Wizarding World of Harry Potter Orlando expansion: all the facts and rumours so far

As we found out at the end of last year, not only is there a second HP theme park to be built in Hollywood, there are also set to be some exciting new developments at the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando.

We’ve posted a bit of information regarding this on the site over the last few weeks and months, but we’ve slightly neglected you of all the details. So here is everything that is known or rumoured so far. The information comes via Hypable.com and their sources Screamscape.com, InsideTheMagic.net and BehindTheThrills.com, who have all been following this closely.

The rumours started in December when Universal announced that they will be closing their classic Jaws ride, and people speculated that this area would be filled by a Harry Potter expansion.

Universal Orlando announced this morning their classic Jaws attraction and its surrounding Amity area will close permanently on Jan. 2, 2011 “to make room for an exciting, NEW, experience” – and rumors point to more Harry Potter attractions moving in to the area.

Jaws has been a staple of the Universal Studios park for 20 years and Universal promises they won’t forget it, with a “couple things planned to ensure we always remember and honor it.” But for its replacement, they are staying silent at the moment, promising only a “new, innovative & amazing experience” to come.

This seemed strange however, because this Jaws area is in a completely separate part of Universal to Islands of Adventure, the park where the existing Wizarding World is located.

Nevertheless, later news backed up these rumours. Screamscape reported the following, giving the exciting news that the new area will be home to the London section of Harry’s world (including Diagon Alley), and that a Hogwarts Express ride could connect fans between the two areas!

If my various sources are correct, the Amity / Jaws area will be replaced by the proposed Phase 2 expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Now, before you flip out… lets go over it all, because for starters this really isn’t going to be the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at all. Instead, from what I’ve been able to gather, the new land to be build in Universal Studios Florida will actually represent the “London” side of the PotterVerse… including an entrance to the infamous Diagon Alley.

Diagon Alley, as seen in the movies, is home to infamous locations such as The Leaky Cauldron, Gringott’s Wizarding Bank and the true Ollivanders wand shop location, as seen in the films. The London location is also said to be home to King’s Cross station, where students would board the Hogwarts Express train from Platform 9 ¾.

Many of these locations have been mentioned in the rumored development plans for Phase 2 of the Wizarding World for months now, including an innovative indoor dark coaster ride said to take place inside Gringott’s Wizarding Bank. It’s no secret that the Wizarding World has been popular…so much so that it needed to be expanded to spread out the crowds, and come up with a way to provide new locations for guests to buy Butterbeer, Ollivanders wands and more. But it seems that Universal Creative really decided to try a new idea… and think really outside the box this time. Literally… because this new expansion is going to allow for guests in both parks to get a taste of the PotterVerse… but to get the ENTIRE experience, you’d going to have to have a 2-park ticket.

Speaking of having access to both parks… connecting the dots is said to be a true recreation of the Hogwarts Express, allowing guests with two park passes (and Universal Resort guests) to recreate the true journey from the Muggle world of London and actually board travel to the train station and board the train for a trip over to Hogwarts and the rest of the Wizarding World at Islands of Adventure.

Now if all that wasn’t enough, I’ve heard some rumors about another possible new attraction likely to go into this Phase 2 project, that may attempt to take advantage of the new 3D projection tunnel technology Universal created for King Kong 3D 360 at the Hollywood park earlier this year. I don’t know if this may be put to use during your train ride on the Hogwarts Express, or if this will be an entirely separate ride experience. (One source suggested it could be a trip on the 3-decker Knight Bus, but I’ve heard that this isn’t likely to happen).

Screamscape later followed this up, debunking the Knight Bus rumours, but providing more substantial evidence about a big Gringotts ride to be built in place of Jaws!

While on the subject of Phase 2 of the PotterVerse (London), as I had suspected, the rumors of the Knight Bus attraction were wrong. This doesn’t mean that we wont see the King Kong 3D 360º technology put to use somewhere… it just wont be themed as the Knight Bus. The ride focus seems to be entirely on the Gringott’s Wizarding Back dark ride / coaster concept, as they apparently have some really grand ideas for this project. What kind of ideas? Remember that uncovered technology patent Universal files a couple of years ago that would have a coaster car ride up onto a detachable piece of track that was hooked up to the top of a simulator style motion base platform able to tilt and rotate in any direction? The latest Screamscape rumor claims that we may see this new idea brought to life as part of the Gringott’s coaster ride.

They also note that another Ollivander’s wand shop is to be built in the new area and that it will be much larger than the hugely popular one in the current park. They reckon it will actually house three different shops, but will be disguised as one, which will deal with problem of overcrowding.

Later, ThemeParkInsider got hold of detailed concept plans for the Diagon Alley park, confirming the location and giving great detail about the Gringotts ride.

It looks like we can expect another elaborately themed walk-through queue tour, along the lines of what we got with Hogwarts Castle in the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

You can read much more about the ride here at the original source, and below are pictures allegedly showing sketched plans for the design of the ride’s carriages.

At the beginning of last month we began seeing physical evidence of these plans coming into fruition, firstly with a demolition permit linked to several people who have worked on the Harry Potter films in the past. The project has apparently been named “Project 722″ which may be a reference to page 722 of Deathly Hallows, where the Hogwarts Express is mentioned :D

Following this, some pictures surfaced showing the start of demolition of the Jaws attraction.

And finally, as we reported just under two weeks ago, sources say construction markings been spotted heading from the Jaws area down to the Wizarding World.

And that’s pretty much everything we know so far. We’ll bring you more news on these fantastic developments in the months ahead, as well as everything going on on the other side of the US with the construction of Wizarding World number 2 in Hollywood.

Posted by on February 7, 2012 at 10:18 pm.

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