Hey Thrill Seekers,
As you’ll probably know by my recent posts and the numerous pictures I’ve been popping on our facebook page I recently visited Orlando and in particular the Universal Resort. I was really excited to be able to visit Universal Studios not only to check out Diagon Alley but to also visit and experience the Transformers Ride 3d, Minions Mayhem and the new Simpsons area, all of which had been added since the last time I visited almost 4 years ago.
I was very lucky to be part of a group that was shown around by an official Universal tour guide, the tour guide was extremely knowledgeable, especially about the new Wizarding World area and offered up a ton of additional information, one interesting piece was the telephone box found outside Kings Cross station… try dialling 62448 and see what happens!
Diagon Alley is an amazing feast to behold. The attention to details is amazing and the dragon atop of Gringotts Bank is a brilliant touch, when it breathes fire everybody stops. Gringotts Bank is the setting for the feature ride at Diagon Alley, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and I got the pleasure of riding it, here’s what I thought.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Firstly and straight off the bat, I loved this ride. Its a mixture of 3d technology and an indoor coaster, think Spiderman at Islands of Adventure mixed with a small helping of Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios. The story of the ride is pretty simple really, you’re at Gringotts to open an account its coincidentally right at the same time that Harry, Ron and Hermione are there trying to find one of the Horcruxes! You’re caught in the middle of a wild adventure.
The queue line starts inside Gringotts Banks, to your right are 3 goblins all going about their business, brilliantly brought to life by animatronics you’ll sometimes catch them staring at you, I must admit to feeling like I’d done something wrong when their gaze met mine. At the head of the bank is the chief Goblin who tells you what to expect with sagely advice.
I would definitely recommend taking your time to have a good look around, the chandelier set in the very center of the room is amazing and the Goblin robots are superbly put together.
From here we were lead down a long corridor, to our left and right are offices where you’d imagine the Goblins do their work. The doors have the appropriate Goblin name on them, for example “Blordak”. Approximately half way down the corridor is a camera station where the Goblin workers (cast members) take a picture of you which can be purchased later on for your Bank I.D.
At the end of the corridor we’re taken in to a room where, using 3D effects, we hear a conversation between a Goblin and Bill Weasley we’re told that opening an account at Gringotts is a good idea as its the “safest place on Earth”.
From here we move to a new room, which features a lift, the lift is large and can hold quite a few people. The lift begins to take us miles and miles below Gringotts. In reality you don’t move at all but the lift is manipulated to feel like you’re moving. In our group of 10 at least 6 people actually believed we’d been in a working lift such is the realism.
Finally we were at our coaster trains, each train can take up to 12 people, 3 rows of 4 and I found myself in the middle row. We start very smoothly until as readers of the books or watchers of the films will know our hero’s (Harry, Ron and Hermione) are detected. At this point Bellatrix, played by Helena Bonham Carter, appears and fires off some magic at us, as she believes we’re part of the crew trying to steal from her vault.
We’re saved this time by Bill Weasley but of course this isn’t for long when Trolls guarding the vaults mistake us for the intruders and send us plummeting towards the ground. As I’ve mentioned before I’m not a great fan of motion rides, they make me feel extremely nauseous and generally the falling to the ground bit (see Spider-Man, Transformers etc) is the bit that gets me but on this ride I’d didn’t feel it. I don’t know if its different technology being employed or the fact its part coaster but I felt fine. Bill again rescues us from the fall and sets us down in a vault where we should be safe.
However the hissing of Voldemort’s snake tells us we’re not. We come face to face with “He who must not be named” and Bellatrix, who quickly fire spells at us and then turn in to black smoke and follow us on to the next cavern. Just when it looks like Voldemort and Bellatrix have the advantage Harry, Ron and Hermione appear riding upon a dragon (the one featured on top of Gringotts Bank) Hermione throws us a chain, and the dragon hauls us up out of the cavern to safety. Which is brilliant illustrated by the a rush of speed from the Coaster part of the ride and we’re shot off through a wall of smoke to safety. Bill is then shown telling us how well we all did and how Gringotts is still the “safest place on Earth”.
The ride is brilliantly aimed at most ages, its not as thrilling as say Forbidden Journey but it offers a lot more family fun. Its definitely worth experiencing.