Next month, Universal Studios Florida introduce their 'Diagon Alley' expansion to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It sees the headline attraction 'Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts', the Hogwarts Express, as well as numerous shops from the Harry Potter universe.
As to be expected, everyone is excited about the development. However, why should we be so excited? We've got a newly opened area which is much better than Diagon Alley ever could be - Angry Birds Land at Thorpe Park! Travelling all the way to America seems pointless when most of us on this forum can pop down to Thorpe in under a couple of hours to enjoy the delightful Angry Birds Land.
First of all, let's look at the rides and attractions in each area. Angry Birds Land has a 115ft drop tower, perfect for thrill seekers, some fun dodgems, which are perfect for everyone, and a 4D cinema experience, which again is perfect for everyone. So, here, we have a land which caters for all ages - we have a ride which is solely dedicated for a thrill audience.
As far as thrill rides go, Detonator: Bombs Away! is as thrilling as you can get; there's not many better drop towers around after all. Then there's a good set of dodgems. Okay, so dodgems aren't anything special, you can find them anywhere. But people like dodgems, and if people like something, you give it to them! Finally, the 4D experience is clearly something that's been designed for a younger audience, yet it works for everyone. What's most surprising about it is how immersive the attraction felt - it's a film about a set of cartoon birds, who don't speak, trying to get the precious eggs back from some bad pigs. Yet you feel a part of the film, you can create emotional bonds with the birds, and you feel like you're there with them. For a cartoon, that's pretty darn impressive.
Now, Diagon Alley. We have a headline attraction being ride about escaping from a bank. Escaping...from a bank. Just let that sink in for a moment. And this will have loads of goblins scattered about. Not gonna lie, those goblins looked pretty hideous in the films, I imagine they'll look even more hideous in real life. Not exactly a family-friendly thing to have is it? Especially considering this is already a ride about escaping from a bank that you've broken into (great moral values there!). Now, this ride is apparently some epic dark ride/coaster combo. These types of rides are always risks, since some people's expectations can really shape how they react to the ride. Expect a coaster, you may be left unthrilled. Expect a dark ride, you may be left unimmersed. It's a really, really big risk.
Then you've got a train ride linking two parks together. Now, it will of course be more like a 4D experience, and this all sounds well and good. But it's not going to be easy to create a 4D experience about a franchise which already has so much going for it; very difficult to create an emotional link to the story. I have so many concerns.
Then there's also theming. Okay, Angry Birds Land's theming isn't the greatest, and there's room for more. However, let's step back and look at what Diagon Alley's theming will entail. Firstly, there's a dragon that breaths fire. Fantastic. That's better than anything at Angry Birds Land. However, this dragon doesn't move, from the looks of it at least. Talk about unrealistic! What's the point in having a creature for theming if it doesn't move. You're meant to be in a world where a dragon has just escaped; it's not gonna stand still, lording it over everyone else puffing some fire occasionally. It's going to move.
Angry Birds Land's theming at least makes sense; you're in a snapshot of a game, where some birds have just been catapulted, others are about to be, and so forth. It makes perfect sense to the story. Diagon Alley's dragon does not. Then there's all the shop fronts. They're shop fronts from shops in a back alley in London. Where's the excitement in that? The transportation to a whole new world? You can't get that here. It's basically just like walking down a part of London with shops you've never seen before (which isn't exactly difficult). Poor theming really; it's taken realism a step too far.
There's other things as well. Harry Potter is an outdated IP. The last book was released 7 years ago. The last film 3 years ago. Even if it's still popular, and there's a spin off film series on the way, the main Harry Potter IP is outdated. It's got little more than nostalgia now. It's time to let go. Take away the nostalgia and all we have is a kid's story that finished many years ago, and whilst still memorable, should be left alone, instead of picked away until its dignity has gone away. Angry Birds is about to get its second wave of popularity. There's a major film to be released in 2016. Mobile gaming is still huge, and a new game could easily make it to the top in 24 hours. Now that's a popular and current IP for you.
I think that's all I need to get my point across. Harry Potter is an outdated IP, and Diagon Alley is shaping up to be an overhyped dark ride that teaches bad moral values and a 4D experience which could go really well or really badly. Perhaps not the best family area. Angry Birds, however, is a current, popular, IP, with Angry Birds Land having a quality 4D experience and rides for everyone, which everyone will enjoy. It also teaches good moral values (don't steal, fight for what you believe in, yadda yadda yadda). If that's not quality, I don't know what is.
So save your money. Avoid Diagon Alley. Save yourself the disappointment. Take a trip down to Thorpe Park and bask in the greatness that is Angry Birds Land, and smile to yourself that you're in a better place than some hocus pocus area set about robbing a bank. You deserve it.