Friday, 27 June 2014

WWoHP - Diagon Alley: An Outsider's Perspective

In the last week the big news in the Theme Park industry has been the media previews of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express in Universal Studios Orlando. It is interesting to watch this from all the way over in Australia. Obviously we don't have our mainstream media covering this opening, so we are very much reliant on the blogs and YouTube videos for our coverage. This poses a dilemma, which I'm going to discuss in an upcoming blog, about what to watch and what not to watch. Particularly because I do intend to see it in person one day, come hell or high water. So considering that I tried not to spoil things for myself, I thought I'd report what I thought of the new additions.


Wow. I know everyone is saying it, but wow! This land looks breathtaking from start to finish. As far as I've seen, there are no holes, no gaps, no wasted space and most importantly no stop to the theming. Now there are things that I thought would be better, and I think a few things that don't translate as well to video as they do in person. The walk in through the "wall" in London is one, but to be honest I'm not sure what I expected Universal to do here. On the flipside, the illusion for the Platform 9 and 3/4 at the Hogwarts Express looks phenomenal on film, but by all reports the actual experience is more about watching the people in front of you do it. Hopefully when the crowds die down in 5-10 years time, this will be an amazing photo opportunity.


I like that this land feels very intimate, but they have obviously planned to cope with large crowds in the area (at least better than the original WWoHP did). To be honest though, I can't see how they can possibly cope with the amount of traffic they will get. I know they have return time controls in place to stop the area being flooded, but people are just going to linger in Diagon Alley for hours and hours. I wouldn't be surprised if people didn't plan half a day for this land by itself, I know I will when going to Universal.
I wasn't as impressed with the food an beverage options. In my view they've given too many options, and not one simple choice. Butterbeer was genius from start to finish, so that is hard to follow. I do like the ice cream parlour though!


What I've read about the Gringotts and Hogwarts rides are super impressive, but I'm being very careful to avoid watching the actual ride POVs on YouTube. As mush as I want to see them, these seem like the kind of rides that you should enjoy first in person before you get on the ride. I have been impressed at how accurate the leaks that went to Robert Niles of ThemeParkInsider.com were, since they surfaced two and half years ago.


In a way I am glad that it going to take me so long to get over to see WWoHP in the flesh, because I think even with all the beauty and immersion, it's going to be a long time before it will be a comfortable place to visit, even in the quiet months. At the same time, I can't wait to see it. I wish all those that are going to the soft openings, and the official opening (July 8th), the best of luck!

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