Wizarding World of Harry Potter Phase 2 Rumors
As a self-proclaimed theme park expert, I followed the creation of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter from the day the project was announced until the grand opening, and I continue to follow every minor enhancement made even after opening. I have visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and as a park guest and a themed entertainment enthusiast, this new land for Universal’s Islands of Adventure is amazing. The level of detail is incredible, and the magic of walking into Hogsmeade Village for the first time is truly breathtaking.
The success of the Wizarding World continues on, as tens of thousands of people flock to Universal’s property to visit Harry’s world daily. Harry Potter fans can be picked out rather easily as they sport Gryffindor robes, magic wands, and butterbeer mustaches. Theme park fans enjoy the land as well, as they continually hop in the queue to experience the signature E-ticket of the area, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Although the area is much less than a year old, fans are already anxious for an expansion. This is certainly understandable; Harry’s world is so fantastic that guests are longing to explore more of it. So is an expansion to the Wizarding World in the works for the future? In short, yes, but the timing and the magnitude of that expansion are the subjects of some debate.
It would be an understatement to say that the Wizarding World was a success. Before it even opened, every rational human being knew that the Wizarding World would be unbelievably popular. When Universal released their third quarter statistics, there was concrete proof of the success. In the third quarter alone, attendance rose 36%, a full one million visitors. Profit absolutely skyrocketed, so from a money-making perspective, an expansion could very well be in the future.
As some may not know, the Wizarding World was built upon both used and unused land. About half of the former Lost Continent section of Universal’s Islands of Adventure was re-imagined into Hogsmeade, and the other half remained a smaller version of Lost Continent. The former Lost Continent was composed of three smaller lands: the Greek, Arabian, and Medieval lands. The Wizarding World only replaced the Medieval land and some vacant land between Lost Continent and Jurassic Park.
The expansion of the Wizarding World would mean one of two things: renovation of part of Jurassic Park or renovation of part of Lost Continent. The most popular expansion area is the Arabian section, which would mean the removal of The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad, the Mystic Fountain, and various shops and carnival-type games.
This could be possible, but what is left of the Harry Potter universe needs to be examined. The most fantastic events in Harry’s life occurred at Hogwarts Castle, which is already a part of the Wizarding World. Most other events occurred with Voldemort, who has been largely excluded from the Wizarding World. Only small references to Voldemort can be found around the area.
It would be very difficult to include Voldemort in an attraction. First, the Wizarding World is a theme park land that is “frozen in time,” meaning that when guests enter the Wizarding World, they not only enter a different place, but they enter a different time. The Wizarding World is set somewhere around the fourth book (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), plus or minus one book. Though I am by no means a Potter expert, I can’t imagine an encounter with Voldemort in a theme park attraction that could turn out positively. Harry cannot defeat Voldemort based on the time period, nor could he protect several Muggles at one time. Besides, Harry is already featured in an attraction, and it would be odd to have Harry in two places at once (1. No time turner jokes, and 2. It’s been done, but with animated characters and not when two attractions are a few hundred feet from one another.) I just can’t imagine a good attraction that includes Voldemort without being a passive experience, which I believe is why designers did not include him in “Phase 1.”
The best ideas I have heard (and I do not take credit for these ideas) involve either adding a small Diagon Alley expansion or a larger London section. Proposed attractions included The Leaky Cauldron restaurant, a virtual Hogwarts Express simulator/restaurant, the original Ollivander’s, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Gringott’s attraction (namely, a roller coaster), etc. If any of these were to happen, it would likely be a smaller Diagon Alley expansion.
The Wizarding World could certainly use another eatery, since it currently only has the Three Broomsticks restaurant, which is difficult to eat in even on a non-peak day. The Leaky Cauldron is one of the more popular restaurants in the Harry Potter universe, so it is a good candidate for the possible expansion, but there are serious problems with a Hogwarts Express restaurant. Reasons include the facts that the train is not a restaurant, guests want to eat and run as they please, it could make people sick, and there already exists a static model of the engine. Ollivander’s could be good because the existing one has lines longer than most attractions, so it would help with capacity, though it would be odd for the original Ollivander’s to open after the franchise location. Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes would be fun, but likely impractical, since Zonko’s already exists. The Gringott’s coaster concept sounds good in some aspects, but many questions need to be asked (Why are we in Gringott’s? Are Muggles allowed to have accounts? Is the attraction nothing more than withdrawing money?).
Above all of these questions, it should be asked: what is the Wizarding World missing? Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a strong E-ticket, and Dragon Challenge is at least a solid D-ticket, if not an E-ticket. Counting the dragons separately, the Wizarding World has three coasters. Do more large attractions need to be added, or should smaller experiences for Harry Potter fans be added? I’d love an attraction where Muggles can learn the basics of broom flying. Perhaps some theatrical magic demonstrations would be enjoyable, since the park is really lacking shows. A Diagon Alley expansion with little experiences is the way to go with an expansion.
I'm typically reserved about making bold predictions, but I do guarantee that if some sort of expansion were built, it would pale in comparison to "Phase 1," because there are few significant and recognizable locations left in the Harry Potter universe, and of those, they all fall short of the beauty and wonder of Hogwarts Castle. Beyond that, the designers set the bar so high with Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, it would take years to outdo an attraction of that stature.
Many people are saying that it would be silly for Universal not to expand the Wizarding World because they made so much money. But this is what sets amusement parks apart from theme parks. Amusement parks add new rides when the budget shows the correct numbers. Alternatively, creating theme parks is an art form. Those in disbelief should compare the design of theme parks to the design of films and stage performances. All have a linearly paced narrative, all have backstage areas, but those audience members that allow themselves to be consumed by a compounding story can enjoy quality entertainment. J.K. Rowling, if she wanted to, could likely find a way to write an eighth Harry Potter book, and it would sell, because it is Harry Potter. But she chose to finish the series, because Harry’s adventures were complete, and the series was a masterpiece. I see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as a fantastic masterpiece, and if the designers are satisfied with their work, then I am too.