Dear Coaster Friends,
No one is excited for for Universal Islands of Adventures new roller coaster? No one? Intamin fanboys? ::crickets:: Hmmm, what went wrong here? Universal is spending untold millions of dollars to create perhaps one of the most immersive themed roller coasters ever in Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and the enthusiast community seems silent about it. Maybe the name is too long? Nah that can’t be it, plus I’m sure it will simply be referred to as Hagrid’s anyway, thoosies love nicknames. Is it the theme? I don’t think so either, people have generally been enamored with the Harry Potter theming at all the Universal Parks. Too family, maybe but I have heard many people freak out over Oscar’s Wacky Taxi & have even been told Verbolten is the best ride at BGW. I think the real reason it has been willfully ignored has to do with Dragons. The plot of land was home to the first ever scrapped B&M coaster, and I think that people are still coming to grips with that.
If you have been ignoring or shunning this ride it might be time to start paying attention, because it is opening in less than a month and has already been testing. While the park has told some secrets about the coaster, and offered limited previews much is still unknown. The most important question that needs to be answered is what will the full layout look like? However we do know that it is manufactured by Intamin and will feature a brand new style of train with asymmetrical seating. It will combine show elements and theming on a new scale. The trains themselves will offer slightly different ride experiences with vantages of scenery and shows, so multiple rides will be needed to get the full experience. The motorcycle and sidecar trains will feature on ride audio including engine sounds to help sell that you are speeding along on Hagrid’s motorbike. Even though we don’t know the full layout we do know that there will be multiple launches, lots of sweeping and swerving turns, and a dynamic track. What types of things will the track do? The ride will feature a drop track, inclined launches, and shows along the way. The ride duration is over three minutes and covers almost a mile of track. Don’t let the long duration fool you into thinking this will be a slow kids ride the max speed will exceed 50 MPH. It will also have a record breaking seven launches, so expect lots of changes in speed.
Since the main point of this ride is the theming and shows I don’t want to give out any spoilers. I may have discovered some potential spoilers from previews the park has been offering and from peeping drones. For people who want to go in cold I promise not to spoil any details. The queue is elaborately themed and will tell a story as the guests explore it. After the long wait guests will be told the story in a pre-show before they board their train. There will be show elements both indoors and out during the ride itself, as well as enough scenery to completely transport guests from Florida into the Forbidden Forest. The show building has the largest hand painted mural in the state to help it blend in with its surroundings. The riders will even be subjected to smells from the beasts they encounter.
I feel like there's a lot of potential for this ride to be very different and offer a totally new experience for roller coasters. Even though so much is unknown I think we can look at three attractions that I really love for some indications of what to expect, coincidentally they are all in Florida! The first point of comparison is Cheetah Hunt at BGT another Intamin multi launch coaster. People often qualify this ride as a family coaster and not a thrill coaster. I think it really delivers even though it was built to bring in a wide audience and be not a pure thrill ride. Extreme rides divides the guests into the brave and the wimps. It isn’t surprising that Universal wants to deliver a family ride that appeals to the widest audience possible. Cheetah Hunt features low swooping turns and utilizes the scenery to enhance the ride experience. The feel of Cheetah Hunt and the re-rideability of it makes it a really special ride. Even though it isn’t the most thrilling ride at BGT I find when I visit it is the one I end up riding the most times. This isn’t just my opinion as Cheetah Hunt typically has the longest line, and typically runs four trains.
My favorite ride at BGT is actually my next example, Montu. Montu is an incredibly intense B&M invert and I love B&M inverts. While I think they all ride well and have their memorable moments, Montu stands out because of the built in scenery and trenches. Ripping around these elements with scenery whizzing by enhances the excitement and increases the sensation of speed. One added bonus of lots of scenery is that it can obscure your view of what is coming up next, another experience I think we can look forward to on Hagrid’s. The area around Hagrid’s hut in the movie series has ruins and zipping through a forest could have similar benefits of enhancing the sensation of speed and hiding the next element.
The last attraction isn’t a roller coaster, but stick with me. It is Tower of Terror, a ride some describe as their favorite dark ride while others describe it as their favorite drop tower. I think this ride’s ability to not be defined as just one thing is part of what makes it great. The drop part of the ride is enhanced by the theming and the dark ride portion of the attraction would fall flat if not for the drop. I think this synergy may help Hagrid’s be a sleeper hit. The theming of Harry Potter is going to excite more people's imagination than the Twilight Zone, and a roller coaster is going to be more exciting than a drop tower.
There is a final opportunity I believe Hagrid’s has an opportunity to satisfy. When Magic Mountain announced West Coast Racers I think many people jumped to the conclusion that they wanted to take the concept of dueling roller coasters and make it more successful by engineering the ride so it had to duel to run. I think there is a similar situation with Hagrid’s. When Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts was announced as a roller coaster many people were imagining themselves flying around a magical track just like in the movies on some sort of goblin ultra twister. The reality was a dark ride with some roller coaster elements. The ride was very successful for Universal and tourists visiting Orlando, but didn’t really move the needle for roller coaster enthusiasts. Hagrid’s has the promise of doing it right, instead of adding thrill to a dark ride they are adding an immersive story and environment to a roller coaster. I think it will be a satisfying addition to the Wizarding World and roller coaster enthusiasts. If you think I forgot about The Mummy, I didn’t but feel free to tell me about it in the comments.