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  1. The walls around London in USF and around Hogsmeade station in IOA are down. http://behindthethrills.com/2014/06/walls-come-down-around-diagon-alley-at-universal-orlando-as-harry-potter-gets-closer/ After participating in mock service last week, all I can say is that guests are going to be blown away with Diagon Alley. As incredible as Hogsmeade is, Diagon takes things to an entirely different level that even New Fantasyland doesn't do. It will be easy for guests to spend hours exploring....there are a lot of hidden gems that have not been announced nor can be seen from any pictures that are out there. :-) And Hogwarts Express is simply wonderful....
  2. From a guest satisfaction point of view, it's consistently been one of the highest in the history of HHN....also a very strong revenue driver for merchandise. Walking Dead is not the theme of the event, just a house.....a very large house! - Todd
  3. One is currently already running the course. It definitely provides a much better experience and is much smoother. Not B&M smooth, but enjoyable. While a lot of enthusiasts find it mediocre, it consistently gets high guest satisfaction scores...so the GP eat it up. Being able to ride it at least once a week usually, I guess I've just grown to enjoy it for what it is and now I really do enjoy riding it. By the way, GYK, great song choice!
  4. No one will argue that point. Universal will never beat Disney. What they can do, however, is keep people off Disney property for LONGER. With Comcast essentially giving the parks a blank check and openly discussing how much money they intend to invest in UOR, Disney will have a serious competitor at their door steps. Instead of a family spending a full 7 day vacation at Disney, they may only choose to spend 4 or 5...and spend their other 2 or 3 days down the road at Universal.
  5. One can hope. While Walt certainly envisioned that things should be ever-changing, its sad that TDO has really lost sight of that for the better part of the last decade. It's no secret that both DHS and Animal Kingdom are at the bottom of the ladder as far as the Florida parks are concerned, with most guests spending half day or so at each and then venturing over for an additional visit to Epcot or Magic Kingdom. At the current pace, there is an incredibly high possibility that Universal Studios will surpass Animal Kingdom and DHS in attendance with the opening of Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley next year. These attractions are sorely needed at both parks. I'm certainly not that excited about Avatar. Although I'm sure, like New Fantasyland, it'll turn out to be beautiful...the attraction line up just seems blah. I have to believe there is something innovative behind the "Soarin 2.0" ride, but right now current chatter is no. I'll also be curious to see if Avatar makes the registers ring as much as Potter did for Universal. I don't think it will, but time will tell. I'm far more excited about the extended hours, night time safaris and night show...I think those alone will go along way with keeping guests in park longer. The smartest thing on the horizon is leveraging the Star Wars brand. THAT will be a home run, no doubt about it, and that will affect DHS much like Carsland did for DCA. So yes, potentially a lot of exciting things on the horizon....never fear we have 4-5 years to keep speculating and discussing before anything sees the light of day. Meanwhile, down on the farm, you'll have two completely refreshed parks at Universal to enjoy before any of the above projects open.
  6. I just got back from SeaWorld a few minutes ago. Park opened an hour early due to the anticipated crowds. Fortunately, we were able to walk right into the ride. First of all, let me say the entire area is BEAUTIFUL. They really did an outstanding job at transforming what was a very dated area of the park. It is rich in detail, in a very Disney or Universal like fashion, and has a lot of hidden corners and areas to explore. The exhibit itself is very well done. You can get incredibly close to the penguins and the Park has continued its recent trend and enriching the animal encounters. The underwater viewing area is fantastic. Again, I think it is a nice improvement over what used to be. The ride? I'm not sure where to begin. The queue line is wonderful. The preshow rooms do a nice job of setting up the story of Puck. Unfortunately, that's about where it ends. The ride system is stunning and it was awesome to finally experience it after seeing prior installations that GYK pointed out. Our "wild" ride ended up with our pod being the only one going through. I've read that multiple pods are capable of going through the show, and it seems that way based on my observations, so I think it would be interesting to see them interact with one another. The ride does absolutely nothing and telling the story that was set up so well in the preshow. It is mostly a lot of pointless meandering with a few screens along the way with the animation of Puck. The elaborate theming from the queue doesn't quite carry over as much into the ride itself. There were a lot of dead spots with little to no theming at all. The ride ends with a quick view of the real penguins. It is incredibly short and if I waited more than 30 minutes for it I would be quite disappointed. I'm incredibly disappointed with the execution of this. It dumps you out into the exhibit, which really is 30 degrees inside. Crazy cold when you are in shorts and flip flops, but a nice touch and making the experience authentic. What I am disappointed to see is that it seems like you HAVE to ride the ride in order to see the penguins. This trend started with Turtle Trek and I don't like it at all. Hopefully with time, as the popularity dies down, this will change and you'll be able to by pass the attraction. Overall, the area really is a solid addition for SeaWorld and I do think it will be a game changer for them. While it is easy for us, as enthusiasts, to pick everything apart, the guests seemed to really be enjoying it. I do think that SeaWorld raised the bar for themselves as far as executing the area and it really does look spectacular. I'm looking forward to heading back after the Memorial Day crowds go away to try some of the new food options as well as the South Pole Chill. -Todd
  7. Fun Spot officially opened White Lightning to the public yesterday around 5pm. GREAT little ride. Fast paced, some quick direction changes, several quick pops of air time, and a 90 degree bank that is just strange but incredibly fun. They have a winner on their hands. I snagged an annual pass last night, so looking forward to getting many more rides on this guy!
  8. SeaWorld had a terrible year in 2010. This was also the year that they were fighting all of the negative publicity associated with the accident early in the year. They have since seen attendance climb in 2011 and 2012. More people coming to Orlando is good for all of the parks, you are absolutely right about that. What you mentioned above is what is the most important though. If they can get people to spend one less day on property at Disney, that can be significant.
  9. I agree that Walt Disney World will always be what people associate with Orlando. I don't agree, though, that these attractions won't help boost attendance numbers at UOR. Will Universal ever eclipse Disney in terms of attendance? I wouldn't say it is impossible, but extremely unlikely. Can they continue to invest in attractions that can help persuade people to spend a little less time on property at Mouse House...absolutely. I'm interested in seeing how the Gringott's attraction turns out as well. The show building is huge. There is still quite a bit of track yet to be installed. It's visible when driving down Hollywood Way just before you get to Royal Pacific.
  10. Agreed about two different demographics being served, then again I think that Potter can serve a much broader demographic than Fantasyland can. It is no secret that Potter definitely dinged WDW. Will Diagon Alley have the same impact? If it does, will the opening of SDMT be overshadowed by the new Wizarding World opening just a few miles down the road?
  11. Here's the thing. New Fantasyland is absolutely stunning. It's gorgeous. No doubt about it and I'm glad to see Disney go back to that level of detail once again. My biggest issue is there just isn't much to it. Belle's Enchanted Cottage features some amazing special effects, but at the end of the day it's still just a meet and greet. Little Mermaid has an incredibly elaborate queue that builds up to a very average and ordinary ride. Storybook Circus is very well done, but it was just a re-theme of an existing area in the park. Is Disney nervous about any of this? Part of me wants to believe that maybe it is sinking in that Universal is stepping up to be a very SERIOUS competitor with them. Then again, with the arrogance and complacency that is TDO...I have my doubts. As Disney has release their quarterly results, attendance at the US Parks & Resorts have been down....but they continue to sing the praises of Cars Land and its significant impact on the Disneyland result. If Disneyland and DCA are seeing such surges in attendance, it is pretty clear that the loss of attendance is coming from Florida. With Sea World stepping up its game with Antarctica and the new projects coming on line at Universal, which are reported to be only the beginning of the expansions that are coming down the pipe in the next few years, I have to believe that TDO have to have projects forthcoming.
  12. Meanwhile, a few miles down I-4, the 3 year construction of Seven Dwarves Mine Coaster will finally be completed....and new Fantasyland will finally be complete. Yawn. Come on, Disney....you can do better. In all seriousness though, this really is an amazing addition. It's already looking incredibly impressive and has already drastically altered the former Amity area in USF. Transformers. Springfield. Potter. USF is almost like a brand new park.
  13. It's official. The giant Megatron crash site at the Fairwinds building has been updated this morning with "Prepare For Battle June 20". http://www.baynews9.com/content/news/baynews9/on-the-town/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2013/5/2/transformers_the_rid.html - Todd
  14. There are a lot of rumors regarding soft opening....most of which all point to late May. So you may miss them by a week or two. Team Member previews have not began yet, but are expected very soon. They are ramping up on the viral campaign and advertising.... http://www.thedailycity.com/2013/05/transformers-in-downtown-orlando-on.html Very exciting times at Universal Orlando! - Todd
  15. Latest update with Antarctica. May 24th Grand Opening date. Made a loop around the park last week for Bands, Brews and BBQ...it's looks VERY good over there. Quite a transformation from the very dated Penguin Plaza we were all used to! http://www.orlandosentinel.com/travel/attractions/seaworld/os-dewayne-bevil-seaworld-antarctica-20130221,0,7506320.column Check out the pictures, incredible detail going into the rockwork! - Todd
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