Universal closing Dragon Challenge for new Harry Potter ride
Universal Orlando announced today that it will close the Dragon Challenge roller coaster on Sept. 4 to make way for a new Harry Potter-themed "coaster experience."
Originally called "Dueling Dragons," this two-tracked Bolliger & Mabillard inverted racing coaster was one of two attractions to survive the transformation of part the Lost Continent land into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (Flight of the Hippogriff, formerly The Flying Unicorn, was the other.) As the original name implied, the two coasters used to duel, with several near miss elements throughout their run. Due to several incidents of guests being hit by possessions from riders on the other train, Universal years ago altered the train dispatch timing to stop the dueling. The incidents also eventually led to Universal's current policy of requiring guests to clear their pockets and stow all possessions in lockers before riding major coasters.
While the concept of riding a dragon fit well within the theming of the Harry Potter land — and the well-decorated queue won favorable reviews from fans — the bare roller coaster tracks looming over the village of Hogsmeade detracted from the otherwise exacting look of the land. Even the stars of the Harry Potter films — typically ebullient with their praise for Universal — took passive-aggressive shots at the coaster's look. (At the Diagon Alley event, several people lauded the second Wizarding World land by noting the lack of visible "roller coaster track.") So many observers long had marked Dragon Challenge for removal.
Universal announced that Dragon Challenge's replacement will open in 2019 and will "be unlike anything we’ve ever done before and it will be fun for the entire family."
Other clues from Universal: "The new attraction will be one of the most highly-themed coaster experiences we’ve created. It will combine a new level of storytelling with an action-packed adventure…and a few surprises along the way."
And, "This ride is going to redefine the category and transport you to thrilling places, drawing you into even more exciting adventures within the wizarding world."
Put that together, and we should be looking at a ride with a lower height restriction than Dragon Challenge's 54 inches, a better themed, if not completely hidden, coaster track, and some sort of hybrid ride experience that combines a roller coaster track with other ride, or at least decorative, elements. Universal's been filing a slew of patents for innovative tracked ride experiences, so we'll see if any of them end up becoming the new Wizarding World ride.
The new ride should help make 2019 an even wilder year in Orlando, as rival Disney opens its Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land that year. And the announcement finally provides us with our answer as to what Universal would be adding for 2019, following the openings of the Fast & Furious ride and Aventura Hotel next year.
Phenomenal news! Dragon Challenge had a terrific run, but following the Hogsmeade transformation and the end of the dueling, it is long past time to move on. Universal keeps hitting home run after home run with these E-ticket dark ride/thrill ride hybrids, and I'm psyched to see what they come up with.
Rumor on the street is that this will be a launched cycle attraction. Instead of row of 2 cycles, there will be one cycle and a sidecar, offering two different experiences and will allow for the lower height requirement. Should be interesting!
Is someone at the top of Universal reading Theme Park Apprentice????
Well this is a sad day. DD is one of the best rides there. Being an annual pass holder, my family and I are always excited about news of coming attractions to US and to IOA and this is no different. But to come at the expense of DD is bitter sweet. I really hope this isn't in the direction of the Race through New York ride with Jimmy Fallon. Since its opening, we have ridden it once and that will be the only time we will. Not only did we not enjoy it, we felt it was a step back from the Transformer ride. My only hope is that it will be similar to the mummy ride where it's a sort of dark coaster rise. I guess we will soon see. Now to plan a trip to say farewell to an old friend and ride Fire one more time.
This has been rumored for a while. Kind of hoped we would also hear they were tearing out the Atlantis also for something decent. As a coaster fan, I hate to see DD go, as it was one of the greats, but this was bound to happen. What I do NOT want to see is stand-in actors for any of the characters. That is the only thing bad about the Hogwarts Express. Go ahead and pay for the talent. I agree about the dark coaster concept, but I find Gringotts to be too short. If they are removing a great attraction, please go all out on this. An example is they should never have even made the mummy attraction in Hollywood. That is terrible. With what is being done at Disney, Universal really cannot go cheap with this.
Noooooooooo... DD is in my top 3 for Orlando coasters. Love the fire side....
Meh, it is a coaster with Hagrid's bike and sidecar. Nothing too special really. Are people really going to leave Disney and visit Universal just because of another Potter ride? Surely WWoHP has run its course. The General Public still have not forgotten the disappointment of Gringotts.
Universal has no choice but to open something new in 2019, to have any hope of good attendance when the Star Wars juggernaut comes to town.
I don't think anybody is leaving Disney for Universal, and WWoHP has certainly not run its course, although I have honestly gone to Universal and not Disney but that was purely due to the fact that we were there during a peak time and did not want the hassle of FP+. Both parks benefit each other. I say thank goodness Universal is continuing to expand. Imagine the crowds when Star Wars hits. I will need a few days at EPCOT and Universal just to be able to avoid wall to wall crowds. Universal also does not take five years or more to make a great ride, but I also agree that I hate to see Dueling Dragons go. That was a great one.
Sounds intersting how they're branding it as a roller coaster that will "redefine the category", I predict that it's going to be awesome!
A shame because that's a fun coaster but totally get it because of the unthemed coaster. Just very much hoping for Arthur/Dragon Gliders ride system and not for motorbike since Tron already coming.
It should be noted, Universal Creative recommended two independent rides. The first, family friendly. The second, reworking dualing coasters to a single thrill coaster.
This isn't a response to Disney -- this has been planned and developed for years. Hence the quick 2019 opening date. Dragon Challenge was EOL a while back and they opted not to redo the track.
Didn't Theme Park Insider already redefine what a roller coaster is about a month ago?
I am heartbroken that the roller coasters are being permanently replaced. I can't say that I didn't see it coming as many rumors have been circulating for years and the overall shape of the attraction has been falling apart, but I really really really hope that "unlike anything we've ever done before" does not include 3D glasses or screens.
I just hope the new attraction doesn't involve 3-D glasses and screens. Universal is already depending too heavily on those.
Good riddance. Ever since the coasters stopped dueling, I lost my interest in riding. Separately, neither one compares to Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa. Bring on the dark ride, coaster hybrid! If the new ride retains the thrills of a coaster while being set within a highly themed environment like Mummy or Rock n Roller Coaster, fans shouldn't complain.
This announcement is filled with hyperbole but bereft of even an ounce of detail. All we really know at this point is that another once "classic" UO attraction will bite the dust and some Harry Potter thingy is going to take up residence. Shame. At least they are saying they will replace a coaster with a coaster - there are too few coasters in Orlando already - but without any details, who knows?
It's a good day for me! I get motion sickness so can't do the Dragon. I'll settle for Hagrid's bike into the Forbidden Forest.
Interested to see what it will be. Sad about the short notice regarding Dueling Dragons. Would have like to have ridden it one more time.
Although it is about to be gone entirely now (even the path itself) the original DD queue will always have a special place in my theme park heart. It was uniquely immersive - from the giant dragons at the entrance through the garden paths leading to the very realistic castle façade with passing looks at the coasters dueling, into and through the heavily themed castle rooms, and descending down through the long skull-filled dungeons until finally reaching the moment of choice. Great memories.
They take up a lot of Prime space and have lost the USP of the duelling element so fair enough. However, P's Fury would be a better bet to remove if it was placed next to the other HP attractions. Good point from an earlier caller about the smoothness of DDs compared to RRR and the Hulk. Seaworld and Busch Gardens still understand rollercosters way better than Universal.
Has HP run its course? Sure, if you're a pixie duster. But hey, those 45min and 60min wait times for Gringotts and FJ has not stopped the GP, even if, somehow, the GP sees Gringotts as a disappointment.
Who would have predicted that the go to park for coasters in Orlando, would be Seaworld?!
^Agreed. My add-on for our Pandora vacation this year is SeaWorld for exactly that reason. Gotta get my thrill coaster fix somewhere in Orlando!
Given the condition of the ride, this was bound to happen. While the coaster has only been in operation for 18 years, due to the operating schedule and location it has more wear and tear than a similarly sized coaster twice its age. From what I've heard, Dragon Challenge would only have been able to run for another year or two without a Hulk-style treatment, which Universal decided wasn't worth the investment given the ridership. The new coaster is likely to be a better fit for the area, and should give Islands of Adventure a solid family coaster, something they are currently lacking.
Let the ride system speculation begin:
And Universal is back on top again...D23 nothing!
PLEASE NO MORE SCREENS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
James, Are you doing universal?
Jame,are you doing universal this trip?
^Nope. Can't afford the $55 upcharge to ride their train. Disney (Pandora) and SeaWorld (Mako) this year.
Wow, another Harry Potter ride. Not sure if people will go just for this new ride.
Good, that giant junk of steel always messed up the theming
The real question is, what will Universal be doing after Nintendo? Are they out of juice already? Will there be a third park? If so what will be in it?
oh no i love these coasters gutted!! im going back in october so cant even go back on them for 1 last time
Who cares what Tom Felton thinks about roller coaster tracks?
Dragon Challenge takes up a HUGE swath of land between Hogsmeade and Lost Continent. Looking at this on a map, it's nearly as big as Hogsmeade -- including the FJ show building and Hogsmeade Station.
Dragon Challenge takes up a HUGE swath of land between Hogsmeade and Lost Continent. Looking at this on a map, it's nearly as big as Hogsmeade -- including the FJ show building and Hogsmeade Station.
I think they should replace Dueling Dragons with THREE dueling coasters. That'll really up the ante!
Given Universals Potter track record this should be awesome. I agree though that hopefully it will not be 3D. Can't wait to see the concept art.
@James Rao -- It was, I agree. At almost 20 years old it is in need of a refurb, and add to that it weakly fits into the theme at Hogsmeade. No longer duels.
As they showed with Hulk there's really not much that can be done to improve a large roller coaster to make it more engaging. Parks have been trying VR, but that may be a fad that moves the needle initially, but lacks any staying power. So, with the prospect of having a pair of coasters initially designed to "duel" that can no longer duel, that also take up a large amount of critical real estate adjacent to one of the most popular theme park lands in the world, I think it was a foregone conclusion that the Dragons would eventually be retired. Universal could have retracked them like they did Hulk and tried to improve the queue to make it more immersive, but the ride itself, aside from being allowed to duel again (and perhaps adding VR), would not have been dramatically changed without a complete tear down and reconfiguration, which is essentially what they're doing. I can also appreciate their desire to appeal to a more family friendly audience who not only cannot meet the coasters' height requirement, but simply don't have the stomach to be hurled upside down a bunch of times at high speed. Universal understands the need to attract families as much as those thrill seekers, and after appealing to coaster fans with the re-tracked Hulk, they're now addressing those families with kids who want to participate in the WWoHP, but don't consider Dragon Challenge an option.
I'm not sure who this "Clackers" is, but they just joined TPI Saturday, so based on the content the person has provided, he/she is here just to troll with absurd comments and thin arguments.
just had a look at google maps and i didn't relies how much of the park dwelling dragons took up
I would note that neither dragon was that great of a B&M Invert on its own. Ice/Hungarian Horntail was down there with Great Bear as one of the worst B&M Inverts in the world. The super long, straight track leading up to the dueling loop was nap inducing, and while the cobra roll against the castle wall was well executed visually, the coaster has lost so much momentum by that point in the ride that the element (usually the highlight of a B&M coaster) is downright boring. Fire/Chinese Fireball was a bit better, but it uses repetitive elements (only coaster in the world with back to back Immelmans), and would not stand on its own without the visuals. Tatsu, another compact B&M Invert, blows Fire away with its pacing and intensity. The Dragons needed each other to make the ride exciting and engaging, and when the dueling element was eliminated, there was very little reason to ride.
The back-to-back Immelmans and the camelback air-time hill make Fireball unique and a good ride. I agree with you entirely about Horntail. It's the lesser compared to Great Bear.
Hey Russ - I wonder if this Clackers clown is TH Creative incognito – just imaging TH Creative sitting there at his computer wearing Groucho Marx glasses and moustache….hahahahaa
"The back-to-back Immelmans and the camelback air-time hill make Fireball unique and a good ride."
Outside of the front row I'm not a fan of inverted coasters at all.
Yes, we knew it was coming. Yes, the coasters in and of themselves weren't that great. Yes, the queue was too long. Yes, Universal went cheap and never really did anything to make the attraction more Harry Potter friendly. And yes, the removal of the dueling aspect signaled the deathknell of the ride. While all these things are true, it is still sad to see another ride I enjoyed head to the Universal scrapheap. Their modus operandi remains constant: out with the old, in with the licensed IP. *sigh*
I really think Universal should have spent the $$$ to licence Avatar. It would have looked amazing instead of Seuss Landing or Toon Lagoon.
James Rao said: "out with the old, in with the licensed IP. *sigh*"
Too many roller coasters - it's the bargain basement of attractions, that only thrill seekers love, and usually have long queus because of the low load factor. Sick of them.
They're also owned by a media conglomerate (Comcast) heavily invested in another studio's IP with another popular IP owned by their chief rival and applied in such a way that very little can be done to it.
"Their modus operandi remains constant: out with the old, in with the licensed IP. *sigh*"
I can fully understand the coaster junkies disappointment at losing The Dragon ride but, regardless of my personal preferences or limitations, Universal Creative's port-folio over the past decade in Orlando tells me we are in for something amazing. Exciting times again at Universal!
@DB, Russell, and James - I didn't say I expected anything else. I get it. I understand why they are doing these things. But to me, Potter is not a compelling IP. I liked the books fine, but that world never grabbed my attention the way it seems to have grabbed others' (probably because the movies were such poor translations of the books). So I lament the loss of a decent couple of coasters that were not dependent on Harry Potter at all (face it, that theme was barely slapped on), and the addition of yet another attraction based on an IP that doesn't move the needle for me and mine.
This is really dumb. They already HAVE a Harry Potter "family" coaster called Flight of the Hippogriff.....and it's super boring. DD was still a fun and unique ride that offered TWO attractions in the space of one. This new ride will be lame. Just look at Kong (Lame) and the new Fast & Furious will be super lame (Been on it in CA). Jimmy Fallon ride is......wait for it.......lame. Universal better wake up, because Disney is about to whomp your be-hind. Get over yourself with the HP, we are over it, and the dumb train that should be free, but costs $55 to ride....
Um ... no "Clackers" is not me. There have been a few times where I forget to log in and dump an anonymous by mistake. But don't tie my unique brand of idiocy to Clackers' trollish brand of idiocy (see, Keith Schneider ... "D23 nothing!" Please.)
^I think that August date has slipped to September (or later), TH.
Damn! Schneider was right!
James, Stop whining about the $55 to ride a train. Get a Seasonal AP for same price as 4 day ticket and it doesn't cost any more, Plus I believe it is worth it. We grab a drink and go for a train ride every day of our 10 day vacation in Universal
While the D23 2017 announcements will see the continuing investments in WDW dramatically increased (vs D23 2015 announcements), it's the D23 2019 announcements I'm more curious to hear! At this time, the Disney Villians boutique park project is not rumored to be announced then.
Disney will be late for it's own anniversary :-D
I'm commenting late into the thread and I will probably kill it off, but I wanted to write a couple of long winded things-
Ya know, Universal would never have built this new attraction if they had not felt pressure from WDI's success with Avatar and the 2019 arrival of Star Wars.
TH Creative- I do not agree. Universal stands to benefit from Disney's expansion. This decision is their reaction to their own success with Harry Potter, not to what Disney has in the works down the road.
Agree with Ultimate, SeaWorld is a top twenty park and will continue to pull in solid attendance as it transitions away from killer whales to killer coasters. I am excited for the future of SeaWorld and trust that Mr. Joel Manby is the person to lead the charge.
The only reason Universal built Harry Potter is because they were pressured when Disney built 'Tower of Terror'
TH- Ya know, disney would've never built swl or Pandora (or even gotten close to the level of detail they're adding) if tthey had not felt pressure from Hary Potter or the climbing success of Universals rides.
Love Keith Schneider's utterly laughable post above (the 30th post). One ride announcement puts Universal "back on top", despite the opening of Pandora, and (soon) Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land? And despite the fact that Universal's last two new rides were poorly received, and Volcano Bay has a load of problems?
TH Creative you must be just trolling. Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened 16 years before The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was built at Universal, 7 years before the first Harry Potter film was released and 3 years before the first book was sold.
RE: Ultimate Roller Coaster
@Yeowser The fact that both Disney and Universal charge outrageous prices at their theme parks goes without saying. And the fact that both Disney and Universal have numerous extra cost experiences at their parks is also well known. But these facts have nothing to do with the issue of Universal's great train robbery on the Hogwart's Express where even single park guests must pay a $55 upcharge to visit a headliner attraction.
Once again we have to correct Mr. Rao - The $55 upcharge is for Park hopper not the Hogwarts express train ride...
Please don't shill the company line and expect to be taken seriously. You're not talking to the GP. I know better.
Thank you Brian!! The upcharge is for park hopper which every Disney fan boy seem to forget they have been charging for ever! Just because Universal copied and have park hopper now doesn't mean its $55 to ride the train. If Disney built a direct monorail or other type of ride from inside one park to the inside of another park you would need park hopper there too to use it.
Thank you for telling me how to better enjoy my vacation. But to be honest, I don't enjoy being forced to spend an extra $275 ($55 x 5) just to ride a train.
Not forced, Option...
Oh…so you totally ignore the rest of the attractions that you gain from paying the $55? I get it.
So, if it is optional, Brian, what option is there to ride the train that doesn't cost $55?
James - Disney dose not have an attraction that goes from Park to Park...
I understand paying for park to park access. Makes sense. I don't understand paying $55 to ride a train - especially one that could and should have a round trip option.
The thing you don't understand is that you are not paying for the train. You are praying that extra 55 dollars for the ability to go from park to park. The train is just an extra amenity.
The thing you don't seem to understand is that I don't want or need to park hop. Therefore, the upcharge cost to ride the train for a non-park-hopping individual is $55.
TH Creative, the reason Universal built WWoHP was because JK Rowling opted for them over Disney as she had greater creative control. The reason Universal and Disney both fought over Potter is because it is the IP with the largest and most fanatical fan base, across generations and genders, in the world.
@Ultimate Your information is erroneous at best and a total misrepresentation of my point at worst. I would urge you to reread my posts.
ProfPlum is right "on the money" here. You disfans are lucky that Universal upped the game, as we Universal fans will benefit from increased competition with Star Wars.
My goodness, so much back and forth over a bloody train ride.
What else is there to say about DD/DC? Until we get some details on the replacement, all we know is Dueling Dragons will never duel again. For some reason, that statement makes me sad.
Greed took over? I think the reality about ride capacity and demand took over. Providing a good guest experience to your highest paying customer is not greed.
There is plenty of room to operate a company between GREED and CHARITY. Upcharging, in general, leans heavily on the GREED side, and may be great for stock holders, but not for the head of a family of five enthusiasts who just want to have some fun on a responsible budget, at a theme park. However, I would gladly except charity to help pay for the Hogwarts Upcharge if you are offering, Mr. Warbucks.
100 comments..... wow. Roller coasters still rule!
HI James I was wondering were you got your prices, I was just on the Universal site and a 2 Park - 1 day ticket, allows riding the train to your hearts content, is $179/ adult and $174/ child. I realize that taxes need to be added but still seems to be reasonable.
I pulled the 2 day 1 park pass off the Universal Orlando site. I can send you a link if you need.
My son is convinced that the new Wizarding World ride will be something themed to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - if Universal is allowed to step around the idea that the WW park only has content from the first 4 or 5 Potter books. I could certainly see a ride themed to a tour through Newt's suitcase.
So the closing of DD has turned into another Disney vs Universal topic again
I agree with James. Park-to-park access has little use at Universal, unless you plan to do both parks in one day (which I did once). So the train ride is the only real reason to buy a park-to-park multi-day ticket.
I cannot believe this upcharge silliness is still being whined about.
It's not a bonus feature if you don't want or need to park hop. It's just a $55 extra charge per admission. The only silliness is the fact people who don't normally park hop are so willing to defend the policy and pay the price.
Guys, I've got to agree with James here, and I think some of you are missing his point.
I'm behind James here. He has a great point that he's made numerous times that others continuously seem to simply dismiss out of hand. I personally feel that the ability to park hop on its own is worth the $55 upcharge for nothing more than being able to maximize a multi-day trip to the resort. However, it's an absolute FACT that if you have ZERO desire to hop between parks, the fee to ride the Hogwart's Express is one of the most obscene charges in theme park history. Honestly I think it's brilliant that UO has swindled who knows how many guests into buying park hoppers they don't need for a 6-minute train ride. I definitely don't think that it's something that we should be celebrating, and is a pricing tactic that UO should be constantly criticized for, as much as Disney's absurd dessert party prices and other obscene scams.
I would honestly pay $55 for this single attraction, if for no other reason than to support the Harry Potter projects Universal has dedicated so many resources to and continues to plan on doing.
"I would honestly pay $55 for this single attraction"
Lol. No. I don't think the $55 goes straight into the HP budget. But it doesn't matter to me. I'm happy to support Universal as long as they keep adding Harry Potter rides and areas. ... And thanks for the edited personal attack there at the end Russell. Very classy.
@Tim and Russell, you guys said it way better than me! I pass the torch to you for further threads. Bravo!
@ James -- I didn't realize I'd have to pay for the entire Rao family. Don't you want the park-to-park pass anyway?
Honestly, when I heard they were building the HE to connect the new Diagon Alley to the original WWoHP, I was figuring they were going to turn the WWoHP into its own, separate gate (3rd park), since that's how they were advertising the original WWoHP anyway.
The problem is that the park-to-park ticket is pretty useless at Universal. Why on earth would you need to park hop when the parks close early and the only nighttime even is the badly reviewed Universal water show (whatever it's called).
DB, you're just going back to old arguments that have been soundly defeated already. Just pony up the $275 and let's call it a day.
Still a fan - I use P2P all the time, mostly because we've been to the park so many times (we always buy WDW hoppers even if we're not necessarily planning on hopping every day of a trip), and it's nice to have the flexibility. There are too many variables that can ruin a trip (attractions down, overcrowded park, weather, etc...) that we look at the P2P privileges (or hopping at WDW) as a hedge against the unknown. There's too many times when we've walked into a theme park and found it way busier than the crowd calendar predicted, our favorite attraction broken, or we rather visit a park with predominantly indoor attractions because of unexpected weather.
TH CREATIVE wrote: "In unrelated news: EPCOT's 'Mission Space' will have new films added and open in August! First small step toward the 50th."
Huh Universal and the Magic Kingdom usually closed the same time this month? You haven't noticed the cutting of park hours at Disney?
Dueling Dragon's was spared as part of the original Harry Potter area because it would've cost too much money to take out and replace with something else at the time. Each area got 1 major ride which was enough to draw in the big crowds, now that something else is needed at UO to up the attendance it makes sense to take it out for a new Potter ride (because let's be honest it really has nothing to do with Potter and doesn't fit the theming of the area at all).
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.