Posts Tagged ‘PotterWatch’

PotterWatch: Knight Bus, Madam Puddifoot, and Interactive Wand Rumors

by on April 23, 2014

Universal Potter Knight Bus Interactive wand

Harry Potter’s Knight Bus has arrived at Diagon Alley, along with tales of a new interactive wand experience in the Wizarding World.

What a difference a week makes in the Wizarding World! When last we PotterWatched, visible exterior progress on Universal Orlando‘s Harry Potter expansions seemed to have slowed. But Easter is all about rebirth, and in recent days several important new elements of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade have sprung to life. Plus, we have some tantallizing new information on the interactive wand experience that has internet rumor mills buzzing.

 

Knight Bus

The big news was the arrival of the iconic Knight Bus in front of Diagon Alley’s London Waterfront on April 11.

The three-story purple bus is surprisingly tall (and purple!) in person.

We can confirm that actors have recently been cast to portray both the bus driver, who will interact with guests outside the bus, and the Jamaican-accented shrunken head hanging from the rearview mirror (a remotely-controlled animatronic puppet).

Unfortunately, guests will not get to step aboard the bus. And don’t be surprised if Universal employees outside the Harry Potter attractions refuse to acknowledge the existence of the bus — it is supposed to be invisible to Muggles, after all!

 

London Waterfront and Diagon Alley Construction

Here are some Easter Weekend images updating progress on the London Waterfront area in Universal Studios Florida, which will conceal Diagon Alley.

This facade stands in for the bookstore briefly glimpsed in the films that sits next to the Leaky Cauldron.

These pillars will support a gateway leading to the London Waterfront.

These embankments will eventually sport authentic-looking London lampposts.

This is how the lamppost attachments looked on 4/20…

…and this is what they looked like the very next day.

The forested berm that will hide backstage areas is growing by leaps and bounds.

The glass roof over the bridge that runs above Diagon Alley is almost finished being installed.

 

Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop Facade Appears

The window facade in Hogsmeade Village that had been devoted to Wiseacres Wizarding Supplies has, almost overnight, been converted to represent Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop.

Wiseacres will reappear in Diagon Alley as the gift shop at the exit to the Gringotts attraction.

 

Zonko’s Window Update

Nearby in Hogsmeade, the windows of the former Zonko’s store have been rearranged.

The “puking pastilles” statue has been removed, the animated chess board has been repositioned, and additional fireworks have appeared.

This development seems to indicate that Zonko’s will remain memorialized in Hogsmeade as a window facade, though its interior is being swallowed up by Honeydukes.

 

Hogwarts Express Hogsmeade Station

Just outside of Hogsmeade Village, details are rapidly being applied to the Hogwarts Express train station, as more of the structure has been stripped of scaffolding.

 

Interactive Wand Rumors and More

The hottest topic on message boards and fansites recently has been the new interactive wands rumored to be in development for the Wizarding World. First mentioned by Theme Park Insider’s Rober Niles nearly a year ago, and most recently expanded upon by Ken Storey of Central Florida Top 5, these next-generation wands are said to integrate MEMS gyroscopic sensors (as seen in iPhones and Wii remotes) with Microsoft Kinect-style cameras to allow users to “cast spells” that trigger special effects hidden througout the parks’ Harry Potter-themed areas. For an idea of this type of technology’s entertainment potential, check out this patent from Creative Kingdoms LLC (creators of the MagiQuest attractions found in Great Wolf Lodge resorts), who were rumored to be working on such a project with Universal as far back as the Wizarding World’s first phase.

After consulting with highly-placed sources, we can confirm that Storey’s reports are essentially correct in most major details. Issues such a price and operating capacity are still being determined, but Universal is working towards having the interactive wand program ready in time for Diagon Alley’s grand opening, if not shortly thereafter. In fact, windows in Hogsmeade have already been undergoing after-hours upgrades for some time now, as the previous and following photos hint at.

The window with the shrieking mandrake was recently modified…

…as was the one displaying Quidditch equipment.

Obviously there are big question marks about how much this will cost, and how Universal cast members will facilitate guests’ use of the interactive wands, but we will confirm more details for you as they become available.

By the way, based on online chatter and backed by multiple back-channel sources, it’s looking more and more likely that the grand opening of Diagon Alley will happen on — or within a few days of — June 18, 2014. That just happens to be the fourth anniversary of the opening of the original Wizarding World, which would make for nice bit of magical symmetry. NBC’s Today Show was scheduled for a live broadcast from Universal Orlando — which is rumored to include an official opening date announcement — on Friday, April 25, but that was canceled without explanation as this article was being written.

 

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PotterWatch: Diagon Alley Construction Photos and Early April Rumors

by on April 13, 2014

It’s been a couple weeks since our last PotterWatch look at Wizarding World of Harry Potter progress around Universal Orlando. While visible exterior changes are not as dramatic as as they were in earlier months, we can definitely see that the project is gaining new details as the expansion’s summer opening approaches. Enjoy these Hogsmeade Station and Diagon Alley construction photos from a few days ago, followed by a survey of the latest Potter rumors circulating on the net.

 

Diagon Alley Construction Photos

This is Universal Studios Florida‘s London Waterfront facade, behind which hides Diagon Alley, as it looked on April 7, 2014.

Diagon Alley construction photos

Note the trees that have been added to the area in front of the facade.

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PotterWatch: New Hogwarts Express Details Released

by on March 14, 2014

Exciting new Hogwarts Express details revealed by Universal Orlando.

Exciting new Hogwarts Express details revealed by Universal Orlando.

As even the most unobservant Muggle probably already knows, Universal Orlando is opening a major expansion of their hit Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions this summer, and one of the most anticipated elements of the additions is the new Hogwarts Express train, which will link the existing Hogsmeade Village in Islands of Adventure with the new Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. Today, Friday March 14, Universal is releasing new Hogwarts Express details, and thanks to Touring Plans’ friend Jim Hill we are happy to be among the first to bring you the news, including some details you won’t find in the official press release.

Here are some exciting new officially confirmed facts about the upcoming Hogwarts Express attraction:

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PotterWatch: Hogsmeade Station Construction, Zonko’s Still Open, Leaky Cauldron Food

by on March 5, 2014

Welcome back to the latest irregular installment of PotterWatch, our mostly-weekly series of photo updates observing Universal Orlando‘s progress on their Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansions. I’ve been off for the pass couple weeks exploring some attractions on the opposite side of the country, but I’m happy to be back in Florida with a few exciting advancements in the Potter universe. This first PotterWatch of March 2014 features Hogsmeade Station construction, the continued existence of Zonko’s, and yet another look at Diagon Alley’s London facade, plus some tasty new Leaky Cauldron food photo leaks.

Hogsmeade Station Construction

In the last edition of PotterWatch, I shared the first photographs of Island of Adventure’s Lost Continent carnival games buildings after the games had been removed. Shortly after that posting, the buildings themselves were removed, and the entire area immediately outside Hogsmeade Village was more or less demolished.

Hogsmeade Station construction PotterWatch leaky cauldron food

Hogsmeade Station construction continues near where the Lost Continent games were demolished. (Photos by Seth Kubersky)

Now, the entire entryway to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter from Lost Continent has been walled off, turning Sindbad stadium into a cul-de-sac. Guests wishing to enter Hogsmeade must traverse through Jurassic Park, just as they did during 2010 when the area was first under construction.

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PotterWatch: Lost Continent Games Leave, King’s Cross Gets Named, Hogwarts Express Testing Begins?

by on February 12, 2014

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.

Lost Continent Games and Hogsmeade Station

Let’s begin in Islands of Adventure at the border between The Lost Continent and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade.

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PotterWatch: Diagon Alley Peep Holes and Celebration Recap

by on February 3, 2014

Universal Harry Potter Diagon alley peep holes

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.

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PotterWatch: Universal’s Diagon Alley Webcast Reveals New Harry Potter Details

by on January 23, 2014

New concept art of Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion from today's Diagon Alley webcast

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):

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Universal Orlando Rumor Tour with HateToFly

by on January 14, 2014

Universal Orlando rumor tour with HateToFly

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.

Islands of Adventure

We began our walk at the lovely Sweethaven waterside, which is hidden in the back of Toon Lagoon at Islands of Adventure.

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.

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PotterWatch: New Year’s Diagon Alley Construction Photos And Leaked Plans

by on January 8, 2014

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.

Diagon Alley photos

Panoramic view of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley (photos by Seth Kubersky 1/4/14)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Things in Orlando We’re Looking Forward To Seeing in 2014

by on January 4, 2014

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…

UOR_BREADBOX

Will Breadbox be CityWalk’s answer to the ultra popular Earl of Sandwicht at Downtown Disney? (Photo Courtesy of Universal Orlando)

# 6 – Universal CityWalk’s Expansion (Universal Orlando Resort)

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.

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