It’s been chilly and wet in Central Florida lately, but that hasn’t stopped progress on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. For this week’s edition of PotterWatch, we’ll start with the recent removal of Lost Continent games in Islands of Adventure, then take a look at the latest Diagon Alley construction in Universal Studios. Finally, we’ll finish with the newest rumor about Hogwarts Express testing.
Diagon Alley peep holes, Celebration videos, and Gringotts rumors in the latest PotterWatch report
It’s been just over a week since Universal Orlando‘s big Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley webcast reveal, but there are still plenty of surprises in store. For this edition of PotterWatch, we’ll take a look through the new Diagon Alley peep holes that Universal considerately cut in the London Waterfront’s construction wall, plus a look back at the recent Celebration of Harry Potter event via some exclusive video. Finally, we’ll finish up with a few hot new Gringotts rumors.
Diagon Alley Peep Holes
With major construction complete on Diagon Alley’s London Waterfront facade, and the scaffolding recently removed, I had feared there wouldn’t be much left to see in terms of exterior progress on the project.
New concept art of Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion from today’s Diagon Alley webcast.
If you’ve been following our PotterWatch series so far, you probably already watched this morning’s Diagon Alley webcast, in which Universal Orlando revealed new details about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion opening this June at Universal Studios Florida. The 30 minute presentation, broadcast from inside a “Gringotts vault,” was hosted by Universal Creative’s Mark Woodbury, and featured appearances from Potter film actors Mathew Lewis, James Phelps, and Evanna Lynch. But just in case you were unable to sign up for a link to the live video, or were stuck at work while it was playing, here’s a quick recap of what was revealed and confirmed about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley (as the new area is known):
Regular readers of my PotterWatch blog series know that many of the juiciest details leaked about the under-construction Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida have come to us through HateToFly, a prolific poster on the Orlando United web forums. Over the weekend, I took a stroll through both Universal Orlando theme parks with the pseudonymous spy himself, and got the latest lowdown on the future of the resort. So grab a grain of salt and settle in for some of the hottest Universal Orlando rumors anywhere on the Internet.
Conversations have recently reignited (after flaring up and sputtering out a year ago) about Universal acquiring the theme park rights to The Lord of the Rings and/or The Hobbit from the Tolkein estate, which has been notoriously difficult to negotiate with. More than one source has speculated that the Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges whitewater rafting ride could be converted into the barrel escape from the most recent Hobbit film.
Welcome to 2014, the year when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley will finally open at Universal Studios Florida! Without further ado, let’s launch right into our first set of Diagon Alley construction photos for the new year, followed by a Gringotts rumor and an amazing new online source of theme park dirt.
Diagon Alley Construction Photos
Here’s our usual photographic tour of the London Waterfront construction site, documenting the progress on the Diagon Alley facade as of January 4, 2014.
Panoramic view of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley (photos by Seth Kubersky 1/4/14)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Six Things in Orlando We’re Looking Forward To Seeing in 2014. 2013 was a great year to be a theme park fan. Just in Orlando we got the opening of Transformers: The Ride 3D and a huge Simpsons expansion in Universal Studios Florida, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin arrived at SeaWorld, while Disney introduced Princess Fairytale Hall and the incredible Tangled-themed bathrooms at the Magic Kingdom (along with starting a much needed overhaul on Downtown Disney.) But the good news is 2014 looks to be even better, yes, better. Here’s our list of the top six things we’re looking forward to the most over the next 12 months…
Will Breadbox be CityWalk’s answer to the ultra popular Earl of Sandwicht at Downtown Disney? (Photo Courtesy of Universal Orlando)
In late 2013 Universal unveiled a massive reimagining of its entertainment complex, CityWalk. In fact, the new and improved CityWalk had already started with the opening of Red Oven Pizza Bakery in November, but little did we know how much more would be coming.
By the summer of 2014, Coldstone Creamery (ice cream), Menchies (frozen yogurt), Bread Box (sandwiches), Antojitos (Mexican), Hotdog Hall of Fame, and The Cowfish (burgers/sushi) will be joining the list of eateries in CityWalk. Pastamore, which is shutting down this week, will also be reopening as yet-unamed Italian restaurant (rumored to be Pranzo) in which guests will be able to see their pasta made from scratch in front of them. Starbucks, currently on the second level of CityWalk, will also be moving downstairs and assume a more prominent position as guests make their way from the Universal parking garages to the theme parks. Lastly, the Universal Studios Store will undergo a major retheming.
Did Santa bring you everything you wanted from Universal Orlando this year? If your Wizarding World of Harry Potter wish list included a Christmas week Diagon Alley update — complete with PotterWatch’s first look at parts of the London Waterfront’s color scheme — then we are here to deliver your post-Xmas presents.
Diagon Alley Construction Update
While progress slowed somewhat over the holiday week, here is a complete overview at the Diagon Alley project, taken on December 26, 2013. For variety’s sake, this time we’ll start from the World Expo end of the construction:
Day after Christmas Diagon Alley update (photos by Seth Kubersky)
The key to Gringotts Vault 722 has arrived… (Photos by Seth Kubersky)
Welcome, wizards and muggles alike, to the latest installment of TouringPlan’s PotterWatch (we’ve dropped the “2.0″ for simplicity’s sake), your regular expansion update on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. This time we’ll take a look at Diagon Alley’s London Waterfront facade, and hear the tale of the Gringotts Vault Key.
Diagon Alley Construction Photos
First, here are the latest photos of construction on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, taken at “magic hour” for our first look at the facade with some of the scaffolding removed:
There’s been no noticeable progress on the Hogwarts Express since it completed its first test run, as reported in our last installment. Instead, let’s take a nighttime look at the London Waterfront, the facade that conceals Diagon Alley.
Slow-speed Hogwarts Express testing has begun at Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter (photo by Seth Kubersky)
Exciting news, Harry Potter fans: Hogwarts Express testing has commenced at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando Resort! The iconic Hogwarts Express trains, which were lifted onto their elevated rails in late October, began slow-speed movement tests over the weekend.
It will still be many months before guests get to ride the Hogwarts Express attraction, which is expected to officially debut in June 2014. When complete, the Hogwarts Express will provide transportation between the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley expansion in Universal Studios Florida, and the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure.
Ordinarily, the Touring Plans team would be the first to bring you footage of the Hogwarts Express testing, but this time our friends at Orlando Attractions Magazine have beat us to the punch (blame our post-Thanksgivukha turkey & latke hangovers). Check out their video below, which also includes some shots of the London Waterfront construction, and check back here often for further PotterWatch progress updates on Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.