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.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour 174 - Farting Teacup

Joe and Jeff are joined by Danny Bogue of the Average Disney Nerd podcast to discuss Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure! We talk about our experiences in line, technical issues, the queue theming, the ride experience, and our final impressions. We also discuss the news of the day including Liberty Inn being replaced in Epcot, Endless Summer opening, Halloween Horror Nights, and Big Fire American Fare opening.

Monday, June 24, 2019

2019 North American Regional Park Preview

In 2018, we didn't do one of these. A primary factor in that was, well, we were busy. But 2019 is a different story. I'm actually busier and that makes it inherently tough to get this thing out the door before Memorial Day when the summer season actually makes headway. So I failed even at that. It's now June. And here we are. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #173 - Black Hole Sun

Joe is joined by David Daut to discuss Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge! We walk through the land's experiences, offerings, interactive segments, Smuggler's Run impressions, and the hype versus reality of the land. We also touch on Hagrid, HHN29 tickets, and SeaWorld Orlando coaster news. 'Til the spire!

Read David's write up of the land on his website.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour 172 - Cedar Point's Food Is Good Now?

We're talking about the hottest topic in all of themed entertainment this week: Cedar Point! Step aside Star Wars. This week it's Joe and Jeff as they talk about their annual Memorial Day Weekend Cedar Point trip. We discuss the new BackbeatQ restaurant, enhancements to Magnum and Cedar Creek Mine Ride, Melt, Steel Vengeance, what Cedar Point needs in the future, and more!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Islands of Adventure Turns 20

Today is the 20th Anniversary of the opening of Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando. Islands started as a direct response to feedback on Universal Studios Florida with its more adult, real life, and indoor attractions. This new park would focus on kids and family friendly properties, feature outdoor attractions such as roller coasters, and get people wet.

Original plans called for "Cartoon World" with Dr Seuss but also D.C. Comics characters, Looney Tunes, and even for The Simpsons. Six Flags renegotiated for Looney Tunes and D.C., effectively locking those characters out of the park while The Simpsons and Gracie Films were not willing to play ball.

During development the focus of the park shifted as Jurassic Park The Ride opened with critical acclaim in Hollywood and an islands theme was adopted. Marvel Comics (seen as second rate at the time) signed a lifetime deal with the park as did many smaller cartoon characters. Jurassic Park made its home at the new park as the star attraction and a new original land based on myths and legends was developed (no it wasn't the same plans Disney had for Animal Kingdom).

Construction started in 1997 for CityWalk and Islands of Adventure for opening in 1999. Islands opened with 13 rides (including the Island Skipper Tours) and three shows. In the intervening years a small coaster, a flat ride, and the much delayed Seuss Troll ride opened but none brought back the crowds after the September 11th terrorist attacks. IoA and USF languished at around 5 million guests a year, each, for nearly a decade. Then a certain wizard came to town and changed theme parks forever.

Islands of Adventure is and has remained one of the best parks in the country. While we take it for granted now the combination of thrills, theming, and design was never before seen. Remember IoA was the first park to receive a full, custom soundtrack. Nothing shows the excitement and wonder better than Sean Flaharty's pre-opening day video of the park. In the video Sean shows us the famous IoA model, construction footage of the park, and a pre-opening day tour. The energy and amazement is palpable and quaint, with many guests not knowing what each attraction is.

Other sites have more great Islands of Adventure info. Theme Park University has a series on the never built original concepts for the park and Theme Park Insider dives into the history of Potter in the park.

This year for the 20th Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure opens and a new Jurassic Park experience is on the horizon. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for this amazing theme park.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour 171 - Earl the Squirrel

Joe is joined by Brian from Inside Universal this week to talk about his visit behind the walls at Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure. We also discuss chicken "corn dog" nuggets, HHN29's Depths of Fear, Jurassic Park construction, horitcultre, Star Wars Galaxy's Edge pricing, and more!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure May 20 Update

Photo courtesy of Inside Universal.

Hagird's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure officially opens in three weeks. In our latest, and last, update we'll look at the finishing touches along the ride path, the outdoor queue, the indoor queue preview released today, and speculate on Team Member and guest previews. As always many thanks to Inside Universal and Bioreconsturct for the photos and coverage. If you do not already make sure to follow them.

The entrance sign for Hagrid is nearly installed and complete. Moss has been applied and the fiber-optics are installed!

What I like is the small bit of stained glass below which brings some color and pop to the sign, something sorely missing from Dragon Challenge.
Construction is nearly done! Staining of the sidewalks is finishing up on May 7 and the sound barrier mural painting has started. Continuous testing started this past week and trains are dispatching roughly every 20-30 seconds, giving this ride an hourly capacity of over 2000 guests an hour.

The outdoor queue is complete and installed and follows a similar path to the Dragon Challenge outdoor queue. And yes, there are NO metal detectors, so while you will need to store bags you won't have to empty out your pockets.
What's that? Yes, it's a unicorn! Hidden during the final portion of the ride the unicorn will bid us good luck and farewell after we touchdown in the ruins.

This past week several media outlets were invited by Universal Orlando to preview the queue. Hagrid took over the ruins on the outskirts of Hogwarts Castle and uses them to take care of his creatures. Inside guests wind through a newly laid out queue finding equipment, books, and creatures. Soon guests enter the first preshow where Hagrid and Arthur Weasley repair and discuss the motorbike that guests will ride on. After the first preshow there is another bit of queue before a second preshow, one that Universal is keeping secret for now.

Inside Universal has a great write up of the event and Orlando Informer put together a fantastic video looking at the ride and queue (see above).
Photo courtesy of Inside Universal.
With the ride quickly approaching opening everyone is wondering when the ride will preview for all guests. At this point the only guaranteed date to start riding is June 13, the grand opening date. But if you're traveling prior to then there's a possibility the ride will open for limited previews.

Right now the ride is still under the control of Universal Creative. The final major milestone for the attraction will be when the control of the ride is transferred from Creative to the Universal operations team. Rumors point to this occurring on Memorial Day weekend. After transferring to operations the ride will continue to run through testing and training the team members. Once the operations team feels comfortable with the ride they will begin Team Member previews for the attraction. These usually last a handful of days with the final day of Team Member previews ending in the late morning. Only then, and if they feel comfortable, will the ride open in the evening for guest previews.

To speculate it is likely Team Member previews will occur the week of May 27 with guest previews starting the following week, the first full week of June. Guest previews are unlikely to occur the few days prior to June 13. Islands of Adventure closes at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 11 for the media event. June 10 and 12 the ride will likely be closed for media impressions, on ride photography, and to prepare for the grand opening for guests.

It has been fun to share with you all the construction and of this attraction and hope to see you in the parks!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour 170 - Brit in a Speedo

It's Alex and Joe this time to talk about news, rumors, and trip reports! We cover the Kings Island giga coaster, Dollywood's newest addition, Star Wars Galaxy's Edge, more Hagrid, and more! Then we discuss Alex's trip through the south, including his first ever visit to Animal Kingdom, before Joe talks about Kennywood's pass holder preview day and a quick stop at Hersheypark.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Unannounced Jurassic Park Attraction Update 5/7/2019

Construction on the unannounced Jurassic Park attraction continues with land clearing continuing in the area formerly home to the Triceratops Encounter and Raptor Encounter. Along the lagoon front deep pylons and footers are installed for the new bypass bridge and coaster.

For a reminder this is the rumor coaster layout.

The eye in the sky Bioreconstruct is back with updates from the construction project.

Here you can see the three former Triceratops Encounter enclosures are in various states of demolition. The old Raptor Encounter area is totally gone and the two buildings at the top of the image are the old queue for the Triceratops Encounter attraction that was used as a break and changing room for Raptor Encounter.

Current status of the new bypass bridge opening this summer. This new bridge will act as access to the new attraction in front of the Discovery Center and as a way to cut between Lost Continent and Jurassic Park during nighttime shows in Hogsmeade.

While under construction the Raptor Encounter has moved next to Pizza Preditoria in the old Jurassic Park River Adventure extended queue.

The unannounced Jurassic Park attraction is expected to be a new roller coaster designed by Intamin AG. The coaster is rumored to be the fastest in central Florida once it opens in early 2021. It will feature multiple inversions, two high speed launches, and extended airtime.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour 169 - #dadstuff

Everybody rock your body right, Banks Lee's back, alright.

Joe, Mike, and Banks talk about Universal Classic Monsters house, HHN29's leaked rumored lineup, the Today Cafe, avocado toast, Disney Hollywood Studios' 30th Anniversary, the bad new DHS logo, and Banks' tour of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure April 20 Updates

We are seven weeks away from the opening of Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Islands of Adventure on June 13, 2019! The project is quickly entering the final phases of show installation and construction and there are lots of updates. Lets dive into the magical creatures we'll see on the ride, the latest arial photo updates, and ride testing!


This past week Universal revealed some of the creatures featured on the attraction. Fan favorites from the movies, such as Fluffy and Centaurs, return while a new create only from the books, the Blast-Ended Skrewt, are finally represented in real life! Universal also teased several other creatures we will see throughout the ride: thestrals, gnomes, a unicorn, and more! We expect most of these creatures to be programmed animated figures or simple animated figures.

Arial Updates

Our eyes in the sky Bioreconstruct provided us several updates to the exterior construction. Since our last update more trees and landscaping was added to the north west portion of the land by the final overbooked turn. More themed elements such as wagons, barrels, and directional signage was added to the first portion of the outside of the ride.

Access walkways are receiving their final pavement and theming after the construction equipment was removed. Final touch ups, painting, and landscaping is occurring throughout the ride. The back sound barrier is also being painted a neutral green pattern with more trees coming soon.

In Hogsmeade the new entrance archway is under construction. The previous design was scrapped with a new, distinct triangular archway being built. Some new pavement work is also being worked on, possibly to add a queue between the entrance and lockers for busy days.

Coaster Testing

We have testing! Full circuits with one ride vehicle were running for weeks at night but recently Universal has started daytime testing. See the above video for a sample of what type of speed and forces we will expect to see on this ride.

That's not all, the coaster has crossed a major milestone: human testing has begun! In the above video you can see what is likely Universal and Intamin employees testing the attraction. This is a huge milestone as the attraction is now safe for human riding. Additionally we can hear music, sound effects, and Hagrid's narration are running, meaning the attraction is running with show elements in place.

What remains in this project? The queue is likely the last thing to be completed with set design, effects, and show elements to be installed. Final elements are still being added to the attraction such as landscaping, trees, painting, and completed animated figures. The last components of the attraction, running multiple trains and operations training, will occur in the next month. Universal probably doesn't know when Team Member or guest technical rehearsals will occur but I would bet a Hogs Head Ale on Team Member testing immediately after Memorial Day weekend and guest testing shortly after.

As this project wraps up and approaches the grand opening we plan on posting one more final update followed by photos, videos, and our review of the attraction shortly after opening.