On the Road to Diagon Alley: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

February 3, 2014, 2:29 PM · We first described Diagon Alley's Gringotts ride back in December 2011, but we've learned much more since then about this roller coaster/dark ride and its queue.

Visitors to Diagon Alley will see the Gringotts facade rising at the end of alleyway, with a fire-breathing dragon atop. You're visiting Gringotts to open an account and get your own vault but, of course, because this is a theme park, you can expect something to go terribly wrong. (Update: Perhaps it should have gone without saying, but if you don't want to know what happens, for heaven's sake, quit reading this post now!)

The Gringotts Bank exterior, from the Harry Potter films.

Walking inside the bank building, you'll step into a small Entry Hall with three chandeliers before entering the Bankers Hall, the elaborate main hall filmed inside London's Australia House for the Harry Potter movies. The Bankers Hall will be lined by animatronic goblins behind the tellers' desks. From this room, the queue will split, with the regular queue heading outside to a large supplementary queue located behind the Gringotts show building. Universal wants to keep the line of waiting visitors out of Diagon Alley, given its tight spaces, so the back-of-house, exterior queue will expand as needed to keep the start of the line at the Entry Hall. Universal Express pass holders will skip this exterior queue and go straight from the Bankers Hall into a hallway of Gringotts offices, where the "regular" visitors will end up after navigating the exterior queue.

The offices will include a Security Office where you'll have your picture taken (yes, more souvenir sales!), before ending up in Bill Weasley's office. Here the queue will split again, though both lines will see the same show in this office. Bill Weasley (portrayed by Domhnall Gleeson in the movies) will appear in his office, much as Christopher Walken appears on stage next door at the Disaster! attraction. Weasley will welcome you and tell you about how to get your own vault at Gringotts. After his presentation, the doors on the far side of his office will open, leading your half of the queue to one of the two waiting elevators.

These elevators will take you down 30,000 feet to the subterranean Gringotts vaults — juuust like those "hydrolators" at Epcot's The Living Seas used to bring you up from the bottom of the ocean. ;^) Once "down" at vault level, you'll pick up your 3D glasses in a tunnel-like room, before climbing a spiral staircase to the load platform. (I'm still looking into what the wheelchair bypass will be. Update: There's an elevator for that.)

The loading area is a large cavern, with stalactites hanging from the ceiling. (You'll find a child swap waiting area off to one side, in a holding cell.) There are two track channels for the ride and the ride vehicles are twin, 12-person, open-air cars, arranged in three rows of four. Each row is placed slightly higher than the row in front of it, in a "stadium seating" effect. The look of the cars is very Victorian, with a smokestack on each car, individual lap bars, and six Dolby speakers per seat for on-ride audio.

Gringotts ride vehicle
The ride vehicle for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

You're to ride your car down to see your newly opened vault. After the load platform, the two track channels merge to the south, then bearing to the left and entering Scene 1. In this scene, you'll face a brick wall, with two tunnel entrances, to the left and right. You're really facing a 3D screen, though, and here's where it all starts to "go terribly wrong."

Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort appear, cursing you and declaring that you'll never emerge from the vaults alive. Actuators will make your car bump up and down before the track below the first of the twin cars will drop, coming to rest at a 40-degree angle. Then, the track under the trailing car will begin to rise, matching the 40-degree angle of the leading car.

Within a moment, the car then drops 70-80 feet into the tunnel, for a kinetic ride section through a stalactite-filled cavern, with a small bunny hop and a hard right turn before we hit a block brake in preparation for the next scene. On a 3D screen, a car with Bill Weasley pulls alongside us, then we're also joined by another car, with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Trolls attack, knocking Bill, Harry, Ron, and Hermione out of the way before attacking us. Shaker tables rattle the cars before we go through the Thief's Downfall, with its fogscreen and water spritzers.

Perched on the edge of a cliff, trolls attack again, knocking us off the cliff as the motion base shakes our car, simulating a free fall. Fortunately, Bill Weasley comes to our rescue, saving us before we hit the cavern's bottom. Unfortunately, the white dragon from the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is waiting for us, attacking us with its fire breath. Bill casts an aguamenti spell to save us, again, as guards run into the scene, shooting at us and the dragon.

The dragon climbs away, and we're launched into the next scene, which will bring us to Sirius Black's Vault. We hit a fog blast before entering the vault, where we see illuminated treasure ahead. The car makes a turn to the right, where the physical show scenery opens up a bit, with a large vault area projected along the far wall. We then bear to the left, turning into the next scene, where Bellatrix reappears, casting the Avada Kedavra killing curse at us. Voldemort and Nagini also appear, as he, too, casts the Avada Kedavra at us.

Escaping the killing curses, our car shoots around the corner into the next scene, inside a large 360-degree projection dome. With lava pouring around the darkened room, Harry arrives, riding the dragon. With Bellatrix hiding behind him, Voldemort attacks the dragon, which fights back with his fire breath. Harry then throws a chain onto our car, to haul us out of danger as he flies the dragon away, and Voldemort and Bellatrix disapparate. A Kuka arm pulls away part of the screen, clearing the path to launch us up through a dark tunnel into the final scene. (This is the first change in actual track elevation since the ride's initial drop.)

In the final scene, Harry, Bill, Ron, and Hermione bids us farewell on a screen behind a knocked-out wall, before we emerge back into the loading station. Once out of our car, we will exit down another spiral staircase into the gift shop.

In short, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is Revenge of the Mummy meets Transformers: The Ride 3D, with a Harry Potter theme. So, who's ready to ride?


Replies (25)

February 3, 2014 at 2:51 PM · Shut up.... just shut up..... You had me at Express Pass....
February 3, 2014 at 2:53 PM · Spoilers!
February 3, 2014 at 2:58 PM · Sounds very good, although I is it supposed to be a joke? Why would someone like Rupert Miles have access to this info?
February 3, 2014 at 3:06 PM · Sounds fantastic... and "Rupert" thanks again for the scoop!
February 3, 2014 at 3:13 PM · Fake elevators? That's nice. I guess I have to experience it because the roller coaster elements don't sound like much. Just a little bunny hops. The 3D show scenes seem fantastic to a point. It might just be too anticlimatic. So much build up and so little payoff. I don't like the outside queue much at all.
February 3, 2014 at 4:50 PM · I'm guessing this will be a Premier Rides creation? Given their history with Universal as well as the Car design (looks just like Mummy)
February 3, 2014 at 5:06 PM · Sounds fantastic. Will Express be available when the attraction opens or will it be a year or two down the road? A couple of other sites are saying no initial Express lines. But when it comes to Universal, Robert Niles usually has the most accurate insider info.
February 3, 2014 at 6:39 PM · It looks like I will have to take an elevator to the loading area like I do in Forbidden Journey (actually I have to take 2 elevators over there.) I skip the sorting hat (the first elevator is located before that part.) I wonder if I will be skipping anything in this new ride.
February 3, 2014 at 9:14 PM · How exactly are these 3D glasses suppose to stay on? Not to mention when being worn very loosely over normal glasses?

I'm so sick of 3D at theme parks...

February 3, 2014 at 10:07 PM · Rob,

According to Robert, Express will be out of the gate. I have had multiple emails with Universal P.R. about the introduction of Express a couple years after a new attraction opens. They are very responsive to feedback and respond to every concern. I have to say, it is refreshing to know someone actually listens.

This why we come back year after year.

February 3, 2014 at 10:24 PM · I think I just wet myself..... Holy bejesus this sounds amazing. Just 10 more months and I'm there..... If the express pass is true than I went number two in my pants as well. Oh yeah the duece is loose baby if that happens! Yes that sounds gross and it is but if Niles is half true than we are all going to be so excited that grown adults mind you, might have wet pants....
February 3, 2014 at 11:19 PM · This ride description was as exciting as the Harry Potter books. I loved it. I can't wait to ride this. It sounds so imaginative and amazing. It will be so great to go through all those offices and pretend we are in the real Gringotts Bank. Universal is really kicking things into a near gear. As a lifetime Disney fan, I really hope Universal shames Disney because there is nothing like this in any Disney park. Universal is really putting the IP to good use and going all out!
February 4, 2014 at 1:50 AM · I have no doubt this is going to be an absolute blast to ride and great fun. I also have no doubt that it will be technically impressive. So I look forward to riding it very much.

But there's just a tiny part of me that's let down by yet more 3D screens, or indeed by screens of any kind. I'm longing for a Theme Park to blow me away with something real....

February 4, 2014 at 2:53 AM · I don't understand - why did they have to make up their own storyline when there is so much material to work with in the Harry Potter books???
February 4, 2014 at 4:36 AM · Can I go on it now? Can I? Can I? Please?
*packs several lunches and waits with nose pressed against the doors*
February 4, 2014 at 6:57 AM · I'm actually super, super excited for this ride. But why spend all the time and money on Transformers? Why build 2 action-packed motion simulators in the same year and same park!??

Overall, I'm SOOO thrilled about the details of Diagon Alley. Seems like JK put her foot down and made Universal do it her way, and ONLY her way - and thank god for JK! She's making Universal spend so much money and its going to be beautiful!!! Super, super detailed I absolutely love it and cannot wait!

February 4, 2014 at 9:52 AM · I would like to know how much of a role J.K. Rowling actually played in the creation of these attractions. There hasn't been much press describing her relationship to the process. Any thoughts?
February 4, 2014 at 11:17 AM · I want to comment on the person who said "Why did they make up their own storyline when there is so much material in the books". I like Universal's approach, because it's not telling the stories of the books or movies...but creating a new adventure for us riders in the world of the books and movies. I like being treated like someone opening up a new account at Gringotts. That's exciting. I get to be myself, and not have to pretend I am Harry Potter. I can feel like I am visiting Diagaon Alley for the fist time and opening my own account and then the adventure starts up and I encounter the characters of the film, on a new adventure. I love that.

Forbidden Journey is like that too, where I feel like I was visiting Hogwarts. But not a student, a visitor, riding those benches. At Gringotts I guess you can pretend more to be a witch or wizard, which I like better.

Contrast this with most Disney rides, where on some dark rides you are supposed to be a character from one of the films or they recreate famous scenes from the films. It's not as engaging as being on a whole new adventure that you can only have at the Universal parks, not in any movie or whatever. I love this approach.

February 4, 2014 at 11:41 AM · Speaking with Thierry Coup and other Universal Creative designers in the past, they've been very insistent that they want visitors to see these as their adventure, and not a recreation of the characters' adventures. The designers want to create a space in which we, as visitors, get to spend time with these characters, but the designers want the overall experience to be that we visitors are creating a unique new adventure with the characters.
February 4, 2014 at 12:03 PM · I already know what happens in the movies and books. It would be no surprise to duplicate that. I like having a different story line as long as the theming is consistent. I am so excited for this ride. If this has the capacity of The Mummy then I think the lines will move fairly quickly. I don't need drops, flips, inversions to make something fun. I love Big Thunder Mt. Because it lacks those elements. extreme thrill rides are off the table for a lot of people and hopefully this will be intense enough, but still allow everyone to ride.
February 4, 2014 at 1:23 PM · The summer crowds will be insane. No force on earth could make me brave that!

We will be checking this out in the Fall :)

February 4, 2014 at 1:26 PM · I wonder if the bank lobby will be the dusty cobweb spooky version from the first movie or the ultra clean lobby from the last movie. They have a very different vibe.....
February 5, 2014 at 8:53 AM · 80 foot drop sounds pretty intense. Is that a virtual drop? How will 3d glasses stay on with a drop like that?
February 5, 2014 at 9:49 PM · I've never had any problem keeping my 3D glasses on over my glasses on any of the attractions. Besides, other than the 1st drop, it really doesn't sound like it will be much of a rollercoaster.
February 6, 2014 at 5:51 AM · I was wondering about the 80' drop and the 3D glasses myself. My first time on Revenge of the Mummy I had a pair of new sunglasses tucked how I thought to be "securely" in my shirt pocket. I sat in the back row and when I was getting off of the ride, a lady in the front row was holding my glasses and there was a big old scratch on one of the lenses. We don't know how they got there, but they did!

Is the drop going to be steep like Jurassic Park River Adventure or more gradual???

I hope for the latter due to the fact that:
A.) I'm a big scaredy cat when it comes to drops (even though I will still go on it at least once!) and
B.) There are a lot of younger Harry Potter fans out there that will not be able to enjoy the ride if it is too intense.

If you have anymore details about the drop Mr. Niles, please share!!!

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