Monday 5 December 2011

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The Wizarding World of Harry Hollywood

It seems like a little bit of a strange time for it, with the final movie having just been released on DVD, but apparently Universal Studios Hollywood is getting it's own version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Don't go line up yet though, the park isn't expected to be open until 2015 at the earliest, thus ensuring that I should possess at least a couple more of those medical conditions which will stop me from riding. I'm betting on the high blood pressure, back and neck problems, and motion sickness. Essentially every condition will apply to me except "expectant mothers should not ride". If that one becomes a problem for me, keep reading, because somewhere in the next four years this blog is going to get very, very interesting.

While I'm thrilled that there's going to be a west coast version of the Wizarding World, I'm a little curious as to why they're putting it at Universal Studios. I know the Florida version is at Universal, but my understanding is that the first choice for a California Harry Potter park was Disneyland. Not to knock Universal, but they're a little tighter for space out there. To fit in something the size of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, they're either going to have to close down some of their backlot, or replace a bunch of rides. I'm not sure how feasible it would be to close any of their filming areas, and I can only think of a few rides that are in desperate need of replacing at the park. Perhaps the plan is to combine a couple of the rides. The Wizarding World of the Simpsons would probably pique the curiosity at the very least.

Outside of the space issue however, I have another concern with visits to Hogwarts forcing me to go to Universal. I have some sort of inability to avoid valet parking at this park. I never use valet at theme parks, but no matter what I do, I always end up with somebody asking for my keys when I go to Universal. It's amazing! I've tried all three of the labelled lanes: "Valet Parking", "Self-Parking", and even "Exit from Park", but for some reason I always end up at the valet, and I just can't bring myself to be that guy who pulls up to the valet and asks for directions to the self-park. I just budget the extra $15 or $20 and tell my kids that their Dad loves them so much he just couldn't bear to make them walk all the way from the self-park (Which usually brings up a chorus of "Oh yeah Dad? Then explain where we park at Six Flags!).

The best thing to come out of this announcement however, isn't the opening of yet another theme park area in California. While the arrival of the Forbidden Journey is a huge bonus, the real importance of the Wizarding World announcement is that soon (well, 4 years from now) we'll be able to have Butterbeer on the West Coast. If you've never had one, I
imagine that this seems like rather secondary news to you, but believe me, this is the aspect of the plan you want to be focused on. Butterbeer is the first drink since my college years to inspire the phrase "Another round on me!", although I'm much more careful these days to note the number of people within earshot before allowing those words to slip out. It's so good that it can even inspire my youngest daughter, who has no interest in rides, to be enthusiastic about a visit to a theme park. If it can do that, it's a great drink, and somehow I guess it will be even better on the west coast where you can have a Butterbeer while watching the sun sink into the Pacific. It certainly sounds more appealing (and less like an AA warning sign) than having one while watching the sun rise over the Atlantic.

So a four year wait begins today. Universal Hollywood can really use this addition, as outside of the tram ride, pretty much everything in the park today pales in comparison to it's Orlando companion. Of course, in four years it's very possible that Harry Potter will be dated technology, and the West Coast will be playing catch up again. I'm not sure what the shelf life is on theme park attractions, but I can't imagine that you get to be top dog for very long unless you've got a steady stream of new attractions. Perhaps while they're waiting for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to be built, Universal Hollywood could build a temporary attraction to maintain interest. I'm thinking something like "Butterbeer: 3D". That would be enough to make me buy a seasons pass on it's own.