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icon_STOPPark News - (3/31/10) A good photo update showing off the new Aggro Circus show can be found over at Orlando Theme Park News.
    (3/29/10) Pictures of the new Matt Hoffman’s Aggro Circus show installed in the Toon Lagoon theater can be found over at Orlando United. I’ve also been told that the Green Eggs and Ham eatery has reopened once again this past weekend, serving their signature dish.
    (3/26/10) Readers report that rehearsals for new shows are taking place in the Toon Lagoon theater lately. One reader reports seeing a sign out front claiming that the Matt Hoffman BMX stunt show was returning once again. You can also see some pictures of the jump ramps now in place over at Orlando Parks News (just scroll down towards the end.). Not too long ago we also saw pictures of the stage area decorated for a Cartoon Circus show… so I’m not sure if they planning on running both shows or if they were swaping out one set for another.
    (3/2/10) A new construction update from IOA, including the Potter-Verse and the rest of the park, can be seen at Orlando Parks News.
    (1/31/10) Orlando Parks News has posted some nice pictures of a few current projects under construction around Orlnado, as well as a look at rehabs taking place in Toon Lagoon on Ripsaw Falls and more.
    (1/20/10) Despite having three others write in to agree that it was unlikely that Universal would ever revive the old Triceratops Encounter attraction, I’ve also heard from a good source who says that is indeed what Universal is up to. If for no other reason, they want to be able to add some kind of attraction with a possible high capacity next to the Potter-verse to help control overflow traffic when the line for that ride hits 3-4 hours long... which it will on peak summer days.
    (12/18/09) You can see pictures from this year’s Grinchmas event at Orlando United.
    (7/15/09) OSHA has now gotten involved in the investigation around the accident where an employee was struck by the Dueling Dragons coaster only July 1st. You can read more at the Orlando Sentinel.

 

icon_STOP2010 - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - (4/4/10) This week (and weeks to come) I may pop off a few “spoilers” about the ride experience on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, but for today I’m going to keep things more ‘technical’ so you should be safe unless you want to keep the entire experience saved for your visit.
    Still with me?  Apparently the picture of the Potter ride car has been removed from WDWinfo, so hopefully you caught a glimpse of it earlier this week. I’ve got a copy myself, but since it was labeled as “copyright” of that site, I’m not going to post it here. Sorry… but it wasn’t all that special anyway. A big yellow “magic flying bench” high in the air, attached to the top of a giant Kuka Arm on a mobile platform… you get the idea.  It’s not like you got to see the restraints at all… which by the way are said to be coaster style Over The Shoulder (OTS) restraints. I’ve got a fair warning for all our larger readers out there… if your too big to fit on Hulk or Dueling Dragons, or require the “Big Boy” seats on those rides, there is a very good chance you will not fit into Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I’ve been told that the sensors on Potter’s OTS require it to go down quite snug over your body before giving the green light, which is going to disappoint quite a few Potter fans.
    There are rumored to be around 47 of these ride cars, each one able to hold 4 riders at a time. The loading experience is expected to be quite interesting, as they will have to have these cars zooming through here as quickly as possible non-stop. Much like loading and unloading on the Haunted Mansion, you will be aided by a very long moving walking that runs alongside the track. However there is also a second loading station for the ride as well… one where the cars will actually switch off to a secondary track where they can stop and park for a bit to allow for smoother loading of guests who require a little more time and care about getting in and off the ride. I’m assuming this may be handled in a similar fashion to the special loading area used on Toy Story Mania.
VANHELSING    This is a far cry from the original concept of load/unload first drawn up for the Potter ride concept… way back when it was first dreamed up for the Van Helsing ride. As you can see in this rare piece of artwork, the Van Helsing ride building was actually to be located on the same property as Hogwarts and was even going to feature a somewhat similar ride layout to what Potter will offer. Van Helsing however was going to borrow the Popeye style turntable load/unload station concept back then however, but getting away from this idea also allow more space to be used within the building for the overall ride experience on Potter. 
    (4/1/10) Care to sneak a peek at what the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride cars may look like? Make the jump over to WDWInfo and check out the picture they’ve posted showing off the magic flying bench seats attached to robot arms.
    Meanwhile MTV’s MovieBlog has a nice write up about their preview of the Wizarding World, including some good descriptions of what the unqiue food items will taste like. Want to know what to expect from Butterbeer?  Click here.
    (3/31/10) A bunch of new construction photos for the Potter-Verse can be found at Orlando United here and on the following page as well.
    (3/26/10) Universal Orlando has released a few more details about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter today. First off the June 18th Grand Opening date was confirmed. No one is ready to even talk about a soft opening at this point, but I’d still expect it to happen sometime before June 18th barring any major problems.
2010_0325_PotterFly1    While they gave away a few more details about the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride experience, they still were not ready to show off anything to do with the ride system it seems. According to the new press release, “guests will feel things no one has ever felt inside a theme park attraction, move in ways no one has ever moved, experience film like no one else ever has, explore vast sets punctuated by amazing special effects – and have an adventure only possible in Harry Potter’s world.”
    Riders will meet Harry, Ron and Hermione “as if they were in person”, soar over Hogwarts castle with Harry, go through a Quidditch match, feel the chill of a Dementor, encounter the Whomping Willow and explore some of Hogwarts most famous locations.  Amongst the locations: Dumbledore’s Office, Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, Gryffindor common room, Room of Requirement (with hundreds of floating candles), the Greenhouse, past talking Wizard portraits and even past the Sorting Hat.
    “As you venture through Hogwarts castle, you meet Harry, Ron and Hermione who convince you to skip a planned lecture and follow them. Upon taking their advice, you travel by Floo powder, and begin the adventure as you soar over Hogwarts, narrowly escape a dragon attack, have a close encounter with the Whomping Willow, get pulled into a Quidditch match and more.
    “Guests will experience firsthand a completely new adventure featuring the iconic characters, amazing creatures and recognizable locations they’ve only read in the books or seen in the films,” said Thierry Coup, creative director for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. ”
    A more detailed description of what you will encounter in the queue for the ride itself can be found over at MuggleNet, who was involved in one of those VIP preview tours we mentioned the other day.
    (3/25/10) Just a few hours from now, Universal will reveal all about the new Harry Potter attraction as well as the grand opening date. However it seems a slip-up a few hours ago may have given it away early, as many claim to have seen a page go live briefly on the website that including the following paragraph:
    “On Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – the marquee attraction of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – guests will journey through iconic locations straight from the films, such as the Room of Requirement. This amazingly detailed scene is where guests board the groundbreaking ride and are drawn into the excitement and chaos of Harry’s life. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – the only place in the world where the stories of Harry Potter will come to life – grand opening on June 18.”
    So… June 18th seems to be the date of the official grand opening ceremony, which is sure to disappoint many who were hoping for a Memorial Day Weekend event and may have planned trips around that concept. However I do have one possible ray of light for those in need as a Screamscape source has given us May 15th as a possible soft opening date. This is all rumor, and very unofficial at that, since so many things can go wrong between now and then, so don’t count on anything just yet. Stay tuned!
    (3/22/10) It’s Monday and that means tons of new Harry Potter construction updates to share. This week you can find new pictures posted to Universal Orlando Central, Florida Thrills, and Behind the Thrills, RCPro and Orlando Parks News. The good news from most reports is that many of the forgotten little special effects touches around IOA have all started to come back. The Fire on the statue guards, the Mythos fountains, troll under the bridge audio tracks and more. Unfortunately, the vortex at Poseidon is still down, but some hope to see it possibly return.
    Meanwhile Universal has been holding special showings of the Wizarding World for some VIPs it seems, rolling out the red carpet and such as seen in this Florida Thrills photo. The numerous rumors going around claim that these special groups (one of which may have even hosted J.K. Rowling already) are being given special scarves to wear as they wander through the Wizarding World… scarves decorated with the crests of one of the four Hogwarts houses… Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin.
    (3/19/10) Universal has announced that their big press release to reveal all the details for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will take place at noon on March 25th. This will also include the big reveal for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride as well as the grand opening date as well. While we wait, you can also find a new small construction update this week over at Orlando United.

    (3/16/10) Sources tell me that while the dragon skin pieces on Dueling Dragons may have been repainted, they should return to action on the ride, looking pretty much as it was before.  They tell me not to expect to see new skins or new colors on the dragons as it slowly becomes Dragon’s Challenge.
    (3/15/10) According to Universal’s website, Dueling Dragons is slated to only remain closed through to March 18th, so look for it to open on Friday morning if all goes well. Like before, I’m guessing they wont be using the castle queue until they are ready to launch the entire Wizarding World experience. No word on if the new dragon skins will be on the trains or not.  You can see a photo update of the latest construction around the rest of the Wizaring World at Behind the Thrills this week. Included are pictures and a video showing off the Hogwarts Express with the smoke effect working. Another construction update around IOA can also be seen at Orlando Parks News.
    (3/13/10) I’ve heard that the

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Sorting Hat may be part of the queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. While this could end up being an animatronic, I’ve also heard rumors that it could be playey by a live actor… much like the talking Fountain. Meanwhile if your curious to see just what the ride cars may look like, check out these drawings discovered at IAAPA a couple of years ago at the Kuka display.
    (3/10/10) All new pictures taken of the Wizarding World can be found this week over at Worthington Photo and Orlando Rocks. The first link is something a little different from your typical construction update. These are a little more on the artsy side, playing with focus effects, shadows and lighting and one really nice one showing off the sun gleaming through one of Hogwarts spires.
    (3/9/10) New pictures taken around IOA have been posted to Behind the Thrills this week, where it looks like the former Dueling Dragons tracks are being repainted slightly different shades as part of their transformation into Dragon’s Challenge. Meanwhile they’re working on Hulk now too it seems.
    (3/6/10) Universal Orlando has 2010_0305_HogwartsExpressreleased a brand new image of the Hogwarts Express locomotive that will greet guests as they enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter later this Spring. As you can see in the photo, the engine will actually being gushing with smoke throughout the day.  You can also see a new construction update from the Potter-Verse posted to Orlando United.
    (3/4/10) According to this update at Behind the Thrills, Universal Orlando’s newest park maps now include some preview information about the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter area. Most interesting however is the official listed height limit for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has been set at 48 inches. While some may be surprised, remember that this is a Robocoaster attraction at the heart and it can perform some wicked maneuvers. HOWEVER… by comparison if you pull up the height restrictions for Knight’s Tournament, a standard Robocoaster at Legoland California, it is set at 40 inches to ride, as long as you have an adult with you.
    (3/1/10) As we reported a few weeks ago, Dueling Dragons did closed down this weekend and is not expected to reopen until around March 16th or so.
    (2/26/10) For those interested in all things related to the Potter-verse, check out this new video on YouTube (embedded below). It’s an edit of the animated fly-through footage of the land, but with labels now put in to tell you which building is which. Perfect for planning your angle of attack on the attraction of choice once the land opens.
     I’ve also heard from a couple of readers that a large storage container has been spotted to the left as you first go up the lift hill. If you look hard enough you might spot one of the newly colored “dragon” body pieces that will be added onto Dueling Dragons trains as part of the conversion into Dragon’s Challenge. According to one reader, the new “scales” appeared to be blue and dark purple in color.

    (2/24/10) Remember that remote control magic wand we mentioned last week?  I’ve got to wonder if this could be what Universal is planning on selling, or something based on the same concept. Oh… and a few more pictures from the Potter-Verse can be seen at BrianOrndorf this week.
    (2/23/10) Lots of new Potter pictures this week to enjoy over at Behind the Thrills.
    (2/22/10) A new construction update from Islands of Adventure, showcasing the latest changes all around the park as well as a very healthy dose of peeking into the Wizarding World can be found at Orlando Parks News. I’ve also got some other interesting bits of news to share about the Potter-verse below.
    It seems some of the first costumes have been put on display at Universal’s wardrobe facility and they are said to be quite detailed and impressive. Amongst the costumes on display were those for “Hogwarts Students” as well as the “Dragon Handlers”, which is what they are calling the ride ops on Dragon’s Challenge. Apparently the costumes were all made to JK Rowling’s specs… though one insider has already commented that JK must have never visited Orlando in the summer, because some of the outfits may end up being a bit too much to handle in the hot muggy summers.
    We’ve also heard quite a bit about Olivander’s Wand Shop. I’m told that over 20 actors have been hired to act as the shop keepers, and have been told that they will be given a “wand bible” written up by JK Rowling to memorize, detailing the names and descriptions of around 400 different wands. I’ve been told that the various wands up for sale will range in price from $25 up to $150 per wand. Apparently the more expensive your wand… the more things it will actually be able to do. For example, some wands are rumored to have a light up tip if activated the right way. Other wands are rumored to have uses beyond the park, possibly being Bluetooth enabled or allowing for you to plug them into your PC and download some special functions into them from the internet. If true, one such wand is said to work as a TV remote control.
    On the downside of things however, due to the entire land being created just as seen in the movies and to JK Rowlings specifications, the shops are indeed as small as they look. I’ve heard that Universal is already planning on setting up small queues outside many of the most popular stores to help control overcrowding issues.
    (2/20/10) Emails have been going out to the world from Universal Orlando this week promoting all new Harry Potter themed vacation package specials. These packages include early park admission, a special breakfast at the Three Broomsticks, a commemorative Grand Opening Ticket to the Wizarding World and more. The real hot news item here however is that these packages are not available until May 28th. So far this seems to lock the start of Memorial Day Weekend as the official Grand Opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Of course… this still doesn’t mean that we wont see a soft opening of the land or various attractions, possibly opening in phases between Spring Break and late May. More when we find out…
    (2/16/10) A new construction update from the Potter-Verse can be found at Florida Thrills this week.
    (2/11/10) Orlando United has posted a new update from the Potter-verse today, including spotting what looked to be the flying car in place near the end entrance site for Dueling Dragons.
    (2/8/10) Take a look at what’s been going on around Islands of Adventure lately in the latest update to RCPro, including a good look around the Wizarding World. Of course if you really want a unique look at the Potter-verse, then head over to Orlando United where they took a helicopter tour over the park this past week to get a really good look at everything. One sharp eyed reader has even spotted what looks like a covered up Buckbeak figure next to the coaster track before the lift hill on the Flying Hippogriff.
 Also rumors about a possible late March soft opening of the Wizarding World (ride or no ride) are still everywhere. Of course it is also quite interesting to see in writing under the terms of use for the Florida Resident 2-Day / 2-Park pass that your “Ticket expires 30 days after use or in full on March 19, 2010.”  I find it quite interesting that they would choose March 19th as a strange deadline for these tickets, don’t you think?
    On a related news item, we’ve been told from an insider that Dueling Dragons is slated to close down for it’s final transformation into Dragon’s Challenge at the end of February 26th.
    (2/5/10) First of all, if you haven’t seen it yet, we posted a link to the new Potter themed Superbowl commerical a couple of days ago over on the Universal Orlando page. Now that is out of the way, it’s construction update day!  Lots of new construction pictures can be found posted to Orlando Rocks, Orlando United and Orlando Parks News.
    (2/4/10) Universal Orlando launched an all new preview website for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter yesterday which has a very nice animated fly-through video of the entire land as well as details about pretty much everything now… except the Forbidden Journey ride itself.
    Meanwhile a new contest for schools was launched yesterday where the winning classroom will be awarded a trip to the Grand Opening. While the official word on the Grand Opening date itself is still “Spring 2010” the dates of the contest are a little more specific. The last day to submit to the contest is March 19th, and the public will then vote online to select a winner through to April 29th. Since we’re talking about such a large group of people to arrange transportation for, your likely looking at a couple more weeks to take care of all those details, so it looks like the official Grand Opening event wont take place until the second half of May.  That said… keep in mind the big attractions usually end up soft-opening several weeks ahead of time to ensure all the bugs are worked out before the official grand opening ever takes place.
    So what does this all mean for you? Well, if you were planning a trip to see the Potter-verse for Spring Break… don’t count on it. Based on the rumors going around and those dates above, I wouldn’t expect it to soft-open until late April at least, after the frantic Spring Break crowds have gone home.
    (2/1/10) Screamscape has been told that we can tentatively expect to see Dueling Dragon’s shut down for about 2-3 weeks just prior to the opening of the whole Wizarding World area. Of course, exactly when that will be has yet to be determined and depends a lot on just who you are asking. Another construction update can be found at Orlando Parks News this week.
    (1/29/10) A new bit of information came today from Universal where they talked about how everyone can visit Ollivanders and interact with a wandkeeper who will help you find the right wand for you by testing out a few in the shop first. Give each wand a little test wave and watch what happens until the wand with “the right fit is found”.
    Speaking of Harry Potter and that webcam map… you can print your own home version of the map from USA Today and then go to HarryPotter3D.com to see it yourself! You can also see a new construction update over at Orlando United.
    (1/28/10) For all your Harry Potter fans with a webcam, the Jan. 28th (Thursday) issue of USA Today will feature a special “Augmented Reality Map” of the Wizarding World that will come to life when placed in front of your web cam.
    (1/25/10) Tons of new pictures from the Potter-verse can be found at Orlando Parks News and Orlando United.
    (1/21/10) An interesting article posted at Behind The Thrills claims to have uncovered the secret villain behind the story being told on the new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. According to a still frame of video captures from the UK DVD, they believe that we may encounter the yet to be seen “Salazar Slytherin” character. Check it out and make up your own opinion.
    (1/20/10) Even more Potter-Verse construction pictures can be seen posted to Orlando Parks News. Meanwhile you’ll also want to check out this preview video of the Wizarding World that was given away on the DVD in a UK newspaper over this past weekend. Lots of new footage to see.

    (1/19/10) New construction pictures of the Wizarding World have been posted to Behind the Thrills and Orlando United this week. They have also posted a few pictures from the old Triceratops Encounter attraction area, where they claim that it looks like something may be getting ready to take place there as well. Somehow, I just can’t see them trying to bring back the Trikes… they were not a big draw in the first place, which is one of the major reasons they were shut down so quickly.
    (1/18/10) A few new pictures from the Wizarding World can be seen at Orlando United as well as at Orlando Parks News.
    (1/15/10) A ton of new pictures from the Potter-verse can be seen at Orlando Theme Parks News.
    (1/14/10) Another construction update from the Potter-verse this week posted to Orlando United.
    (1/11/10) A new construction update from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter can be seen this week at Amusement Insider.
    (1/8/10) A ton of new Harry Potter construction photos were posted to Orlando Park News this week. Also, I’ve been informed by the Zigmont Magic F/X people that they have removed the Harry Potter information that was once on their site. Seems someone spoke out of turn and thought that the information was “common knowledge”. (I think I hear Universal’s Legal Team calling…) That said, I have removed the link to their site from our earlier update.
    (1/7/10) I’d be surprised if this date holds true, but we’ve heard March 1st mentioned as a possible date to open the new Harry Potter ride. Considers that this is less than 2 months away… I just don’t see it happening until closer to April. That said… we have heard that the ride system inside Hogwarts Castle is installed and functional, however all of the scenery and special effects still need to be installed, programmed and tested extensively before we’ll see the ride open.
    While we’re talking about the ride itself… I think it’s time we start to find out a bit more about just what we can expect to take place inside. For starters… I’ve heard that your ride experience will begin and end with an interesting little effect that will transport you through the use of the Floo Network, a giant fireplace and green flames. 
    (1/4/10 - EDITED 1/8/10) ) It looks like there will be a special “snow” effect put into use within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This news bit, sent to us by “Allen W.”
was first discovered as a posting to the Zigmont Magic F/X website (link removed by request of Zigmont), but was later removed. In the various descriptions of snow effects there was a section labeled Universal Studios Theme Park which mentioned installing custom snow machines in December 2009 for the theme park, possibly for use in a “Coefficient of Friction Test for Harry Potter’s the Dark Arts Classroom.” 
    In other news Behind the Thrills has posted their NYE photo update which also has a ton of new construction pictures from the Wizarding World as well. Another reader has also sent in a link to a video construction update posted to YouTube as well that is worth checking out.
    (12/31/09) A couple of new construction updates have slid in just before the end of the year with the final construction updates for the Wizarding World this year. Check them out at Orlando Rocks and Orlando Park News.
    (12/30/09) A reader sent in a great shot of Hogwarts Castle where you can just really take in all the detail they’ve put into this massive structure.
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    (12/29/09) Another construction update from the Wizarding World can be seen this week at Orlando United. You’ve got to love the “Please Respect The Spell Limits” sign at the entry of Hogsmeade.
    (12/28/09) New construction progress photos from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter can be seen at OrlandoParksNews this week.
    (12/23/09) All new construction pictures from the Wizarding World can be found at Orlando United and Orlando Park News. All I can say is “Wow!”.  The amount of detail going into all of the buildings is just staggering. We’re still months away from opening and things are really starting to look nice in there.
    (12/18/09) A bunch of new Wizarding World pictures can be seen at Orlando Park News and Orlando United this week.
    (12/15/09) All new Harry Potter construction photos can be found today at Orlando United and Orlando Rocks.
    (12/14/09) More Wizarding World construction photos can be found at the Orlando Parks News blog and over at BrianOrndorf.com.
    (12/11/09) For those interested, the new Harry Potter DVD features a segment that talks a bit about the Wizarding World, going into detail about many shops and buildings. However, they really don’t mention much at all about the dark ride itself.
    Meanwhile Orlando United has a good look over at the Potter-verse this week, but looking at the buildings lit up after dark. Plus a good idea as to what the new white roofed structure next to the castle may be for.
    (12/8/09) Construction update’s for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter have been added to Orlando United and Orlando Rocks.  The appearance of some odd white roof structure near what is expected to be the castle’s queue area has causes some concern, as it looks very out of place with the themeing of the rest of the area.
    (12/2/09) Orlando United has posted new construction pictures from the Wizarding World this week.
    (12/1/09) The official GradBash website confirms that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be open for the event which takes place on April 23, 24 and 30th. Of course I seem to recall them promoting the Hollywood Rockit for last year’s GradBash as well, as we know that didn’t happen. Still... it is a good sign that things may be moving ahead very quickly if all goes well. Of course... they only promise that guests will be able to step into the Wizarding World... they don’t say a word about riding the new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.
    (11/30/09) New construction pictures from the Wizarding World can be found this week at Orlando United.
    (11/23/09) Some new construction pictures from the Wizarding World can be found this week at Orlando Rocks.
    (11/17/09) A few new construction pictures from the Wizarding World have been added to Orlando United this week.
    (11/13/09) New construction pictures of Hogwarts’ clocktower going up, a better look at the Hogwarts Express and more have been posted to Orlando United and Coaster101.
    (11/9/09) A new construction press_hp_logo_200update from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been added to Orlando Rocks. Meanwhile you can also sneak a peek at the top of the Hogwarts Express which has been brought in as well over at Orlando United.
    (11/2/09) New construction updates from the Potter-verse can be found at Orlando Rocks, Orlando United and RCPro this week.
    (10/30/09) A Screamscape source tells us that the Wizarding World was used as the setting of a television shoot for an episode of the Celebrity Apprentice earlier this week. Two of the celebs were brought into the park to take part in some sort of Harry Potter themed task, and will be aired during the season to help promote the new themed land at the theme park on NBC.
    (10/28/09) The latest construction update has been posted to Orlando United, this time you can now see some of the colors being added to the buildings and landscape around the Wizarding World.
    (10/19/09) Some good aerial construction footage of the Wizarding World has been added to the News 13 website. It’s kind of neat to see just how big the ride building is compared to the small front section that is currently being transformed into Hogwarts castle. You can also see that large new building (maintenance?) building put up behind the Flying Unicorn. If you want to see some detailed shots from the ground, check out the new update at Orlando Rocks.
    (10/16/09) I don’t know if this will happen or not, but I’ve heard talk about creating some kind of Harry Potter themed nighttime show for the park’s central lake that would involve pyro, lasers, and huge projection effects. You can also see a few more construction pictures here.
    (10/14/09) New pictures from the Wizaridng World can be seen at Orlando United and the queue for Dueling Dragons has been altered so that guests now enter and exit through the ride’s exit area, bypassing the main castle area entirely. While we’re talking about Dueling Dragon’s, it seems that it may work like for this some time, as the only real way to allow the work in the queue to begin without closing down the ride entirely. The plan is to keep the ride’s downtime to a minimum, so I wouldn’t count on seeing the queue again until they close the ride and rebrand it in 2010 as Dragon Challenge. From what I’ve heard, one of the items that will be done at the very end when the close the ride, will be to redecorate the trains themselves, as new fiberglass wheel covers and a decorative front piece will replace the current Red / Blue Dragon pieces. There is also a very interesting rumor claiming that some kind of audio system could be added to the train as well, which would be great if it holds true. Anyone know more?

    (9/16/09) The big Wizarding World of Harry Potter announcement came today and Universal pulled back the curtains to show off all kinds of new details about every little building and shop from the Potter-Verse that will appear in the Wizarding World. They also named off the new names for existing attractions that will be rethemed, such as Dueling Dragons will now become Dragon Challenge, themed to the famous TriWizard Tournament. The former Flying Unicorn will now become Flight of the Hippogriff, themed as a training course in the care of Magical Animals. Of course the one bit of information we all really wanted to know about was the ride going into Hogwarts Castle, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Of course, this is where the details were few and far between... as they are still holding the cards for this one very close to the vest right now.
    They did release a couple of new videos showing off details about most of the land however, which looks to be quite impressive. You’ll see the Hogwarts Express, visit Zonko’s where you can buy odd tricks and gags like Extendable Ears and Sneakoscopes. Drop into Honeydukes and try out Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Beans. Visit the Three Boomsticks and Hog’s Head to take a sip of Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice. Across the way is the Owlery where you can mail an official letter postmarked and stamped from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Care to become a wizard yourself? Then visit Ollivanders shop... where the wands choose the wizards! Other shops include Dervish and Banges (get your Quidditch and Triwizard gear here) or stop into Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods on your way out of Hogwarts. Check out all the new concept artwork released over on the right sidebar!


    (7/27/09) Orlando United has posted some new information about the names of the various attractions, stores, items and eateries in the Wizarding World. For starters the they claim that the new ride will be called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The search through the trademark database also confirmed Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge as the new names for Flying Unicorn and Dueling Dragons.
    (7/13/09) The big rumored news however is what I’ve been expecting to be announced… and that a custom built MagiQuest system will be brought into the park. Not only in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but from what I’ve been told little things will be added all throughout the park’s other lands that will react to the magic wands purchased by guests. You’ll only have to look out for little “lightning bolt” symbols here and there to tell you where to aim your wand.
    (7/6/09) The Orlando Sentinel has reported a few new items about the Wizarding World this week, along with a nice new aerial shot of a building under construction. The plans filed with the city do confirm that Hogwarts will be 150 feet tall.
    (7/5/09) In an interview with Emma Watson (Hermione) on the BBC Friday night she mentioned a little tid-bit about the new ride at Islands of Adventure. When asked if the film’s cast was involved with the ride or not she replied, “Actually we were, we filmed a scene for one of the rides an it’s going to be like interactive and we are going to talk to you and stuff.”
    Of course this fits along with the report earlier this year that had a bunch of still photos being down of the cast riding brooms in front of a green-screen room for a camera unit that I believe was mounted to a mechanical arm so they could capture the movement information to replicate it into the ride itself. Of course all that information about the shoot was taken down lickety-split… and I even got a call from the UK company responsible for it asking me to take down my link about it at the time.
    Right now I can only assume it’s a matter of time… maybe days… before Universal pops the cork and unveils the details about this hush-hush ride they’ve been working on. A perfect time would be to do it around the release date of the newest film on July 15th.
    Universal has also updated the official preview site of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, complete with a new front poster that shows Harry (wand at the ready) standing before Hogwarts castle.
    (5/18/09) I’m not sure how true this is, but we’ve heard from a reader that at one point an animatronic Hog’s Head was being designed with the goal of placing it outside the Hog’s Head Inn building in the Wizarding World. They also tell us that we may also encounter a cage containing the “Monster Book of Monsters” book inside of it, which is another animatronic item that can growl and snap at people as they pass by.
    (5/14/09) The official Wizarding World of Harry Potter site has added a new interesting poll this week. As in the past, we believe that the poll is hinting about possible things we may get the experience in the Wizarding World, and in this case, I think they may be hinting about what could be seen in the land’s impressive dark ride.
    The poll asks you which one of the following would scare you the most: The Whomping Willow (living tree), the Hungarian Horntail dragon, Acromantula (giant talking spider), a Dementor or a Basilisk (giant reptile). Too bad they don’t have an “All of the above” option, since I’m hoping we see them all along the way. Rigth now the Dementor is ahead with about 45% of the vote followed by a neck and neck race between the Acromantula and Basilisk.
    (3/29/09) Will my long time rumor claiming that guests will be able to buy their own ‘wand’ that will interact with the Wizarding World come true?  Could be… because the latest online poll at the preview website asks you what “What kind of wand would you prefer to own?” The choices are: A personalized Ollivanders wand that chooses you, a hero replica wand or a villain replica wand. To date, neither Universal or Creative Kingdoms is talking…
    (2/9/09) I’ve got a little bit of new info about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to share today. Hogwarts has been tasked with the goal of being far more detailed and impressive looking than Disney’s castle down the road. As far as the “world” itself, I’ve been told that they are planning lots of street astmosphere entertainment, such as building in a system of special effects to allow for ‘wizard duels’ to take place in the streets. Universal is also working with their chefs to come up with lots of new and unique foot items inspired from the books, which will apparently include “butterbeer”. According to a report from someone who claims to have actually tasted a test version of it, the final version may taste a little bit like root beer. While I know everyone is dying to know more about the major ride inside Hogwarts (which will include an extensively themed and long indoor queue like Spiderman and Dueling Dragons), I’ve been told that Universal is planning on holding back on that information until late 2009.
    (5/12/08) I’ve heard a little more dirt about the ride system itself. For starters, we know about all we really need to know about the Kuka robot arms that will be providing the brute strength for the ride system. Riders will be seated in a long “bench” of seats, rumored to hold six at a time, and mounted to the business end of a KR 1000 Titan model Kuka arm. The Titan arm is rated to toss around payloads of 1,000 kg (2,200 pounds or 1.1 Tons!) with great ease. Then the Kuka arms will be mounted to one of twelve mobile base units that will scoot around a track system that is said to look fairly similar to the track system used on The Adventure’s of Spider-Man. Ironically enough, you can see a great picture of Spider-Man’s track system posted to American Scenic.
    In other Harry Potter news, one of our readers has mentioned a few things that apparently author JK Rowling has mentioned in interviews about the Universal project. In addition to mentioning that there would also be a ride for young children to enjoy in the area, she also mentioned that there would be two state of the art rides in the land, one of which being the new ride system based on the Kuka robot arm. She did give a rough name for one attraction though… something along the lines of Hogwart’s Introduction To Magic that would be some kind of demonstration showing off the effects of various different magic spells.

 

2010 / 2011 - Toon Lagoon Theater - Survey - (10/20/09) I’ve been sent a bit more information about Universal’s latest entertainment survey I briefly touched upon last week. Given the name of some of the website pages, it seems that all of these new show concepts are being tossed about for a new production in the Toon Lagoon Theater. According to different sources, the list of licensed shows they are now asking detailed questions about include: American Graffiti, American Pie, America’s Got Talent, Animal House, Austin Powers, Fame, Ferris Buellers’ Day Off, Groundhog Day and Revenge of the Nerds. Almost all of them sound like very strange concepts for musical / comedy theme park shows, due to some serious adult humor as the theme for most of them, so watering them down for theme park audiences seems pointless. (I mean, can you imagine American Pie live on stage? I mean I can… it would be more like Halloween’s PG-13 rated Bill & Ted show, but not something that would run daily for the general public!)  As I expected, many have felt the surveys seemed to leading them to make opinions about two shows in particular however… Fame and America’s Got Talent, both of which seem poised to allow Universal to make their own version of an American Idol style show.
   My take?  Fame is a lame idea… I don’t even get why they are remaking the film, but I can see America’s Got Talent working if done right. However of all the concepts, I think an Austin Powers show would be the best, since it allows for some tongue in cheek humor that will pass the theme park censors, by using jokes that will go over the kids heads while making the adults smiles. Plus it’s got to have Dr. Evil in it, visual gags-a plenty, fart jokes, great costumes, an excuse to throw in silly musical dance numbers at the drop of a hat… and Sharks with Lasers on their heads! Oh… and Mr. Bigglesworth! It’s got to have Mr. Bigglesworth, otherwise he might get upset… “and when Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset... people DIE! “
    (10/7/09) I've got to admit, Universal’s latest online survey I got in the mail is a little weird. After asking you questions about certain movies you may have seen, they then ask you how you feel about some of these titles being picked for use as a possible future theme park show.  Not too unusual, until you hear the movies they asked about: Revenge of the Nerds, Groudhog Day and Animal House... not the kinds of films I could ever seen being turned into a future theme park show. If that wasn't enough... at the end of the survey you get RickRolled... automatically linked to a YouTube clip playing Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up."  Oh... the horror... talk about being kicked to the curb.

 

2011 to 2014 - Island Refurbishment - Rumor - (10/16/09) Once the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens next year, Universal’s next step for Islands of Adventure may be to begin a series of “refresh and refurbishment” projects to the rest of the Islands over the next couple of years. With the success of the light up panels on the Rockit coaster, there is now a plan in place to go back and add green lighting to the Hulk trains as was promised way back when the park was first announced. If the rumors about audio being added to Dragon’s Challenge are true, I would count on seeing it added to Hulk as well. There is also a rumored plan to “upgrade” Spiderman, by adding a new scene or two by replacing a couple of scenes that don’t work as well as the rest. Seuss may just get repainted, possibly some new scenic elements, and there has been talk about adding a new attraction to the Jurassic Park area for years. What about the remains of Lost Continent? I think we could see something happen here as well, though would it be an expansion of Potter’s Wizarding World or something brand new?

 

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Universal Orlando
Islands of Adventure

Orlando, Florida
NBC Universal &
The Blackstone Group

Abbreviation: IOA
Opened: 1999
www.universalorlando.com

Tickets: as of 8/10/09
Adults (10+): $79.00
Child (3-9): $68.00
Discounts for Multi-Day Tickets
Parking: $14.00

Open: Year Round

Notes: The Universal Orlando Resort consists of two theme parks, one waterpark, three hotels and the Citywalk retail and entertainment zone.

Fun Fact: Poseidon was actually the bad guy in the first version of Poseidon’s Fury who fights against Zeus at the end who had been disguised as your guide.

Islands of Adventure
Abbreviation: IOA
Opened: 1999

Newest Attractions:
2006 - High In The Sky Seuss Sky Trolley

2001 - Poseidon's Fury (new storyline and effects added)

2000 - Flying Unicorn, Storm Force


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