On Tuesday, July 8, 2014, the opening day of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley, we here at EG were midway through the 8 hours and 51 minutes it would take to ESCAPE FROM GRINGOTTS when we began to wonder about HARRY POTTER PHASE 3.
By this point, most Muggles are aware that Universalâ€™s old JAWS attraction was, umm, blown up(?) to make way for the Diagon Alley expansion. And with less and less real estate available in both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks, more existing attractions may need to be eliminated if there is to be more Wizarding Magic to come. And so, as the sun blazed down and melted our brains during that epic wait, we began to fantasize about whatâ€™s next…
Dragon Challenge, the roller-coaster inside Hogsmeade was a pre-HP holdover formerly known as Dueling Dragons. The coaster is fine but, quite honestly, the most magical part of the attraction is its re-designed Triwizard-inspired queue. We say, keep the queue, demolish the entire coaster and use all that newfound prime real estate for new state-of-the-art rides and shops in Hogsmeade. Perhaps an actual TRIWIZARD TOURNAMENT itself!
Back at Universal Studios Park, just to the right of Diagon Alleyâ€™s London gateway, the eyesore that is the “Fear Factor Live” stage show rests. A simple re-do of the existing theater could bring a Wizarding World stage show to the mix, or, even better — we say lose the theater and its neighbor — Men In Black: Alien Attack — and wahla! We now have room for the largest expansion Universal is currently capable of accommodating inside its Studios park, with minimal casualties. Furthermore, there is a large area of undeveloped land to the right of MIB which could also be used for future Potter-inspired expansion beyond our wildest dreams.
To the right of London is the attraction formerly known as “Earthquake: The Big One,” now billed as “Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride…Starring You!” Should disaster actually strike and, umm, actually demolish this underwhlming experience, our guess is it would not be missed and could provide further prime real-estate for the expansion of London. A high-speed KNIGHT BUS THRILL RIDE through the streets of London perhaps? Or perhaps a ride through the air in Mr. Weasley’s enchanted Ford Anglia?
If the right space could be found that is location-appropriate to the Hogwarts Castle, then a HOGWARTS HOUSE DORMS RESORT is a no-brainer! Imagine the resortâ€™s four sections for each house — Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin — as well as an actual GREAT HALL dining area.
We are aware that Universalâ€™s 5th, still-unnamed resort recently broke ground. But adding a â€œHogwarts House Dormsâ€ resort as their 6th, well, itâ€™s a fair bet that it would easily become the most popular hotel in history.
Finally, remember the short-lived “Disney Institute” hybrid resort which opened in 1996? Designed to feel like a college campus, guests could not only stay on property but could sign up for classes ranging in anything from animation to culinary courses. Well…
What about taking that model and applying it to Hogwarts, where guests could enroll in ACTUAL CLASSES of Witchcraft and Wizardry, taught by “real” Witches and Wizards. Within each class, there could be video presentations in the form of old-fashioned educational filmstrips that could feature a whole slew of guest appearances from the professors of the Potterverse.
Imagine attending your Charms class and having Professor Flitwick appear on monitors to teach you how to â€œswish and flickâ€ or sitting in Herbology and seeing Pomona Sprout approving of each studentâ€™s progress. Depending on the length of their â€œenrollment,â€ Witches and Wizards would then take their O.W.L. or N.E.W.T. to complete their magical education!
The possibilities are endless. And while no one can argue that Disney made their biggest mistake of all time in letting Ms. Rowling and her Wizarding World slip through their fingers, the healthy competion it has created benefits US, the guests. Would Walt Disney World have rushed their “Frozen Summer Fun” event into existence for July 5 if not for Diagon Alley opening the same week?
One can only wonder how Walt Disney World will move past their $2 billion MagicBand blunder and begin to reinvest in truly magical guest experiences of their own. And before you say “PANDORA: The World of Avatar” — we’re talking about experiences that guests actually WANT. While the Imagineers will no doubt create an amazing environment, and Animal Kingdom’s new, somewhat-out-of-place land will surely create an atmosphere of magic with its bioluminescent nights and fantastic creatures of its own, truth be told — “The World of Avatar” just ainâ€™t the THE WIZARDING WORLD. When was the last time you saw any kids dressing up as Na’vi for Halloween?
Disney needs to dream beyond their current (announced) plans and give guests a Tokyo DisneySEA-style, spare-no-expense level experience. They need to look further, but not further than Pandora… perhaps just a little closer to home.
Weâ€™re looking at you, ARENDELLE…