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Arts & Culture

FastPass+ speeds up Disney magic; Universal’s interactive wands

Live Active Cultures

Photo: PHOTO BY SETH KUBERSKY, License: N/A

PHOTO BY SETH KUBERSKY


While Disney uses its expensive new infrastructure to shuffle guests around in hopes of eventually increasing per-guest spending while reducing labor expenses, Universal Orlando is rumored to be using its own next-generation technology to create an innovative new entertainment experience. Most major aspects of Diagon Alley – the new London-themed Harry Potter expansion at Universal Studios Florida – have already been publicly announced, save for the official opening date (which is expected to fall in mid-June, around the four-year anniversary of the original Wizarding World’s premiere) but there are still a few final secrets left to spill.

One feature that until recently remained under wraps has now risen to the top of the rumor mill, thanks largely to posts on Central Florida Top 5 by Ken Storey, revealing details of the interactive wands Universal will reportedly introduce with the new area. While a MagiQuest-esque system whereby guests can “cast spells” to trigger hidden special effects was whispered about as far back as 2008, my sources say that Universal is indeed aiming to implement it around Diagon’s debut.

The new electronic wands have embedded Wii-style gyroscopic sensors to distinguish between swishes and flicks, and can be tracked by Kinect-like cameras. By gesturing correctly at selected window displays secreted around both Wizarding Worlds, guests will be able to levitate quills and quaffles, animate cakes and cauldrons, and assemble skeletons and suits of armor.

As a Potter fan, I’m beyond excited to see such an attraction put into action, but as an observer of amusement operations I’m understandably apprehensive. How can Universal prevent long lines at every interactive location (as seen at “portals” for Disney’s Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card game) without charging a price that would make Gringotts’ goblins gag? If they can solve that supply-and-demand dilemma, they’ll truly be wizards.

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