Going Back to Hogwarts: Expectations for Diagon Alley


Wednesday’s big Wizarding World of Harry Potter announcement was a long time coming.

With strong rumors circulating as early as 2010, I’ve had quite a while to build up my wishes and expectations for the Diagon Alley expansion. This was mostly considered wishful thinking until the iconic Jaws ride was flattened in early 2012, leaving Diagon Alley all but confirmed.

That means that construction has been going on for a full year before the official announcement, with fan speculation for even longer.

So now that the expansion is on fandom’s radar, what can we expect from Diagon Alley? And how will it compare to Hogsmeade?

Bigger and Better

When the Hogsmeade concept was still in the works, Universal Orlando was a different resort entirely. Though it was definitely one of the Orlando heavy-hitters, it just wasn’t up to Disney standards and made it onto vacationers’ side-trips, if that. They weren’t necessarily strapped for cash, but they didn’t have today’s Potter profits to pull from.

I mean, they had to build their upcoming Transformers attraction in less than a year to not lose money to taxes; they have several expansions in the works; they’ve set a standard that Disney is having trouble meeting lately.

But let’s rewind.

As phenomenal as Hogsmeade is, with its attention to detail and J.K. Rowling’s constant approval process, corners were cut. The Whomping Willow animatronic in Forbidden Journey, for example, was initially meant to be far larger and have more, well, whomp to it. Budget cuts meant ol’ Whompy downgraded to only a few branches with sporadic movement.

This is to say nothing of the entire wand system that was cut out. Since Hogsmeade was announced, there were rumors of a fully interactive land where you’d purchase a wand, wave it at the right objects throughout the area, and have the object respond in kind. Magic, in short.

That’s not to say Hogsmeade doesn’t blow the rest of the theme park business out of the water. As small as the area is, there are details aplenty. Have you ever spent some time watching dishes wash themselves in an alley? Finding the snitch that’s missing from a certain shop display? Spotting the Ford Anglia in the Forbidden Forest?

Still, it’s only onward and upward from here.

  • http://twitter.com/BradAusrotas Brad Ausrotas

    Improved logistics is honestly the part I’m looking forward to most, besides the Goblin Coaster. While WWoHP felt so true-to-life, it over did it. The tiny shops were an insane decision and the only way the rides were spared was because of the room-key from the Royal Pacific that allowed me to skip them. Even for Night of a Thousand Wizards at Infinitus 2010, which limited the entire park capacity to 1400, had a 2 hour line for Ollivanders.

    • Claudia Morales

      I’m not holding my breath on bigger buildings/walkways, unless J.K. Rowling has had an enormous change of heart. Literally the only reason they’re as big/wide as they are now is because of fire safety restrictions and Universal begging her for some leeway. What I’m hoping for is better flow/crowd control, which should at least improve things a bit. Like, the new Olivanders is going to have several showrooms with more capacity (as opposed to the current tiny one-room deal). Buuut for fan events like NoaTW, WWoHP means Diagon Alley AND Hogsmeade, so that should alleviate things some.

    • http://twitter.com/themaddestcat Catherine W.

      I’m a park regular and would probably buy a lot more things if the stores didn’t make me a claustrophobic mess.

  • Teal (the-marauders-gps)

    A+. I’ve been wanting to go back to visit since I went the year it opened. And once I found out they would be adding to it, I knew I would have to wait until then to go back. But they said 2014, right? That’s only a year away and I cannot wait!

    • Claudia Morales

      Yup! 2014! Which honestly surprised some of us theme park geeks, since we were all set on it being 2015 for a while. But Universal is crazy with their construction schedules lately. Will we see you at Leaky 2014? It’s on Universal Orlando property!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimberly.slichter Kimberly Slichter

    From what I’m understanding, WWoHP will be in both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. If this is correct, then would we have to pay to enter both parks to access all or WWoHP or will there be some special method of dealing with this?

    Either way, I’ll pay the money. I’m just curious as to how much I have to save up.

  • Junorhane

    The most amazing time I’ve ever had at a theme park. Beautiful post.

    That idea of magic wands “working” throughout the park is amazing though! I wish that were there, maybe it’s not too late to add that in?

    As for the tiny stores, I wouldn’t want them too much bigger – but wouldn’t one solution be to make more of them – almost all the stores in Hogsmeade are just fake fronts, and Diagon Alley will probably be the same way.