Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Downtown Disney (Disney Springs) Construction Update from January 28, 2014

Took a quick stroll around Downtown Disney today. A bridge is being constructed from the area around the Lego Store to the old Captain Jacks area that was recently demolished.

Here's a look at the construction for the bridge from the other direction.

Team Mickey at Downtown Disney has closed it doors. Marketplace Co-Op is taking the retail space here. Steven Miller of the Disney Parks blog had a story about it that you can read here.

Team Mickey sign should be removed soon.

Hidden Mickey made of a tennis ball, baseball and basketball at the now defunct Team Mickey store.

Not too much to see at the new Starbucks location at World of Disney in Downtown Disney.

Recently we noticed that the Pleasure Island sign at the street was removed. We can't help but feel this iconic one will be removed soon.

Not a great picture, but here some progress on the Downtown Disney parking garage.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Photo Trip Report: 2014 A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida (1/24/14 - 1/26/14)

This past weekend was the A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida. 

We arrived on Friday, attempting to enter the Expo that started at 4PM. Unfortunately, arriving at 4:00 was too late, as the line was already 2-3 hours long.

Here's the queue for the Expo at 4:10. The line was cut off by team members, who said to come back at 5:30. As a stand-by guest, this was not unexpected. Guests who purchased the special package (that started at $399 per person) had VIP access to the Expo and all panels thru the weekend.

Friday night was abnormally cold for Central Florida. It was only about 50 for a high, and once the sun went down, it was downright chilly at about 38 degrees.

Realizing that we wouldn't be able to make the Expo on Friday night, we decided to hit the plaza for the 7:30 kickoff. This was about 5:15PM

This was all fenced off for the VIP guests. The center back area with space heaters was for the press media.

Once 7:30 rolled around, some of the talent from the Harry Potter films came out for a Q & A. Here's Matthew Lewis, James & Oliver Phelps, and Evanna Lynch.

Matthew Lewis, The Phelps Twins, Evanna Lynch, Devon Murray, and Mark Williams.
 Here's our video of the entire cast Q & A.
During the Q & A, they showed the Universal webcast for Diagon Alley and showed some things to expect in Diagon Alley. Here's Skiving Snackboxes from Wealeys Wizard Wheezes!

We were not able to attend Satuday, but were back bright and early Sunday morning. The 10AM panel was "Bringing The Harry Potter Films to the Theme Park - Set & Prop Design"

Here's a Dark Arts classroom blackboard that was used in the film. It is supposed to be replacing one in Hogwarts. Also to the right is troll armor, going in Diagon Alley.

Here is the vanishing cabinet for Borgin & Burkes in Kockturn Alley and a prop for the Weasleys Wizzard Wheezes!

From left to right, Art Director Alan Gilmore and sculptors Bryn Court, Eric Baker.

The Phelps Twins came out with some props for the new Weasley store in Diagon Alley.
Here's the entire panel, which we uploaded to YouTube.
Before heading over to the Studios to try to enter the Expo, we hit up Hog's Head in Hogsmeade for some warm butterbeer. Quite good, especially on a cooler afternoon. Sure to be another hit!

We arrived back at the Studios, immediately entering the stand-by queue for the Expo. Anyone with VIP package were taken first, then if they had room, they took from the stand-by line. The queue didn't look too bad, but still took us just over an hour to gain entrance.

I had seen what was in the Expo from monitoring Twitter, so I knew what to expect. Had I not, I may have been disappointed. This is an overview of the Expo.

First up was a Gringotts Bank Vault photo op. This was the set used for this past Thursday's webcast to announce Diagon Alley details.

Ron Weasley outfit from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter outfit from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

More Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban outfits.

The most popular thing to do in the Expo was to get "sorted" by the Sorting Hat. I didn't time it, but I think we waited about 20 minutes for this, possibly a little longer. If you showed any interest in a certain house (either by telling the hat or wearing something) you were sorted in that house.

Here's the whole Gringotts set. They had 3 different spots setup for pictures, so the queue for this was short.

Here's a look at the other side of the Expo. USPS had a stamps display and Pottermore was set up in the back corner next to the sorting hat.

The wand class was fun for the kids. It was about 1 1/2 minutes long, they taught you some wand moves and you moved on.

Here was a Limited Edition print available for the weekend.

Celebration Pin available for this weekend at a decent retail of $8.95

Nice looking A Celebration of Harry Potter key chain at $14.95

The official T-Shirt for Potter Celebration was $21.95

Scholastic Books was set up with a large Muggle Wall that guests could sign.

Scholastic had books on display, and were giving out Potter posters.

Beautiful display at the Expo by Minalima
More great prints by Minalima. Go check them out!

At the entrance/exit they had this great advertisement banner. Love how they are bringing both park together on this one. The design team at Universal did a great job on this one.

Here's a banner advertising just Diagon Alley. Clean, neat...another great banner.

More advertising for the two park experience of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.

They displayed concept art of Diagon Alley that was shown on the webcast.

Kings Cross Train Station concept art.

Directly outside of the Expo was the Flying Ford Anglia. 

After the Expo, we tried to make the final panel, cast Q & A at 3:30PM back at Islands of Adventure. We made it back there by 2PM, and upon arrival, seen the mass of people there. We waited, but were turned away when the theater became full at 3:30PM. It was a disappointing ending to an overall very fun weekend. We do hope Universal makes this an annual event.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida & Islands of Adventure Construction Update (1/26/14)

Hogsmeade Train Station is being constructed right next to Dragon Challenge.

After this is finished, guests will be able to travel via the Hogwarts Express from IOA to USF.

No false advertising.

As part of the Hogsmeade station construction, the magic shop has just recently closed.

On this Sunday, construction continued on the facades that lead to Diagon Alley.

Fake Telephone Booth peek holes were recently added to see the addition from ground level.

Peeking thru at Universal Studios Florida.

Wyndham Theater looks beautifully detailed.

Grimmauld Place

Peeking thru the window on the Grimmauld Place side. Workers getting a well deserved break.

Construction nearest Fear Factor.

Diagon Alley entrance facades from across the lagoon.

Kings Cross Train Station getting some attention today.

Interesting enough, the actual entrance to Diagon Alley under Leicester Square was not blocked off. These were taken from across the lagoon from Springfield.

Olivanders Wand Shop in Diagon Alley.

Here you can see the opening under Leicester Square to enter Diagon Alley.

Notice the two soda cans.

This whole addition looks so beautiful. Can not wait until summer!