The folks over at Theme Park Insider appear to have obtained copies of the expansion plans for Harry Potter Phase II at Universal. Forgive me for being a bit cynical, but it seems too much of a coincidence that these expansion plans are suddenly leaked on the same day that Disney had scheduled a "major announcement." If you follow the interwebs at all, you know Disney's big announcement was another massive fail (the Magic Kingdom is staying open for 24 hours on February 29, for 2 weeks if you buy a non-discounted vacation package for 3 days, you get the 4th free, and they're giving away 60 free vacations between now and the 29th of February). Perhaps Universal knew what this announcement was going to be (everyone else in the online community sure did), and wanted to one up Disney without being obvious about it. So, they leak the plans to a trusted source. For reasons you'll see in a moment, this easily trumps Disney's announcement. In essence, Universal has (once again) one-upped Disney, this time without actually (at least on the record) doing anything. It's a brilliant coup by Universal, and the kind of bold move that once upon a time, Disney used to make.
So what was leaked, you wonder? The plans for Potter Phase II are almost identical to what I described in an earlier post leaking the story. This new land, themed after Diagon Alley, will occupy the land where the soon to be closed Jaws/Amity section of the park currently sits. In addition to shopping destinations (and the likely relocation of Ollivanders), there is space for a restaurant (the Leaky Cauldron, perhaps?) and a major indoor attraction. The land appears to be accessible only by a single entry point, which seems to suggest you'll enter the same way the gang does in the books and films (how cool will it be to actually travel by Floo Powder?). There is also a train station planned, and the Hogwarts Express will connect Diagon Alley to the Hogwarts/Hogsmeade land at Islands of Adventure. I'm guessing you'll board the train in Diagon Alley on Platform 9 3/4 and emerge at Hogwarts somewhere.
As for that major indoor attraction (the show building is apparently going to be massive) it is yet another game-changer from the folks who already changed the game once with Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It's an indoor roller-coaster/dark ride set inside the vaults of Gringott's bank.
Out of respect for the good folks at Theme Park Insider, who have legitimately broken this story, I'm not going to describe the Gringott's attraction here, but instead link you to their article, which includes a detailed description and sketches of the ride vehicles. Take a look:
I'm sure Mike will want to weigh in himself, but I'll just say this: assuming everything goes according to plan, this ride system sounds SICK. If Universal can pull this off (and given how well they pulled off Forbidden Journey, I believe they will), they've once again out-Disneyed Disney.
Perhaps the most significant part of all of this? Potter Phase II is still slated to open in late 2013, a full 4 years ahead of Disney's Avatarland, a project which appears to have not even gotten off the ground yet (and has already had its budget slashed)...but that's for another post!