Friday, December 6, 2019

Immersive Irony Experience Theme Park Podcast - Alex's European Vacation

Alex spent over a month in Europe and he's here to talk about it. Find all the podcasts and videos on this trip here.

Part 1

Part 2

Monday, December 2, 2019

THEME PARK BOOK CORNER: "County Fairs: Where America Meets" by John McCarby & Randy Olsen

Finally! Light reading and lots of pictures - the sorts of coffee table books this hobby is known for and ones for which I can tear through the contents in about a day or two.

This book was produced by the National Geographic Society in 1997, and my copy was acquired through a name you'll come to see frequently here in this feature: John K. King Books, the largest used book seller in Michigan and among the largest in the world. The former glove factory contains a reputed million books, which is entirely believable given the size and sheer volume of items inside. I go roughly 3-4 times a year on average, and I almost always bring back a variety of rarities and common books. This trends more to the common end.

Monday, November 25, 2019

THEME PARK BOOK CORNER: "Walt Disney and the Quest for Community" by Steve Mannheim

This is not my first attempt at reading this - I did some time ago long before Distwitter as I was barrelling through literature during my tenure at MSU. However, now I've picked up on even more than I did then about the history of EPCOT Center, the subsequent theme park, and of course Walt's vision having done my own extensive research through the years, aging, and so on. You have not come here to read a review of me, though. You came for a review of the book.

It's a short book - only about 120 pages with a huge section of footnotes and a biographical essay at the end. It's classic academic text from a historian: little in the way of opinion, citations for everything that isn't, little to no speculation that's unwarranted. That immediately puts a damper on where the book could have gone, but leaves it lean, mean, and packed with facts. By the time you're done digesting it, you should feel fairly comfortable understanding where Walt's beliefs were on why he was doing EPCOT, what inspired him to make the decisions he did about it's early design, and how incredibly far he was from actually achieving any of the intended goals related to the project. In fact, if there is any conclusion that you can take from this book, it is that Walt and no one but Walt really had any individual vision for EPCOT. He gave people ideas and took feedback. He certainly had people draw sketches of the layouts and planning and greenspace. He approved models. He allowed for input, but the entirety of the project was truly Walt's.

Monday, November 18, 2019

THEME PARK BOOK CORNER: “The Great American Amusement Parks: A Pictoral History” by Gary Kyriazi

Going back to the 1970s, the next book reviewed is Gary Kyriazi’s tome, “The Great American Amusement Parks.” The 1970s were really the first period which sees multiple books on the industry published, and Kyriazi’s is an example of a book that isn’t particularly heavy on text. If you’ve read the first couple primers I’ve brought up in prior reviews, you know most of the background information that Kyriazi is going to reveal already. Anyways, Citadel Press put this book out in 1978, and it is nice and chunky, filled with glossy black and white shots of rides from bygone eras.

Monday, November 11, 2019

THEME PARK BOOK CORNER: The American Amusement Park Industry… by Judith A. Adams

I opened the blog up with a review of the first history told of the Amusement industry from William Mangels, and this, the second review, is essentially of the spiritual successor. Released in 1991, Adams book is still the closest thing we have to a contemporary analysis of the industry over 20 years onward. The timing of her book was fortuitous: arriving at the death of many traditional parks and at the point in which the regional themers were becoming entrenched and maturing, she writes of an industry much different from that seen in the 50s. Also, because her book is more recent, it is easier to point out flaws or inconsistencies, something that Mangels’ text and its near biblical importance to future researchers doesn’t have.

Adams’ preface describes the book’s three most formative themes: the importance of the 1893 Columbian Expo in Chicago, the reliance on the “future utopian” ideal, and the effect of societal change on the industry. Theme one and two are effectively tied at the hip given the “White City” of the Columbian Expo. The third part, while it is touched on at times, does not get to heavily leaned on. If anything, Adams is more open to looking at social critique rather than change either enacted by or affecting amusements.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #183 - A Horror Nights Second Opinion

We're not letting Halloween go without a fight as Joe is joined by Alex and Dan to discuss Halloween Horror Nights 29. We will cover their second opinions of the event, including Dan's thoughts on attending the event for the first time. Plus some discussion on the Kings Dominion coaster leak.

Monday, November 4, 2019

THEME PARK BOOK CORNER: “The Outdoor Amusement Industry…” by William Mangels

Back in 2014, I had started on a blog to provide detailed reviews of books on theme parks - not just coffee table books filled with pictures, but academic tomes, histories, and so on. And then I got busy (usually writing here) and it became a secondary concern at best. I've decided to port over the old reviews here and then provide you, our few and proud readers, with fresh reviews of books ranging from early 20th century academia to travel guides and much much more. Some of these are from my personal collection: others are made available to me thanks to the super rad university I work at. But some have never seen a review hit the light of day on the internet for a general audience until now. 
And for that all important first post, I didn’t think there was any better tome of information to start with than this – one of the first books to ever discuss the topic of amusements, William Mangels’ “The Outdoor Amusement Industry: From Earliest Times to Present.” This was printed all the way back in 1952 – yes, 62 years ago, pre-Disneyland. The topic is broad – outdoor amusements means a lot of different things, and Mangels attempts to give a brief history over the course of 206 printed pages about all of it.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #182 - Fall 2019 Orlando Trip Report

Another massive Parkscope trip is in the books and Joe, Mike, and Nick cover all the non-Horror Nights things they did this trip. We cover the final showing of Illuminations, the Japanese signature dining experince Takumi-Tei, Star Wars Galaxy's Edge, the Skyliner, and more at Disney. Over at Unviersal we talk about our stay at Endless Summer Resort, Hagrid, Bigfire, and more. Plus news from the past few weeks including The Bourne Stuntacular, Cookie-Ann, and the Epcot re-do.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Immersive Irony Experience Theme Park Podcast - Vortex Memorial Episode

In this episode Alan and Alex discuss the latest news including the closing of Vortex at Kings Island. Then Alex discusses his European trip in the first part of his trip report. First he discusses... the let downs from the trip.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Worlds or Rides: Is Immersion Reconcilable with Function in Theme Parks?

Disneyland and Disney Hollywood Studios' newest expansion, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge (SW:GE), has led to a lot of divisive opinions. None is more divisive than the argument of why it has, at it's best, turned out to simply draw crowds close to numbers of people who came last year before the expansion was completed. Most of these discussions ultimately revolve around the fact that Rise of the Resistance, arguably Disney's most complex attraction ever constructed, will not be open for months. No Rise, no armies of humanity demanding entry.

Beyond the fact that this is not provable now given that it is a hypothesis about the future, that this is usually agreed upon doesn't necessarily mean that everyone agrees upon what that means about what presently exists at Galaxy's Edge. The land itself is completed minus Rise: it is done, and by all accounts, it looks great. You can go and see it and "fly" the Millennium Falcon, eat at Oga's Cantina, buy a Blue Milk, build a light saber, and make things beep with your phone. For those who purely want to "experience Star Wars", there really aren't any barriers beyond the expense of a one day ticket, which if we are being very frank here, anyone actively in this exorbitantly expensive hobby should have the capacity to afford.

As Galaxy's Edge has opened to guests in Florida however, there are concerns which have arisen from guests demanding the utmost in "immersion". Many revenue centers (restaurants, shops) don't feature any form of air conditioning, given that they are open air markets, so fans were frequently seen propped up in corners during the summer months. Seating is at a premium in the land, which has led Operations to go to the store and buy stock patio furniture to give people a place to sit down and eat. Much rumoured live entertainment and character interactions in the land did not appear, with Bob Chapek being blamed as some sort of villainous accountant. If the intent is absolute pitch perfect world building, these things obviously are a detriment to it as functional as they may be. This question of functionality is in fact a fundamental question about the parks themselves: What is the function of a theme park? This seems an almost ridiculously basic question, but it is rarely asked and merely accepted to be inferred as self evident. There is in fact a significant divide in this.

SW:GE is generally accepted to have been influenced by the construction of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands Of Adventure, which was the first US example of what one might term "hyperreal". Rather than produce a theme park space that was a pastiche of known entities in a safe-for-children-and-mass-tourists manner (like how Adventureland is basically every place brown people live smashed together), these new hyperreal places intend to build fully-formed worlds for people to explore and interact with. Whether that is Avatar's "interactive" sperm cannon plant, Potter's wands, or the Play Disney App in Star Wars, these places put you in your own individual role playing game (full cooperation optional) to be part of the land. That then is the point of theme parks, isn't it? To put us in foreign worlds where we get to "escape" and become someone else; to transform ourselves into junk traders and wizards and, uhhh, intergalactic tourists. Or is it?

That is perhaps what some people would like theme parks to be. The media portals we use boost the negative signals because negatives attract attention, and advertisers crave content that gets attention, creating a sort of death spiral in which no matter who you are, we are in constant global peril from some sort of existential threat. Many people are exhausted of constant worry; worry about global climate change, billionaire rapists, financial ruin due to medical bills, armed conflict, mass shooters, fentanyl, immigration, loss of individual freedoms. No matter what side of the political fence you are on, there is someone, somewhere who wants to radicalize you (and subsequently sell you media, dietary supplements, and possibly donate to a political campaign or ten) even if you are the sort of individual who has well paying work and can easily afford a luxury hobby such as "attend theme parks". These worlds are then a potential escape for you, a thoroughly psychologically taxed and beaten individual. It should be no surprise then that on Twitter, Facebook, and the like there are many, many people who relate to these parks as a form of therapy. Walt did intend for his park to be an escape from every day life. That is true. So did Walter Knott. So did literally everyone who built traditional amusement parks or zoological gardens.

And this is where the problem with this thinking lies: "immersion" is not simply a thing that exists in the confines of Disney theme parks. Modern and postmodern art has played with the interactivity of art and the public for much of the 20th century, and in the 21st century this has been taken to bold new places by the likes of Meow Wolf and teamLab, as well as theater troupes and museums. There are many places in the US with spaces reserved purely for renaissance festivals (not unlike fairgrounds, which of course they mimic the European precursor to), and Evermore Park was constructed to more impressively/permanently fulfill these role playing fantasies. Cedar Point constructed Forbidden Frontier for 2019 following the success of the Ghost Town Alive summer "game" in Knott's Berry Farm. Immersive theater has been used by the Smithsonian; Orlando has had a fairly authentic and expensive representation of ancient Israel in the Holy Land Experience for many, many years. The Ark Encounter in Kentucky? It's built to the cubit based on the descriptions in the Bible and filled with animatronics to make you know just what Noah was doing. Can't immerse more than that.

So clearly, if world construction and relocating to that fantasy is the demand, then these things must be doing strong business. Ark Encounter? Attendance there is sluggish and it would probably have shuttered inside of 5 years if not for state tax breaks. Holy Land Experience - which has never had a ride - failed financially and had to be bought out and operated by a religious TV station. Evermore is operating at a whopping three nights a week. Cedar Point announced they're going to bring back a family boat ride that just so happens to encircle where Forbidden Frontier is....on an island. That means the bridges to the island have to go. Turns out immersive themed experiences at "big iron rides" parks - no matter how well done - aren't appealing to people who don't like "big iron rides" parks since it's still a "big iron rides" park. Art installations like Otherworld in Columbus. OH or THE EXPERIENCE in Tulsa, OK are expanding, but the cost for entry in that space is dramatically lower than that of a theme park world (or theme park sized entity). And more importantly: these art installations are not theme parks.

What separates immersive art experiences from a "theme park" is that a "theme park," very specifically by the language we use, refers to themed amusement facilities. Amusement facilities have shows, rides, dancing, swimming, and so on. Theme Parks have existed for decades with people flocking to them to experience things: Country Bear Jamboree, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, just to name a few of these. Things happen around them and occasionally to them, but never do they make things truly happen. The idea of immersive world building as the future of theme parks changes this dramatically. The impact of the art is maximized by interaction with it, then the art must be encouraged to be interacted with. For those who've seen the parks as that kind of escape - a space for reinvention of themselves - this is a dream come true.

But what about everyone else? What about the people who just want to go on a ride? What about kids? Children will have the least ability to accumulate points in Galaxy's Edge compared to childless adults who use it as an after work escape, and the younger they are, the less likely that they will be turned on by a series of games and missions with such stringent rules. In creating a rich mythology for visitors, Disney imagineers have left nothing to the imagination of the guests. There is not intended to be much in terms of individual interpretation. The scenes mean what they mean; they communicate with brute force intensity. It sees the lack of narrative in Pirates of the Caribbean not as an asset, but a liability. Star Wars as a intellectual property shows this conflict in the parks as well. As bound to canon as Galaxy's Edge is, many early reviews and anecdotal evidence suggest Smuggler's Run doesn't on average receive as high of marks from guests Star Tours (a ride that plays liberally with canon).

If the functionality of theme parks is to merely to entertain rather than "immerse" in a realistic world, this wouldn't be surprising. Star Tours introduces us to old favorites and worlds we've always wanted to explore, in addition to huge battle sequences. It's been updated fairly recently and has reasonably good animation and animatronic figures aboard the craft (Smuggler's Run has one animatronic in a pre-show, and he's from a cartoon series that averaged about 3 million viewers). It hits the right notes of nostalgia (a huge part of Disney's success in general) while also providing variation in experience to draw guests back. Star Tours offers no buttons to mash and no points to get, but still manages to have an average wait not far from a half hour even after the construction of Galaxy's Edge.

Function subsequently has led to changes in form elsewhere in Disney World's Galaxy's Edge. Recently, news that menu boards would see the names of food items changed to reflect what they actually were instead of "in character" names; Fried Endorian Tip-Yip became Fried Chicken. Guests apparently had been confused by the names and cast members were complaining the refusal of paying customers to play along with the conceit of being on another planet (a planet, it should be noted, where Coca Cola and paper receipts saying the park name are apparently Star Wars canon) when attempting to spend huge amounts of money on food for their family. To an outsider, the notion that customers would be forced to change their behavior in this way is hilarious, but is largely accepted as a given by those deep in the bubble of hyperimmersion. Cast members have increasingly moved away from calling water fountains as "hydrators" and restrooms as "refreshers" given that those words mean nothing in the context of actual reality when people need to drink water.

This isn't to say that Galaxy's Edge is a total failure: while domestic park attendance dropped in spite of this massive investment, there have been increases in per capita spending related to the new restaurants and retail shops inside. And of course there's the small issue of Rise Of The Resistance not being open. Without it operating, it feels like that period of time this section is opened is more or less a control for the real experiment of "Worlds or rides?"

For all the hand wringing to the contrary, theme parks are just a subgenre of amusement park. Without the function - the rides, in this case - there's no need to see what the section has until they've arrived. If you disagree, ask yourself this: would hundreds of thousands of guests refuse to book travel to Disney if Rise of The Resistance was open but it was Oga's Cantina that was behind in development? How about if it was Droid Depot that was delayed 9 months? Do you really think if they pushed out the roving bots and doubled the number of costumed characters that it would lead to monster lines and record attendance more than if it was the 20+ minute, multi-system, multi-sensory E-ticket ride to end all E-tickets? Be honest with not just yourself but what you know about other people.

I've learned there's always someone who has the contrarian position. I once had someone on Twitter tell me they traveled to stay at Disney moderate resorts for a week and never go to the parks. To be entirely honest, that claim was mind blowing. Doesn't mean I think they're a bad person or anything (they are probably very nice people who I would bet are shy as hell in real life), but I reserve the right to question some people's life choices and what it says about the relationship they have with the rest of society. I also know that going to Disney World for a week and not going to parks because "pools" and "Disney Springs" is not standard procedure for most people who are hardened Disney fans, much less regular, normal people. There would absolutely be one or two people who would wait out Droid Depot out of 20 million. But that's what you're looking at. Theme parks can't be geared to that one or two: it has to be to the 20 million, and maybe the way guests have reacted (or not reacted) to Galaxy's Edge is the path back to that.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #181 - Halloween Horror Nights 29 Review

Yup, it's that time of the year again. Mike, Nick, and Joe give our thoughts, impressions, and final review of Halloween Horror Nights 29. We discuss the houses, scare zones, shows, merch, and food of this years event. Overall we would consider this a weak year, but one made fun thanks to the peopel we attended the event with.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Bourne Stuntacular

Hey remember when there were two shows in Hollywood at Universal Studios Florida? I do too! It's been two years since T2:3D Battle Across Time closed and today Universal Orlando announced the replacement: The Bourne Stuntacular. Opening in Spring 2020 the show will combine "live performers, interactive props and an immense LED screen" to bring us on the chase for Jason Bourne. 

The first question a lot of people have is: what sort of experience is this? Well, it's first and foremost a stunt show, more so than T2. Second, it will combine digital video, choreography, and massive set pieces to envelope the guests in the show. The best way I can describe the show is to the theater and screen melding elements of T2 with no middle 3D movie segment.

The two companies behind the show are Action Horizons and TAIT. Action Horizons are best known as the stunt company who provides the stunt performers for Universal Studios Hollywood's WaterWorld show. Action Horizon will provide the stunt performers, choreography, and gun work for this show. TAIT is "the world market leader in design, construction, and delivering the finest live entertainment solutions int he world". Stripping out the PR speak, that means they're really good at all the non-live people stuff. TAIT has worked with the Lady Gaga residency in Vegas, Blue Man Group in Orlando, awards shows, the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, and King Kong on Broadway

What this means is expect a high intensity, media bending show that blurs the line between stage and digital actors. Imagine a giant fight scene between actors both on screen and in the theater with actors reacting to in person stunts and digital stunts in real time. 

The Bourne Stuntacular opens Spring 2020.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #180 - 20th Anniversary

In this episode Joe and Jeff are joined by Justin Stone from the WDW Tales podcast to discuss the 20th anniversary of the Millennium Celebration! Held from October 1, 1999 till December 31, 2000, the Millennium Celebration featured new attractions around the resort, a refresh of Epcot as the global hub of the celebration, new programs, and even a Super Bowl Halftime show.

In this commemorative podcast we discuss the history of the celebration, the new attractions around the resort, Epcot's new look, Justin's time as a drummer for Tapestry of Nations, and much more. Includes our thoughts on Epcot as a whole, how this was the last major project from Disney Parks before Paul Pressler got his hands on everything, and the time Justin was on GUTS.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #179 - River of Critters

Alan, Joe, and Mike hunker down for a long episode covering Six Flag's announcements of The Jersey Devil and Aquaman, Busch and SeaWorld announcements, and SeaWorld's ongoing power struggle and layoffs. Then we discuss Alan's first trip to Japan where he discusses the culture, the health of the amusement industry in the country, and his thoughts on Tokyo Disney Resort.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Parkscope YouTube Saturday 8/31 Premieres

by @ParkScopeJeff

Parkscope YouTube is back! This week, we have FOURTEEN Travel Channel specials awaiting release, and we're going to do something a little different. Every night, for seven nights starting Sunday 8/25, we will be Premiering our videos on YouTube at 8 pm and 9 pm, Eastern Time! Join us as we revel in the latest batch of early-2000s travel special goodness! If you miss the theme park specials of 2001/2002, you will have an EPIC amount of fun over the next week, at a time when cable TV is really boring and unfulfilling! It's a win/win for you!

Every night we will reveal the next night's two video releases, so check back every day here to!

Saturday 8/31 Premieres:

8 pm EST

"A man-made mountain that erupts on cue. Strange and exotic lands. Ancient civilizations brought back to life. You're looking at the most ambitious theme park in the world: DisneySea, Tokyo. The best-kept secret in the Far East. Until now. In a world exclusive, Travel Channel's cameras are the first to be given full access to Disney's first water-based theme park. It's a front-row ticket to a multi-billion dollar adventure. It's a journey across continents and across time. We'll travel across seas, and beneath them too. It all takes place in one mega-theme park. And on this journey, nothing is as it seems!"

9 pm EST

"Technical Wizards. Creative Masterminds. The Walt Disney Company's ultimate secret weapon. They are the artistic geniuses behind every Disney theme park experience, ride, and attraction. They're called Imagineers, and they might just have one of the best jobs in the world. We'll go inside their wonderful world of insidious elevators (Tower of Terror), realistic robotic figures (Hall of Presidents), and spectacular splashes (Splash Mountain). And, find out how they design and create the amazing rides and mind-boggling attractions that delight, thrill, and terrify the entire world. We've gone straight to the secret vault of Disney's Imagineers and uncovered footage that has never been seen before. Watch now, because we're revealing the unknown secrets behind Disney's biggest and best attractions: going inside the top-secret world of the master magicians who bring them to life. They're Disney's Imagineers!"

Find Jeff on Twitter: @ParkScopeJeff

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Parkscope YouTube Friday 8/30 Premieres

by @ParkScopeJeff

Parkscope YouTube is back! This week, we have FOURTEEN Travel Channel specials awaiting release, and we're going to do something a little different. Every night, for seven nights starting Sunday 8/25, we will be Premiering our videos on YouTube at 8 pm and 9 pm, Eastern Time! Join us as we revel in the latest batch of early-2000s travel special goodness! If you miss the theme park specials of 2001/2002, you will have an EPIC amount of fun over the next week, at a time when cable TV is really boring and unfulfilling! It's a win/win for you!

Every night we will reveal the next night's two video releases, so check back every day here to!

Friday 8/30 Premieres:

8 pm EST

"Disneyland, California. The world's first modern theme park. The only Disney park that Walt Disney ever saw completed. Launched in 1955, it set the standard for theme parks, and that trend has continued to this very day. Over the years, Disneyland has had its share of changes, improvements, and growth spurts, to become what it is today: a complete vacation resort. From a Magic Kingdom, to three resort hotels, a vibrant nightlife and entertainment district, and a whole new kind of theme park: Disney's California Adventure. But how did it all come to pass? What is the story behind one of the great man-made marvels of the 20th century? Now, for the first time ever, we go back in time, and behind the scenes, to uncover the mysteries and the legends of a most extraordinary land: Disneyland."

9 pm EST

Walt Disney World Resort: Behind the Scenes

"Fantasy. Adventure. The Mouse. Walt Disney World. Like no other place on earth, it's where people check reality at the door. Escape is the name of the game because Disney invented what everyone calls "theme parks." We go inside their fantasy world, and uncover the incredible story behind what makes Walt Disney World tick. Watch as we reveal the secrets to their success, and explore the makings of their colossal parks, thrill rides, and attractions. Forget everything you thought you knew. We're going behind the scenes, and we've got exclusive footage that has never been seen before. Join us, as we uncover the hidden world that is this Orlando-based empire, and reveal some of Disney's best-kept secrets, in Walt Disney World Resort: Behind the Scenes."

Find Jeff on Twitter: @ParkScopeJeff

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #178 - Project Gemini

Joe and Mike are joined by Brian from Inside Universal! We discuss all the D23 announcements, hand wringing over Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, and then diving into a preview of Halloween Horror Nights 29.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Parkscope YouTube Thursday 8/29 Premieres

by @ParkScopeJeff

Parkscope YouTube is back! This week, we have FOURTEEN Travel Channel specials awaiting release, and we're going to do something a little different. Every night, for seven nights starting Sunday 8/25, we will be Premiering our videos on YouTube at 8 pm and 9 pm, Eastern Time! Join us as we revel in the latest batch of early-2000s travel special goodness! If you miss the theme park specials of 2001/2002, you will have an EPIC amount of fun over the next week, at a time when cable TV is really boring and unfulfilling! It's a win/win for you!

Every night we will reveal the next night's two video releases, so check back every day here to!

Thursday 8/29 Premieres:

8 pm EST

"What are the latest, greatest favorite roller coasters in the world? Last may asked viewers to e-mail their recommendations for the world's Top 10 Coasters. The Raven. Millenium Force. Nitro. Ghostrider. The Beast. Magnum. And what separates an ordinary coaster from the cream of the coaster crop? The drop? The G-Forces? Speed? Change of direction? Terror? Pacing? Re-rideability? Constant excitement. So what was the results of the online poll? To find what 5 wooden and 5 steel coasters rose to the top, jump in and hold on to your lap bar! We're going to give you an in-depth look, so hold on for a thrilling ride aboard each of our Top Ten Coasters!"

9 pm EST

"Millions of people flock to amusement parks each year to experience the latest and greatest extreme thrill machines. They push the envelope of human creativity and imagination. Fuel in this industry is the human need to challenge our bodies and minds. They make you feel out of control. They're heart-stopping and heart-pounding. And you want to ride them over and over again! To quench the insatiable human thirst for extreme rides, parks and ride designers must devise novel ways to deliver the ultimate thrill. They continue to get bigger, faster, and more intense. Hold on tight as we take you over the edge to explore and experience the world's most thrilling extreme rides!"

Find Jeff on Twitter: @ParkScopeJeff

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Parkscope YouTube Wednesday 8/28 Premieres

by @ParkScopeJeff

Parkscope YouTube is back! This week, we have FOURTEEN Travel Channel specials awaiting release, and we're going to do something a little different. Every night, for seven nights starting Sunday 8/25, we will be Premiering our videos on YouTube at 8 pm and 9 pm, Eastern Time! Join us as we revel in the latest batch of early-2000s travel special goodness! If you miss the theme park specials of 2001/2002, you will have an EPIC amount of fun over the next week, at a time when cable TV is really boring and unfulfilling! It's a win/win for you!

Every night we will reveal the next night's two video releases, so check back every day here to!

Wednesday 8/28 Premieres:

8 pm EST

"Is it Wild Africa? Are these man-eating dinosaurs? Is this an Asian rafting expedition? No, it's Disney's Animal Kingdom. Imaginary. Endangered. Extinct. If it has to do with animals, you'll find it here. We'll go inside a world of giant grasshoppers, safari adventures, and crazy coasters. Discover how Disney overcame great obstacles to bring this theme park to life. And explore the secrets behind their rides, shows, and animal habitats. It's our journey to the four corners of the world and beyond, at Disney's Animal Kingdom."

9 pm EST

"The Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida is home to over two dozen themed hotels, a nighttime entertainment district, and plenty of activities. It's become an ultimate vacation destination. It's at Disney four theme parks: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and two water parks, where's you'll find out what ultimate really means!"

Find Jeff on Twitter: @ParkScopeJeff

Monday, August 26, 2019

Parkscope YouTube Tuesday 8/27 Premieres

by @ParkScopeJeff

Parkscope YouTube is back! This week, we have FOURTEEN Travel Channel specials awaiting release, and we're going to do something a little different. Every night, for seven nights starting Sunday 8/25, we will be Premiering our videos on YouTube at 8 pm and 9 pm, Eastern Time! Join us as we revel in the latest batch of early-2000s travel special goodness! If you miss the theme park specials of 2001/2002, you will have an EPIC amount of fun over the next week, at a time when cable TV is really boring and unfulfilling! It's a win/win for you!

Every night we will reveal the next night's two video releases, so check back every day here to!

Tuesday 8/27 Premieres:

8 pm EST

Great Hotels: Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

"The year is 1920...and you've escaped to Florida to bask in the ocean breezes of your seaside Victorian paradise. Guests here find the grace and elegance of a grand hotel awaiting them. Is it all but a wistful, lingering dream? Nope, it's still the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. "

9 pm EST

Great Hotels: Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts

"So you've saved up your money for a vacation at a great hotel in a terrific location. So where do your family and friends spend the most time? The pool! What if I told you you could have one of the coolest hotels and an amazing pool all in one? Nestled on sleepy Crescent Lake, within eyeshot of Epcot at Walt Disney World lie a couple of fantasy-themed resorts that take you back in time to the 20th century summer homes of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket: the Disney Yacht & Beach Club Resorts."

Find Jeff on Twitter: @ParkScopeJeff

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Parkscope YouTube Monday 8/26 Premieres

by @ParkScopeJeff

Parkscope YouTube is back! This week, we have FOURTEEN Travel Channel specials awaiting release, and we're going to do something a little different. Every night, for seven nights starting Sunday 8/25, we will be Premiering our videos on YouTube at 8 pm and 9 pm, Eastern Time! Join us as we revel in the latest batch of early-2000s travel special goodness! If you miss the theme park specials of 2001/2002, you will have an EPIC amount of fun over the next week, at a time when cable TV is really boring and unfulfilling! It's a win/win for you!

Every night we will reveal the next night's two video releases, so check back every day here to!

Monday 8/26 Premieres:

8 pm EST

"Take one part carnival, two parts sunshine, and a whole lot of water, and stir. That's the recipe for a great boardwalk, and this show is a guide to find the very best. From the classic style of Coney Island, to the west coast pleasures of Venice Beach and Santa Monica, we'll sample the southern charms of Myrtle Beach, grab a bite in Ocean City, and visit the home of Miss America in Atlantic City. The fun starts now and you've got a front row seat to America's favorite Boardwalks!"

9 pm EST

Coasters of the West: Terrifying Thrills

"California: this land of dazzling sun is literally bursting at the seams with non-stop outdoor fun, including some of the world's most spectacular theme parks. It's also the king of the roller coaster hill, with more roller coasters than any other state in the USA. How did one of America's biggest states also become the thrill ride leader? Why are California's theme parks famous around the globe? And what gives them that special cutting edge? What's the real story behind these screaming metal dynamos that overwhelm us with pleasure, and terror, all at once? It's Coasters of the West: Terrifying Thrills!"

Find Jeff on Twitter: @ParkScopeJeff

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Parkscope YouTube Premieres Week!

by @ParkScopeJeff

Parkscope YouTube is back! This week, we have FOURTEEN Travel Channel specials awaiting release, and we're going to do something a little different. Every night, for seven nights starting Sunday 8/25, we will be Premiering our videos on YouTube at 8 pm and 9 pm, Eastern Time! Join us as we revel in the latest batch of early-2000s travel special goodness! If you miss the theme park specials of 2001/2002, you will have an EPIC amount of fun over the next week, at a time when cable TV is really boring and unfulfilling! It's a win/win for you!

Every night we will reveal the next night's two video releases, so check back every day here to!

Sunday 8/25 Releases:

8 pm EST

"Welcome to Universal Studios Japan. Hollywood and the Far East. In the Backlots the stars shine 24 hours a day. No wonder tourists flock here in their millions. We're about to take you behind the scenes of one of the busiest theme parks in the world. To a city within a city. You'll see how Hollywood's heavyweights join forces for one of the most ambitious and expensive productions ever (Terminator 2: 3-D and the Jurassic Park River Adventure). Learn the tricks of the trade behind the Wild Wild West Stunt Show., plus the dynamite-charged Waterworld show. We'll let you in on the secrets of the ET Adventure and Jurassic Park!"

9 pm EST

Travel Channel Secrets: Walt Disney Studios Paris

"Lights, Motors, Action, a stunt show where you become part of the movie action. Catastrophe Canyon, an earthquake which causes chaos right before your eyes. And Rock n' Rollercoaster, a roller coaster ride where you're blasted into an Aerosmith rock music video. It's all in a theme park right in the heart of Europe: Walt Disney Studios Paris!"

Visit Jeff on Twitter: @ParkScopeJeff

Friday, August 16, 2019

Immersive Irony Experience Theme Park Podcast - I Drive Motels Memorial Episode

Alan and Alex have OPINIONZ 4 U about Epic Universe and a host of trip reports ranging from immersive art experiences like Otherworld to good 'ol fashioned coaster riding.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #177 - Whats Behind the Fireworks

It's an emergency podcast time! Universal announced their new theme park, Universal's Epic Universe. The crack reporting staff of Nick, Joe, Jeff, and Banks Lee from Attractions talk about the press conference, concept art, rumored lands, and more!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Speculation On Universal Orlando's Epic Announcement

On Thursday, August 1st at 10am Comcast will host a press event at the Orange County Convention Center to announce major news and changes to the Universal Orlando resort. Comcast leadership has not been shy in stating their goals: increasing on site hotel rooms, aggressively expanding the resort, and investing more money than the competition to build out a week long vacation experience.

As with any tight lipped media event and vague promises expectations easily skyrocket to include everything and anything imaginable. I have already seen people say they need to show expanded Nintendo concept art, a hotel, and more. The fandom's anticipation has reached a boiling point where even the loftiest announcements could be met with disappointment. I reject these pie-in-the-sky wishes because they quickly become expectations. Instead I want to take the time to pontificate, based on Universal's own words and actions, on what could be discussed on Thursday.

Disclaimer, this is speculation and should be treated as such.

First, let's start with Alicia's January 2019 leak of Fantastic Worlds documentation and a follow up article about Classic Monsters land. The presentation highlights some general concepts of the land: Super Nintendo World, multiple lands, a hub-and-spoke style design, along with the name Fantastic Worlds. In addition to Alicia's column make sure to read our break down of several rumors of lands coming to Fantastic Worlds.

On August 1st I believe we will be left with more questions than we came into the event with. I do not expect we'll find out every land in the new park let alone the attraction concepts. Parks like Shanghai Disneyland did not show their attractions until closer to opening and Universal Studios Beijing still has not discussed its additions. Islands of Adventure's preview center, opened in 1997, featured general themes and broad attraction concepts without diving into details. Do not come into Thursday expecting details of the third park.

Second, there are a lot of outstanding news items Universal can cover while they have the attention of the media: Halloween Horror Nights 29 announcements, the T2:3D replacement attraction still slated for 2019, entertainment announcements like the Dark Arts at Hogwarts show, and Jurassic World enhancements in IoA for 2021. It would make sense for Universal to include at least one of those announcements in a "current state of the parks" opening overview.

Third, I want to focus on two quotes. One, is this quote from the leaked documents Alicia posted:
"Our major competition in our theme park segment had been [given a] "free ride" due to a lack of aggressive competition in stepping up. Over the next five years Comcast is increasing this competition, through investing [more] in our theme park segment than it spent to acquire Universal."
The other is from the Comcast investment call on July 26th, 2019:
"Just looping back to Parks, which was part of your question, Jessica. We continue to remain very bullish on the Parks business and obviously we're investing in Beijing. We're investing in our domestic parks. We think there is a lot of opportunity down in Orlando. We've built a lot of hotel rooms we will be talking more about investment in the state of Florida and it's now about a third of NBCUniversal's total operating cash flow and we continue to love the business and think it fits very well with our animated movie business and other things that we're doing."
Universal isn't mincing words here: they are investing significant amounts of money into Orlando due to Disney's Blue Ocean strategy of My Disney Experience/FastPass+/MagicBands over rides. Universal sees their position as weak competition now flush with guests and cash that can take advantage of their unique position. Disney's weaknesses are complicated planning, poor value, and, up until recently, a lack of new attractions comparative to attendance. Universal so far has attacked at those weaknesses: a focus on relaxation over reservations, on site room deals and ticket promotions, and yearly major additions.

I speculate Universal Orlando will now move to chip away or remove the last remaining pillars of Walt Disney World's lock on the market. Now, I know Universal will never, ever, be able to compete with the animation and movie history Disney now has. Nor will it compete with Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, World Showcase, or Animal Kingdom. Nor the decades of Disneyana fandoms and preserved history. All of these are nearly impossible to hurdle and core pillars of Disney fandom.

Instead Disney has set up several monumental programs and infrastructure in place that keep guests returning and locked in. The primary of those programs is Magical Express, the "free" bus transportation from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Walt Disney World resorts (in 2013 over 2 million guests rode the Magical Express). By removing the cost of transportation on the ground from the equation guests are more likely not to spring for a rental car, taxi, or Uber to explore the rest of Orlando. 

Walt Disney said it best, Walt Disney World has "a blessing of size". Large resorts, entertainment districts, and the ability to build custom facilities was not available to the landlocked Universal Orlando property. Look at what WDW built so far this year: conference space, convention hotels, and transportation infrastructure. While Royal Pacific does offer some convention space it is severely limited compared to WDW's.

With the new land acquired Universal can expand the resort but they're in a unique location to form partnerships in the community. As speculated on Inside Universal a large part of the announcement could focus on Universal partnering with the Orange County Convention Center, local hotels, and one of the major rail projects to drive attendance to the resort. Partnering with the OCCC can bring in over 1.4 million guests as part of Universal hotel/park packages. Working with local hotels will let Universal focus on their new park and premier resort while the vast majority of accommodations will be handled by others (with that likely being reduced as more Universal hotels are opened).

The bigger news would be partnering with an in development Orlando rail line to transport guests from Orlando International to the parks. Over 44 million guests fly through MCO yearly with over 2 million of those using Magical Express, by offering an alternative low cost or free transportation solution to Universal would dislodge Disney's hold on large chunks of the market.

So, what will be announced? At this point here's what's likely:

  • New Universal theme park
  • Overview of the park
  • Partners with local businesses, OCCC, and rail
  • Vision statement
Here's what I'd bet a beer on but am not sure about:
  • Updates on the state of the resort including Bourne announcement
  • Hotel updates, focus on Endless Summer
What I'm betting won't be covered:
  • Halloween Horror Nights 29 announcement
  • Jurassic World coaster or Jurassic Park land overhaul
  • Other attraction projects for USF and IOA
We will know all this by lunch time on Thursday, August 1st. We will be recording a special emergency podcast that evening to cover all the news, so stay tuned for that on Friday, August 2nd.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #176 - Hug Box

Joe, Alan, and Alex discuss all the upcoming coaster announcements around North America, Ghostbusters at Halloween Horror Nights 29, and our time at ACE's KennyKon at Kennywood!

Universal Orlando Hosting August 1st Press Conference on Future of Florida Property

Invitations are extended to select media members for a press conference on August 1st, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. 

While the invite only says it'll cover the future of the Florida property several hints have been released that this will be "the big one": all unannounced projects for 2019-2021 and the reveal of their southern property plans, tentatively called Fantastic Worlds. During July 25th's investment call Comcast leadership hinted at major Florida news soon, old school insider HateToFly hinted at "fantastic" news during that week, and some birdies have whispered in our own ear.

With a focus on the future of Florida we imagine the following projects will be announced or giving updates on:

  • Halloween Horror Nights 29 announcements (Us, Rob Zombie, etc)
  • Jason Bourne show replacing T2 (2019)
  • Endless Summer - Dock Side (opening 2020)
  • New entertainment offerings (2020)
  • Jurassic World upgrades and new coaster (2021)
  • Fantastic Worlds (2023)
For more information on our predictions for Fantastic Worlds check out our article from 2018.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Friday, July 12, 2019

Immersive Irony Experience Theme Park Podcast - Mystery Lodge Memorial Edition

Hagrid opens, Alex goes to the Toronto area and a bunch of parks, Alan goes to New England to ride stuff, HoliWood Nights report, and a live epilogue from In The Loop's FreERT event.

Monday, July 8, 2019

A Conversation and Verbose Thoughts on Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

Hagrid. It's open(?). There's a lot out there and I have not seen anything that really covers my thoughts or explains things well so here I am writing about my experiences and thoughts on this new coaster. This is way less polished and formal than my usual writing, this is done conversationally based on my discussions with other people.

Photo courtesy Inside Universal


In the beginning…. Universal created Islands of Adventure. Opened in 1999, Islands of Adventure combined highly themed lands with cutting edge thrills. Located in The Lost Continent was Dueling Dragons, a ground breaking dueling inverted B&M coaster. Utterly unique in the world of roller coasters, two unique tracks would battle: the fire dragon and the ice dragon.

Ten years later the attraction received an overhaul to fit the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme as Dragon Challenge. No longer two dragons battling it out in a remote castle, the new story focused on the Tri-Wizards cup from Goblet of Fire. Soon after the retheme a guest’s pocket change hit guests on the opposing ride vehicle. The dueling aspect of the attraction was removed and its days were numbered.

Photo courtesy Inside Universal.
In 2017 Universal announced Dragon Challenge would close for a new highly themed Wizarding World roller coaster. Since then we have seen constant construction updates from eye-in-the-sky Bioreconstruct, insider info from Alicia Stella, and sass from Derek Burgan. Now 21 months later Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is open for guests.

We visited opening weekend to ride, see the resort, and have a quick escape from the insanity of real life. Yes, we woke up ungodly early, waited in long lines, and got stuck on ride, but we also had a blast. This article is in supplement to my first impressions posted on Touring Plans


If you payed attention to theme park social media in mid-June you would have heard and seen the lines for Hagrid. The attraction's queue stretched from Hogsmeade, into Lost Continent, through Seuss, and into Port of Entry. Wait times to ride hovered around three to six hours to ride, shifting based on weather and the temper mentality of the ride system.

We waited from 6:30am to 12:30pm on Friday, June 14 and then again 6:30am till around 9:00am to ride on the following day. On the 14 the attraction had a delayed opening due to an unrelated issue at the park (Mummy opened late too). During the waits Universal provided free water and entertainment, set up large mist fans around the queue, allowed guests to exit the queue for food and restrooms, and offered locations to buy food and beverage in line. 

While hot and tiring it was not unpleasant, not poorly planed, and definitely not unethical. Many have railed on Universal for the lines, including using terms such as "inhumane" to describe it. The USA is currently running concentration camps full of asylum seekers and immigrants with unsanitary and dehumanizing conditions, to suggest willingly waiting for a new ride where free water is provided is "inhumane" is gross as best. I expect better from this community.

I believe the waits for Hagrid are being overblown as this is the first attraction since 2014 to open in Orlando without a line bypassing option (such as FastPass or Express Pass), meaning locals accustomed to not waiting are up in arms.

Anyway, back on track (pun intended).

Google Maps 3D view shows new entrance (left) and blown out old entrance (right).
The queue layout Dueling Dragons/Dragon Challenge is mostly unchanged with all the changes coming from new theme elements. Where as the old queue started walking straight into the stained glass/tent room now guests make a hard left to where the Goblet of Fire used to be. The old entrance was blown out and expanded to fit the new preshow, where Arthur Weasley and Hagrid are working on how to transport everyone to a remote area to view some blast-ended skrewts. After some explosions, fairies escaping, and the required water spray we are on our way through the castle to the thestrals stables to board our vehicles. 

Several of the rooms and hallways, such as the frozen suspended knight, remain but are totally rethemed. Clean up work was also done to the tunnels after the skulls were awkwardly removed during the transition to Dragon Challenge; now the rock work is smoother and less volcanic. A new room was created near the end which Hagrid uses as a work area, here he stores various ingredients and diagrams for his use. For us it's also the merge point for those with an accessibility pass. Wooo.

The old Dragon Challenge "Choose Thy Fate" room and dual load station is completely reworked. Walls have been built at where the load and unload for the trains were, boxing in the room. Above colored LED lighting rigs create patterns on the ceiling, making it look like spiders and Hagrid are above getting ready for class. After a few switch backs guests are paired up in groups and merged to board. The new boarding platform is a moving sidewalk set up where the old dispatch for Fire was. The moving sidewalks actually are not too much of an issue and guests have been able to board quickly, much to Universal's delight. (Reportedly Universal is running the walkways at a slower speed and with fewer trains to compensate for any issues with guests loading.) Conversely unload is now the old dispatch Ice, with a train fitting on a block break section between the two.

Ride Experience

Our ride vehicle is the iconic motorbike featured as the second magical thing in the Sorcerer's Stone movie (right after the owls). Originally Sirius Black's bike, it was then used by Hagrid till Harry Potter inherited the bike after Sirius' death. We ride the bikes while it is still under Hagrid's use, although the time frame of when the ride takes place (sometime between Prisoner of Azkaban and the end of Half Blood Prince). From now on in order to avoid confusion and this explanation I will refer to the ride vehicles as "Hagrid's bike" or "the bike".

Photo courtesy Universal Orlando.
During the ride's speculation period many guessed the ride would feature lean-forward motorbike restraints like Tron Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland. These ride vehicles are denoted by their unique restraint system: guests lean on a stomach pad, feet onto a raised pad, hold onto a grip in front of them, and a back/legs restraint holds them in. Thankfully Hagrid does away with this and instead choses the focus on the more traditional bike, driven like a car and less like a jockey.

What makes Hagrid's bike unique is its sidecar, or more specifically the fact the ride vehicles have one. This creates a coaster with two different eyeliner and two different force profiles. The sidecar features a more traditional coaster experience with more protection around the rider and a less restrictive restraint. On this side the rider sits significantly closer to the track than a normal coaster, giving the experience something more akin to Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom or the Matterhorn (but way smoother). Riding in the side car produces less lateral forces during the overbooked segments but a better sensation of acceleration thanks to being closer to the track. Conversely the sidecar is also the least accessible for those with larger frames.

The bike on the other hand exposes the rider on all sides and entices the rider to lean forward to hold onto the bike bars (but this is not required or necessary, just really fun and cool to do). The lateral forces during the overbooked segments are significantly more intense than I expect, to the point I put my hands down and held on to the restraints/motorbike bars. If you love the lateral Gs on Maverick then the motorbike is for you. The motorbike has the most restrictive restraints with a large restraint that locked in the hips and upper thighs, like a B&M Hyper clam shell. For my money I prefer the motorbike but have heard some say otherwise.

By this point several on-ride videos have been posted of the new attraction. Lots of #hottakes have occurred and I find them wanting of nuance. So I'm going to dive into a "scene by scene" walkthrough of the attraction including notes on themed set design, figures (static and moving), audio, and the coaster sensations. I likely won't be following Universal's definitions of the scenes nor what some have "leaked" in the past, this will start after load and end right before debarking.

Music kicks in a we get a narration from Hagrid about thestrals, the magical creatures only those who've seen death can see. A small LSM boost kicks us into gear and we soon hit a slalom down towards the large abbey ruins before taking a hard right and hitting our second launch of the ride. We quickly bank to the left and get our first real positive G moment of the ride, followed by some floater air time hills on the way to Hagrid's hut. I will be pointing this out in several portions of this ride but Universal and Intamin did a great job simulating the sensation of being on the flying bike that sputters and is hard to control, like the movies. The bike never feels like its ever in control while in the air and always feels like it's being overcorrected in some manner. There are forces on this ride I have only experienced on serious coasters before (like the overbooked turn s-curve/elevation drop).

During construction the hut in the far east of the attraction was referred to as “Hagrid’s Hut” erroneously. Yes, it’s a hut, yes it’s Hagrid’s, no it’s not Hagrid’s Hut. Instead this is more a storage facility where he is keeping the skrewts, which he hilariously thinks can be pacified in wooden cages with blankets and stuffed animals. Oh Hagrid.

Photo courtesy Universal Orlando.
After our wild ride to the hut we land outside and make our way around the interior wall of the hut, the most boring part of the ride from a coaster dynamics perspective. The skrets have escaped to the Forbidden Forest and one is loose in the hut. Hagrid informs us to fly and find the remaining skrewts as part of our class.

The scene is good but not perfect; the skrewt spins and moves in space so there is a noticeable pole coming out of the figure that moves it and Hagrid is impressive but not mind blowing. The skrewt pole is an easy fix, add some “blend in brown” paint and fake nesting material will help.

The bikes exit the hut and make a small sweeping right hand turn to the third launch towards the abbey. This launch, in theory, should be the most intense, instead it’s one of the weaker ones as we are already on a rolling start into the acceleration. The hill into the abbey window and left hand banked descent provides a huge thrill as this is the first true elevation change in the ride but falls short of perfection.

Photo courtesy Universal Orlando.
The abbey doesn’t provide the head chopper effect similar coasters have and the top of the hill has some floater air time but nothing like the ejector airtime on other Intamin launched coasters. All is nearly forgive as the coaster enters the most intense, and fun, part of the ride. The swooping dive through the supports of the abbey and towards the lake does provide a head chopper effect and the tight banked curves above the lake are legitimately intense. For non-coaster heads the sensation is of taking a tight turn at high speeds, not roughness such as on a wooden roller coaster (or poorly tracked steel).

Here is where riding on the bike stands out, the unrestrained upper body and sitting higher off the track produces legitimate lateral forces on par with major coasters. It’s a breathtaking thrill that really makes any comparisons to other family coasters rings hollow.

Our bikes level out and get back under control as we accelerate and take off again, this time banking to the right as our vehicles putter out. This section of the ride really plays into the “ride track provides plot” as the cars feel like they’re losing altitude as they turn, or as coaster heads refer to as a vertical s-shaped turn. Hagrid regains control as we land in front of Fluffy, right before we take off again and bank hard to the left. The famous Ford Anglea is perched on rocks, tormented by Cornish Pixies that escaped during the preshow. The bikes dip below the rocks and into a mist filled trench before stalling out and rolling backwards. Hagrid repairs our bike before we hit an upwards helix in reverse and travel into the Forbidden Forest.

Unfortunately seeing Fluffy and the section of the ride immediately after doesn’t click as much as it should have. There’s a novelty to the use of immediate track switches and allowing the train to stall and fall backwards. One of my biggest pet peeves of Expedition Everest was how the train unnaturally braked on hills as the track switched, Hagrid has totally removed this issue. But here there just seems to be too much straight track for my taste. The backwards helix would have provided more of a thrill if it was afforded more room for trees, instead we mostly see the mural on the show building.

Photo courtesy Universal Orlando.
Inside the Forbidden Forest we feel it cool, with mist and darkness surrounding us. On a ledge a single centaur is perched, watching us with a bow drawn as we pass. We are not watching where we are going as the bikes end up trapped in devil’s snare. The gnarled roots and branches tighten and wrap around us before Hagrid coaches us to use the spell Lumos Solem, a spell crafted just for the pesky weed. Our ride vehicle then promptly drops into a pit below where Hagrid’s skrewts are! Yay! Well, we celebrate as much as we can before they go all explode-y so we accelerate and haul ass out of the Forrest.

I both love and hate this scene. I love the devil snare scene, there are hundreds of different types of tendrils that wrap around, flail, and lash out. There are AA roots that sway in front of guests that are very impressive. The roof above is full of branches that are swaying and moving closer to guests. Next to the vehicles the devil’s snare wraps around itself, closing in on us. The drop is fun and for most unexpected, but it Universal opted for the faster than gravity free-fall in Tower of Terror it would have startled and given more airtime. The centaur scene seems to be the one place the budget was cut the most. There are two issues: show dressing and the figure. For show dressing there needs to be more top cover for a forest, having some fake canopy leaves to hide lighting and the roof would go a long way. The figure also does not move, at all. I do not believe it needs to walk and move with us but having the centaur move its head and raise the bow, plus some lighting changes, would give it enough life to create the illusion of life. The indoor show scenes also suffer from a lack of show doors to minimize the external light in the building.

Photo courtesy Universal Orlando.
After a quick dive we level out into the sunlight. Hagrid tells us to hit the purple button to activate the Dragons Breath, aka Wizarding World NOS. We get one last kick of acceleration before we hit two over-banked turns and land in the ruined abbey we flew through prior. As we hit the block sections and breaks we make a right hand turn towards unload and see a unicorn and her fawn. Guests then disembark on the moving platform and make their way towards Hogsmeade.

The final launch is the doozie, it packs a legit punch and the final two overbanked turns feel like a minituate Millennium Force. This is the ride I wanted from Hagrid, full of speed and impossible maneuvers. Unfortunately it lasts just one or two elements too short leaving the feeling some speed was wasted as we hit the final breaks.

I’m coming down harder on Hagrid than I actually feel; the ride is really great and unique to the Orlando market. My complaints and qualms come from experiencing components of this coaster in other attractions that do it just as good or better. The drop is a novelty that’ll surprise people, it’s also not as intense or startling as Verbolten’s. The launches are fun but not quite as impactful as other coasters of its type. The twisting track and lateral forces are great but very Maverick like. Is this a problem with Hagrid? No, not really. It just softens my ranking of the ride compared to the general public. For 99% of guests they will never have experienced anything like Hagrid and will likely not again.

For my Orlando rankings Hagrid is #2, right behind Mako. If I was rating this for The Unofficial Guide the ride would be five stars, no questions asked. The ride is a massive draw for the resort and guests will continue to compare any new coasters added to Orlando over the next decade to it. While it is fun to be pessimistic on the ride right now, it doesn’t deserve it. There’s a lot of creativity and fun in those ruins and forest that will make guests happy.