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Universal Orlando Resort (USO, IOA) Discussion Thread

P. 602: Universal Holidays & Velocicoaster photo report posted!

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Did you see anyone using the RFID-enabled wands? I'm curious to know how popular that has been.

 

Also, while things like this are really cool, I can't imagine too many people want to pony up the cash for these wands when they already bought the other wands on previous trips. Who needs more than one wand? And is the RFID capability *really* worth the purchase price?

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I like how they build a roller coaster in the same time it took them to built new lockers for Harry Potter.   

On Sunday I ventured out to the Universal Orlando Resort for a chance to see the new holiday offerings at the two parks. This year is a little different thanks to COVID-19, but Universal has still man

^Agreed. I think the newer Intamin lapbars are actually the best steel coaster restraint currently being produced. When comparing overhead lapbars on Taron and Blue Fire, I found the Intamin ones to b

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I think that any sentence judging the crowds or merchandise sales for Brand New Diagon Alley+Hogsmeade vs Brand New Hogsmeade need to be taken with a big grain of salt.

I think everything you said makes some very valid points, which is why my report was more about "great to see the craziness die down" and less about "where are all the people?" My report makes the same assumptions you did for the lack of lines (more butterbeer, more wand shops, better capacity, etc), so I think you might be quickly jumping to a defense that's premature.

 

But the one thing I will say I'm shocked about IS the merchandise sales. End of the day, Diagon Alley is a LOT of shops, and I don't see a lot of bags. I would have to think that's got to be somewhat surprising, right?

 

They wouldn't have people standing outside the shops trying to get more traffic into them if it wasn't.

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Myself I cannot wait to visit family in Florida most likely next fall. My Uncle is on the maintenance crew for the Gringots ride and found out I can get a behind the scenes tour when I visit but I have to ride the ride first. Understandable! My cousin is one of the managers of security of the resort. So you can tell my favorite resort is the Universal Parks. Last few times I visited I spent time at the Disney Parks I feel I am getting to old for those parks. Universal Parks are more fitting for me. I cannot wait until next year.

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But the one thing I will say I'm shocked about IS the merchandise sales. End of the day, Diagon Alley is a LOT of shops, and I don't see a lot of bags. I would have to think that's got to be somewhat surprising, right?

 

They wouldn't have people standing outside the shops trying to get more traffic into them if it wasn't.

 

Truth! I agree with the above poster that it all really functions as the world's greatest walk-through attraction. A lot of the new stuff in the shops for Diagon is really nerdy and book-specific for sure. And expensive as hell, I've always wanted the Bertie Bott's Every Flavor beans they sell but at 12.99 for a quarter pound of Jelly Bellies I've never bitten that bullet. I'd have to imagine the interactive wands and clothing are selling well though.

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I'd have to imagine the interactive wands and clothing are selling well though.

Yeah, I'd say that every time I've been, those are the shops that seem to have the most traffic and it's the one thing I see more people with.

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But the one thing I will say I'm shocked about IS the merchandise sales. End of the day, Diagon Alley is a LOT of shops, and I don't see a lot of bags. I would have to think that's got to be somewhat surprising, right?

 

They wouldn't have people standing outside the shops trying to get more traffic into them if it wasn't.

 

You are right. You dont have to eyeball how many people are carrying shopping bags, if you know any TMs just ask them...the stores are underperforminhg in a sense. Many stores in Diagon have yet to meet their projected goals for the summer from what Ive heard. Thats not to say the place is a failure, but youre spot on about merch sales being less than stellar. I have no idea why, but oversaturation seems to play a part, as do prices and the fact that Hogsmeade has already had great Potter merch available for four years.

 

I also love your analogy about Disney/Universal being like Bellagio/Excalibur. I hate when people seem to think what one does has to "kill" the other or have some sort of effect. In a market like Orlando, these two mega-resorts build off each other if anything.

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I also love your analogy about Disney/Universal being like Bellagio/Excalibur. I hate when people seem to think what one does has to "kill" the other or have some sort of effect. In a market like Orlando, these two mega-resorts build off each other if anything.

Exactly. In fact, in the history of the parks here, has there EVER been a time where what one park did negatively impacted another? If anything I think it's the exact opposite.

 

Kind of along the same lines, I remember the ex-GM of Knott's Berry Farm telling me YEARS ago... "Whenever Disneyland builds a new attraction, it's like WE built a new attraction! There are more people in the area visiting Disneyland because of their new build, and we get a nice bump simply because there are more people looking for entertainment and theme park options."

 

I would have to imagine to some degree that same philosophy applies in Orlando.

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I also love your analogy about Disney/Universal being like Bellagio/Excalibur. I hate when people seem to think what one does has to "kill" the other or have some sort of effect. In a market like Orlando, these two mega-resorts build off each other if anything.

Exactly. In fact, in the history of the parks here, has there EVER been a time where what one park did negatively impacted another?

 

I dont think so. The whole idea of Hunger Games-level competition between Disney and Universal was made up by fanboys and lives on because of people who have some weird obsession with one resort over the other and nothing better to do with their time. Disney is probably a big part of what kept Universal alive when they werent doing so well right before Potter. And Universal's additions are also going to increase traffic to Disney. Bottom line...Diagon Alley is freakin awesome and its great for everybody

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The whole idea of Hunger Games-level competition between Disney and Universal was made up by fanboys and lives on because of people who have some weird obsession with one resort over the other and nothing better to do with their time.

This is spot on. Most of the "Disney killer" comments I've read were on a different site where pretty much everybody absolutely hates Disney and worships Universal. Both resorts will see an increase in attendance due to SDMT and Diagon Alley opening.

 

Anyways, back to topic. I think the main reason crowds are dying down a lot earlier than expected is that schools seem to be starting earlier than ever this year. I mean, in St. Louis most schools either started today or start tomorrow. And it isn't easy trying to get home from a vacation and then have only a day or so to prepare for the start of school.

 

Also, I have to agree that the popularity of the franchise is dying down. Other YA series are starting to become more and more popular, and a lot of people seem to be forgetting about Harry Potter. However, with the Harry Potter spinoff films coming up soon, the franchise be reintroduced to a whole new generation.

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The whole idea of Hunger Games-level competition between Disney and Universal was made up by fanboys and lives on because of people who have some weird obsession with one resort over the other and nothing better to do with their time.

This is spot on. Most of the "Disney killer" comments I've read were on a different site where pretty much everybody absolutely hates Disney and worships Universal. Both resorts will see an increase in attendance due to SDMT and Diagon Alley opening.

 

Anyways, back to topic. I think the main reason crowds are dying down a lot earlier than expected is that schools seem to be starting earlier than ever this year. I mean, in St. Louis most schools either started today or start tomorrow. And it isn't easy trying to get home from a vacation and then have only a day or so to prepare for the start of school.

 

Also, I have to agree that the popularity of the franchise is dying down. Other YA series are starting to become more and more popular, and a lot of people seem to be forgetting about Harry Potter. However, with the Harry Potter spinoff films coming up soon, the franchise be reintroduced to a whole new generation.

 

While Im not sure that Harry Potters popularity will ever completely die, I do agree that the timing (with a July opening and schools starting early) probably has a lot to do with it. I mean most people plan their vacations way ahead of time, and yet the opening date was announced, what, two weeks beforehand? That doesnt give people enough time to plan, and even if it did, July 8 only gives people a month of viable summer vacation time. It will be interesting to see how crowds are during the off-season, and Im sure Christmas will be insane. Next summer could get pretty busy too.

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I couldn't agree more, even if they kept the area as is, no HHN makeovers or added gore or anything like that.

 

I understand that Rowling doesn't want to have any changes and that's all well and good, but to not allow the newest area of the park to not be open during their busiest time? Silly.

 

Oh well, HHN is still shaping up to be something amazing and looks like at Noon today we will be getting the Thanksgiving themed house announcement based of their tease of "#Stuffing" yesterday.

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Remember that some Orlando area schools started back yesterday too. Seminole started classes while Orange, Osceola and Polk go back next week and teachers are back. Now, does this mean less people in the parks, somewhat but not massive amounts of people out of the parks. I enjoyed the update. I have steered clear of Universal since Potterland 2.0 opened as I don't want to deal with the craziness. Now that I see legit pictures of how it's calmed down, I might head down there. Thanks for the update.

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- Now that I've been on Gringotts a couple of times, I have to say (and credit whores you aren't going to want to hear this), but I just can't count it as a "roller coaster." It has one drop about the size of Pirates of the Caribbean, a small S-curve after the drop, then the rest is all dark ride powered by drive tires. Obviously there will be some people that will count it, and I wouldn't argue it that much, but when 90% of a ride is not a roller coaster, I just cannot count it as one.

 

Kind of off topic, but do you count Wonder Mountain's Guardian then? Many people seem to be saying that WMG is a credit, yet it seems to be in the same situation as Gringotts… one small drop, then the rest is a dark ride.

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http://www.halloweenhorrornights.com/orlando/index.html

 

Three more houses for Halloween Horror Nights 24 have been announced and they are all original concepts!

 

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http://blog.universalorlando.com/whats-new/hhn24-original-content/

 

So, we’ve already heard about some of the terror that will descend upon Halloween Horror Nights 24 this year (if not, click here). It could be the best collection of horror icons we’ve ever unleashed.

 

But that’s not enough. Not nearly enough. We’ve saved some of the best for last with the unveiling of this year’s (duhn duhn duhn) ORIGINAL CONTENT.

 

I met up with Assistant Show Director Charles Gray deep in the bowels of the Universal Orlando Art & Entertainment dungeon. Actually, it was a conference room. But it was the nose-piercing, disorienting scents that hit me on my way in that really captured my attention. Rotting flesh, urine and…baby powder?

 

My olfactory senses did not deceive me. At this point, Charles was nostrils-deep in a scent strip. He recoiled, his face so squished together he looked like a character from those bitter beer face commercials.

 

“Hey, come on in!” he exclaimed as his face snapped back into place. “We’re just in the middle of some scent testing. This one’s called ‘dung.’”

 

He handed me the inconspicuous-looking white strip and waited, now smiling, for my disgusted reaction. This was going to be an interesting afternoon.

 

Meet Charles

 

Charles, can you tell me a little bit about what you do here at Universal?

I started here in 1993 at Nickelodeon Studios and worked my way into a roll as a scareactor. I also played Ozzy Osbourne in The Bill and Ted Show and Frankenstein in Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue. Now I answer questions like, “How do you want this neck severed? Clean cut or ripped apart?” It’s pretty awesome.

 

I’m curious, on a scale of Gargamel to Hannibal Lecter, how sick and twisted are you?

I land somewhere around Jekyll and Hyde. I’m a pretty kind, sweet guy, but when you flip my switch I’m completely messed up and evil.

 

What got you into this world of scaring the hell out of people?

Funny story, I actually come from a really conservative family. I remember when I was a kid and my Sunday School teacher showed my mom these drawings I was doing of people with their heads exploding and guts flying out. So, the teacher asked my mom, “Hey, do we need to be worried about Charles?” The cool thing was my mom said, “Nope, he’s just expressing himself.” That really emboldened me.

 

Original House: Dollhouse of the Damned

 

Let’s get to the houses. Tell me about Dollhouse of the Damned.

The word to keep in mind here is ‘juxtaposition.’ When you walk into the house, you find yourself in this old-time morgue. But this little girl has set up shop and now it’s her playhouse. She’s torturing people in there. So you’re taking the sweetness of the dollhouse and childhood and combining it with something completely sinister. That theme remains throughout the maze. Another phrase we use is ‘forced integration.’ You’ll see characters with porcelain doll masks that have been smashed into their faces, and now they’re permanent. They’re victims of this twisted amalgamation. It’s really creepy.

 

Did you have an older sister who made you play with dolls? It seems like you’re releasing a lot of pent up anger here.

I actually have two young daughters, so there are a lot of dolls in my house. When I come home late at night and see these sparkly eyes staring at me in the dark—and I don’t have pets—it’s a little disturbing. The weird thing about dolls is that even if they’re smiling, they’re soulless. They always look sinister in the dark, even the cutest ones.

 

There is a feeling of innocence associated with dollhouses. What kind of fun did you have flipping that on its head?

Yeah, we have a room with baby cribs—and let’s be honest, there’s nothing cuter than a baby, so we had to mess with that. We created these muscular, mutant baby dolls and they’re crawling around all over the place. I’m telling you, it’s bizarre.

 

Original House: Giggles & Gore Inc.

 

Giggles & Gore Inc…Alright, lay it on me Charles.

So, we asked ourselves, where do evil clowns come from? And we discovered evil clowns are not born, they’re made. It’s an actual process. We all know that there are countless unsolved disappearances across the country. Where do these people end up? In the clown factory, being stretched, smashed and eviscerated.

 

Faces are peeled off and voice boxes are torn out. Victims are dropped into a wood chipper, and the gunk that comes out is shoved into other people to create these massive, nasty stuffed clowns.

 

Toward the end, you encounter the most evil of all evil clowns: The Discarded. These are the surviving clowns that have been cast down for being too dangerous to exist, even with other evil clowns.

 

Original House: Roanoke – Cannibal Colony

 

I’m really intrigued by this maze, especially because it’s loosely based on real events. What can we expect in Roanoke?

The year was 1587. It was one of the first settlements of the colonial era. The people living here were expecting supplies from Europe, but there was a war going on so they couldn’t make the voyage. Three years later, when the supply ship finally arrived, everyone was gone…except the deranged cannibals who’d managed to survive by eating their fellow settlers.

 

As a guest, you’re fighting you’re way through this chaotic gauntlet of flesh-hungry man-eaters. What’s cool about the set is that Karen, our décor guru, has traveled up to Virginia to some of these historic settlements and brought back photos for us to use as visual reference. So, the scenery you’re observing throughout the maze is all pulled straight from theses real-life settlements.

 

What’s this business about the “spirit of Wendigo?” I’m pretty sure my family rented one of those for a road trip when I was a kid.

I think that’s a Winnebago… The spirit of Wendigo is something much more sinister. It’s actually a mythical Native American creature that curses all those who ingest human flesh. These people have snapped, and they have to somehow justify their cannibalism. They think they’re being possessed by the Wendigo spirit. They start eating their own mouths. They’ve chewed away their lips. They’ve just completely lost it.

 

There seems to be an interesting end to this maze. What kind of carnage should we look forward to?

There’s a surprise in the finale that I won’t give away, but you will definitely meet some really interesting characters in all sorts of different states of decay. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself.

 

To learn more about our original street experiences, I sat down with HHN Show Director Lora Wallace.

 

Meet Lora:

 

First, Lora tell me about what you do here at Universal.

I am a show director for entertainment creative development. The fun part of my job is that I am never working on one thing at a time. I get to do tons and tons of projects at once—right now I’m working on HHN streets and several other projects outside of Halloween. It’s so fun!

 

How did you get into scaring people?

I have been a show director since 2000. When they brought me on, I was the one who held purses for Halloween haunted houses. I don’t like horror movies because I get scared. I get scared so easily! When they asked me work on Halloween, I said, “Why? This is crazy! I don’t do this right?” And they said that is exactly why…because you get scared and you know what scares you.

 

Original Street Experience – MASKerade; Unstitched

 

Again with the ripping of the flesh. You’re really out to cause some pain this year, aren’t you?

The whole concept is that these people are trapped in an old time period—their skin is falling off, they have stitched their skin back to their faces, but much of it is still peeling off. What I love about the concept is that it is like you’re entering this really surreal dance, but it is very terrifying at the same time.

 

There is wax holding their skin on, some are sewing their skin back on but they are doing it very poorly, and there are some whose skin is still detached.

 

Another period piece. I love it. It sounds like the street itself will be pretty grand. What will we be feeling when we walk through this area?

It is grand in scale—there are elements above your head while this off-putting yet harsh waltz music plays. Everyone is moving in a really surreal and creepy dance. There is beauty along with the disgust.

 

Original Street Experience – Bayou of Blood

 

Bayou of Blood, that’s got a nice ring to it. Rumor is there’s a high priestess here working some bad mojo. What should we know about her evil voodoo rituals?

Our high priestess is crazy-evil and in a trance, doing numerous spells and sacrifices to get the ultimate power in her. Because she has made these sacrifices, many other voodoo practitioners in the area have come and they are squatting outside of her shack. They feel if they make sacrifices to her, they will get some of that power when she makes the ultimate sacrifice.

 

Ok, so a lot of sacrificing going on here. What’s the one detail of this street experience that’s really hair-raising?

You’re going to see her sacrifice someone right in front of you…you will see every gory detail of this ultimate sacrifice. But that’s not the end—once you get past the sacrifice and the high priestess’ shack, you enter into the area inhabited by the voodoo squatters…and they are all looking for something or someone to sacrifice.

 

So, there you have it, folks: the low down on all the original, horrible houses and scare zones you’ll find only at this year’s Halloween Horror Nights. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for September to get here.

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Edited by jedimaster1227
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AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGh I'm so excited!

 

None of the originals really intrigue me, but it sounds like there was some visual potential in each of them. I can't wait to feel the fear! The best thing is we are back to FOUR scarezones. Yeeeeeahh.

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- Now that I've been on Gringotts a couple of times, I have to say (and credit whores you aren't going to want to hear this), but I just can't count it as a "roller coaster." It has one drop about the size of Pirates of the Caribbean, a small S-curve after the drop, then the rest is all dark ride powered by drive tires. Obviously there will be some people that will count it, and I wouldn't argue it that much, but when 90% of a ride is not a roller coaster, I just cannot count it as one.

 

Kind of off topic, but do you count Wonder Mountain's Guardian then? Many people seem to be saying that WMG is a credit, yet it seems to be in the same situation as Gringotts… one small drop, then the rest is a dark ride.

 

Ive only seen POV's of WMG but from what I can tell, Gringotts is definitely more of a coaster. Im not saying I would count Gringotts as a credit, but I was actually surprised by the length of the coaster portions in it. WMG has a chain lift and a drop track, and thats basically it. Gringotts has much more actual coaster-like track elements taken at a high speed than WMG seems to have.

 

Although after going on Gringott's, I cant believe its being mentioned in the same breath as Wonder Mountain Guardian...such a great experience!

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- Now that I've been on Gringotts a couple of times, I have to say (and credit whores you aren't going to want to hear this), but I just can't count it as a "roller coaster." It has one drop about the size of Pirates of the Caribbean, a small S-curve after the drop, then the rest is all dark ride powered by drive tires. Obviously there will be some people that will count it, and I wouldn't argue it that much, but when 90% of a ride is not a roller coaster, I just cannot count it as one.

 

Kind of off topic, but do you count Wonder Mountain's Guardian then? Many people seem to be saying that WMG is a credit, yet it seems to be in the same situation as Gringotts… one small drop, then the rest is a dark ride.

it's a hard call because 1. I haven't ridden Wonder Mountain Guardian, but the ride DOES have a proper roller coaster lift hill and an outdoor drop. But again, if the ride is 10% roller coaster and 90% dark ride, I don't think I can really consider it a "roller coaster" that I put on any list. For example, I don't count Journey to Atlantis at SeaWorld Orlando, but I know a lot of other people do.

 

It's their list, they have the right to count whatever they want....as long as I have the right to laugh at some of the things they add to their list!

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Ive only seen POV's of WMG but from what I can tell, Gringotts is definitely more of a coaster. Im not saying I would count Gringotts as a credit, but I was actually surprised by the length of the coaster portions in it. WMG has a chain lift and a drop track, and thats basically it. Gringotts has much more actual coaster-like track elements taken at a high speed than WMG seems to have.

I would actually disagree with this. Other than the chain lift that Wonder Mountain has, I'd say that both rides are about on par with their length of "coaster sections." The ONLY part of Gringotts that I would consider a "roller coaster" is the tilt drop at the beginning. It's a VERY short drop and a small S-curve after, and then almost immediately the ride is picked up by drive tires, and it's that way the rest of the ride.

 

The way I look at it, both rides use a "fast drop" to get the riders into the dark ride experience, much like Pirates of the Caribbean does with it's drop.

 

But you're right. I don't think Gringotts and Wonder Mountain should really be compared in the same sentence!

Edited by robbalvey
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It's their list, they have the right to count whatever they want

 

Screw it. Dark rides now count. They're on wheels.

 

Also Transdemonium is a coaster. Just throwing that back out there.

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