On the Road to Diagon Alley: How will Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts differ from Spider-Man and Transformers?
Published: February 13, 2014 at 11:02 AM
Universal's Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man, Transformers: The Ride 3D and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts each features motion-base vehicles traveling on a track through a show building, while riders view 3D film scenes on screens built into practical scenery on the ride. So what will make Gringotts a substantially different experience from the other two?
We won't know for sure how Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts compares with other popular theme park attractions until we've had the chance to ride it. But Harry Potter isn't Transformers, or even Spider-Man. As popular as both those franchises have been over the years, neither has elicited the love from its fans as Harry Potter has. Nor has either appealed to as broad a collection of fans around the world. Theme matters. (Just ask a Disney theme park fan if s/he would rather see a Star Wars Land or an Avatar Land!)
Of course, theme alone can't elevate a ride to a beloved classic. Thanks to the Christopher Nolan trilogy, the Batman franchise ranks among the most popular in film history, measured by gross box office revenue. But Six Flags' effort to bring Nolan's version of Batman to its theme parks — the Dark Knight Coaster — has languished among the worst-reviewed rides in the world by Theme Park Insider readers ever since it opened.
Ultimately, the combination of narrative and experience determines how the public will react to a theme park attraction, for good or bad. We've described the narrative of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, and although it retains the "something goes terribly wrong, but then the hero saves us" trope that defines so many theme park rides, Gringotts offers a unique moment at its climax that differs substantially from the finale of both Spider-Man and Transformers.
On both those other rides, our adventure concludes with a fall from great height. We're dragged or thrown toward the top of the cityscape, then tossed off the building toward our demise below. But the hero captures us at the last moment, breaking our fall and saving our lives.
On Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, we also will experience a "falling moment." But that will happen earlier in the narrative, when trolls attack our vehicle and knock it deeper into the caverns. In the ride's finale, we won't fall farther. Instead, Harry Potter will throw a chain to our coaster car and drag us up out of the caverns and on to safety.
Nor will this moment be simply a motion base effect, visually amplified by the surrounding film screens. In the finale of the Gringotts ride, our coaster car will launch up a track incline as the 3D/360-degree film shows the caverns falling away behind us and a section of the screen pulls away to reveal the tunnel through which we will return to the ride's load station. The combination of visual effects and physical sensation should help further amplify the feeling of taking flight.
It's that difference between falling and rising that distinguishes Gringotts. Think about falling, and you're probably imagining some bad things: a loss of control, despair, hopelessness, peril. But when you think about rising or flying, your emotional associations likely are much more positive: overcoming, joy, hope, triumph.
Sure, on Spider-Man and Transformers, we're saved from the fall and feel that moment of gratitude that we've come through. But on Gringotts, we're going to fly out of the climatic battle and soar. How much more satisfying might that feel?