In 2001, Rex and I were unaware of a second, industry changing theme park located at the Orlando Universal Resort called “Islands of Adventure.” During our vacation to Orlando, Rex noticed an advertisement and suggested we check it out. Those next few hours changed our outlook on theme parks and a few years later, RexandtheBeast.com was born. Today, in 2014, this simply wouldn’t be possible. It wouldn’t be possible to make a trip to one of the most important tourist destinations of the world and not have the knowledge of a new, dynamic theme/thrill park. Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social media outlets that make up the blazing speed of the new information highway would have us very much aware of not only the park’s existence, but of its inception and construction. Back in 2001, and even in 2007 when RexandtheBeast.com was launched, things were a bit different. Now, let’s be clear, it’s not like 2001 was the stone age; there were still plenty of opportunities for me and Rex to know about IOA and we probably should have been aware, but we weren’t quite the enthusiasts then as we became a few years later, and the ultimate point is that we couldn’t hide from that kind of knowledge today if we wanted to.
Over the last year the theme park world has been fixated on a certain hashtag called #potterwatch. Everything from the construction plans to the flavors of ice cream available have been on the rumor mill for the long anticipated Diagon Alley – the second phase of the insanely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort. For the most part, the access to this unending mountain of information is an absolute blast to follow. Excitement is raised, vacation plans are made, and the theme park industry benefits from the publicity. But…
From a fan’s perspective, there is one aspect of all this immediate and detailed information that raises some questions. Most importantly, what does the expectation of reading, hearing, and seeing all the hype about a new attraction or “island” do to the actual experience of arriving in person? There are two elements of this question I want to explore.
1. Does following the construction of such a huge addition coupled with reports of theme park industry leaders “shedding tears” when entering DA create an unfair and unrealistic expectation for a person’s own visit? Rex and I briefly mentioned this in our Audio Journeys Podcast #1407 – for us, the idea of crying inside DA is not something we are too concerned about; it just isn’t us. So, we aren’t going to be disappointed when we break into the alley and aren’t weeping with joy. But I wonder if others might be. Thus far, the vast majority of reviews for DA have been superb, going as far to call the themed addition the greatest aspect of any theme park in the world. When these kinds of reviews are coupled with following the construction experience from day 1, how can the actual visit for the rest of us ever live up to the expectation? Granted, folks can simply not read the reviews and shut down their social media accounts. But that, of course, is not reasonable. Again, I think the access to all this information is fantastic, for the most part. But I do worry if the actual visit can ever live up to the prolonged hype.
2. Does knowing everything about DA, even down to the items in store windows, leave some of the magic on the cutting room floor? In other words, would it be more awe inspiring if we went into the alley and were surprised by some of the elements available to us? On this point, I’m happy to say that I (The Beast) have stayed clear of all videos and reviews of the actual attractions and stores. I have no idea what to expect in Gringott’s, in the stores, on HE, and so on. I know a good bit about what is going to be there and the elements involved, but I haven’t seen them in action. I think for me, that will make the experience a little more special.
All in all, I am thankful for the quick access to a world of information on theme parks. But there will always be something special about 2001 when Rex and I had no idea what we were getting in to. I rode Spidey for the first time not knowing what it was. Boy, what a ride that was.