This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Things We’re Excited About in Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. This week was a big week for Harry Potter fans as Universal had its long awaited webcast featuring details of the upcoming Diagon Alley expansion in Universal Studios Florida, and the resort is having a weekend long Celebration of Harry Potter. We’ve been following Seth Kubersky’s PotterWatch series of articles for a while now, and we’re about to explode with excitement. So today we’re counting down six things that just can’t get here fast enough….
# 6 – Knockturn Alley
It’s very rare to have sections of theme parks dedicated to “the bad guys,” but we at the Saturday Six can’t get enough of them. We love meeting Gaston and enjoying a LeFou’s Brew in New Fantasyland, while over at Universal’s Islands of Adventure we like walking through Villain’s Alley at Marvel Superhero Island to see all the little details (and to ride Dr. Doom’s Fearfall). While very few details have been given out about Knockturn Alley (which we saw in the films Chamber of Secrets and Half Blood Prince), we’re looking forward to an experience at Borgin and Burkes, a store specializing in items related to the Dark Arts. We’re also hoping that various items related to Dark Magic will be for sale, including Death Eater masks, cursed necklaces, horcruxes, and skulls of creatures from the Potter universe. This is Universal Creative’s chance to take creepiness to an “11,” and we hope they go all the way with it.
# 5 – The Leaky Cauldron
We can’t wait to see The Leaky Cauldron because of how blown away we were when we first saw The Three Broomsticks. On the recent Disney Dish with Jim Hill, Jim talked about how happy Stuart Craig (production designer of the Harry Potter films) was at being able to fully realize this restaurant. If you’ve watched any behind-the-scenes feature on the Potter DVDs, you would see how much work is put into making the sets seem “real,” much of which the audience will never even see. For places like The Leaky Cauldron, the only sets that are built for the movie are the ones that will be seen on camera, but for the theme park they get to build the entire restaurant. Just as Pumpkin Fizz is one of the “secrets” of the Three Broomsticks, we expect the Leaky Cauldron to also have exclusive food and drink options you can’t get anywhere else. Warm butterbeer anyone?
# 4 – The Stores!!
If you like to spend money, then you’re in luck as Diagon Alley is going to have store after store that will make you scream SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes – a three story tall joke shop that will sell the Umbridge on a Unicycle that we saw in Half Blood Prince and the Decoy Detonator from Deathly Hallows Part One. Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions – your one stop shop for wizard clothing. Scribbulus – a magical Staples. Magical Menagerie – where young (and young at heart) wizards and witches can pick up their favorite animal in plush form. Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment– pretty much everything that you can’t get at the other stores, including time turners, hour glasses, and maybe even a pensive. And how could we forget Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour, a place that is going to give the new Cold Stone Creamery in CityWalk a run for its money when it comes to ice cream
As a sports fan, I’m looking forward to Quality Quidditch Supplies, which will sell various brooms, bludger bats, and golden snitches, along with merchandise from specific quidditch teams in the Potter universe. A Chudley Cannons hat? A Puddlemore United shirt? A Bulgaria jersey? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!
# 3 – The London Waterfront
In the last several years Universal has been doing an unbelievably great job at taking the weaknesses of their Universal Studios Florida park and turning them into strengths. A couple years ago dining at USF wasn’t something many people went out of their way for, and the International Film and Food Festival was possibly one of the least themed and least interesting food courts this side of an All-Star Resort. Now the entire area has been transformed into Fast Food Boulevard and Duff Gardens and rivals Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom for overall theming and dining experience. BOG is at one end of the spectrum, and the Simpsons-themed venues at the other, but they both succeed spectacularly for what they are. Another one of USF’s trouble spots was a large, unthemed lagoon with pretty much nothing for guests to enjoy. Now it has Springfield USA, a terrific nighttime show with Cinematic Spectacular, and soon will have a crowning achievement with a recreation of several iconic London locations that will be used to “hide” Diagon Alley from the muggle world. By the end of this year the USF lagoon area will be transformed from a place that had nothing going on around it to being one of the greatest places in any theme park in Orlando. Now that’s something.
# 2 – Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts
Where do we even start? The entrance to this newest E-Ticket will be a stunning recreation of Gringotts Wizarding Bank from the Harry Potter films, with one exception: it’s going to have a fire breathing dragon on top. Why? Because they can, that’s why. Inside we’re going to have a ground-breaking attraction, but there will be so many details and extras (like a currency exchange place where we can finally get our hands on knuts, sickles, and galleons) that it may even put Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey to shame. Inconceivable! Or is it?
# 1 – Hogwarts Express – King’s Cross Station
In a land full of game changers, this is the ultimate game changer. The first attraction ever to go from one theme park to another. Rumored to have randomized experiences offering over 400 different variations (granted, many of these could be very slight variations, like which hologram character you see in Star Tours – The Adventure Continues, but it’s still amazing). The outside of the Hogwarts Express already looks perfect. We caught a glimpse of the inside of the train during the webcast when Ivanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood from the Potter films) and Theirry Coup (Senior Vice President of Universal Creative) sat down in one of the cars. The King’s Cross facade already looks jaw-droopingly good on the outside, and those who have been inside say we’re about to get our minds blown. Trains have been an important part of the theme park experience since the very beginning thanks to Walt Disney, but in 2014 Universal could possibly be making the Hogwarts Express train experience the best ride in the park.
So there you have it: Six Things We’re Excited About in Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley See you next weekend for the latest edition of the Saturday Six, where we’ll be looking at some theme park complaints we believe people need to shut up about.. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles or, for your listening pleasure, check out Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.