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The SATURDAY SIX Looks at the BEST Replacements in Theme Park History (Pandora, Galaxy’s Edge, Diagon Alley, and more!)

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX is taking a look at the Best Replacements in Theme Park History! Down here in Florida we have a big month ahead of us with Minion Land about to fully open with the official debut of Villain-Con – Minion Blast on August 11th. For the most part, every time we get something new at the parks it means we have to say goodbye to something we previously had enjoyed. Minion Land is replacing two longtime residents of Universal Studios Florida: Shrek 4D and Universal Classic Monsters Cafe.

Heaven needed a DVD extra…. (art by Scott Walker)
Universal Classic Monsters Cafe. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Now, I say this as one of the top 1% of people who love both Shrek 4D (you can read my love letter to the attraction by CLICKING HERE) and Monsters Cafe (which was my go-to place for USF food for years)…they both needed to go. Both had been around forever and added to the hodge podge nature of the park that Universal has been spending more than a decade trying to fix. Where there was once collection of attractions and areas that had absolutely nothing to do with each other except the fact they were all based on a popular movies or tv shows, now stands a park filled with distinctive lands.

Shrek 4D, a sit-down movie experience (which one could literally watch at home after Dreamworks released the film as a bonus feature on the Shrek 3D DVD release back in 2004) is being replaced with a family friendly interactive game experience with Villain-Con Minion Blast. Monsters Café is now the home of several venues including a meet-and-greet area, a bakery, a grab-and-go freeze pop stand, and the ultra themed Minion Cafe. Right across from all of this is the popular attraction Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem.

Minion Land. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Villain-Con – Minion Blast. (photo by Amy Schinner)
Minion Café Logo. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Minion Café. Mr. Gru’s PB&J with Minion Tots. ( photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Minion Café. Uncle Dru’s Belly Fillin’ Pork Sandwich. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, located directly across the street from Villain-Con Minion Blast. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

No matter how much I loved Shrek 4D and Monsters Café, the replacements are hands-down much better for the vast majority of guests along with the future of USF. Minion Land is now a vibrant and cohesive area filled with kid-friendly places. It got us to thinking… what were the other best replacements in theme park history? Of course when I say “theme park history” I mean “Florida” because we are the center of the theme park universe, and we’re going to start our list off with…

# 6 – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Mickey’s Toontown Fair to New Fantasy Land

We’re going to start off list off with what technically is a bit of a cheat, as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Submarine Voyage was replaced in the mid 1990s by Ariel’s Grotto and, even later, a play area based around Winnie the Pooh. 20,000 Leagues was the much more memorable attraction though, and a ride that is distinctly Disney.

A Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. (photo courtesy of RetroWDW)

While the gimmick of 20,000 Leagues was guests being in a submarine, technically they were in an elaborately themed boat whose seating area was below sea level. This gave guests the ability to feel as if they were in a submarine and traveling fully underwater.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. (photo courtesy of Brian at RetroWDW)

Mickey’s Toontown Fair was originally created as Mickey’s Birthdayland in 1988 to coincide with the 60th anniversary of Mickey Mouse. In the 1990s it was rebranded to Mickey’s Starland, and later to Mickey’s Toontown Fair. It allowed guests the chance to get to be “in a cartoon” per se, and see where Mickey Mouse lived along with walking through Duckburg (which at the time had renewed popularity thanks to the cartoon Duck Tales on the Disney Afternoon.)

Mickey’s House. (photo courtesy of RetroWDW)
Duck County Courthouse. (photo courtesy of RetroWDW)

Grandma Duck’s farm even had a petting zoo where you could meet the one and only MINNIE MOO.

Minnie Moo. (photo courtesy of RetroWDW)

In 2011, Mickey’s Toontown Fair was closed for good. Some elements were converted over to Storybook Circus, while the rest was combined with the former home of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to create New Fantasyland.

New Fantasyland brought some of Disney’s biggest animated hits to the park, along with a brand new roller coaster dedicated to characters from the 1939 animated film that changed everything, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We all know that the original Fantasyland areas at both Disneyland and Disney’s Magic Kingdom have been beloved by generations of families, but they were built in a different era. So much advancement has been made in the area of theme park attractions that New Fantasyland is filled with breathtakingly beautiful attractions such as Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.

Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Not only does the Little Mermaid attraction feature a nod to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with the title of the ride itself, but eagle-eyed guest will also see an Easter egg referencing a Nautilus in the queue.

Nautilus hidden in the rockwork. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The Ursula audio-animatronic was one of our first looks at a new generation of AAs that were game changing in the theme park world, once again reestablishing Disney as the gold standard.

Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. Ursula. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Connected to the Little Mermaid attraction was a new and improved version of Ariel’s Grotto as well. Here guests of all ages could meet the Little Mermaid herself in a well themed spot.

The Little Mermaid meets a lil’ mermaid in Ariel’s Grotto.

Across from Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a family friendly coaster that was a smash hit with guests from day one.

Prince Eric’s Castle – the façade to Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid – as seen from Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

With dark ride elements and a thrilling coaster experience, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train immediately became the #1 “Must Ride” attraction at Magic Kingdom, even drawing lengthy lines during hard ticket events when most rides were a walk-on.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. (photo by Brian Carey)

Guests on Mine Train got a chance to see several castles, including the iconic Cinderella Castle…

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Cinderella Castle. (photo by Brian Carey)

…and Beast’s Castle, which was created for New Fantastyland.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. (photo by Brian Carey)

Beast’s Castle was theming for the mega popular Be Our Guest Restaurant, which was set in the world of Beauty & The Beast.

Be Our Guest Restaurant. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Disney has always had plenty of dining venues that were hard to score reservations for, but the early years of Be Our Guest were as popular as anything Your Humble Author has ever seen. Rightfully so, because Disney hit a gigantic home run by bringing guests into the world of Beauty & the Beast. There was nothing to compare Be Our Guest to, and it stood alone as a true dining experience for fans of the animated film.

The enchanted rose in the West Wing at Be Our Guest Restaurant.

One thing that may be impossible to believe was that when Be Our Guest Restaurant opened, guests could not order The Grey Stuff dessert. NAY NAY. The Grey stuff wasn’t on the menu and instead it was something bestowed upon lucky diners at the discretion of their server. If that sounds next level bonkers, that’s because it is. Yes, it was a true “surprise” for the guests who received it, and one could make the case it was a Magical Moment, but it also left many other guests disappointed. I remember the very first time I went to Be Our Guest Restaurant and didn’t get the dollop of The Grey Stuff at dessert but the table next to me did. Despite an overall great experience, it left a sour taste in my mind, and that’s not how you want to leave a restaurant…any restaurant.

It wasn’t long after when The Grey Stuff was converted to an actual dessert item that could be ordered by anyone, and it truly was delicious.

The Grey Stuff.
Tale as old as time…

Gaston’s Tavern is a quick service location created for the area, one of the only places in all of Walt Disney World that is themed to a villain.

Gaston’s Tavern.

While it doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the other attractions in New Fantasyland, for my family Enchanted Tales with Belle may be the best addition of all.

Maurice and Belle’s cottage, the façade for Enchanted Tales with Belle.

First there is a true “how did they do that” moment with the Magic Mirror…

Magic Mirror.

… followed by some truly stunning character work with Lumiere and the Wardrobe.

Lumiere. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Madame De La Grande Bouche – AKA the Wardrobe. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

The attraction concludes with guests meeting Belle herself, and acting out the events from Beauty & the Beast. It is always special to see the younger kids interact with Belle…

…and there is always a part in the show to be played by your friendly neighborhood theme park blogger.

Josh easyWDW as a knight at Enchanted Tales with Belle.

# 5 – Back to the Future: The Ride and International Food & Film Festival to Springfield

The Back to the Future trilogy of films is – in this author’s opinion – one of the greatest of all time. Because the movies were so good, many theme park guests still miss Back to the Future: The Ride at Universal Studios Florida. However, I’m here to tell you, even as a super fan of the film series, the ride itself wasn’t that good. Let’s take a look at the façade of the attraction, the Institute of Future Technology. Granted we are spoiled by the theming we see everywhere in 2023, but even for it’s time this generic façade wasn’t good but “good enough.”

Back to the Future: The Ride.

Don’t get me wrong there were some great things about BTTF: The Ride, including the fact that it brought back two major characters from the series in Doc Brown and Biff Tannen.

Back to the Future: The Ride.

BTTF: The Ride was a large simulator attraction, and your ride vehicle was a DeLorean. This was an E-Ticket idea executed flawlessly. Full Stop. In fact, I think many people “miss” BTTF: The Ride just because it fulfilled so many of our dreams to get into a DeLorean from the movie.

Back to the Future: The Ride.

The nearby International Food & Film Festival food court was… well, the less said the better.

International Food & Film Festival. (photo by Jim Hill, yes, THAT Jim Hill)

To think that BTTF: The Ride and a poorly themed food court became Springfield blows my mind.

Springfield Concept Art.

Like the hidden Nautilus in the Little Mermaid’s attraction, we love when new attractions pay tribute to what they replaced. The Simpsons Ride directly replaced BTTF: The Ride, and not only does it reference BTTF, it gives an entire backstory of how the building changed from the Institute of Future Technology to Krustyland!

Doc Brown and the “Institute of Future Technology” (façade for Back to the Future: The Ride)
Doc about to sign paperwork giving him the rights to the building when out of nowhere Dr. Frink appears in a DeLorean and accidentally runs over the bank executive.
…giving Krusty the Clown rights to make Krustyland (façade for The Simpsons Ride.)

The Simpsons Ride itself mocks the very theme parks we love while being inside a theme park, how incredible is that?!

There are several references to Disney attractions during The Simpsons Ride queue experience.

Haunted Mansion reference.

The story of Krustyland is that it is a theme park run by a person who has no problem ripping off all his guests, so it makes sense that up-charge skill games are everywhere. THAT SAID, these skill games are well themed, have some great jokes and you can win E-Ticket prizes.

The Kwik-E-Mart gift shop is one of my favorite stores in any theme park, filled to the brim with great merchandise and even better gags.

Kwik-E-Mart. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Fans of The Simpsons will know exactly what this Bort name reference is.

Kwik-E-Mart. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl not only has a wonderful name for a spinner attraction, but is also loaded with hilarious jokes in the queue.

Kang & Kodos Twirl N Hurl (photo by Mike Sperduto)
I don’t care who you are, that’s funny.

Duff Brewery has multiple references for fans of The Simpsons, including a statue of Jebediah Springfield and topiaries of the 7 Duffs (which was making fun of the Disney seven dwarfs.)

Duff Brewery. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

As a huge fan of The Simpsons myself, being able to actually order a Duff beer was a dream come true and something I didn’t think I would ever see happen.

Duff Beer. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Bumblebee Man’s Tacos is fantastic.

Bumblebee Man’s Tacos. Springfield.

Aside from the wonderful name, Lard Lad Donuts was serving bonkers donuts years before Voodoo Doughnut and Everglazed came to Universal CityWalk and Disney Springs.

Lard Lad Donuts. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Lard Lad Donuts also offered maybe my favorite snack in any theme park, the Brain Freezin’ D’oh-nut Sundae, which include soft serve ice cream in-between a donut.

Lard Lad Donuts. Brain Freezin’ D’oh-nut Sundae.

We recently did an entire article on Fast Food Boulevard and why that food court needs to be on your Must Do list.

Krusty Burger.(photo by Brandon Glover)
Moe’s Tavern.

# 4 – Streets of America and Lights, Motors, Action! to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Streets of America was a land themed to New York and San Francisco where guests could take their picture in front of well known areas from popular movies and tv shows.

Streets of America: New York. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Streets of America: San Francisco. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The area wasn’t that impressive…until Christmas time when the Streets of America became home to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. I’d have a hard time figuring out my all time top five favorite things in theme park history, but I know that walking through the Osborne Lights would be one of them.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Bacini’s favorite part of Osborne Lights… (photo by Scott Sanders)
The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights always included a bunch of Easter eggs for guests to look for, including Baby Sinclair from ABC’s early 90’s sitcom Dinosaurs. The best character was Baby Sinclair, who made sure to let everyone know who was NOT the Mamma! You may notice another Easter egg hidden behind Baby Sinclair… the famous leg lamp from A Christmas Story! (photo by Scott Sanders)

The Lights, Motors, Action! was a stunt show that originally made its debut at Disneyland Paris. It was presented to Walt Disney World as a “gift” as part of the Happiest Celebration on Earth. As a reminder, the Trojan Horse was a gift to the city of Troy by the Greeks. Long story short, make sure you save the receipt anytime you’re given a gift from a European country…

Lights, Motors, Action! (photo by Rikki Niblett)

The show was originally based around Herbie the love bug, but eventually transitioned to feature Lightning McQueen.

Lightning McQueen. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge made its debut at DHS in 2019 and was absolutely incredible.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. (photo by Michael Carelli)

As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, I can’t tell you what it feels like to walk around and see life-sized versions of vehicles like X-Wing fighters…

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. (photo by Michael Carelli)

…or landspeeders.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

The main attraction at Galaxy’s Edge, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, just may be the single greatest attraction in theme park history.

Rise of the Resistance. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
Rise of the Resistance. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Rise of the Resistance. (photo by Michael Carelli)

The centerpiece of Galaxy’s Edge is a recreation of the Millennium Falcon that is beyond stunning to see in person.

Millennium Falcon. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is the other attraction in Galaxy’s Edge and features the mind blowing Hondo Ohnaka audio-animatronic.

Smugglers Run. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

Much like guests always wanted to get in a DeLorean at BTTF: The Ride, Smugglers Run lets guests into the Falcon and even experience hyperdrive.

Smugglers Run. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Unlike Disney’s traditional offerings of awful pizza and chicken fingers, the main dining option at Galaxy’s Edge – Docking Bay 7 – had a menu filled with interesting options.

Pirjanad Hot Chicken Yip Yip. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Ronto Roasters quick service location featured the instantly popular Ronto Wrap.

Ronto Wrap from Ronto Roasters
The now-famous and very popular Ronto Wrap.

I would make the case that one thing many Star Wars fans were looking forward to trying when Galaxy’s Edge opened was Blue Milk. Luke Skywalker had Blue Milk all the way back in the very first Star Wars movie (A New Hope) and this was one of the only food and drink options that the original Star Wars trilogy featured. Galaxy’s Edge featured both a Blue Milk option along with a Green Milk (which made its film debut in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.)

Green Milk and Blue Milk. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Oga’s Cantina is a bar in Galaxy’s Edge featuring a wide variety of exotic drinks.

DJ Rex spinning tunes in Oga’s Cantina. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Drink options at Oga’s Cantina include the Fuzzy Tauntaun and Yub Nub. (photo by Parkscope Nick)
Batuu Bits at Oga’s Cantina- Crispy Galaxy Snack Bits with Spiced Chermoula Dip.

While its an upcharge experience at Galaxy’s Edge (and a pricey one at that), building a lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop is one of the most satisfying things this Star Wars fan has ever done.

Dok Ondar’s den of antiquities is a shop in Galaxy’s Edge featuring a stunning audio-animatronic of Dok himself.

Dok Ondar. (photo by Michael Carelli)

The low key surprise hit of Galaxy’s Edge? The presentation of Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite, which can be served in bottles that look like thermal detonators.

# 3 – Jaws and Amity to Diagon Alley

My favorite type of attraction is probably anything related to a boat ride, including Jungle Cruise, Living with the Land, and Gran Fiesta Tour at Disney. Universal doesn’t have nearly as many boat rides as Disney, but one it did have was beloved by many: Jaws.

Jaws Ride.

The Jaws ride at Universal was snake bit from day one, and we mean literally day one as Jaws was an opening day attraction at Universal Studios Florida in the summer of 1990. Over the years the ride went through many changes to help get it running more consistently. In fact, one early version of Jaws had the shark actually taking a bite out of the boat!

Jaws ride.

Like the Jungle Cruise, Jaws boats were helmed by a spieling skipper.

Jaws Ride.

With Jaws being one of my all-time favorite movies, seeing a great white shark come out of the water will always be a wow moment to me.

Jaws Ride.

The town of Amity, which was the land which had the Jaws ride, was little more than a town fair.

Amity. (photo by Jim HIll)

Out with the old and in with the new, and Jaws and Amity were replaced by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley in 2014. Here we saw theming taken to a new level, as Diagon Alley actually sat behind a huge London Waterfront façade.

London Waterfront. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

The London Waterfront area has its own meet-and-greet area with the Knight Bus.

Knight Bus. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Once inside Diagon Alley, prepare to have your mouth drop straight to the floor.


Diagon Alley. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

The dragon atop Gringott’s Bank gets the attention of EVERYONE.

Fire! (photo by Michael Carelli)

Gringotts Bank is the home to Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts attraction. The queue for this ride is like you are stepping inside the films set of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

The ride experience itself features characters directly from the films, including Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Voldemort, and Bellatrix Lestrange.

Universal saw what a HUGE success the Ollivanders Wand Experience was in Hogsmeade Village, and made a much bigger Ollivanders in Diagon Alley.

A wand chooses its wizard in Ollivanders.

The Leaky Cauldron restaurant is one of my favorite places to eat in all of Universal.

The SATURDAY SIX’s own Megan Stump in front of the actual “Leaky Cauldon.”
Toad in the Hole at The Leaky Cauldron. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Diagon Alley opened with a full array of new drinks, including my personal favorite, Tongue Tying Lemon Squash.

Diagon Alley drinks. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour features some wonderful flavors you don’t see anywhere else (like strawberry peanut butter and chocolate chili), but don’t sleep on Butterbeer ice cream, it’s actually great!

Florean Fortescue. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes is straight out of Potter film and book lore, and Diagon Alley in USF does the store justice.

Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes. (photo by Michael Carellii)

Not only does the store feature many items featured in the Potter films and books, but you’ll also see things taken straight out of the movies.

Delores Umbridge. (photo by Brian Carey)

The shows in Diagon Alley are next level great, including the singing sorceress Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees.

Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts also present two tales from Beedle the Bard, the Fountain of Fair Fortune and The Tale of the Three Brothers.

The Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts. (photo by Brian Carey)
The Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
The Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts. (photo by Brian Carey)

Like Dok Ondar in Galaxy’s Edge, Diagon Alley also has a shop (the Wizarding Currency Exchange) run by a audio-animatronic with this goblin.

Our favorite area of Diagon Alley? Knockturn Alley, home of the baddies..

Knockturn Alley this way… (photo by Mike Sperduto)
Knockturn Alley. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Shrunken Heads in Knockturn Alley. (photo by Michael Carelli)

# 2 – Camp Minnie-Mickey to Pandora: The World of Avatar

Camp Minnie-Mickey was designed to be the Disney characters’ Animal Kingdom headquarters. A small land, Camp Minnie-Mickey has a rustic, woodsy theme like that of a summer camp. In addition to a character meeting-and-greeting area, Camp Minnie-Mickey is home to a live stage production featuring Disney characters.

Camp Minnie-Mickey. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Situated in a cul-de-sac, Camp Minnie-Mickey was a pedestrian nightmare. Lines for the stage show and from the character-greeting areas often spilled out into the congested walkways, making movement almost impossible. To compound the problem, hundreds of parked strollers clogged the paths, squeezing the flow of traffic to a trickle. Meanwhile, hordes of guests trying to enter Camp Minnie-Mickey collide with guests trying to exit on the bridge connecting the camp to Discovery Island. It was a planning error of the first order. But it did have some very cute theming…

Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Daisy Duck taking a Jr. Woodchuck stroll through Camp Minnie Mickey. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Camp Minnie-Mickey. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Camp Minnie-Mickey. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Camp Minnie-Mickey. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Camp Minnie-Mickey was the former home to the Festival of the Lion King, which was moved to Harambe Village.

Camp Minnie-Mickey. (photo by Brandon Glover)

When you walk into Pandora: The World of Avatar, it literally is like walking onto another planet compared to Camp Minnie-Mickey.

Pandora the World of Avatar.
Floating Mountains. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Pandora: the World of Avatar. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Scorpion aircraft. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Amp Suit. (photo by Michael Carelli)

A big component of the land is how different Pandora looks at night compared to the daytime.

Pandora at night. (photo by Michael Carelli)

The main attraction in Pandora is Flight of Passage, whose queue has guests making their way through caves into a  research facility. In my mind it is the greatest queue Disney Imagineering has ever created.

Flight of Passage queue. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Flight of Passage Queue (photo: Brandon Glover)

The ride experience of Flight of Passage is essentially Soarin’ (the good Soarin’, not the current Soarin’ Around the World version) through the planet of Pandora and it is absolutely awesome.

Flight of passage handprints of Avatar director James Cameron, Avatar producer Jon Landau, and Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde.. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The other attraction in Pandora is Na’vi River Journey, a slow moving boat ride through the nighttime bioluminescent effect of Pandora.

Wood Sprite seen next to Bladder Polyps in Nav’i River Journey. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Na’vi River Journey features the Shaman of Song, one of the most detailed audio-animatronics in Disney history.

Na’vi River Journey. Shaman of Song. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Satu’li Canteen is generally regarded as one of the best quick service restaurants in any Disney theme park.

Sa’tuli Canteen.
Shrimp bowl with pasta. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Pongu Pongu is Pandora’s bar with a small, but extremely unique menu. The signature drinks include the non-alcoholic Night Blossum, which is strikingly colorful and topped with passion fruit boba balls, and the Mo’ara Margarita, which is topped with strawberry boba balls. Even the cole slaw in Satu’li Canteen is served with boba balls, so if you don’t like boba balls now, you better to learn to like them soon.

Night Blossum at Pongu Pongu. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Mo’ara Margartia. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Hawkes’ Grog Alel at Pongu Pongu. (photo by Michael Carelli)

# 1 – Merlinwood to Hogsmeade Village

Time for the replacement that Changed Everything.

It is hard to understate the predicament that the Universal Orlando Resort was in during the early 2000s. The introduction of Islands of Adventure, CityWalk, and onsite hotels in 1999 was a disaster thanks to a botched marketing campaign advertising Universal Studios Escape. They needed to make a big move, and they went all in on Harry Potter. The area which the new Harry Potter-themed land would reside in what was a part of Lost Continent. At the time, Lost Continent consisted of three areas: Lost City (home of Poseidon’s Fury, which closed earlier this year,) Sindbad’s Bazaar, and Merlinwood. The new Potter area would take over the Merlinwood section, which was home to the Enchanted Oak Tavern…

Enchanted Oak Tavern. (as seen in the movie Bring It On: In It To Win It)

…and Dueling Dragons, one of IOA’s signature attractions.

Dueling Dragons (as seen in the movie Bring It On: In It To Win It)
Some things in Lost Continent probably should have stayed lost…


It was expected that the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be popular, but no one was ready for just how popular…

Opening day crowds for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter went throughout Islands of Adventure all the way back through Universal Citywalk. (photo via The Orlando Sentinel)
Opening day crowds. (photo by The Orlando Sentinel)

Hogsmade Village opened in 2010 and since then we have been on a whirlwind ride.

Hogsmeade Village. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Hogsmeade Village. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

The introduction of Butterbeer completely changed the fortunes of the Universal parks. It is said that Universal made more money on Butterbeer sales in the first six months than it cost to build the entirety of Hogsmeade Village, the drink was that popular.

Hogsmeade Village. Butterbeer. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Frozen Butterbeer and classic Butterbeer in front of Hogwarts Castle.
Hot Butterbeer would come along several years later.

Hogsmeade Village also took the art of merchandising to a level we had never seen before. Stores themselves became an attraction, filled with items taken straight from the Harry Potter films and books.

Chocolate Frog. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The Ollivanders Experience in Hogsmeade was a fun show to watch as a guest, but if you were chosen to participate in the show – and ultimately, have a wand choose you – it became the first attraction in theme park history to have guests wanting to buy an item IMMEDIATELY.

A young witch learns the lore of the wand…
…the wand has chosen!

The main attraction in Hogsmeade Village took place in Hogwarts Castle.

Hogwarts Castle. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey had a lot of hype heading into it…

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey façade. (photo by Brandon Glover)

…and it became an instant sensation. The queue for Forbidden Journey was the first time in the history of theme parks in which guests wanted to spend more time in the queue, letting other guests pass them in line so that they could soak up more of the details. Universal Creative nailed the “living paintings” concept and even had the debut of the Four Founders of Hogwarts, with the four having a conversation about the guests through their paintings. Fans of the Potter series get to walk through places such as Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor Common Room, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The ride itself has guests going through the greatest hits of the first several Harry Potter films, including a stop into the Chamber of Secrets, a fly through of a game of Quidditch, and even a run-in with Dementors. This is all done spectacularly through the use of live-action sets and screens that work seamlessly together to provide an experience like no others. The cherry on top of the sundae is the use of all your favorite Harry Potter stars both in the queue and in the ride.

Sorting Hat. (photo by Brian Hyde)

The Three Broomsticks quick service restaurant walked so that places like the Leaky Cauldron, Satu’li Canteen, and Docking Bay 7 could run. Universal showed there was demand for a themed restaurant that didn’t just served the same ol’ same ol’ that you can get anywhere else in the park. Another shocking surprise? No Coca Cola products would be sold in the Wizarding World. Imagine how nervous Universal execs were before Hogsmeade Village opened thinking of how much money they were leaving off the table by agreeing to that stipulation. It is almost unfathomable.

Three Broomsticks.

Directly next to the Three Broomsticks is the Hog’s Head pub, and here is where you can find the exclusive-to-Universal Hog’s Head Brew. The pub itself is themed perfectly, complete with a working animatronic Hog’s Head directly behind the bar. The Hog’s Head has many beers on draught, including Yeungling, Newcastle, Boddingtons, and Guinness, but the real draw here is the Hog’s Head Brew. An Irish red beer, Hog’s Head Brew doesn’t have the bitter taste that is found in a lot of dark beers.

Hog’s Head tavern. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
Hog’s Head pub. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Hog’s Head Brew. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Hogsmeade Village includes two shows, the Frog Choir (an acapella show featuring songs set from the Wizarding World)…

Frog Choir. (photo by Michael Carelli)

…and the Triwizard Spirit Rally, which features performances from students of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang.

Triwizard Spirit Rally. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Triwizard Spirt Rally. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Muggles stepping foot into Hogsmeade Village for the first time are going to love the great photo op with the Hogwarts Express and interacting with the train’s conductor. Holding his enchanted pocket watch, the conductor is the go-to person with any question on Hogsmeade as he is always well versed on Potter-lore and everything within this magical land. Years after opening Hogsmeade Village, Universal would have an actual Hogwarts Express attraction take guest from Islands of Adventure to Universal Studios Florida, but this photo-op and character interaction is always a great one.

Hogwarts Express. (photo by Brandon Glover)

The Lost Continent’s Flying Unicorn kiddie coaster was rethemed to Flight of the Hippogriff.

Flight of the Hippogriff.

When Hogsmeade Village opened, it re-branded the Dueling Dragons roller coaster as Dragon Challenge. There was some minimal theming in the queue which referenced several Potter movies including Chamber of Secrets and Goblet of Fire.

The Ford Anglia from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Elements from the Dragon Challenge queue.
Dragon Challenge. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

In 2019, Dragon Challenge was replaced by Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, one of the most fun coaster experiences I’ve ever had.

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. (photo by Michael Carelli)
Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. (photo by Michael Carelli)

The queue for Motorbike Adventure pays tribute to Dueling Dragons.

Dueling Dragons reference (photo by Alicia Stella)
Dueling Dragons reference (photo by Alicia Stella)
Dueling Dragons reference (photo by Alicia Stella)

Honorable Mention – Triceratops Encounter to VelociCoaster

The Triceratops Encounter in Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure closed in 2010, but the area sat dormant for years.

Triceratops Encounter. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Theming elements from Triceratops Encounter made their way to the prop shop in Universal Studios in 2018 because Universal was finally going to use the area for a new attraction…

Triceratops Encounter props. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

…which ended up being The VelociCoaster, one of the best – if not THE BEST – coaster experiences in all of Florida.

VelociCoaster. (photo by Michael Carelli)
VelociCoaster. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
VelociCoaster’s Mosasaurus Roll (photo by @bioreconstruct)
VelociCoaster’s Mosasaurus Roll. (photo by Michael Carelli)

So there you have it: The BEST Replacements in Theme Park History! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

The SATURDAY SIX Celebrates Ten Years with TouringPlans

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Merchandise Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Signage Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Food Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX: Tribute to Josh easyWDW

SATURDAY SIX: Tribute to Ian Barritt

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

“Addition by subtraction.” – Bob Chapek, probably. (meme by Scott Walker)

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4 thoughts on “The SATURDAY SIX Looks at the BEST Replacements in Theme Park History (Pandora, Galaxy’s Edge, Diagon Alley, and more!)

  • This was great! Lots of great pics, including some I’ve never seen before.

  • Typo alert: Diagon Alley didn’t open until 2014. My husband and I made our first trip to Universal in January 2014, and we watched construction crews (over and through fences) as they worked on the facades of what we discovered on our next visit were the houses of Grimmauld Place.

  • Missed an opportunity to list Innoventions West to the Great Epcot Dirt Pit TM. A masterful transition!


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