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.