Many of you who read TPU are currently employed or at one time were employed at a theme park. As many of you know, the bigger titans in the industry don’t exactly do a lot for employee morale and getting a genuine thank you is hard to come by. However, Universal Orlando recently invited all of it’s Team Members out to Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure for a private party to celebrate its accomplishments the resort has made over the past few years as well as a sort of pep rally moving forward.
Generally speaking, these large scale “pat on the back” parties are reserved for management on up, or it’s just a black tie schmooze fest for executives. In this case, all of Hogsmeade was open to TMs, including Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which was a walk on for the duration of the evening. In addition, they created huge posters of concept art of the Diagon Alley expansion at Universal Studios Florida for TMs to ogle that haven’t seen it before (all of which has been released by Universal Orlando).
However, the highlight for many TM’s was the panel discussion about the upcoming expansion of Diagon Alley. The speaker list included: • Michael DoQui – Senior Show Producer, Eric Hunt – Creative Producer, Dale Mason – Vice President and Executive Art Director, Keith McVeen – Senior Production Designer, Katy Pacitti – Show Producer, Eric Baker – Senior Prop Manager, Thierry Coup – Universal Creative Senior Vice President and Alan Gilmore – Art Director for Wizarding World and the Potter Films.
Not surprisingly, no new details were revealed. It was a chance for TMs to gain insight into the creative process and hear about some of the challenges that go into design for theme parks. As one anonymous Universal Orlando TM told me, “It was interesting to hear them confirm what has been rumored online regarding the evolution of plans for a Van Helsing ride which morphed into Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. They also mentioned that they had considered expanding inside Islands of Adventure, and placing Diagon Alley there before the ambitious idea of connecting both parks was conceived.”
He went on to say, “The Q&A was about as awkward as any, with fanboys asking questions about the timeline within the stories (there isn’t one, so they are free to cull the best ideas from each book), and plenty of operational questions (‘What happens to the Hogwarts Express if one park closes before the other?’) which the presenters seemed completely unprepared for, since it’s outside the scope of their team, and no one from the operations side was represented.”
“The one thing that was clear, is that all the Creative team have a great passion for this project, (and from what I’ve seen, it shows in their work.) Many of them worked on Hogsmeade first, and I’m pleased to see they’ve learned from some of their mistakes (without saying too much, there will be many more opportunities to buy Butterbeer and wands in Diagon Alley.) They also hinted that some changes will come to Hogsmeade (as can already be seen in the retheming of facades from Wizeacre’s Wizarding Equipment to Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop and the expansion of Honeyduke’s into the former Zonko’s.”
Even though the official opening date for Diagon Alley won’t be revealed to the public for a few more days, I commend Universal Orlando for taking the time to thank its entire team on its recent success. It’s not often that these things happen for all theme park employees and I personally think Universal Orlando should be commended for taking the time to share in the success with everyone. Your thoughts?