Wizarding World's Hogwarts Express Ride

On Thursday, we gave you an early look at Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, the new flagship ride of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter‘s new Diagon Alley expansion. But Gringotts is not the only ride that will be opening on July 8th 2014 — Universal Studios Orlando’s Diagon Alley actually expands the Harry Potter story over two theme parks, and at the connecting tissue at the center of it all is the Wizarding World’s Hogwarts Express ride. Today I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this new ride which spans two theme parks, and give you my reaction/thoughts on the experience.

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Lion King Concert 1

The big news this week is Universal Orlando’s expansion of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as you may have noticed from our extensive coverage. But the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts family has plenty to report as well. After the jump:

  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios is shutting down The American Idol Experience
  • No, the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is not closing
  • The Lion King is coming to Shanghai Disney Resort — in Mandarin
  • Go behind the scenes of the new Lion King show at Disney World
  • Check out Disneyland’s Frozen pre-parade featuring Anna and Elsa
  • Watch the first ad for Disneyland Paris’ Ratatouille attraction
  • See the special annual passholder Q&A for Universal’s WaterWorld

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Diagon Alley - Gringotts ride review
Last night I attended a special advance preview of Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley expansion. The new land, which opens in Universal Studios Orlando park on July 8th 2014, is incredible. I’ll detail the land further in future posts, but for now I will say this — its much bigger than you could ever expect and contains so much entertainment, so many cool experiences, and pieces of unique merchandise and cool food options. Its truly magical.

But this morning I thought I should give you my first impressions of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, the new flagship attraction which is the center of the new Diagon Alley expansion. Hit the jump to read my Gringotts ride review.

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Harry Potter Diagon Alley Opening Date Revealed

Harry potter stars announce Diagon alley opening date

I’m in Orlando covering the media happenings this week at Universal Orlando resort. This morning at the “State of the Universe” press conference, Universal heads and Harry Potter film co-stars were on hand to announce The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley opening date. Learn more after the jump.
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Guardians of the Galaxy Star Lord

The Guardians of the Galaxy are taking out Michael Jackson. Sort of. A new 3D preview of the upcoming Marvel film will replace the Captain EO film, starring Michael Jackson, at Disneyland in California beginning July 4. The same preview will appear at ABC Sound Studio in Disney’s Hollywood Studios for Walt Disney World Florida fans. Don’t worry though, EO is expected to return to the space later in the year. Read more about the  Guardians of the Galaxy Disneyland preview below. Read More »

Joker vs. Luke Skywalker

Mark Hamill appeared today at Star Wars Weekends 2014, the annual Star Wars celebration at Walt Disney World. While appearing on stage for a discussion, Hamill was asked if he could voice a conversation between Luke Skywalker and Batman villain The Joker. Many of you probably know that in addition to starring in George Lucas’ epic trilogy, Hamill voiced The Joker in  animated television series and video releases.

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Walley World roller coaster

Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California has announced that they will be closing their iconic roller coaster Colossus on August 16th 2014 after more than 36 seasons of operation. The wooden coaster has been in operation for 36 years, and has appeared in many television shows and movies.

The roller coaster was featured in the opening credit sequence of the TV series Step By Step (the Lambert-Foster family rides Colossus) and in National Lampoon’s Vacation as the Walley World roller coaster called Screemy Meemy (although it should be noted that it was not the main metal roller coaster which appeared in this sequence of the film, that coaster is the Magic Mountain Revolution).

The coaster was also featured on tv episodes of Wild & Crazy Kids, Doogie Howser, M.D., Knight Rider, Wonder Woman, and The A-Team. It appeared in other films like the 1982 teen film sex comedy Zapped! starring Scott Baio.
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Mark Hamill Lightsaber

Update From Editor Peter Sciretta: Disney has released a video showing Mark Hamill playing around with the lightsaber at his DisneyWorld photoshoot with Mickey Mouse. Last time I saw Hamill at Comic-Con he was large — Its nice to see Hamill has gotten back in shape for Episode VII. The original story from Germain follows and the new video is embedded after the jump.

We all know what a thirty-year-old Mark Hamill looks like holding a lightsaber. That’s it above. But what does a sixty year old Hamill look like? That’s the question fans have been wondering for sometime as the actor gets ready to return to the role of Luke Skywalker for J.J. AbramsStar Wars Episode VII.

Hamill has yet to start shooting the film, though. He’s instead fulfilling some other Disney/Star Wars duties. The actor is currently in Orlando, Florida for Star Wars Weekends at Walt Disney World and posed with a lightsaber, giving fans some idea of what to expect come December 18, 2015. He also talked to the local paper about his training for the film and the crazy spoiler culture. See Star Wars 7 Mark Hamill and read his quotes below.

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