it.

Ashley Marie Gondek
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Ashley Marie Gondek

Universal is making it. It won’t suck.

Suzanne Barton
Guest
Suzanne Barton

Hopefully it will be amazing !! Been looking at flights to come back 🙂

Michael Aaron Futterman
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Michael Aaron Futterman

It won’t suck that’s blasphemy to say that
We all know it will be amazing

Rachel Mulieri
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Rachel Mulieri

Universal is doing it , therefore it wont suck.

James Galliford
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James Galliford

not worried…It already looks amazing

Linda Joanne Mouat
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Linda Joanne Mouat

As long as JKR is approving everything before hand, it won’t suck. 🙂

Mark Turner
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Mark Turner

Hmm, it is so easy for theme parks to get carried away with their own hype. Antarctica: Empire of The Penguin at Seaworld is a case in point where the ride simply didn’t match the hype but the area itself is very well themed. Personally, I think investing so much in one franchise (albeit a very good one) IS a mistake. I am not excited about Diagonally, but then I live in the UK and have seen Kings Cross Station. It is a train station and a theme park representation is going to be nothing special. Visiting a fictionalised representation… Read more »

David Loyd-Hearn
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David Loyd-Hearn

I must confess, having worked in London on and off for over 15 years, this addition does not interest me as much as Jaws. I also think more of the same will not have as big of an impact as an all new development. But it will add capacity for Potter Fans and that is likely to be appealing

Bethany Bro
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Bethany Bro

It won’t. Even if it were basically a different version of WWHP at IOA it still wouldn’t suck.

Andrew Sh
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Andrew Sh

It’s really irritating that universal continues to put so much into Harry potter. It’s too excessive now. It was fine in one park and they did a great job but now it’s taking over both. It would’ve been nice to have a different theme.

Todd Losey
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Todd Losey

It is getting a little bit over board with Harry Potter lands. Pretty soon it will be called “universal harry potter and other stuff park”.

CaptainAction
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CaptainAction

Thousands of guests would just love to explore any new alley or land that is themed so much more deeply than any theme park before.

Stuart Nielsen
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Stuart Nielsen

I think Universal has built up so much good will the last several years that Diagon Alley would have to be truly abysmal for them to suffer much backlash from their fan base. It’s not just their rides it’s the entire Universal experience. (with the exception of those horrendous carnie games 🙂 ).

Todd Losey
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Todd Losey

I think the new harry potter will do great the 1st year but after that is the question,

Todd Parker
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Todd Parker

The huge, huge crowds are what is going to suck….see you in 2015!

Joy Shaw
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Joy Shaw

If its anything like Hogsmead then it won’t suck. Diagon Alley at the HP studio is amazing and I expect this to be the same

Kristen DC
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Kristen DC

Even if Diagon Alley got negative reviews, I still think I’d have to see it for myself to make up my own mind. I think the HP fanbase is so massive, they’re not going to have any problems. So there ya go, Universal already has my money!

Jenny Bastin
Guest
Jenny Bastin

It won’t suck, it’s in America! You should try Thorpe park in the UK…then you’ll know the true meaning of sucks. Can’t wait to go back to Orlando!!! Woowee!!

Steven Summers
Guest
Steven Summers

We all now that the chance that this isn’t great is very small.

James Malin
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James Malin

I’m not too bothered about the Harry Potter theme. But I doubt it will suck. People might be disapointed with the length of the ride but it’s more of the same and going by the huge success of WWOHP it will be well received.

Joren LeGoullon
Guest
Joren LeGoullon

I’ve never seen universal flop on something ever in my life.

Isaac Hebert
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Isaac Hebert

It won’t be!!!!! All of Universals rides are amazing down to the last detail!

Kirsty Recourt
Guest
Kirsty Recourt

If its anything like harry potter world in Islands of Adventure it will be AMAZING. X

Victoria Ann Smith
Guest
Victoria Ann Smith

Dear Universal Fanboys…the Simpson’s Ride. That is all.

CaptainAction
Guest
CaptainAction

Victoria, are you the designer of the WDW Magic Handcuffs? I know it isn’t going well and the guests are all angry but you are too young to be this sour.
Simpson’s is hilarious!

King Bob
Guest
King Bob

Disney employee displaying jealousy?

Victoria Ann Smith
Guest
Victoria Ann Smith

Nah. Just an 80’s kid who still doesn’t understand why they took out a good ride to replace it with an identical one that is awful.

KevyB
Guest
KevyB

1)  The Simpsons Ride is not only an improvement over Back to the Future, for its humor if nothing else, but it inspired an entire land that is extremely popular. There are simply more Simpsons fans than BttF fans. 2) Using George RR Martin’s latest book is NOT a good example. A Dance with Dragons was AWESOME. It’s the previous novel, A Feast for Crows that wasn’t that great. But there wasn’t really tons of hype for it at the time since the HBO show didn’t exist yet.  3) My biggest fear of Diagon Alley is the narrow lanes. With… Read more »

Cassie Ryan
Guest
Cassie Ryan

Even if it sucks I’ll still find something amazing about it! 🙂