On the Road to Diagon Alley: How will Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts differ from Spider-Man and Transformers?

February 13, 2014, 11:02 AM · So how will Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts differ from Universal's previous 3D motion-base rides, Transformers and Spider-Man? That's the question I faced in this week's Parkscope podcast, on which I was the "special guest."

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?

Universal's concept art for Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

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?


Replies (15)

February 13, 2014 at 11:31 AM · Damn, the nerd in me couldn't stay away from this article. I really wanted to be fully surprised, but I just can't bring myself to do it.
February 13, 2014 at 12:27 PM · My feeling is the ride is closer to The Simpson's Ride/BTTF combined with The Mummy coaster. There may not necessarily be anything groundbreaking. The movie doesn't portray the experience is equivalent to flying. The car is merely transportation to reach an endpoint. You should temper your expectation or you'll end up disappointed.
February 13, 2014 at 12:46 PM · @ Robert Niles

Have you heard about the Comcast / Time Warner merger?

Comcast owns Universal Studios.

Time Warner owns DC comics (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, etc.)

How soon before we start seeing DC comic themed attractions at the Universal parks?

February 13, 2014 at 1:47 PM · From A. Mouse
"You should temper your expectation or you'll end up disappointed."
This ain't Disney.
No ride in the last decade at WDW has lived up to expectations. Universal Orlando, the last few years, has exceed expectations time and time again. Anticipation is high for Diagon Alley and I have no doubt Universal will deliver.
February 13, 2014 at 2:40 PM · It's much, much more than that Anon. Physical sets are a huge part of the attraction
February 13, 2014 at 3:09 PM · what if you had a cross between spiderman/tranformer and the mummy ride.
February 13, 2014 at 3:14 PM · With its 40" height requirement and the statement from Universal Creative that the ride is designed to be family friendly, Gringotts will be more dark ride than thrill ride, and more Big Thunder Mountain Railroad than Mummy. Both good things in the long run, IMHO. Universal could use more whole friendly entertainment in this version of Potterland. How many kids went home from IOA pi$$ed cause they couldn't ride 2 out of the 3 attractions in Hogsmeade?
February 13, 2014 at 3:56 PM · BTW, in reference to the Comcast story: Comcast is *not* buying Time Warner. It's buying Time Warner Cable, a completely separate company that uses the "Time Warner" name under license. Time Warner Cable owns cable TV franchises. It doesn't own any of Warner Bros.' IP.
February 13, 2014 at 6:32 PM · If this is a cutting edge 4D ride like Transformers or Spiderman in HD, that will be great, but I would have liked some physical effects as well. I don't expect this to be as good as Forbidden Journey, but that's fine, too. Hard to top that one.
February 14, 2014 at 2:05 AM · Mr. Niles,

In a previous thread you said the initial drop is 70-80 feet. Do you know if this is going to be a strait drop like Jurassic Park River Adventure or a less steep more gradual drop with some turns?

February 14, 2014 at 10:00 AM ·
Anon Mouse is a Disney lover who thinks Universal does not compare. He\She is always negative and can simply be ignored.

This new ride will be fantastic. Nothing like Simpson’s or Sipdy… Brand new just like FJ.

I am sure it will be just as good as Space Mountain. Hahahhaha

February 14, 2014 at 10:34 AM · Go ahead. Ignore me. I will not be ignored!!!

As for your thesis, I did not say what you claim, but I will acknowledge that you made a factual claim that I will not deny....

Universal does not compare with Disney. That much is true.

I am not negative to acknowledge a truth. Sometimes, Disney is better, other times Universal is better.

February 14, 2014 at 11:29 AM · I could never ignore Anon mouseketeer…. One of my favorite posters here at TPI….

“I am not negative to acknowledge a truth. Sometimes, Disney is better, other times Universal is better.” I reply – Not negative? Soooooo Positive?

FJ is fantastic and the new Gringotts ride should be even better… I can’t compare anything in Disney to FJ… I guess maybe Toy Story or TT?

February 14, 2014 at 12:22 PM · Whatever.
February 15, 2014 at 4:18 PM · I am not sure why Universal feels once again to build a 3D simulator ride. Do they think everybody is that dense that they can't see that this is the same as Transformers or Spiderman?

I mean, we will see, but if your assumptions are correct, its the same thing!

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