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2012 Best Attraction Tournament: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey vs. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

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Published: March 26, 2012 at 9:08 AM
Today's winner in the 2012 Theme Park Insider Tournament might very well be the favorite to win this year's title for Best Themed Ride.

We've got a former champion of the tournament vying with the top-seed and a former winner of the Theme Park Insider Award for Best New Attraction. But only one of these award-winning attractions will make it to this year's final. So which will it be - Universal's Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey or Disney's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror?

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey - at Universal's Islands of Adventure

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Voting is open for 24 hours. Please tell us in the comments why you voted the way you did, and if you'd like to drum up some more votes for your favorite, feel free to link to this post on Facebook and Twitter.


Tuesday: 2. It's Tough to Be a Bug! vs. 6. Fantasmic! compete to take on Soarin's Over California in the Best Theme Park Show final.

Readers' Opinions

From Mike Gallagher on March 26, 2012 at 9:15 AM
As much as I love the Potter novels, I had to vote for the ride I've actually BEEN on, and enjoyed immensely. ToT for me.
From Brian L on March 26, 2012 at 9:17 AM
This is evil...pure evil. Arg! I voted Potter because the quarter I flipped told me to.
From Mark Hollamon on March 26, 2012 at 9:22 AM
I will probably be on the losing team for this round, but I voted ToT.

Theme = Tie. Both attractions raise the bar

Ride delivery system = ToT: While FJ is an incredible ride, I never got the "HOLY COW" feeling the first time I rode it like I did ToT.

Storyline = I'm calling them equal because FJ has millions of followers and it's a new story while ToT's storyline is part of the fabric of my generation and I grew up watching that show. It's timeless and still on regular TV rotation today just as the HP flix will be 50 years from now.

Final tally: ToT 51- FJ 49

From Brent Moody on March 26, 2012 at 9:23 AM
TOT is a great ride! That being said I voted for Forbidden Journey because it is by far the best all around ride I have ever been on!
From Kevin G on March 26, 2012 at 9:36 AM
TOT is the best ride in any park, any where.
From Rob Pastor on March 26, 2012 at 9:40 AM
Both rides are fantastic. Both queues are excellent. Both attraction's buildings dominate their respective theme parks. I give the edge to Harry Potter with slightly more substance to the overall ride experience. If I could only ride one of the attractions on a trip to Orlando, I would choose Harry Potter over TOT.
From Dominick D on March 26, 2012 at 9:41 AM
I've only been on FJ, but TOT seems alot better, so that got my vote.
From Skipper Adam on March 26, 2012 at 9:43 AM
They're pretty well matched up to me, but if I could ride one over and over and not get bored or tired of it, it would be ToT. And now that I think about it, ToT's story makes far more sense the FJ, but that may really only matter to me since I study plots and stories all day at school.
From Mark Fairleigh on March 26, 2012 at 9:56 AM
Forbidden Journey FTW! Would have been a lot tougher vote if it had been Spidey vs. FJ.
From James Rao on March 26, 2012 at 10:01 AM
For me and mine, Universal's Orlando resort has always been a favorite cheaper-than-Disney destination, filled with cutting edge rides, great restaurants, wonderful onsite resort perks, and manageable crowd levels. USO was the perfect counter-point to my traditional, ultra-expensive, jam-packed Disney vacation. However, I have been on somewhat of an anti-Potter crusade in this tournament, simply voting against the elephant in the room to keep things honest and to point out that despite all the praise and love HP has received, the park in which it resides is far from perfect.

Apart from the Wizarding World, the Universal parks are sparsely themed, poorly maintained, and provide spotty customer service and line management. Furthermore, the success of the Wizarding World brought significantly higher prices and larger crowds (at least in the "new" area of IOA) which nearly eliminated USO from the "add on to a Disney vacation" category. Now, forced with choosing between Disney OR Universal during an Orlando visit, I tend to choose Disney simply because they continue to offer the best, whole-family theme park vacation.

However, when Universal implemented their Harry Potter expansion, they showed the world that Disney quality and immersion can be achieved and even improved upon at parks outside of Disney. They proved that if you spend the money, and spend it right, people will come, regardless of the brand name on the park. They illustrated that high quality food, beverage, and snack choices can lead to big profits, even if the margin on those profits is smaller because of the increased quality. They grabbed headlines and took the limelight away from a slumbering Disney company, creating a ripple effect that is leading to major improvements at many of the US Disney parks. Furthermore, instead of Disney releasing big expansion plans and then cutting budgets and corners as they have done in the past, all their current plans have seen increased budgets and even more detailing and plussing thrown in for good measure. In short, Universal finally woke up a company that has been very much resting on its laurels for more than a decade.

Above all, Universal proved that Disney does not hold exclusive rights on fully realized, immersive, narrative themed lands - any company can build them (and profit from them) if they are willing to spend the money. This example is something that other theme park companies are beginning to follow, which is great news for themed entertainment fans everywhere. Just take a look at the increased level of detail in new and upcoming attractions like Verbolten, Wild Eagle, Turtle Trek, Manta (California), and especially the Antarctica land being constructed at SeaWorld Orlando. The renaissance in themed entertainment that Universal started with the Wizarding World is something very exciting to see and parks that aren't on board with plussing attractions are being left in the dust. Even chains like Six Flags and Cedar Fair are starting to realize that improved lands, better ride queues, and higher immersion levels can lead to big profits. In other words, everyone is starting to understand something that Disney has known all along: if you offer visitors something more than common midway experiences, they will visit more often, stay longer, and spend more money!

Now, in regard to this vote today, let me state that I love the Tower of Terror. In my mind it is a perfect example of what Disney does best: take a standard midway experience (the drop ride) and turn it into an immersive masterpiece of sight, sounds, and thrills that is unmatched across the expanse of the theme park industry. It was and is my favorite attraction at WDW. Not only did the Tower of Terror shape the entire Sunset Blvd area at DHS, but it rendered all other drop rides obsolete, and set a new standard for themed entertainment.

In 2010, 16 years after the Tower of Terror was introduced, the Wizarding World upped the ante and set a new standard. For that reason alone its signature attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, will get my vote today. In my mind if the Tower of Terror wins this vote, theme park fans are giving Disney permission to rest on its laurels for another 16 years, and I personally don't ever want to see that happen again.

From Mark Fairleigh on March 26, 2012 at 10:13 AM
James, loved that...kudos. Disney and Universal staying hungry is best for everyone.
From Ray Schroeder on March 26, 2012 at 10:28 AM
Not fair... Both rides are great and I love them both. But when I rode HPFJ, it just blew me away. I had to go with Harry.
From Robert Niles on March 26, 2012 at 10:39 AM
I can't see either ride from the other semi (Mansion or Pirates) beating today's winner, so this might as well be the final.

That said, anyone else just linger for several moments just looking at the pictures of these two rides on the page today? Now that is what great theme park attractions look like!

From Robert Niles on March 26, 2012 at 10:40 AM
And by the way...

+1 to James. Well said.

From Dominick D on March 26, 2012 at 11:39 AM
I'm betting on Haunted Mansion vs FJ in the final round.
From James Rao on March 26, 2012 at 12:42 PM
^Disneyland's Pirates is the Forbidden Journey of 45 years ago. It has and will continue to weather the ravages of time.
From Javi Badillo on March 26, 2012 at 1:17 PM
dom how can you vote for a ride you have never even been on.....
From AJ Hummel on March 26, 2012 at 1:34 PM
I voted for Tower of Terror since I haven't been on Harry Potter, but I have a feeling that when I get around to riding it I'll think it is a superior ride. Tower of Terror may be one of Disney's best rides, but it is not much more than an excellently themed drop tower, while Forbidden Journey is a groundbreaking new species of dark ride.
From 63.78.242.14 on March 26, 2012 at 1:37 PM
This is going to be the closet battle yet. However i am sad the WOTM didnt make it futher in the countdown. Hence, i choose WWOHP ride
From Robyn A. on March 26, 2012 at 1:52 PM
These are both simply spectacular rides, and it would have been a very difficult decision, except for one factor:

My scared-of-everything daughter overcame many fears by riding FJ. I explained it in great detail, showed her videos, assured her the decision was entirely up to her whether or not to ride it. She was very apprehensive, and for a good hour afterward, still unsure what she thought of it. Then she asked if we could go again, and waited patiently for nearly 2 hours. We managed to fit in 4 rides during our 2 days at IoA. She also decided to try Spiderman, since I assured her it was somewhat similar to FJ, which she also absolutely loved. She may never share her mama's love of coasters, but FJ helped her overcome some fears and connect to her HP-loving brothers. This coupled with the sheer amazingness of FJ, earns it my vote.

TOT most certainly holds a special place in my heart though!

From Robert Gray on March 26, 2012 at 1:54 PM
Been on both many times and I have to vote for Tower of Terror. I love FJ but with 16 years of technology on their side I really don't think it is a better ride than the tower.

The big let down for me with Potter is the screens, if it was purely themeing and animatronics I would be voting for it today, but I really think the too blurry, too dark screens really take away from the experience and is also the only ride that makes me (and a few of my friends) nauseous.

FJ also lacks a big finale or epic climax in my opinion. Unlike ToT with one of the most satisfying and thrilling 30 seconds in theme park history.

From Jack Curley on March 26, 2012 at 1:56 PM
Tower of Terror is a near-perfect ride. No one who has ever ridden it can dispute that. Even if you don't care for drop rides (I'm not a huge fan of them), odds are you're going to enjoy ToT and ride it again.

But the Potter ride is better.

I've never read a Potter novel or seen a Potter movie, but that is one heck of a ride. I have no idea who anyone is or what they're talking about, but that is an A+ attraction.

Tower of Terror is a near-perfect ride, but Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is ever-so slightly nearer to perfect.

From robert morris on March 26, 2012 at 3:41 PM
As I have converted from Disney to Universal as my families favorite parks in Orlando. I'm also a theme park fan who suffers from motion sickness which makes both of these great attractions a challenge for me.

But I have to go for FJ as even its line would probably get enough votes to qualify for this tourney.

While ToT's line creates a great ambience but not the same level and extra credit for FJ having a beer cart incorporated into the line.

May main compliant has always been that Hogwarts should have been a "haunted mansion" style ride that incorporated even more rooms and the moving staircases. And then building a quidtich pitch facade to house the FJ ride with a simlar themed experience to what we see now.

But alas hindsight is 20/20 and WWoHP has exceeded expectations regardlessm

From Dominick D on March 26, 2012 at 3:45 PM
Javi, I'm judging by videos. And James, I'm not sure if Pirates can hold a chance...
From Giovanny Cruz on March 26, 2012 at 3:59 PM
First reason I'm going to vote for fj is TOT eliminated spider man and is a much better ride than tot
From O T on March 26, 2012 at 4:17 PM
They are both amazing rides and themes. They both should win.
The only problem I have is with TZTT is that there are a few of them but the Florida park only has got the forward driving part that was the biggest wtf moment for me and I feel sorry for people who only know the lesser incarnations.
That said, my vote went to Forbiddenn Journey. Thy flying is realy magical and that spell never gets broken. but they are both awesome x 10!!!
From 173.78.67.53 on March 26, 2012 at 4:31 PM
I'm sure Potter will get it. but I voted Tower Of Terror. I love the story behind the attraction. The movie that introduced us to that fateful stormy night in the elevator of the Hollywood Hotel, and the fate of little Sally Shine, and the others in the elevator. I've never been in that elevator.last moment, I chickened out. The Hotel Bellboy took me down in the SERVICE elevator, he said it had been repaired. I waited in the Hotel lobby for my family to return from the 13th floor. No ButterBeer for me !
From James Rao on March 26, 2012 at 4:51 PM
Dom, IMHO, Pirates at DL is the single greatest attraction ever built. Without it, nothing else we are debating would have ever been built. It should win hands down every time there is a vote of this nature. However, people like to go with what is flashy, and what is new, despite the fact that I doubt very much the Forbidden Journey ride will last anywhere close to 45 years.
From Stevo B on March 26, 2012 at 6:28 PM
Had to go with ToT, and I agree that it's a shame that they didn't build the 5th dimension into the other towers. Sadly that part of the attraction turn out to be problematic, but it is really cool. Potter is a fun ride and definitely upped the ante but those darn screens just bug me.
From Joshua Counsil on March 26, 2012 at 6:11 PM
I was going to vote Tower, but James Rao swung my opinion. Bravo, James.
From Skipper Adam on March 26, 2012 at 6:12 PM
Even if ToT doesn't win, the numbers speak loads on a much older ride against the newest trend of a ride.
From 74.197.184.130 on March 26, 2012 at 6:17 PM
I just don't get FJ. All of the bad things of seven books happen at once when Hogwarts happens to be open to muggles and flying benches is the best way to get everyone around. Half the ride feels like a lame motion simulator and half the effects don't work already. At least it took years for the TOT effects to stop lol. I vote ToT.
From Robert Niles on March 26, 2012 at 6:49 PM
Flying bench > Elevator with seats
From James Rao on March 26, 2012 at 9:50 PM
;) Thanks, Josh, it took a lot for me to talk myself into voting against Tower of Terror!

@74.197.184.130, I have read a lot of threads and heard several podcasters report that FJ is having a myriad of technical difficulties. If so, I am concerned as it continues to show that Universal does not do a good job of maintaining its attractions. I have heard JK Rowling has some pretty strict verbiage in her agreement with Universal about things working in "her park". If the ride's effects are already breaking down maybe we need to petition Rowling to get involved?

From Dominick D on March 26, 2012 at 7:17 PM
FYI James I haven't been on DL's Pirates. MK's is in my top 5 favorite rides, but I find Haunted Mansion a tad better.
From José María Sandoval on March 26, 2012 at 8:01 PM
Very funny!!
From James Rao on March 26, 2012 at 8:04 PM
Dom, WDW's Pirates is the Cliff's Notes version as others have said. There really is no comparison between the two.
From Beth Olliges on March 26, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Thank you, Robert Gray! I'm thrilled to see someone else post about FJ's blurry screens and nausea-inducing movements! I'll likely give it another try the next time I'm at Universal, but I'll definitely take a Dramamine first! For now, my vote is ToT all the way! (I'm very excited to see them in a dead heat -- as a Louisville fan, I'm all about the big upset! Go Cards! Er, I mean: Go Tower!) :-)
From Skipper Adam on March 27, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Since no one is awake, I'd like to point out for the morning that the vote has been on and on 50% which is rather amazing. Of course I'm rooting for Tower to win, but if it doesn't, I'm still blown away by how Tower gave FJ a run for its money!
From Kelly Muggleton on March 27, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Tower. I can't and won't vote against my all time favourite ride.
This vote is so close!!
From Zena Sharpe on March 27, 2012 at 1:42 AM
For the first time in ages, I have decided not to vote.
I have been on both of these rides and although very different, they are both a favourite. Through pros and cons, I cannot decide - (not unusual for a woman I hear the men cry!)
Good luck to both rides in this tournament!
From Shann Walker on March 27, 2012 at 1:58 AM
What bothers me about FJ is that it is just so new. One of the things that makes Disney so magical is its ability to survive the years. These older rides contine to be the favorites of kids and adults everywhere year after year after year. I'm just not so sure that FJ can live up to that. ToT has already proven that it can stand the test of time. Maybe that's not a fair way to judge a ride, and maybe I'm wrong for it, but what I do know is that ToT isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It gives me a thrill every single time I ride it. It's simply amazing.
From Mike Gallagher on March 27, 2012 at 3:46 AM
Shann: It bothers you that it's "so new?" Every ride in every park, from Disney to Lakemont (hello, Leap The Dips, built in 1902 and running today..well, not TODAY today!)..was "so new" at one time. I don't analyze why I like or don't like a given ride, but I don't think "it's so new" is a valid reason for a negative opinion.
From KJ Simpson on March 27, 2012 at 4:20 AM
The voting's closed, and it's 50-50?! Wow, what happens next, Robert?
From 220.255.1.112 on March 27, 2012 at 5:01 AM
The most intense match-up so far.Will there eventually be an overall winner where champions of all 3 brackets meet for a final showdown?
From Joseph Catlett on March 27, 2012 at 6:14 AM
Regarding my vote for Potter...this was a close one, but I had to go for Potter over Tower simply for the fact that the dumbed down versions of this attraction exist in California and Paris. These "on the cheap" versions dilute the franchise and are the tipping point for me in Potter's favor.
From 76.113.24.233 on March 27, 2012 at 6:16 AM
Mike: If you had read my whole post you would have seen I addressed that, but what I am saying is that ToT has proven that through the years it has remained a strong and popular ride. So for that reason I think it is better, it has lived up to the test of time and proven it isn't just a fad.
From Stuart Henny on March 27, 2012 at 6:17 AM
Tower of Terror FTW!
From Scott B on March 27, 2012 at 6:30 AM
I had to go with Forbidden Journey. I LOVE TZTOT!! But....at the end of the day you are in an elevator dropping up and down.

Forbidden Journey on the other hand is such a completely amazing experience, I can't imagine a ride coming close to it anytime soon. Both have amazing queues and incredible atmosphere, but the entire ride experince of HPFJ is just too jaw droppingly amazing to vote for anything else.

From 99.110.229.222 on March 27, 2012 at 7:33 AM
Wow, it's 50/50 at this time.
From Wes Lindquist on March 27, 2012 at 7:39 AM
Only one ride has ever made me wonder what is coming next. ToT did that the first time and continues to keep me guessing.
From KJ Simpson on March 27, 2012 at 7:50 AM
Wow- I thought the voting was closed. It's still open, and it's still tied! This is really down to the wire, very exciting!!
From Mike Gallagher on March 27, 2012 at 7:56 AM
Fascinating that with over 1200 votes that it could be dead even. Amazing.
From Dan Babbitt on March 27, 2012 at 7:59 AM
Has there ever been a Co-Champion?
From Skipper Adam on March 27, 2012 at 9:18 AM
The gap that closed between the rides was huge. I guess maybe the tie breaker will be the actual vote count versus percentage. However, it should be noted that in all practicality it really was a tie. I know it wasn't a literal tie but the percentage is negligible enough to ToT plenty of credit.
From Mark Hollamon on March 27, 2012 at 9:52 AM
Best tourney of all time! Just reading the incredible amount of thought people put into their votes makes me proud I participate in the tourney!

KUDOS Mr. Niles for another great job and it's not even over yet!

From Tim Odom on March 27, 2012 at 10:00 AM
I voted for Tower of Terror, not because I think it's the superior ride, but because I have not yet experienced Harry Potter. Truthfully, I want Harry Potter to win the tournament now that Spidey is gone.
From Mark Fairleigh on March 27, 2012 at 10:09 AM
Wow! So our first runoff?? How does the tie-breaker work?
From Rob Pastor on March 27, 2012 at 10:34 AM
It seems that a lot of people haven't experienced Harry Potter's Forbidden Journey yet, which may have shifted some of the voting to ToT. That said, they are both terrific attractions/queues, and both deserving of a Best Attraction semi final duel. Forbidden Journey just got by, but like they say in sports, a win is a win is a win no matter the margin of victory. It will be interesting to see what next year's contest will look like as more people get to experience Harry Potter, the debut of the new Transformers and the extreme makeover over of Spider-Man.
From Duncan Henny on March 27, 2012 at 11:08 AM
Wow won by 8 votes. Just shows you that every vote counts :)
From Christopher Sturniolo on March 27, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Not to sound stupid but why in the competition is Soarin' considered a show and Carousel of Progress is a ride when the two are clearly vice versa?
From Robert Niles on March 27, 2012 at 2:41 PM
Christopher,

We've had multiple discussions about that. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that the seats move during the CoP show, but they don't move during the Soarin' show. But both blur the lines between ride and show.

From N B on March 27, 2012 at 3:23 PM
Wow, that was close..... it does go to show that rides like Tower Of Terror and Spiderman can keep up with new technology.

Since these are two of my favorites, I wouldn't have cared if it went either way, but congrats to USO and FJ. I hope the (more than likely) upcoming Gringott's ride is just as good or better and can take a place in the top 5 someday.

From N B on March 27, 2012 at 4:16 PM
So Dom, let me get this straight.... you voted for a ride you have never been on because it seems better? For a Disney fanboy, you sure haven't experienced quite a bit of what they have to offer.
From Andy Milito on March 27, 2012 at 6:06 PM
50/50? Oh crap.
From N B on March 27, 2012 at 6:30 PM
Andy, since the percentage doesn't calculate by .1, it is rounded to the nearest whole number. FJ would need a 13 vote lead to change the percentages. Since it only won by 8 votes, it appears 50 / 50. The actual numbers are 654 FJ to 646 ToT by my calculations.

I think it is 50.308 to 49.692 to be exact.

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