First look at Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

May 20, 2019, 5:00 AM · It's a running joke around here that on any given narrative-driven theme park attraction there will be a moment when something goes terribly wrong. But it must. Conflict drives story and theme park attractions don't have time to waste. Something's got to go wrong, and quickly, so we can get right to the fun of the chase.

Well, if you were casting a theme park attraction and needed two characters who could screw things up in an epic fashion, there might be no better choices than Rubeus Hagrid and Arthur Weasley. And so we find them in Universal Orlando's upcoming Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, a monument to just how fun the blithe pursuit of mortal peril can be.

Universal invited me and about a couple dozen other reporters on a construction tour of the new roller coaster experience last Friday morning. We did not get to go on the ride, which opens to the public on June 13. But Creative Director Gary Blumenstein and Show Producer Elaine Hinds talked and walked us through the queue.

The ride takes over the space formerly occupied by the Dragon Challenge roller coaster, a Bolliger & Mabillard inverted dueling coaster that was a holdover from the Lost Continent land that preceded The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal did its best to retheme the experience to the Potter franchise, but there was no hiding those 100-foot steel lift hills that towered over Islands of Adventure's otherwise pitch-perfect village of Hogsmeade from the Harry Potter films. It's more than six acres of space to work with — enough to fit the entire village and adjacent Hogwarts Castle, Blumenstein said. And now it will be home to more than 1,200 trees hiding a new "family thrill story coaster," the "world's first dual drop free fall coaster," as Hinds said, with a 50 mph top speed, a 16-foot free fall drop, a backward drop, and a record seven launches.

But the specs don't matter nearly as much as the story on this adventure. And the story here is two of the more beloved characters in the Potter franchise — a couple of guys blessed with natural curiosity... and cursed with the utter inability to tell when that curiosity is about to lead them into something gone terribly wrong. (Robbie Coltrane and Mark Williams reprised their roles as Hagrid and Weasley for the ride.)

Universal has reformed the 6.6 acre site into the Forbidden Forest from Potter books and films. One of the running gags in the Potter franchise is how often everyone seems to find themselves in this supposedly "forbidden" forest. Indeed, here we are introduced to a nameless ruin in the forest behind Hagrid's Hut, one that Hagrid has adopted for his care of magical creatures and that Hogwarts students have been using as an unauthorized hangout for centuries.

Ruins

"It's centuries older than Hogwarts. It's something that has always lived in the forest, just never seen in the films," Blumenstein said. He suggested that fans look for Easter eggs that those Hogwarts students might have added over the years to the ruin walls within the queue. Outside, the ruins sit above the Black Lake, across which the coaster runs. I was struck by the grade changes that Universal has contoured across the site, further enhancing the ride's visual appeal.

Like in the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, the conceit here is that you're queuing to attend a class. Except that this time, you're not going to be ditching Professor Binns' deathly boring four-hour lecture on the history of Hogwarts. Instead, you will be stepping into Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures class.

The queue takes visitors past the backside of Hagrid's Hut from the Flying Hippogriff queue. Here you will see pumpkins and runner beans in his garden, as well as gnome holes... and maybe the sound of gnomes, too. The Ford Anglia that used to stand here in the Dragon Challenge queue is gone... but it does appear elsewhere in the new ride, Blumenstein said.

Past Hagrid's Hut, you see the entrance to the ruins, which begins the indoor portion of the queue.

Fountain
A fountain in the ruins queue, featuring merpeople and grindylow.

"You begin at the ruins entrance, the you walk your way through the corridors to the hall, which is where you meet Hagrid and Arthur," Blumenstein said. "That's where Hagrid welcomes you to class, sets up what you are going to see in class and explains that Arthur is there to help modify Sirius Black's motorbike and duplicate it to take you to the edge of the forest."

The format of that scene is much like the one with Arthur's son Bill in the Harry Potter of the Escape from Gringotts queue. Here, Arthur sets about enchanting the motorbike, which belches fire as it careens around one end of the room. Then Arthur duplicates the enchanted motorbike to create the coaster train that will carry you around the forest.

What could possibly go wrong with that set-up? You have more queue before you will find out.

"Once you go beyond that, you move through the hearth space, then a long corridor where Hagrid has a collection of eggs. We don't say what they are. They're mysterious eggs," Blumenstein said. [*cough* Dragons *cough*] "Then we move further down into tunnels, into the chamber."

"Hagrid, according to Rita Skeeter in the book, has crossbred Manticores and Fire-Crabs to make Blast-Ended Skrewts, which figure prominently in the fourth book, Goblet of Fire," Blumenstein said. "So he's created these creatures, he's used this room to breed them and grow them, and when they got too big for that room, he moved them to an out building, which is one of the experiences on the ride."

As I was saying, what could possibly go wrong?

Universal has released photos of the magical creatures that fans will encounter in the show scenes on the ride, including Fluffy the three-headed dog, centaurs, Cornish pixies, and Devil's Snare, which will be the site of the free fall drop.

Even though Universal is promoting this as a dual drop coaster, riders will experience only one free fall moment on the ride. Think of this like Disney's Haunted Mansion stretch rooms. They have two, but you only go through one. The other is there to double the ride's capacity.

Each train holds 14 riders on this 3-minute, 25-second ride. But like on Dragon Challenge, you will need to make a choice before you board: Will you ride on the motorbike or in the side car?

Coaster

"You think that the side car is a more safe experience, but it is thrilling," Blumenstein said. "But on the motorbike, you are more exposed, sitting up higher. It's a different experience from each seat and from where you sit on the train. I would say that the front end of the train is much more thrilling. The back end is also thrilling, but you get more show in the back."

"Your viewshed off to the right on the motorbike is much broader, but we designed the whole show around the side car so that the guests there would not be shortchanged."

Universal has released a first look at the POV from on board the ride. Note that the coaster does slow and even stop for the interior show scenes before launching into the next outdoor segment.

Universal Express will not be offered on Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure when it opens on June 13 and thereafter, though park officials said that they expect it to be added at some point later. For discounted tickets to Universal Orlando's theme parks, please visit our Universal Orlando tickets page, which is offering a three extra days free deal for a limited time.

Replies (21)

May 20, 2019 at 5:40 AM

The queue sounds amazing!
Is it a continues queue or are there divided rooms like at Gringots that progress the story?
Thank you for the great article, photo's and video.

May 20, 2019 at 6:05 AM

It's the old Dragon Challenge queue building, substantially redecorated. The queue will stop for the presentation with Arthur Weasley, so there will be some Gringotts-style pulsing going on.

May 20, 2019 at 6:09 AM

Interesting moment from the gaggle when someone asked why Universal went with Hagrid to feature magical creatures rather than Newt Scamander (from "Fantastic Beasts.")

Blumenstein paused for a long moment, then said, "Newt is certainly something we think about very much."

Then everyone laughed. Fantastic Beasts confirmed for Fantastic Worlds?

May 20, 2019 at 8:33 AM

What a surprise! I'll be in Orlando that weekend so I'll be happy to bite. Thanks for the elaborated coverage.

May 20, 2019 at 9:03 AM

"7 launches" .... Oh My ..... Cheetah Hunt only has 3 and it's always down. Both Intamin as well ... :) Let's hope the launch system is a little more reliable on Hagrid's ride. Don't hold your breath though !!

May 20, 2019 at 9:44 AM

Any info on EPA access?

May 20, 2019 at 9:50 AM

Like I couldn't be more uselessly excited sitting at my desk here in CA. What a great writeup!

May 20, 2019 at 10:25 AM

According to the Universal app, early park admittance will not be available until August.

May 20, 2019 at 11:02 AM

I'm tickled pink that Mr. Weasley will be included in the attraction. I'd also have liked for Mrs. Weasley to be there too, but she'd have nothing to do with Authur and all of his messing around with Muggel nonsense.

May 20, 2019 at 11:19 AM

Great article Robert! Now I’m even more disappointed that I’m leaving UOR tomorrow and will have to wait until next year to ride! There may be a chance I’ll make a trip in September, but chances aren’t great. During this trip I’ve been able to see the motorbikes on the track several times while riding Flight of the Hippogriff and also in the queue for the Hogwarts Express Hogsmeade Station. There I was able to hear some of the audio for the ride as well. Can’t wait until I get to ride!

May 20, 2019 at 11:26 AM

I have to give major credit to Universal on how well they redid the entire Dueling Dragons que/ride layout for this new version. Very good look and should be a great ride!

May 20, 2019 at 11:57 AM

It does sound like the experiences will be distinctly different depending on which side of the train you are sitting. I don't feel like going back to find out, but a poster who claimed to have some authority on the details of the attraction stated rather assertively that the experience on the bike and the sidecar would be virtually identical. UC has seemingly put that notion to bed, which leads me to ask how will ride ops keep load times reasonable with guests indecisive about which seat they want, particularly if it does have a rumored conveyor belt loading platform?

May 20, 2019 at 12:32 PM

Oh sausages! Another fantastic experience I cannot do without being hideously ill for the remainder of the day. Backwards! Why? Mrs Plum will have to find a single rider to accompany her while I wait like "Billy No Mates" at the entrance.

May 20, 2019 at 12:59 PM

After teasing us in another article with the photo of the animatronic Hagrid, which looks fantastic, you went silent about him in this article. Does the robotic Hagrid not appear in the queue for this ride, Robert?

May 20, 2019 at 2:01 PM

Does anyone know the launch speeds?

May 20, 2019 at 2:09 PM

Another site today claimed that the Hagrid animatronic is not in the line/queue but in the circular hut just before the second launch. Apparently he appears alongside a large Skrewt (blasted or something - I’m not really into Potter so can;t remember). He starts to produce fire hence the reason for the rapid launched escape...

May 20, 2019 at 2:16 PM

@Russell - I would imagine that, like with Dueling Dragons, you will be asked to choose the bike or the sidecar before you reach the loading platform.

May 20, 2019 at 7:32 PM

Another great addition to the Wizarding World, THE BEST immersive lands in theme park history! Universal is doing Harry Potter right!

May 20, 2019 at 5:14 PM

From my understanding that is correct that the Hagrid animatronic is in the ride by the blast ended skrewt and not in the queue. I believe that is the scene I could hear while in the Hogwarts Express Hogsmeade queue.

May 20, 2019 at 8:22 PM

I can confirm that there is no animatronic Hagrid in the queue. Just the screen Hagrid and Arthur Weasley. We did not get to see the show scenes on the ride itself.

May 21, 2019 at 7:44 AM

Great article! This looks amazing -- Universal has been hitting it out of the park (pun intended) for quite some time, and this really raises expectations for Fantastic Worlds. I love the character of Newt Skamander and can't wait to see him in a new land.

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