Here is an excerpt from an article in the Orlando Weekly about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Bold for the TL;DR crowd.
I, for one, am so freaking excited.
When General Electric purchased Vivendi in 2004 to create NBC Universal, many predicted a Flip This House fate for the theme parks. Instead, they invested: Form 10-K filings with the SEC disclose $150 million worth of capital expenditures in 2008, with a total of $275 million to $310 million budgeted for recent and upcoming attractions. That includes Universal Studios Orlando's successful new Simpsons simulator, which will be followed next summer by Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit, the roller coaster code-named "Project Rumble." Orange County Comptroller permit No. 20080021590 revealed German firm Maurer Soehne as the improbably named ride's creaters, which will run between the Blue Man Group soundstage and the Jimmy Neutron ride. The track will begin with a 167-foot vertical lift (making it the tallest coaster in town) and will feature unique elements like a non-inverted loop, a dive through the Twister firehouse facade and an overhead "crowd surf" near the new Hollywood Bowl-style concert stage (not over CityWalk, as the Sentinel erroneously report). What it won't have is any over-the-shoulder retraints; lap bars will suffice to keep riders in their seats. Other advances to the "X-car" ride vehicles include individually selectable soundtracks and built-in cameras, allowing visitors to take home a You-Tube-worthy souvenir music video documenting their survival. And based on the load station's location, look for the ride to be available as an afterhours upcharge for night-owl thrill-seekers.
But the bulk of that quarter-billion is being spent on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This massive reworking of Island of Adventure's Lost Continent may preview as early as Christmas 2009 and officially will open summer 2010. Work is well underway: The Flying Unicorn coaster is behind construction walls, the gorgeous Enchanted Oak restaurant is rubble, and the massive superstructure of Hogwarts Castle already towers over the rear of Jurassic Park. While the framework indicates an enormous volume, it doesn't yet approach the height of Cinderella's Castle; in order to achieve the effect indicated in concept art, I predict guests will enter through "cliffs" at the base of the magical school, with the castle itself mostly a force-perspective mega-miniature mounted atop the show building. For an idea of what might be inside that enormous space, read U.S. Patent No. 6796908, which describes an interactive Harry Potter dark ride in which tourists use RFID-enabled electronic "magic wands" to "cast spells" that affect the outcome of the attraction. The patent is from Creative Kingdoms' Denise Chapman Weston and builds on her company's popular MagiQuest fantasy games, found at Myrtle Beach and in Great Wolf Lodges. The concept predates Universal's plans, and both parties decline to confirm any partnership; but the cash to be made off selling collectible digital divining rods seems irresistable.
Elsewhere in Potterworld, you'll find the Three Broomsticks pub-restaurant and other money-spending opportunities, all behind snow-covered Hogsmeade Village facades (crafted by local scenic arts shop Nassal Co.). The Flying Unicorn kiddie-coaster will be re-themed to one of Hagrid's magical creatures, and Dueling Dragons' elaborate castle queue will be redecorated (hopefully not destroyed) around a wizarding competition. What's less certain: the details of "Project Strongarm," the next-generation "RoboCoaster" that is supposed to be new area's E-Ticket. After Universal contracted Kuka to attraction exclusivity on their latest robot arm technology, Hill sparked reports of a "flying car" ride based on the Weasleys' Ford Anglia from the Chamber of Secrets. More recently, American Scenic briefly released (and quickly retracted) designs depicting a benchlike vehicle navigating the Forbidden Forest, an Acromantula nest, the Basilisk's lair and other environments from the second novel. Fueling speculation, Universal is emphatically reticent on the future of the Sinbad stunt show (rumored site of the project) and official artwork of the development is artfully vague in that area.
eta: yeah guys, sorry these scans didn't post bigger. i can't fix it. there is only one pic and it's been posted before. it's the concept art on the universal website. the top picture is some american idol thing they are putting at disney.