Rumor round-up for April 11, 2014: Diagon Alley’s soft openings, King Kong’s secrets, and Universal Orlando’s new ride (literally)

Rumor round-up for April 11, 2014: Diagon Alley’s soft openings, King Kong’s secrets, and Universal Orlando’s new ride (literally)

Harry Potter and the Soft Openings

The exact opening date of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley has been all over the place as of late, and for good reason: there’s been delays, construction hang-ups, and other assorted craziness that happens on a project of this scale, making predictions a little on the impossible side.

(A quick sidebar while we’re on the subject: we previously reported that one of the major snafus affecting the pace of progress on the Hogwarts Express was an incorrect installation of brickwork in King’s Cross Station. One of our most reliable sources has put the kibosh on that rumor, advising us that the real reason both train stations had lagged behind for so long was due simply to the exacting level of detail that both J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. are demanding out of all of Diagon Alley. In any case, it’s all back on track [no pun intended].)

Hogsmeade Station as viewed from Dragon Challenge this week.

Hogsmeade Station as viewed from Dragon Challenge this week. See more

Things have been going so well recently, actually, that it’s time to put worrying about the release date behind us, and, as of today, we’re officially kicking off our watch for Diagon Alley soft openings. (What? You don’t know what a soft opening is? We’ll provide an explanation in just a moment.)

We feel confident doing this because our network of Bothan spies – no, none died in the smuggling of the information, thank you very much – have gotten us enough intel to allow us to provide our dear readers with this handy, dandy chart showing the likelihood, in percentages, of soft openings happening each week, beginning on May 4 (hence our Star Wars reference) and going all the way ‘til the last week of June:

Our predictions have been removed from this post to avoid confusion.
The most up-to-date predictions can be found on our main Diagon Alley article.

From what we’ve been told, it looks as if each of these soft openings will be limited, possibly to select visitors, on-site hotel guests, and/or Team Members, or some combination thereof – not unlike the first Wizarding World. Whatever pool of candidates Universal will ultimately draw from, it’s almost always first come, first serve, so you better get your Quidditch World Cup tents ready to start camping out.

Our Bothans being Bothans, they went above the call of duty and also provided enough information for us to give you the likelihood of Diagon Alley being officially opened to the general public, using the same calendar:

Our predictions have been removed from this post to avoid confusion.
The most up-to-date predictions can be found on our main Diagon Alley article.

The reader may deduce from these numbers that, yes, we are back to anticipating a Diagon Alley grand opening sometime during the last two weeks of June.

While we’re very confident in these projections, please remember that they are subject to change. I’m sure you already know that Orlando Informer is not an official representative of Universal Orlando Resort – we’re an independent, unaffiliated resource for guests visiting the parks – so we can’t guarantee anything. You make your travel plans at your own risk. That being said, Rumor Round-Up was the first to name Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar as the replacement for the upstairs Starbucks at CityWalk months before Universal announced it, and we were the first to provide you with the name of Diagon Alley’s star attraction, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – so we’re getting pretty good at this.

What is a soft opening?

A soft opening, referred to by the parks as a technical rehearsal, is an opportunity for Universal Team Members to become fully trained in running attractions in a live environment. Soft openings happen before an attraction (or group of attractions, in this case) officially open, and their schedule is never announced or published by the parks. In addition, there is no guarantee that attractions will be running to their full potential, or even running at all.

By their very nature, soft openings are sporadic: they can be for 10 minutes, two hours, or the full day. When they first start happening, they usually begin during the last few operating hours of each day, and then slowly expand from there, day by day.

How can I be among the first to hear that Diagon Alley has soft opened?

Not to toot our own horn, but the truth is, because of the popularity of our site and the extent of Universal information available to our readers for free, we have dozens of fans visiting Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure each day (we love you, fans!). While we hope to be present the very first time Diagon Alley soft opens for the general public, we’re certain at least a few of our fans will be – they’ll let us know, and then we’ll let you know instantly via Twitter. We’ll also post updates on our site and elsewhere, but the very first news will come via Twitter.

 

Quick hits: Universal’s next five years will “blow your mind”

In their zealous quest for information, our sources not only uncovered intel for the next several weeks, they also dug up some pretty hefty bombshells for the next several years.  Unfortunately, we can’t share all of it with you right now – there was something about the possibility of Comcast hit squads being deployed – but we’re more than happy to share a few choice morsels to gnaw on while waiting in line for Diagon Alley technical rehearsals.

2016: in case you didn’t already know, King Kong will be making his triumphant return in the form of Skull Island in Islands of Adventure. Word from our sources not only corroborates nearly all of the original ride details that were leaked three months ago by others, it also goes one step further to make mention of a projection tunnel that your ride vehicle will venture down, presumably in the climax that features Kong on the rampage.

2016/2017: with the addition of a killer new water park and a fifth on-site hotel – both of which may be connected, incidentally – word has now sprung up that Universal is currently R&Ding a Disney-like monorail system to connect all three parks, all five resorts (yes, even Cabana Bay Beach Resort), and CityWalk. In one fell stroke, Universal would be mitigating the major drawback of its new properties – their distance from everything else – and coming that much closer to being on Disney’s own level (save for the 12,000 acres in difference between their two sizes, of course).

Disney-monorail

One of our very own.

2020: the last of Universal’s “crazy” projects will have finished construction and be opened to guests, literally changing the face of Universal Orlando Resort. Some of these enterprises are so top-secret right now, only the vaguest of hints are being whispered, and then only in the shadows. You want our best (public) guess as of this moment? Let’s say four parks total, with somewhere around six or seven hotels/timeshare complexes, that include whole swaths of rides, attractions, and restaurants that are entirely, built-from-the-ground-up new.

How’s that to get your heart pumping and your tongue wagging?

 

Keep the conversation going!

Agree or disagree with the latest intel? Think we forgot something juicy? Want to offer your own take on the wildest rumors?

Well, then, join us at the brand-new OI Forums and tell us – in fact, we’ve got a great new poll we’d love you to vote in.

What’s more, we’re celebrating our Grand Opening all throughout the month of April – meet our community and enter for your chance to win one of three $100 Universal gift cards! Here’s the grand opening announcement.

 

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

Orlando Informer will be viewed over 10 million times in 2014, and among those viewers are some folks with pretty strong connections to Universal Orlando. As they contact us with insider intel, we collect their information and combine it with our own research to produce our weekly Rumor Round-Up. When information comes to us directly, we cite “our sources”; when information comes from outside our network, we always cite it as such and provide links to the original source. This is our 107th rumor post, and we’re proud to have provided our readers with compelling stories as we share our thoughts and actively promote dozens of other websites.

Despite the excitement that can come with covering rumors, we ask our readers to be ever-mindful that, unless explicitly stated as fact, everything we cover here must be considered a rumor and unofficial. If you’re ever confused by what is what, we invite you to join us for free in the OI Forums, where you can ask our vacation planning community for clarification and seek advice for anything else regarding your plans to visit Orlando.

Get your questions answered in the OI Forums

View all of our Rumor Round-Ups

 

About the author

Marc N. Kleinhenz’s first dream in life was to be an astronaut. His second was an Imagineer. While neither completely worked out, he now writes books, flash fiction, and articles for 24 sites and counting (including IGN, The Escapist, and The Huffington Post). He’s co-created two podcasts and has even taught English in Japan. Imagineering school won’t be too far behind.
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27 comments
Chattanooga Ghost Tours Inc
Chattanooga Ghost Tours Inc

I think I was off a day in my predictions- last time, it opened on a Friday, and the Friday of the week I predicted is June 20, not 21. NBC will be broadcasting from Universal this upcoming Friday, and the grand opening date will almost certainly be announced then. So you only have a few more days to get your predictions in!

Flo Rida Uni Versal
Flo Rida Uni Versal

I would love a Marvel themed hotel, even though Disney might buy out the rights to Marvel rides, *sigh*. Lost Continent should become a Lord of the Rings or a Hobbit Land, although they shouldn't get rid of Mythos and I am not quite sure how that will fit in. Skull Island will be cool up in IOA, will it be considered a new island? Suess Land will get the Lorax Dark Ride, should be okay. Toon Lagoon might be safe for a while longer consodering the new Popeye movie coming out. Not sure where the Phase 3 of Potter Land will go... Maybe the fourth park? The third park, the water park, may just take over Wet'n'Wild? The Twister ride in USF needs to be turned into a different ride.... same with Shrek 4D. Woody Woodpecker coaster will probably not be destroyed, but just refurbished considering the new Woody Woodpecker movie coming out. Or maybe they should move it to a different location... Toon Lagoon? KidZone could go four ways in my opinion. It could become Supper Silly Fun Land, A Dreamworks Zone- with How to Train Your Dragon, revamp of Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, etc. or a Snoopy Charlie Brown kind of zone. The fourth one is my favourite one, Bikini Bottom. It could have Krusty Krab, Chum Bucket, Mrs Puff's Boating School ride and Glove World. Last thing, SPRINGFIELD NEEDS TO BE BIGGER!!! WE NEED THE SIMPSONS STREET, POWER PLANT, BARNEYS BOWLARAMA, ETC

CaptainAction
CaptainAction

All the great information here at Orlando Informer helped me get my family of 5, from Texas, in with the first 200 guests at Transformers! It was so great. When I say first 200, I mean after the construction folks, Universal folks, and their families.

One of our truly great family memories. We might have been in the first 100 because we just had to estimate. You folks at orlando Informer are VERY accurate. Thanks again.

I think familes in the near future will join our family in making the decision to skip or GREATLY minimize WDW in their vacation plans. It's just too expensive at WDW to spend vast amounts of money to take a family to a theme park museum (I coined this term by the way). Just nothing to get excited about at WDW for the last 10 years. That was enough patience for our family.

We just hit Universal and WDW water parks but now Universal is going to fix the water park situation so good bye Blizzard Beach.

WDW plans are to TRAP guests with Magic Handcuffs (I coined this too) and free bus rides.

Universal is ATTRACTING guests with over the top attractions, resorts, and experiences.

This difference cannot be overlooked.

Brittani Blades
Brittani Blades

I was hoping to make a trip up there again the week of the 22nd but I want to be nowhere near that place when Diagon Alley opens! lol

DragoHarley
DragoHarley

I see what Disney is trying to do with Avatar at Animal Kingdom, create an immersive environment, but it's just not going to be as good or as appealing as the Potter projects at Uni. The only thing that could match Potter is Star Wars at Disney. If Disney actually stopped being so cheap and lazy and went to the effort of building a Star Wars land as intricate and as immersive as the Wizarding World then Disney would have something incredible. Avatar will be interesting, for sure, and I am sure they will do a nice job...but it just won't be mind-blowing. It will, however, achieve Disney's goals of keeping people in DAK longer and having them say into the dark. That's really what Avatar is for, making DAK a full day park. 


Will they ever build Star Wars? I don't know anymore. As a fan of seeing cool things get built, I've kind of given up on Disney at this point. Nothing they are doing right now excites me the way the Potter construction and soon the Jurassic Park construction is exciting. Universal having a monorail is a psychological game-changer. That really makes it on the level of Disney. It also will make Disney look bad for not having a monorail go to all its resorts and all its parks. 


Very smart moves by Universal in all this.

Johnny Paduani
Johnny Paduani

I'm just hoping I can get on the Hogwarts to diagon alley with the expected crowds.

Charlotte Beardmore Beck
Charlotte Beardmore Beck

Not sure if it's any help but we were there totally by chance for the soft opening of Harry Potter World. We hovered around the gates chatting to the staff about when it was opening etc and the next thing we knew we were took through. It was fantastic.

DanandWic
DanandWic

Eeee, how exciting! We're visiting May 6 through May 20! Thank you for another great post ^__^ 

noelballantyne
noelballantyne

Excellent news, we will be there last week June, first week july. there is a very excited ron weasly fan that cant wait. 

Marshall Green
Marshall Green

Looks like we will be there right when the madness is going to begin. Miranda Seaman Green Lea Ann Gallant

Scott Hartman
Scott Hartman

I am now following on twitler because I need to know the second soft openings start. I will leave work and drive over there to check it out.

Chris Sanders
Chris Sanders

Forget potter what has me excited is 2020 just the possibility of four parks is awesome

Melanie Eckroth
Melanie Eckroth

Finally some idea of a date. Excited but not looking forward to the crowds!

HelenB
HelenB

I am so relieved by this post! We will be at Universal from July 21-23 and I had been worried by your recent predictions of Diagon Alley opening on July 1. Seems like we should have some opportunity for soft openings at least during our visit, with a possibility of being there opening weekend!


So.... any thoughts as to when an official announcement of opening day might come?

Louis Prizzi
Louis Prizzi

I'll b there may 20th... hoping for small crowds so I won't b too upset if its not up and running....

Ian Nagle
Ian Nagle

The future certainly looks promising for universal studios!! Can't wait to see diagon alley in September!

Christina Nikolajevs Voies
Christina Nikolajevs Voies

Yay! We will miss it! We are florida residents and while we like the HP movies and area we are by no means die hard fans so avoid in the crowds is great!

Charlisse Wilson
Charlisse Wilson

If they open on the 22 June I will miss it by 8 days :-( I'm staying at the hard rock hotel so fingers crossed we get a chance of a 'soft opening' very exciting stuff

BrianArmstrong
BrianArmstrong

Universal studios from day one has wanted to match and beat WDW. It beats it in thrill rides no doubt. There are two kind of trips when you go to Orlando, an Orlando trip where you hit several places or a Disney Trip (self explanatory.) Universal now has the resources with Harry Potter World income to expand as much as they can in size. We all know about WDW amount of land and the Avatar expansion (which I can see being their thrill ride additions) but Universal is just expanding in leaps and bounds. There goal has been and looks to be on track to add a third type of trip to Orlando, a Universal Studios trip. Diagon Alley will break all records, nothing new I am stating, what it does though is it adds a major surplus of income into the company that will be put back into the park to create more trips. Now I just can't wait till May 2015 so I will be down there.

Bethany Bro
Bethany Bro

Awesome! I sure hope they pick annual pass holders for a soft opening or two!

CaptainAction
CaptainAction

I'm rooting for Spongebob land. Spongebob could replace Barney and Curious George. Need a Spongebob dark ride too.

OrlandoInformer
OrlandoInformer moderator

@HelenB I'm expecting the Diagon Alley grand opening announcement right around the end of April or the first days of May (which, by the by, is the same time they announced the grand opening date for Transformers last year, which also opened in mid-June). 


I'm also thinking that Universal will do some sort of buildup to the Diagon Alley announcement, so we may very likely hear that the press have been sent invitations or something along these lines in the next week or so.

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