["Hedwig's Theme" plays]
Andrew: Because we have a fire-breathing dragon to talk about for the first time in a long while, this is MuggleCast Episode 265 for May 8th, 2013.
[Show music begins]
Andrew: This week's podcast is brought to you by Audible.com, the Internet's leading provider of audiobooks with more than 100,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature, including fiction, non-fiction, and periodicals. For a free audiobook of your choice, go to AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast.
[Show music continues]
Andrew: Welcome to MuggleCast Episode 265. I know what everybody is thinking: How could you have fired Micah as the newsman? No.
Micah: That's a great question.
Micah: How could you fire Micah as the newsman?
Andrew: And if you did that, why is he still here?
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: I'm going to ask that question every episode. Every remaining episode. No, the real question is, why are we back only after a week and a half? That's shocking! [laughs]
Andrew: Are we back...
Micah: Must be something that happened in the news. [laughs] But I wouldn't know what that is because I've been fired.
Andrew: [laughs] Right.
Andrew: Well, we found out that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley is officially happening. Universal announced it on Wednesday morning, in line with the predictions it seems. I know MuggleNet had a prediction that the announcement would happen in four to six weeks, and then there was another rumor that said something similar. But I think this actually happened earlier than both of those. So maybe Universal just got really excited or they couldn't keep the secret any longer. [laughs] They realized, oh, this thing is like half built now and we still haven't announced it.
Eric: [laughs] Yup.
Andrew: Because they're actually working on a Transformers ride down there that hasn't opened up yet, so people thought it would be after Transformers. But anyway, we got the announcement. And I have to say, it was a little... what they announced was not surprising because we've known basically everything that they have announced for so long. We knew about Gringotts, we knew about the Hogwarts Express connecting the two lands, we knew there would be Diagon Alley in the London area. There was one big surprise that we'll talk about a little bit later, but JK Rowling commented on today's story, of course. She said:
"I'm so pleased that 'The Wizarding World of Harry Potter' has proved so popular to date, and I'm sure that the attention to detail in creating the new Diagon Alley area will make this an even better experience."
Than Hogsmeade already is, I assume she means. What were you guys' initial reactions to this new land?
Micah: Clearly it's left Eric and I both speechless.
Micah: Which is saying something for Eric. But I actually didn't see this until about an hour or two ago, and the concept art to me is really great. I like the overall shot and the fact that you can see Hogwarts in the background.
Andrew: Yeah, isn't it beautiful?
Micah: It's iconic in a way, and if this is really how it's going to pan out... I don't really think the mountains are there.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Micah: I think that's a little bit of an embellishment. But overall I think...
Micah: ...that this new Diagon Alley area is really going to be something that people are going to enjoy. And I think it really rejuvenates the old Universal Studios. It gives people something to go and see, and I think that's probably more so than anything else - with no disrespect to Harry Potter - what Universal was looking for. They needed something to breathe life into this old park, and they've gotten it, and that's no pun intended, and I want to know how they expect to have a fire-breathing dragon in 90 degree heat, in the middle of Orlando.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: That's a good point. Okay, so I was going to save that, but I guess we'll talk about it now. In the concept art, you see this fire-breathing dragon on top of Gringotts. And this morning, I think everybody was in agreement that, "Oh, they just added that for embellishment to make the concept art come to life more." But it turns out, Universal has confirmed that there's actually going to be this dragon on... not a real dragon of course, but a dragon on top of Gringotts and it will breathe fire. How cool...
Eric: So where did we hear that it's going to breathe fire?
Andrew: This was a theme park Twitter account, a reputable theme park Twitter account. They said they got in touch with Universal, and they confirmed that that thing is actually happening. [laughs]
Eric: Because I can see it breathing steam, or in the case of, as Micah mentioned, the heat and the sun, if it would breathe mist even, like kind of hot but kind of refreshing mist out of its nose. Then I can see that coming. But fire? Yeah, I just don't know if that's a good idea.
Andrew: Well, I think there's two things that make it okay. For one, the dragon is really high up, so you may not feel the fire much. But also, it's not like the dragon is going to be constantly spewing fire for 18 hours a day. I bet it'll be maybe every 10 minutes and he'll breathe fire for maybe 15 seconds.
Micah: You've got to put a quarter in his back, so you've got to climb...
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Micah: ...all the way to the top and drop some change in there, and then he'll breathe fire.
Eric: Do you think there will be a riding the dragon, like riding a bull, the wild crazy bull ride?
Micah: It could be.
Eric: [laughs] I think, though...
Micah: A few too many Butterbeers and you never know what can happen.
Eric: That's true. That's very true. This reminds me of The Mummy... well, maybe The Mummy Returns ride, which is probably going to be very, very close to where they put Diagon Alley, if I'm remembering correctly, in the regular Universal Studios Park in Florida. But that ride, the reason I bring it up is because there's a wall of flames that always happens every time you ride that ride. It probably happens a 100,000 times a day, or week, or month. And... so flames... I mean, yeah, it may just be... it'll look really cool as a Harry Potter dragon, but I guess flames, fire, is just easier to create than we give it credit for.
Eric: Like, people in the future who are lost on desert islands and have to rub sticks together for fire will be so jealous because the Wizarding World [laughs] is going to do it from this dragon for nothing a hundred times a day.
Andrew: Yeah. It's going to be an awesome photo-op. I mean, think about standing below that thing when it's spewing fire. That's a permanent profile picture, if you ask me, on Facebook.
Andrew: Totally going to... at least three months. [laughs]
Micah: It's almost as cool as sitting on the Iron Throne.
Andrew: [laughs] You're right.
Eric: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, but see...
Andrew: I love that this is the fire piece... oh, sorry, the center piece of Diagon Alley. It's going to be not just Gringotts, but Universal really upped the ante and they put the dragon on top. That's going to be such a cool photo-op.
Eric: I do agree, but I worry about the attention being focused on one central area. Even in the Wizarding World theme park as it is, it's true you do have Hogsmeade and then the Hogwarts area, but basically Forbidden Journey is where the line starts, you know? And I feel like there will be people with Gringotts and the dragon. People will want to ride the ride and then other people will want the photo-ops.
Eric: But it will be very crowded.
Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. It is... I feel like there's going to be two major kind of photo-ops here. Of course there's going to be Gringotts and the dragon, but then also at the front of this new Diagon Alley land - which is London, essentially - you have the Knight Bus out front, and then you've just got the row of buildings on the outside including King's Cross where the Hogwarts Express is going to be inside when it pulls up. So, yeah, I could see... I mean, I think from the perspective we're looking at it in the concept art, Gringotts looks bigger than it actually may be.
Andrew: But time will tell. It's going to be cool seeing that from a distance too as you walk closer and closer to the Wizarding World of Diagon Alley.
Andrew: I mean, because the Simpsons ride is right across the way in that little lake. [laughs] You're going to be staring at the dragon after you walk out of the Simpsons ride.
Micah: Now, I'm more curious about the overall layout of this. So if I'm looking at the concept art right now, is it that you would come out of King's Cross station all the way on that left hand side sort of where those two arches are and then walk around?
Andrew: Huh, that's a good question.
Micah: Because I think most people would - and I don't know if this is also going to be included in this - want to go through the Leaky Cauldron to get to Diagon Alley.
Micah: Has there been any thought about that? Is the Leaky Cauldron somewhere in that set of buildings that sort of opens up into Diagon Alley with Gringotts all the way at the end there?
Eric: Talk about a bottleneck if that were the case. [laughs]
Andrew: Exactly. Because I'm thinking about the Three Broomsticks at the Wizarding World right now and having people constantly funneling through that to get in sounds like it would be annoying.
Micah: A logistical nightmare.
Andrew: That is a good question though because, of course, there is that iconic moment in Sorcerer's Stone. Hagrid...
Eric: Tapping the bricks.
Andrew: Right! They've got to have something like that, right? But then you have to think, well, how are they going to have a brick wall and then the brick wall... I would love to see them do a brick wall that magically opens somehow.
Eric: Oh, yeah.
Andrew: But imagine the waits. [laughs]
Eric: Yeah, I have no idea just how. And looking at the concept art... I understand Diagon Alley is supposed to be a little bit - what's the word - claustrophobic, but theme parks typically... correct me if I'm wrong, but they're better when they're open. They're better when there's a lot of room to move around.
Eric: And I really worry about lines and all of that other stuff impeding on the fun of this new park. Because the themes are going to be great. If there's special meals that British Muggles have that for some reason aren't at the other park, it'll be great. Gringotts ride, a lot of fun, no doubt. Nobody is questioning that, but I do question the size and the space and the time to walk around in this new park.
Andrew: I feel like this was a concern with the first Wizarding World Orlando as well, and their excuse was, "Well, in the books and movies everything is very cramped." Which - and you rightfully point out - that just doesn't work in the real world [laughs] when there's thousands of tourists.
Eric: No, there's a park... and the Islands of Adventure park is small, or it's equal... I want to say it's actually equally sized to the regular park. I could be a little wrong. But the first three or four months to maybe even eight months, depending on the day or holidays when kids were off school, there was a line for Forbidden Journey or for the Hogsmeade area of Islands of Adventure that stretched all the way around Islands of Adventure. They can't pull that [censored]...
Eric: ...forgive my French - with the new park. You just can't because eventually you're going to get people with tickets to both parks that are in line for the Hogwarts Express, to go to Hogsmeade, and they're going to be waiting in Hogsmeade.
Eric: Because the line is going to be so long all the way from Diagon Alley.
Eric: I can't understand this. And with Hollywood, when that opens, you already said there's not a lot of space. So they should come up with a design that works for large open areas, I think.
Micah: In due time, though, more of this will become available to us in terms of what this layout is going to look like. I'm sure you're going to have multiple Hogwarts Express so that there's always going to be one, at least, going to Hogsmeade, and then one going to Diagon Alley. I don't think that it's only going to be one track.
Micah: If they did that, that's going to bottleneck a lot of people - to your point, Eric - but I think as we learn more about what the landscape is going to look like and just how big this is going to be, I think it'll put people at ease. And to what you were talking about before, didn't a lot of that happen when the park first opened? So the expectation would be that you're going to have long lines no matter what. So once that goes over time, like we've seen with what exists already in Orlando, the lines are going to get shorter and they're going to be more manageable for people throughout the course of the day.
Andrew: Yeah. I think that's right. Imagine five, ten years from now when it dies down a little bit. Of course, these parks will be...
Micah: Five, ten years? Oh, man.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: These parks will be popular. And of course, Harry Potter will be popular for a long time, but after this initial summer it'll be much more bearable. And summertime in general is always so busy for the Wizarding World, or for theme parks, because that's when tourists like to go.
We're going to continue talking about today's exciting Wizarding World announcement in just a moment, but first it is time to remind you that today's episode is brought to you by Audible.com. Audible is the Internet's leading provider of audiobooks with more than 100,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature, including audio versions of many New York Times Bestsellers. For listeners of MuggleCast, Audible is offering you a free audiobook to give you a chance to try out their service. I have a timely recommendation for you this week: The Great Gatsby. It is about to be released in theaters. You can get it for absolutely free by visiting AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast. Now that it's summertime, we're all going to be spending more time out and about, enjoying the warm weather. And maybe you're walking around, maybe you don't want to carry a book around. Maybe when you're walking the dog or just going on a walk or run, or sitting out at the beach, closing your eyes, sitting by the lake, by the creek, by the river, all you've got to do is pop in your earbuds and listen to a book rather than actually reading it. Very, very great service, especially now, for summertime, when people are spending more time outdoors just relaxing. Visit AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast to get an audiobook - perhaps The Great Gatsby [laughs] narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal, I love that he narrated this one - for absolutely free. AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast. We thank Audible for their support of the show.
So now back on to the Wizarding World news, I was just thinking about how what if the Hogwarts Express breaks down.
Andrew: Because then, what if it's down and it's down for the entire day? Then people have to walk from one park to the other, and...
Micah: God forbid!
Andrew: Well, yeah. But...
Micah: I know, but the point is the experience. Say you're there for one day and that's all you get.
Andrew: And you bought the two-park ticket under the assumption...
Micah: I understand that. Yeah.
Andrew: Yeah. But if you guys think about the layout of Universal Orlando Resort, to get from one park to the other is kind of a hassle because both of these lands are buried in the back of each of these parks. So you've got to walk through the park again, walk out, walk through City Walk, then back to the other park. It is kind of a pain. [laughs]
Eric: That's not a bad point because if you...
Andrew: And I feel like you... when the park first opens, you're going to be able to walk faster from one park to the other than you will to wait in line for the train [laughs] because that line is going to be long.
Eric: Oh, but the train is the experience. It's the experience, Andrew.
Andrew: I know. What were you going to say, Eric?
Eric: I'm just wondering if there's going to be a walking path or something.
Andrew: That would be nice.
Eric: [laughs] Maybe the "stay fit, healthy" walking path in between the two Harry Potter parks in case the rides break down or something like that. Because if you already have both passes... and maybe they can call it something fun, like "Dobby's Route" or something.
Andrew: [laughs] Dobby's Route.
Eric: I have no idea.
Micah: Are you saying that he can't take the Hogwarts Express?
Eric: Well, when he... ideally, when he sealed the barrier, Ron and Harry were faced with the prospect that they would have to walk to Hogwarts, so there you go.
Micah: So Andrew, I know before you brought up how the outside of Diagon Alley is really dressed up to look like London. The Knight Bus is there, that's going to be a photo op. There's also a fountain there that's located in Piccadilly Circus. I saw on the article on Hypable.
Andrew: Yeah, the Eros Fountain. It's right... at least in the concept art, it's right next to the Knight Bus. So they're doing authentic London sights right there on the waterfront. These buildings that you see on the waterfront, as well, are straight out of London. At least a couple of them are.
Micah: So what does that say, though? They put the Eros Fountain - Eros being Cupid - next to the Knight Bus...
Andrew: [laughs] Love it.
Micah: ...which has beds.
Eric: People are going to be shagging on the Knight Bus in front of Cupid.
[Andrew and Micah laugh]
Eric: Yes. Micah, there will be rooms to rent on the... or shall I say beds for rent - by the hour, of course - on the triple-decker Knight Bus. Hell, I'd pay for that!
[Andrew and Micah laugh]
Andrew: There's also the London... a British phone booth, which would be a fun little photo op. If they're smart, you can dial 6-2-4-4-2 and something fun happens.
Eric: Maybe it actually will take you underground for a moment. [laughs]
Andrew: But imagine the line for that!
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Micah: I could see one of us going in there and start banging on the glass, "Why isn't this going down? Why isn't this going down?"
Andrew: [laughs] Yeah.
Eric: You know, the funny thing is, due to the seventh Harry Potter film, I'm going to be trying to flush myself in the toilets, too, in London.
Micah: You let us know how that goes.
Andrew: And don't shake our hands after you do that.
Micah: Yeah, and we'll expect a full report. Let us know how...
Eric: I'll be live blogging from the loos at the London end of the Muggle world... the wizarding world.
Andrew: Universal also confirmed today that you will need two park tickets to take the Hogwarts Express.
Andrew: Now, we kind of figured that would be. There were some people thinking, well, maybe if you have a one-park ticket you could just ride the train a round trip, but it makes sense that they're not going to allow that. They'd better not because there's going to be such long lines on both sides...
Andrew: ...of the park that they don't want people taking two trips unless they wait in line again.
Eric: Well, I think the interesting thing because we've been going by the concept art where it shows I think the train on the countryside and all that, I think we have to kind of get out of that mindset because I think on one hand the train I think is going to all be indoors, really.
Andrew: Oh, yeah.
Eric: And covered because they don't have that countryside. So maybe that will mean the parks can be closer together, that they can make the other park so big that they're really pretty much next door and then have this huge... I'm thinking an indoor enclosed area. So what I'm trying to say is maybe the ride actually won't take that long, that the train won't take that long to travel even though it may seem it does and maybe that'll be quicker because in the concept art it appears that there's this huge great distance but actually...
Eric: ...there doesn't have to be considering it's all going to be indoors.
Andrew: I would guess... there's been some great leaked photos of the track. The track is elevated. It's like ten feet off the ground.
Eric: Oh, no kidding.
Andrew: Yeah, because they have all this stuff behind Universal already. So they kind of got a... they don't want to knock out the roads because they're roads they use.
Andrew: So... I'll show you guys the picture. But it's one track and then in at least one area there's kind of like an interchange thing where two trains can go around each other.
Andrew: So I think they're going to have to leave the stations... this is a huge... I can't even imagine all the planning that went into this. They're going to have to...
Micah: Yeah, so this goes to what we were saying before about there being multiple trains.
Andrew: Yeah, I would guess there's probably going to be two. Unless they have more of these interchanges. Then maybe they could switch... they could have even more trains.
Eric: Do you have the photo?
Andrew: Yeah, I'm going to send it to you right now. This photo I'm sending you guys, you can see the... I'm going to put it in the Google Doc. You can see the interchange point where it turns from one track to two. And that would also hint at how long the train is going to be. And it looks like it could fit maybe the Hogwarts Express and then two or three passenger cars.
Eric: [laughs] Oh, wow!
Eric: Bless whoever is there taking these photos.
Andrew: I know.
Andrew: Probably risking getting fired. [laughs]
Eric: Yeah, wow.
Andrew: And if you hit those arrows, you can see there's a couple of other good photos of the track. But it's pretty high up the ground, maybe even higher than ten feet, maybe fifteen.
Eric: Yeah, easily. Yeah.
Andrew: But then you have to wonder, what's this train going to look like? Because when people step on-board it has to look like the actual Hogwarts Express.
Eric: Yeah, well...
Andrew: And yet you need these virtual screens inside. [laughs]
Eric: Yeah. I mean, from the exterior, who knows? Couldn't it look like anything? But then when you board it, it has to... yeah, that's a good question. I don't know.
Micah: Wow. And just the amount of planning that has to go into something like this is pretty crazy.
Andrew: It's pretty awesome. And they're definitely one-upping Disney with this. I mean, this whole dragon thing... I mean, this is a big "eff you" to Disney.
Andrew: They've always had dragons, but not one that is front-and-center, standing out... Disney is apparently working on this Avatar land" and they're going to have a dragon flying around, but it's... Universal just whips this out and it's like, whoa.
Eric: Yeah. No, this will fuel the fire - no pun intended - for years to come, I think, between Disney and Universal. But I'm... the thing is, I guess talking about Universal Florida, I do feel a little bit bad that there aren't other real attractions inside this park. And let me just be clear, there doesn't seem to be anything new going on that isn't Harry Potter. Of course you did bring up the Transformers ride.
Eric: We'll see how that is. But I may have mentioned it, it may have been on the last MuggleCast, I'm pretty mixed up, but just the gift shops in the regular Universal World I recalled being so overloaded with Harry Potter merchandise and there wasn't even a Harry Potter Muggle park yet.
Eric: Harry Potter has just become the thing at Universal now, and this is only going to make it more so. That, I kind of want to see them also doing other interesting things that don't have to do with Harry Potter only because you don't want to isolate anybody. And plus when people are waiting in line for hours and hours and hours, they need other things to do in the park.
Micah: Yeah, but...
Eric: And if they've done it before, then it's not going to be as interesting.
Micah: At the same time though, they're capitalizing off of what is hot. And Potter, even though the movies are over and the books have been done for a while, I still feel like it's something that has been so meaningful to people's childhoods that are currently in their teens or their twenties or even their thirties, that this has such mass appeal where a lot of the other stuff has kind of fallen flat a little bit. And that's nothing against something along the lines of Transformers, but Transformers is going to be... did you say it's actually going to be a land, or it's just going to be one specific ride?
Andrew: It's just a ride.
Eric: It's just a ride, yeah.
Micah: Yeah, it's just a ride. But you have to look at the fact that Potter has been made into an entire world...
Micah: ...within this park.
Eric: Well, two. Yeah.
Micah: Two worlds now. So can they find something else that's going to be that mass appealing, or even half that mass appealing that they can build something more than just a ride out of it? There hasn't been something up until this point.
Eric: Well, the... what was I going to say? The Islands of Adventure, there is a Marvel Land in Islands of Adventure, and they are making like a hundred new Marvel movies.
Eric: So maybe we'll see an expansion there next. [laughs] I don't know.
Andrew: See, I don't think so because now Disney owns that.
Eric: [laughs] Oh, that's funny!
Andrew: [laughs] And apparently Disney wants to put Marvel in some parks, so...
Eric: Yeah, well, maybe they'll have to tear down the Islands of Adventure Marvel, which actually, coincidentally, is like right next to the Wizarding World. So maybe we'll have an expansion again...
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Eric: ...of Harry Potter.
Andrew: Let's hope they don't have to tear those down. That would be really sad. [laughs]
Eric: I'm sure they have like a twenty-year contract...
Eric: ...to continue to keep Marvel in the Universal park. But any revenue that they get will probably end up going to Disney...
Andrew: Yeah, definitely.
Eric: ...off the merchandise. So I can see them definitely trying to play the Marvel section down.
Micah: One other thing that I wanted to talk about, related to Diagon Alley, was how authentic were they going to make some of the shops that are going to be in this particular area. I know Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes is going to be a place that people can go to, which guarantee fans of the Phelps twins will be there...
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Micah: ...many, many, many, many, many times over the course of the next few years. I'm sure we have plenty of fans who are interested in that. But one of the knocks I think against Hogsmeade in the Islands of Adventure is that there are a lot of storefronts but not necessarily a lot of stores to explore, and I think there's an opportunity here for them. And I'm not talking about merchandise, I'm talking about opening up some of the places that we've heard about in the series for people to just go into and experience. And go into a Flourish and Blotts, and just have an experience that Harry or Ron would have going in there. I just think they could build this area up to be a lot more than what its predecessor was.
Eric: God, how cool would it be if they had a bookshop open up in the theme park? How cool would that be?
Andrew: That would be great.
Eric: Right? That would be very cool.
Andrew: So what are you saying, Micah?
Eric: Flourish and Blotts...
Andrew: Sorry. They should promote the shops more as the experience is more, is that what you're saying?
Micah: No, I just noticed that a lot of the storefronts in Hogsmeade were just that, they were storefronts. You couldn't actually go into them.
Eric: That's to keep people moving along though, because there's no room. So there's that.
Andrew: And they probably use them for storage and whatnot.
Micah: Ehhh. But now they have plenty more storage space, so...
Micah: No, I just think... I'm sure there's going to be certain areas in Diagon Alley that are going to have that authentic store from the book. They're going to be there. Did they mention any restaurants? Did they name any restaurants for this area? Because I would think that they would want to put one in here.
Andrew: Yeah, I think the Leaky Cauldron seems to be the one that's going to happen. That's what the... they said there's going to be a restaurant, they didn't say which one, but the rumors have said the Leaky Cauldron.
Eric: That actually makes an astonishing amount of sense. [laughs]
Andrew: Oh, yeah. Definitely.
Eric: I was thinking, "What is there besides the ice cream parlor, right?" [laughs]
Andrew: [laughs] Yeah, and you know, I really like the Three Broomsticks restaurant. The food is good, there's a lot of space in there, it's a good place to cool off, and it's usually not too hard to find a table. And they also have that nice back patio, if you want to sit outside.
Andrew: So I'm a big fan of the Three Broomsticks. Hopefully they'll do as equally good a job with this.
Eric: Andrew, you were cutting out there a little bit with your signal.
Andrew: Oh. Maybe it was just the Internet for a second.
Eric: It's kind of wiry.
Eric: I don't know.
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