Monday, August 13, 2012
Dragon Challenge: A Big Cop Out
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has few if any faults. People complain about things such as cramped shops, the exterior queue of Forbidden Journey (an unfortunate necessity due to success of the land), and the somewhat exposed showbuilding of Forbidden Journey. However, the biggest problem of the Wizarding World, in my opinion, is the forced inclusion of the Lost Continent holdover, Dueling Dragons.
Dueling Dragons is my favorite coaster that I have been on. I love the flying sensation you get while riding in the first row, but the attraction suffered from visuals. The ride itself was largely unchanged in the "retheme" and the queue was weakened. I understand why it needed to be included in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was a popular coaster and Universal was cash-strapped. Having said that, I am surprised it basically survived the retheme virtually unchanged. The tracks were not repainted to better reflect the dragons from the source material, the premise in no way resembles the First Task from the film or novel, and there is zero theming along the track to further the premise. You are riding Dueling Dragons with a Potter queue.
J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. are known to very protective about Potter and were very strict and nitpicky about the rest of the land, so why did Dueling Dragons get a pass? I do not have an answer. I suppose it was just a compromise. Universal gave into every demand from smaller shops to no Coca-Cola products to specific shades of moss. I guess both parties agreed to let Dragons slide because there is no way that Dragons, in its current state, adheres to the standards mandated by the licensing agreement. The most glaring problem is the sound barrier wall that used to be green but is now a very faded and worn white green. At the very least, that should have been repainted.
As mentioned before, there is nothing on the ride itself to further the story set up by the queue. Universal Creative could have at least included a nest with a golden egg at the center of the ride. For those unfamiliar with Goblet of Fire, Harry must evade a protective mother dragon and take from her a nest a golden egg. That is what the "Dragon Challenge" is in the book. Harry does not battle two dragons, and he does not ride a dragon (at least not in Goblet, but I digress.) The queue itself, while not as elaborate as the Dueling Dragons queue, does set up the First Task well with an appearance by the Goblet of Fire, dragon projections in the Champions Tent, and banners supporting the four TriWizard Champions. Once you board a dragon, any semblance of a Potter attraction is gone, and in my opinion, that is unacceptable.
I and the rest of the Parkscope team have heaped tons of praise on Universal Creative for the effort shown in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and most recently, Minion Mayhem, but with Dragon Challenge, they did not even try. The easiest and most sensible transition of Dueling Dragons would have been to convert it to a Quidditch coaster. The game of Quidditch is an extreme sport that takes place on a broom and features near misses with other players, looping, and rolling around through the air...sound familiar? The track could have been painted sky blue and the coaster should have been surrounded by the Hogwarts Quidditch Stadium with 3 golden hoops on each end. The ground beneath the coaster could have been astro turf with the Quidditch lines painted on it. While this would have cost more than Dragon Challenge, it would have been a much better Potter attraction, and it still would not have cost that much.
If you really want to get picky, a TriWizard Tournament event on the same day as the Quidditch match in Forbidden Journey is impossible as there was no Quidditch during Goblet of Fire, and there would most certainly never be Quidditch and a TriWizard event on the same day. Whereas, if Dueling Dragons had become a Quidditch ride, the Quidditch match in Forbidden Journey and the Quidditch ride could be the same one creating a connected story throughout the land.
Dragon Challenge rarely has more than a ten minute wait regardless of how crowded the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is. Most attribute this to its capacity and/or its very nondescript entrance. I would add to that the attraction just does not live up to the standards of the Wizarding World. I think that most guests who are on the fence about such a coaster would respond better to a game of Quidditch than a non-canon Dragon duel that no longer has dueling.
Tweet me your thoughts @CaptMichael87 or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!