universal california harry potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida is nothing short of amazing. It’s the kind of stunning, next-generation step forward theme park fans hope to see every decade or so. The sense of place, the small Wizarding community of Hogsmeade and the the nearby Hogwarts Castle, is astonishing. The rides, namely Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, do things we’ve never seen done before. It’s a triumph of design and execution.

It’s also increased attendance at Universal’s Florida parks enough to get Disney nervous, so it was inevitable that Universal would eventually bring their Harry Potter attractions to their California location. Why make mountains of gold Galleons on one coast when you can rake in the big bucks on both? Now, nearly four years after it was announced, a new video tour has been released, giving us our first look at the Universal Studios Hollywood version of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that isn’t a gallery of construction site photos.

Check out the new video for the Universal California Harry Potter attractions after the jump.

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walking dead ride

You can say a lot of things about the still hugely popular The Walking Dead – it’s thrilling, disgusting, boring, repetitive, suddenly-good-after-all-these-years, and/or just-as-bad-as-ever – but you won’t find many people calling it “fun.” The series is punishing at best, putting its characters through the wringer and asking audiences to continually sympathize people who have become worse than the monsters they’re fighting.

So it may be a little weird that AMC‘s flagship series is becoming a theme park ride. Just a little.

Sally Corp, who build animatronics and attractions for museums and theme parks, has revealed The Walking Dead: Battle For Survival at this year’s International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) convention in Orlando, Florida. The “mixed media” dark ride is already fully designed. It just needs a buyer and a home.

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star wars launch bay

For the next few weeks, the Disney’s patented Synergistic Marketing Machine is going to kick into a gear we’ve never quite seen before. With Star Wars: The Force Awakens only a month away from release, the massive media conglomeration is embarking on a campaign to make sure that each and every human being on the planet with access to a movie theater knows about J.J. Abrams‘ sequel and is either excited about it or browbeaten enough to go see it out of obligation. It’s all the same in the end, right?

Disney’s most impressive feat of marketing has to be the Star Wars Launch Bay attraction that officially opened at several of their theme parks yesterday. This temporary exhibit (a prelude to the actual under-construction Star Wars lands arriving in a few years) shows off props and costumes from The Force Awakens, gives fans a chance to interact with a few Star Wars characters, and ultimately serves as a massive reminder that they love the original trilogy.

But Disneyland passes cost a literal arm and a leg these days (what is Disney doing with their new collection of limbs?) so you might as well watch videos from the exhibit at home in bed.

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2016 Universal Studios Hollywood Annual Passes

I’m a Disneyland-fanatic but I’m not one of those hardcores that hates on Universal Studios at every turn. I actually like Universal, and specifically their Studio Tour in Hollywood (although it needs some updates), their 4D Transformers ride and the incredibly detailed immersive experience they have created with Harry Potter. Last month Disney fanatics were sent into a tizzy when the Mouse House announced that they were raising the prices of Annual Passes, including the top pass with no black out days being raised 35% to $1049.

And we expected Universal Studios to raise their prices, especially considering The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be making its way to the west coast in Spring 2016. But I don’t think anyone would have expected them to announce three new annual passes, none of which allow full 365 day access to the parks and free parking privileges. Weekends during the Summer are blocked out even on the most expensive passes. Find out the details on the 2016 Universal Studios Hollywood Annual Passes, after the jump.

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pixar short film festival

When Captain EO returned to Disney theme parks around the world in 2010, everyone assumed it was a temporary thing, a quick buffer to capitalize on renewed interest in star Michael Jackson following his death. And then the bombastic, not-especially-good 3D musical short film (originally introduced into the parks in 1986) stuck around for five and half years like some kind of horrible rash for which there was no ointment.

Until now. It has been revealed that Captain EO is officially on its way out at Disney World’s Epcot park, where it will be replaced by a “Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival.” That’s not as exciting as an actual, proper new attraction, but as far as desperate stop-gaps go, it’s solid one… and it certainly beats more of Michael Jackson battling evil with the power of dance. If programmed well, this is a show that could play very well.

More on Epcot’s new Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival after the jump.

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Force Awakens Star Tours

At D23 Expo 2015, Disney announced that a seasonal Star Wars promotional event called Season of the Force would be coming to Disneyland in California and Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida. In California, the event would bring a new Star Wars skin of Space Mountain called Hyperspace Mountain, an updated version of the Jedi Training Academy show featuring the characters from Star Wars Rebels, an interactive meet-and-greet and experience area called Star Wars Launch Bay, and a new Force Awakens Star Tours experience.

Today Disney has released new information about the Star Tours ride experience that will bring park guests into the world of J.J. Abrams‘ new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Hit the jump to learn more and see video from the new ride experience.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Na’vi River Journey Avatar Avatarland

Disney has been teasing Disney World’s upcoming theme park land based on James Cameron‘s epic Avatar franchise for a few years now. But as we get closer to the land’s opening in early 2017, we’re beginning to get more details about the upcoming addition to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando Florida.  Right now D23 Expo Japan is going on and Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Bob Chapek shared some new information about the planned river ride that will be part of Pandora – The World of AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Hit the jump for more information.

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20th century fox world

As Disney and Universal continue to butt heads in the ongoing war between their theme park empires, 20th Century Fox is looking to enter the arena in a big way. Armed with the rights to some of the biggest and most beloved movie franchises of all time, they have the right ingredients for something special.

But most of you reading this are in for a bit of a trip if you want to visit the newly announced 20th Century Fox World. The new park and resort is heading to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where it will capitalize on the nation’s increasingly huge tourism industry. Hit the jump for more details.

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Star Wars Land

It’s been a while since the last Theme Park Bits, and I have a lot of bits saved up to discuss, including the following:

  • Universal Studios Hollywood launches a virtual tour of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • FastPass+-style tests being conducted at Space Mountain in Disneyland.
  • Watch a multi-angle perspective video of Fast & Furious: Supercharged.
  • Captain America will be leaving Disneyland next week.
  • Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land permit maps reveal Disney Hollywood Studios changes.
  • Could Disney World’s Star Wars Land open in time for Christmas 2018?
  • Marvel teases a new Haunted Mansion comic book series.
  • Disney World’s Hollywood Studios will launch a Disney villain-only dinner event called Club Villain.
  • New details on Animal Kingdom’s upcoming “Rivers of Light” show.

All that and more, in today’s Theme Park Bits. Hit the jump to board the ride.

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