Inside the Magic brings you the latest top stories, announcements, special events in the words of Disney and theme parks. Read through our featured and most recent articles, reviews, and news items below.
FEATURED STORY

“Frozen” leads Disney into holiday season as Disney Consumer Products shows off upcoming merchandise lines

“Frozen” leads Disney into holiday season as Disney Consumer Products shows off upcoming merchandise lines

Disney Consumer Products held its 2014 Holiday Showcase in New York today, giving Disney fans a sneak peek into what will be available to retailers this holiday season. Toys from the worlds of Marvel and Star Wars are sure to be big, along with Disney’s own animated films “Frozen” and “Big Hero 6.”

Disney Consumer Products Holiday Showcase 2014

Frozen still reigns supreme at the Disney Store, and this fall will be no different.


Video: New Frozen products, Ariel, Sofia the First at Disney Consumer Products Holiday Showcase 2014


New this season is Frozen’s Snow Glow Elsa doll. Her dress lights up and she sings “Let It Go” in one of 25 different languages.

Disney Consumer Products Holiday Showcase 2014

Also new this fall are the Anna and Elsa additions to the Animators’ Collection line, Hide-and-Hug Olaf plush (Disney’s answer to Elf on the Shelf, it seems) and accompanying storybook, and the Crystal Kingdom Vanity set.

Disney Consumer Products Holiday Showcase 2014

Disney Consumer Products Holiday Showcase 2014

Disney Consumer Products Holiday Showcase 2014

Disney Consumer Products Holiday Showcase 2014

Disney Consumer Products Holiday Showcase 2014

Disney Consumer Products Holiday Showcase 2014

Disney Consumer Products Holiday Showcase 2014

Disney Consumer Products Holiday Showcase 2014


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FEATURED STORY

Transformers Fan Event rolls out at Universal Studios Hollywood with Optimus Prime truck, Hasbro panel, classic concert

Transformers Fan Event rolls out at Universal Studios Hollywood with Optimus Prime truck, Hasbro panel, classic concert

With the fourth live-action Transformers movie hitting theaters in just a couple days, Universal Studios Hollywood held a special event on Friday to celebrate all things Cybertron. The 2014 Transformers Fan Experience was held in conjunction with BotCon in Pasadena.

It was the park’s first exclusive Transformers Fan Experience, which included after-hours access to Transformers: The Ride 3D, a panel and interactive workshops from Hasbro’s brand team, photo opportunities with Optimus Prime, Megatron and Bumblebee, props from the new movie including the full size Optimus Prime truck, and a concert from musician Stan Bush.


Video: 2014 Transformers Fan Experience highlights at Universal Studios Hollywood


The event began with a walk down the red carpet, with attendees proudly wearing commemorative event lanyards and credentials. Autobot symbols took over the Universal Studios archway and streets.

Transformers Fan Event at Universal Studios Hollywood

Transformers Fan Event at Universal Studios Hollywood

Transformers Fan Event at Universal Studios Hollywood

Transformers Fan Event at Universal Studios Hollywood



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FEATURED STORY

SeaWorld Orlando debuts new Shamu show “Light Up The Night” to kick off summer season with fireworks finale

SeaWorld Orlando debuts new Shamu show “Light Up The Night” to kick off summer season with fireworks finale

Shamu shows have returned to SeaWorld Orlando just in time for the summer season. Shamu stadium has been closed for a few months of routine maintenance, but now a new show called “Light Up The Night” brings back the killer whales for more colorful performances.

The new nighttime show, fully titled Shamu’s Celebration: Light Up The Night, features original music, vibrant lighting, and a big fireworks finale.


Video: New SeaWorld Orlando Shamu show highlights – Light Up the Night


SeaWorld Orlando Summer 2014

SeaWorld Orlando Summer 2014

SeaWorld Orlando Summer 2014


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FEATURED STORY

Inside Diagon Alley as Universal Orlando fully unveils magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion in detail

Inside Diagon Alley as Universal Orlando fully unveils magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion in detail

Diagon Alley is almost here. Last week, Universal Orlando opened the brick walls leading from the Muggle city of London into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion at Universal Studios Florida in a preview of the new area, set to officially open July 8, 2014.

It’s been just over a year since Diagon Alley was first announced and since then “Harry Potter” fans have been hanging on to every tiny detail that’s been released. Now that the new area has been fully unveiled during the special press preview event, the videos, photos, and information below offer a complete overview of the impressively detailed and immersive new area, with links to take a closer look at each section.

Warning: The rest of this post contains an in-depth look at Diagon Alley, including many spoilers!


Hogwarts Express

Traveling to and from Diagon Alley can be achieved by foot, simply walking around Universal Studios Florida. But the best way to be completely immersed in the Wizarding World experience is to ride the new, real-life Hogwarts Express train that now connects that park with Hogsmeade Village in Islands of Adventure.

Guests can board the Hogwarts Express in the new Hogsmeade train station to travel to Diagon Alley or get on at King’s Cross Station to make the trip to Hogwarts. Each direction offers a different experience, with special effects and visuals offering a believable trip aboard the train. There are close encounters with familiar “Harry Potter” characters during the comfortable 4.5-minute ride.


Video: Hogwarts Express full ride POV – Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade at Universal Orlando


Video: Platform 9 3/4 wall effect for Hogwarts Express


Video: Hedwig animatronic in Wizarding World of Harry Potter


Video: Hogwarts Express train pulls into Hogsmeade Station at Universal Orlando


Video: Hogwarts Express full ride POV – Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando


Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

Click here for a closer look at the Hogwarts Express experience.


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FEATURED STORY

From Jaws to Diagon Alley – Tributes to the classic Universal Orlando ride hide in new Harry Potter land

From Jaws to Diagon Alley – Tributes to the classic Universal Orlando ride hide in new Harry Potter land

It was perpetually July 4th in Amity, home of the classic Jaws ride. But on July 8th, 2014, Jaws’ replacement will officially open as Universal Orlando debuts Diagon Alley.

The massive Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion is far bigger and better of an attraction than Jaws and its Amity area ever were. But just because Jaws is gone, doesn’t mean it should be forgotten.

Mike Aiello is Universal Orlando’s Director of Entertainment, in charge of creating the new area’s live entertainment. But his own journey to that “Harry Potter” position began many years ago when he was hired for the role of Jaws ride boat captain, rounding Amity on a daily basis.

“Working at Jaws was a great time in my life,” said Aiello. “I met a lot of people that I still am very close to. I’m very fortunate to have been working here so long and to see this park evolve into what it is today.”

Mike Aiello, at the helm of the Jaws ride in the early 1990s

“To be a part of and standing on the very spot of two amazing attractions at two very different points in my life and the two very distinct iterations of the studios is simply fantastic,” Aiello continued. “Jaws holds a very special place in my heart and those on the teams in various capacities creating this new Wizarding World. It will always be the best and the only.”

As such, Universal’s designers have included a few hidden references to the former attraction throughout the land. The list below likely isn’t comprehensive, as there are probably even more nods to be found. But these are some pretty good ones.

It’s hard to believe the Amity area pictured in the animated gif below has transformed into the London waterfront embankment that exists today.

When wandering around Diagon Alley, fans of the Jaws ride may be curious to know exactly where they would be standing if the old lagoon was still around. In fact, Aiello has been doing just that. “I found myself many times during the construction and rehearsal phase of Diagon looking around and placing myself back at Capt. Jake’s,” he admitted. “‘Where am I standing right now? Is this turn 1 at Amity 3? Or am I on Brody’s lawn?’”

The satellite images above offer a few frames of reference to keep in mind when walking through. The former spot for the Bruce photo op is almost exactly on the far right corner of Grimmauld Place. The old Jaws loading area is now the area near the Carkitt Market stage. Brody’s house was roughly where the entrance to the Escape from Gringotts ride is today. Much of the old lagoon, including the boat house, are encompassed by the massive Gringotts show building. The fiery finale of Jaws was roughly around where the Hogwarts Express is boarded now as well as parts of Horizont Alley and a bit of Knockturn Alley. And the Jaws unload area was where The Leaky Cauldron now sits.

Jaws ride Amity area (Dec. 2011)
Amity

London waterfront, as seen from the neighboring San Francisco area (June 2014)
Diagon Alley London waterfront at Universal Orlando

Entrance into Diagon Alley requires passing through the London facades, which are a major change from the boat shack that once marked the entrance of Jaws.

Jaws entrance (Dec. 2011)
Jaws photo op

Jaws - Captain Jakes' Amity Boat Tours

Diagon Alley entrance (June 2014)
Diagon Alley London waterfront at Universal Orlando

They don’t share exactly the same space, but the comparison is worth noting. Thankfully, the Bruce shark photo op is still in the park, relocated into nearby San Francisco.

The Record Store facade on the left side of the London embankment features the first of a few Jaws tributes. The displayed records are fictional and are full of in-jokes and credits from the creators of Diagon Alley. But one is a Jaws reference.

The record’s title is “Here’s to Swimmin’ with Bow Legged Women” by The Quint Trio. It’s a quote from the character Quint in the movie “Jaws,” one of a trio that sail out to hunt the shark, along with Brody and Hooper.

Deeper inside Diagon Alley, next to Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour is a store facade called Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary. Inside one of its windows behind some plants is a shark’s jawbone, another Jaws tribute.

Nearby, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment is decorated with various astronomical instrumentation. High up on shelves are quite a few telescopes, the largest of which were partially constructed using pieces from the old Jaws boats.

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

Behind the Thrills was alerted to another Jaws reference in the form of a song sung by the shrunken heads in Knockturn Alley, also featured in the movie:

(These are the Jaws ride references spotted so far, but not necessarily the only ones. Comment below if you’ve heard of or seen any more.)

As the July 8th opening date of Diagon Alley approaches, take a look back at the classic Jaws experience that had been at Universal Studios Florida practically since the park first opened, courtesy of the video tribute below. With 6 million views, it’s clear fans miss this old attraction.


Video: Jaws Ride: The Movie – An ultimate tribute to the Universal Studios Orlando attraction


Mike Aiello fires a final shot at Jaws.

Bringing it full circle, here’s Aiello talking about the new entertainment he helped create for Diagon Alley:

And what would happen if the two worlds were blended?

Perhaps the Hogwarts Express would be a boat, replacing Platform 9 3/4 with a dock? The Internet made it happen, with rather amusing results:


(Photo credit: Derek Burgan / Orlando Informer.)


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