The Dark Lord hath returned.
New ride details have been revealed by Universal Orlando for the highly-anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion, Diagon Alley. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is the name of its star attraction, a high-tech combination of thrills, plenty of special effects, and familiar faces from the hit franchise.
As soon as the roller coaster-style scenes through these vaults were shown off in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” with its stars narrowly escaping from a massive fire-breathing dragon, it was clear this needed to be transformed into a theme park ride. That’s exactly its intent, to recreate that climactic scene from the film.
New details and concept artwork released today show off what this expansive experience will be like when it opens this summer – though no date has been announced yet.
Video: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride concept art from Universal Orlando
Universal also released a behind-the-scenes video with some of the ride’s creators that features a few clips of what riders will see.
Video: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – Behind the Scenes
Much like its Forbidden Journey counterpart in the original Wizarding World, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts will combine real sets and special effects with computer animation and 4K 3-D Infitec projections to bring high-speed thrills to life.
That means guests will wear 3D glasses while riding. At one point in the ride, guests will even be surrounded by a screen that’s almost 360 degrees.
It’s not a roller coaster, but will feature fast-moving ride vehicles. A new ride system is developed for this attraction. Escape from Gringotts will have a height requirement of 42″, intended to be a bit more family-friendly than Forbidden Journey, which has a requirement of 48″.
Gringotts is the biggest focal point of Diagon Alley. As guests walk down its main street, all eyes will be drawn to the 60-foot-tall fire-breathing dragon permanently perched atop the building.
But that’s just the beginning of what can only be described as a uniquely immersive experience. Stepping inside Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Universal Studios Florida guests will find themselves inside the lobby of Gringotts Bank, reproduced exactly as it appeared in the “Harry Potter” films.
Animatronic goblins will be seen working their posts on both sides of the rooms, looking around and even talking, welcoming guests inside as new customers.
Just as it was a first-time experience for Muggles (regular, ordinary humans) to venture into the Wizarding World as part of the original Harry Potter land in the neighboring Islands of Adventure theme park, stepping into Gringotts is equally unusual, as Universal’s story goes.
Guests will have a photograph taken for “security clearance,” then enter Bill Weasley’s office where he (portrayed by actor Domhnall Gleeson) will welcome the Muggles in.
After passing through Gringotts Bank, guests wind up in the deep trenches of its underground vaults by way of “elevators” that will put on a show unto themselves.
In an interview with SlashFilm, art director Alan Gilmore describes this moment in the queue that acts as a mini ride unto itself:
“Thats a very cool trick that Universal has designed with the filmmakers — where you actually ride elevators. They are really cool elevators, and thats a really cool show in its own right. You arrive in a little station in the caverns where you board your car.”
But at the same time, the lead trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione are sneaking into the bank to retrieve a fabled Horcrux as part of their attempt to vanquish the evil Lord Voldemort. Yes, Diagon Alley will finally be bringing the Dark Lord into the theme park experience, notably absent form the original Wizarding World.
Naturally, as with most theme park attractions, something goes horribly wrong.
Just as in the movies, guests will board large industrial looking vehicles, arranged side-by-side within a stone and rock lined load area.
The ride will last roughly four minutes holding 12 people in each vehicle.
From there, the wild Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts adventure begins. Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange (portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter) has noticed the trio snooping around and, subsequently, the Muggles stepping in as well. She wants to stop the Horcrux from being found and destroyed.
Riders will speed through the depths of the vaults, passing trolls, dragons, Bellatrix, and ultimately encountering Voldemort himself. Though Voldemort was not part of the equivalent scene from “Deathly Hallows,” Universal has added him to this adventure.
While Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts will be the highlight of Diagon Alley, it by no means will be the only attraction. A real, working Hogwarts Express train will transport guests between Hogsmeade Village and Hogwarts Castle in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida.
On the “Today Show” this week, Al Roker will be revealing clues to give fans a chance to win a trip to the grand opening of Diagon Alley. In the process, they are also giving a first look inside some of Diagon Alley’s areas, including the actual Platform 9 3/4 and Hogwarts Express:
Diagon Alley will also include plenty of shopping and dining opportunities along with some unique entertainment, all of which will be revealed in the coming weeks.
Video: Diagon Alley concept art at Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando has not yet set an opening date for Diagon Alley, but is expected to very soon.