Disney and Universal Hint at NextGen and Harry Potter Projects

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Right now there’s a lot of speculation on what could be coming in the future for the central Florida theme park industry. Both Universal and Disney have been very hush-hush on their actual plans leaving much of it open to interpretation. However, those with a knack of digging beneath the surface have revealed some interesting morsels of truth in regards to the matter.

With Disney the hoopla is all about the multi-million dollar NextGen project. Very little has been formally released about the long-in-development project by Disney and most of what we know comes from leaked internal presentations. We do know that the NextGen project has a heavy emphasis on RFID technology being integrated into the park experience though, and likely will be used in a number of interactive queue elements integrated at existing attractions.

The most recent development comes from the intrepid Internet miners over at the Epcot Explorer’s Encyclopedia blog. Digging in the public archives has revealed a bevy of plans for “Queue Modifications” at several of Disney’s existing attractions. Notably, these plans all refer to the project end date as October 1, 2012. The first week of October is important in Disney’s history as it is the time of year the company commonly uses to open theme parks and launch major attractions.

The following attractions are listed as undergoing “Queue Modifications” for the larger project:

  • Spaceship Earth
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends (entitled “The Living Seas” on the paperwork)
  • The Voyage of the Little Mermaid
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Expedition Everest
  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • Fantasmic Amphitheater
  • Theater of the Stars (Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage)

Over at Universal, a similar dedication to digging on the Internet has turned up some interesting results in regards to the Jaws and Harry Potter attractions. A bit of explanation to begin – as we know some folks don’t follow Universal as closely as we do: Universal recently announced it would be closing the Jaws attractions in January of 2012. That closes an entire “land” of the Universal Studios Orlando theme park. At the same time, Universal has not commented on any sort of replacement for the attraction/land.

All the while, Universal has been hyping an addition to its Harry Potter theme park attractions (which have done exceptionally well at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park) at Universal Studios Hollywood. During those announcements, Universal confirmed the longstanding rumor that it intended to also expand the offerings in Orlando. Per usual though, very few details were given.

Enter the HHN Rumors website and its own Universal-dedicated data diggers. They’ve uncovered permits from Universal for a “Project 722” which is for the replacement and demolition of an existing attraction with several components. What could that be? It’s pretty obviously the Jaws attractions at Universal as nothing else has even been rumored to be on the chopping block.

Then things begin to get interesting. “Project 722” isn’t very telling as a project name – Universal likes to disguise their inner-workings in coded project names. The original Harry Potter addition was coded “Strongarm.” More digging on the Internet by the HHN Rumors crew has found that a number of Universal’s creative people assigned to the mysterious Project 722 all share an interesting background: either they worked on the original original Harry Potter project or the actual Harry Potter films themselves. The general consensus on the web is that Project 722, which appears to be replacing Jaws, is in fact some sort of Harry Potter related expansion.

Certainly that’s not the full story for either project, but a good bit of Internet research has gotten us all much closer to a clear picture of what’s actually going on behind all those closed doors. Are you looking forward to either of these projects? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

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R. A. Pedersen

R. A. Pedersen is the author of The Epcot Explorers Encyclopedia and runs the blog. He has been a research contributor to the Blog since 2006 and functions as sort of an all-around news desk and project-tracker.

2 thoughts on “Disney and Universal Hint at NextGen and Harry Potter Projects

  • I am absolutely dreading this RFID nonsense. What is so wrong with the way things are now? I hate the idea of being tracked all the time and having to get my FPs months in advance (and I plan ADRs 8+ months ahead). Also, I really really hope they don’t make people wear those stupid wristbands. If so, I will be making significantly less trips to WDW and going to DL instead.

  • I’m guessing that’s what the big New Year’s Eve announcement will be about. I can’t imagine they would open the Art Of Animation resort with the old key cards. And I’m sure with RFID technology they could really do some amazing things with the queues! Sounds to me like they may be getting ready to start switching over to wristbands. Should be an exciting year no matter what!


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