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Diagon Alley Opens at Universal


Via Orlando Sentinel

Diagon Alley is open for business, with long lines, plenty of Harry Potter-themed shops and a 3D ride that thrilled visitors — despite a 45-minute outage in early afternoon.

The posted wait time for Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts thrill ride, the centerpiece of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley, topped out at 450 minutes before the ride was shut down. It was restarted about 45 minutes later.

The ride had technical problems during previews and operated sporadically. It was not running during the recent “soft openings” for the general public. But Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative, said he was “beyond confident” that the ride would operate today.

Hundreds of Universal Studios visitors began streaming into Diagon Alley at 8 a.m. after fireworks and a brief statement by Universal President Bill Davis.

“You’re going to love the entire land,” Davis said.

By late morning, park visitors waited a few hours to get into Diagon Alley. Then, they faced a wait of six hours for a ride on Escape from Gringotts. The line snaked outside the bank building and into the Carkitt Market area of the attraction.

The ride operated almost flawlessly for one early group, except for a minor glitch with a frozen screen at the end. Gringotts hurls riders deep into the vaults of the wizards’ bank, where they encounter villains Bellatrix and Lord Voldemort.

“It was just like a whole new experience,” Lauren Gay of Tampa said of the Gringotts ride.

An avid theme-park visitor, Gay, 33, described it as “nothing like anything we’ve ridden.”

More here.

National Theme Park News: Ninja Derails at Six Flags Magic Mountain



A tree branch that fell on the tracks derailed a roller coaster car at a Six Flags amusement park Monday evening, leaving it dangling precariously.

Four people were injured on the Ninja ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. Two of the four were taken to a hospital as a precautionary measure.

The front part of the roller coaster detached from the track and hanged at about a 45-degree angle, pointing to the ground.

The car was about 20 feet in the air, Los Angeles Fire Department supervisor Ed Pittmann told CNN affiliate KTLA.

Rescue workers climbed atop the track and used a thick rope to tie the front of the car to the track above.

By late Monday night, all 22 passengers had been rescued.

MORE on CNN.com

Zumanjaro opens at Six Flags Great Adventure


VIA Newsworks

A New Jersey theme park has finally opened what it calls the world’s tallest and fastest drop ride.

The Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom ride began operating Friday at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson.

Riders are hoisted 415 feet in the air and dropped back to the ground at 90 mph. Adding to the thrill: The park’s Kingda Ka roller coaster trains hurl toward riders on Zumanjaro at speeds of up to 128 mph.

The ride initially was scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend. But those plans changed when construction work was delayed by a combination of high winds, snow and cold.

Park officials then planned to open the ride Wednesday. But that was postponed because state inspectors were still reviewing paperwork and had not granted an operating permit.

How Universal came up with Hogwarts Express and said goodbye to Jaws


VIA Orlando Sentinel
Watching folks try out the Hogwarts Express train at Universal the past two days has given me a flashback to when we first heard the rumor that its Harry Potter expansion would be built in Universal Studios theme park rather than Islands of Adventure, home of the original. Our office conversation went along the lines of “They wouldn’t do that. It’s crazy talk. You’d have to buy two-park tickets.”

Then: “Or would they? It’s evil and genius. It’s evil genius.”

Turns out, some Universal types had the same initial reaction. Well, maybe not the “evil” part.

I asked Thierry Coup, senior vice president for Universal Creative, about the idea during last month’s media preview. There, mere steps from the Hogwarts Express train station, he credited Mark Woodbury, Universal Creative’s president, with the idea. Here, in Coup’s words, are how the two-park plan and Hogwarts Express were born and how the Jaws ride, god rest its soul, was sunk.

Coup said:

“The vision really came from Mark Woodbury. We were laying out different areas to put Diagon Alley in. When we tried to place Diagon right next to Hogsmeade, we quickly realized you can’t just walk from Scotland to London. It’s not going to work. If you put them 30 or 40 feet apart, it’s just not going to be right. You can’t see London facades right next to Hogwarts. So we start to think of other places. Well, is it going to be practical or not?

“Then, suddenly Mark came up with the idea: Well, let’s place it at the Studios. Because then you have the separation. You can create that journey from Hogwarts. And everybody thought ‘That is the craziest idea. No!’ For about two seconds. And then ‘Wait a minute. That is brilliant.’ It was really fun. It was one of those moments, right, when it all clicked. We were all ‘Why didn’t we think about that?”

“Right away, we start to look at where could it go. Jaws offered the largest area for us to create something that was about the same footprint that we did back at Hogsmeade. Jaws had been here for about 22 years and it was still going well. But in the rating of all the attractions of the park, it was probably time for it to refreshed or changed. So that’s how it came to be. We worked on the layout in this area. And that’s what it is today.

“That created the whole idea of the Hogwarts Express. Of course, we [already] had a parked Hogwarts Express, [but] now taking the journey is another way to give our guests, not just a limited amount of guests – anyone and everyone can ride the train, which we thought “This is fantastic.” There’s no limitation, no ride-height limitation. You get on the train, and it’s a train except the journey is magical. If we can bring all those things that the kids saw on the train in the films, even better. It will be fantastic.

“So, we worked on that and created the layout, the path. Where would the train go? Of course, it will go backstage, but the guests will never know because we’re going to take them on the actual journey. And here it is today.”

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