Friday, December 9, 2011

Wizarding World II-news update

Well, it’s official. The Wizarding World is moving into Universal Hollywood. I’m not sure what attractions it will replace, but I do remember Universal saying that they would demolish anything to install it. That’s devotion!

Also, we Floridians are lucky to get an expansion of the Wizarding World at IoA. However, for the first time in theme park history, this will be a land spread out over TWO parks. Universal knows how to rake more money back into the Studio park, and that’s to charge separate admission to half of the world of Harry Potter. Smart move, guys. Check and mate.

What has not yet been announced is the attraction line-up for this new area. (And myself and others still assume it is taking the place of Amity Island.) The rumors from inside officials tell us that this will be the London side, and the Hogwarts Express will take guests over to the original land that opened last year. So, basically one Muggle side, and one Wizard side.

I’ve heard rumors that guests will enter The Leaky Cauldron to enter Diagon Alley. No doubt Universal will provide some kind of interactive entryway to re-create the effect of a moving brick wall. If Diagon Alley is re-created, then we can assume that Gringotts Bank will be there. Seems most people claim a mine train coaster will go here, but I think that sounds like a fantasy some fans cooked up at the moment. Then again, I could be wrong.

There are many ways this area could be re-created. Obviously, it has to look and feel different than Hogsmeade over in IoA so that the same experience isn’t repeated twice. This is why I’m guessing that there will be no snow or wintery themes here if we are under the assumption that it is always winter in Hogsmeade. The authenticity of the products sold in the original area were so well done, so it’s obvious this level of placemanship will return. Expect spell books, wands, cauldrons, and other authentic props. I’d personally like to see the Monster Book of Monsters as a battery-operated toy that would snap its fangs at customers.

If Hogsmeade had the Owlery, maybe this new street will have a pet shop, even if it’s just for show. I doubt we’ll be seeing Knockturn Alley, though. Maybe there will be some signage promoting it, but I don’t think Universal Studios would care for dark wizards wandering around the premises.

Now, no one knows anything for sure. These are just my own speculations and personal preferences based on what I’ve heard and seen so far. One thing I can predict that I know WILL be a big issue is that Universal is doing this partially to spite Disney. With its Fantasyland rehab in Magic Kingdom, and its Carsland and Buena Vista Street installation over at California Adventure, Disney is really trying to catch up financially to the success their rival has received on the first Harry Potter area. The announcement of an Avatar-themed land for Animal Kingdom is also due to this. But, unless these new attractions prove to give Disney a complete 180 degree turn, it seems Universal will still be number one destination in Orange County, at least for now.

What do you think? Discuss in the comments below.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sudden News Break

On January 12th, we will mourn the loss of an old friend:

RIP, Bruce. We'll miss you.

On the other hand....

More Harry Potter attractions! Squeeee!!!

Oh, but those of us in Florida have to wait for them. Well, that's a bummer...

Here's what Universal had to say:

Hey fans, we want you to be the first to know… JAWS! and the Amity area will officially close on January 2 to make room for an exciting, NEW, experience we’re planning for you. We know you love JAWS! and we do too. It has been an amazing attraction and after terrorizing the waters of Amity here at Universal Orlando for 20 years, it’s a VERY important part of our history. So, we’ve got a couple things planned to ensure we always remember and honor it. We know it’s hard to say goodbye, but we can’t express how EXCITED we are about the new, innovative & amazing experience we’re going to be bringing you.

Well, I know I wasn't excited when I first heard the news. Jaws is a big part of their heritage and the park's older identity as a showcase of classic films. However, if we get a big expansion in its place just like we did with Wizarding World, this could be interesting. The landscape of the Florida market could be changed yet again. 

However, we now have this to debate: the possibility of several new locations of Hogwarts around the globe. On one hand, more fans will be able to experience this great attraction. On the other hand, will this cheapen the Florida location? Having only one Wizarding World really makes one feel like this is THE real thing. But, it might be nothing. This reminds me how many scoff at old reports from 1955 that address the harm of many "little Disneylands" placed throughout the globe. Then again, maybe they still have a point...

Here's the official press release:

The new “Harry Potter” addition in the Los Angeles park, Universal Studios Hollywood, will likely resemble the one in Florida, these people say, which includes a Hogwarts Castle, roller coasters, and several Potter-themed restaurants including the Hog’s Head tavern, which serves butterbeer, as in the books. If the new section succeeds, more “Potter” attractions could open in other parts of the world where Universal has theme parks, including Japan, Singapore, and Spain, say people close to Universal.”

Amusement Parks as Movie Sets: Part 1

I’m trying something different this time. Let’s analyze some parks that served as filming locations for various movies through the decades. There are so many, so count on this being an ongoing series. Many sites list these locations, but my goal was to be a bit more in-depth.

Closed For the Season-2008

This first one is an indie movie shot at my local Chippewa Lake Park in Medina, Ohio. The park had been sitting in ruins since 1978 and was about to be torn down. The director asked if he could have the site to film a horror movie on the spot before demolition. This was a great idea since the location was very ominous and creepy looking. The remains of the fun house (and former bath house), the old cuddle bug, and Cyclone coaster could be seen here for years. After the film was shot, the site was finally cleared. Today, the ferris wheel still remains, no doubt due to its large size. Check out the trailer and be sure to check out these sites for some great photos of the Chippewa ghost town:

KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park-1978

One of my favorite camp films was shot at Magic Mountain, and so much of the park is shown that this movie really acts as a nice time capsule. The history of the film itself is a thrill ride of its own, and if you’re interested in low budget disasters, I urge you to read up on it.

The concert scenes were filmed in the parking lot. Admission to Magic Mountain included a free KISS concert at night so that the filmmakers could get some crowd footage. What a deal! I can ride Goliath AND see one of the biggest rock bands of the time AND become an extra in a movie!? I’m in! The nightly fireworks that followed the show were also in the movie. Here’s an 88mmfilm one of the crowd members filmed:

I can’t say for certain if the “animatronics” on the midway were actually park of the park or just made for the movie. Doubtful they were already there. However, Goliath and Colossus were used throughout the film. Colossus was still under construction during this season, but it was used regardless. Cars going up the Goliath lift hill are visible in the opening scene. Colossus was used consistently throughout. It’s the coaster that the giant-sized Gene Simmons stands over in the opening credits. It’s also where the fight with the flying monkey-type villains was shot. Furthermore, there’s a part early on when the manager walks under the support beams of the ride, giving the viewer a very clear view of how it looked at the time.

You may also notice that the park manager mentions the mascot character signage of Freddy the Fox was removed without his approval. You may also notice various animal characters decorating the park. Now, I’m not sure if these were ever really there or if they were made for the film. In the early 70’s, Magic Mountain had the Troll mascots. Later, they would use the Loony Tunes during the Six Flags years. 

Not sure what hippie on the Magic Mountain board came up with these "Trolls."

Revolution is also visible in the film, and the band members ride in the Scrambler in the opening musical sequence.

Final Destination 3-2006

The coaster of death and mayhem was Corkscrew, a steel  sit-down coaster at Playland Park in north-east British Columbia. The giant devil in front of the queue line was made for the film, so don’t expect to see him at the ride.


Here’s another campy classic about a bomb threat at an amusement park. The locations in this film were chosen by a group of candidates. First, we have Virginia’s Ocean View Park:

In the movie, the park’s main coaster is called The Rocket. In real life, this known as The Southern Belle.

Quite a few landmarks from King’s Dominion are visible. Here’s the iconic Eiffel Tower:

Since this was the era when the park’s children’s area was themed to Hanna-Barbara, some of the characters can be spotted. Here’s a shot with Fleegle from the Banana Splits in the background:

The Singing Magic Mushrooms can also be seen. Only in the 70’s…

Here’s the old Safari Monorail that was torn down during the Paramount years:

The finale of the movie takes place at Magic Mountain! Wow, that place had a lot of exposure to the Grindhouse audience.

Many rides are seen in the film at MM such as the Shenandoah Lumber Co. The bomber even tries to blow up Rebel Yell! The finale takes place at the then-still new Revolution, the first coaster to have a complete 360 degree vertical loop. In fact, the ride has a commemorative plaque outside the queue commemorating the spot where the filming took place.

Here’s the trailer to the film.

I'll have more soon as well as some new features.

**Special thanks to MiceChat for some of the pics.