Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is much more than a ride. A completely immersive experience from the moment guests step foot into Gringotts Bank, this new Diagon Alley attraction offers a complete walkthrough adventure, putting fans inside exciting moments from the “Harry Potter” films.
Unlike the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride in the original Wizarding World, which has a story completely invented for the theme park, Escape from Gringotts is based in a specific time from the “Harry Potter” series. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are sneaking into the vaults of Gringotts Bank to retrieve a Horcrux to aid in destroying the evil Voldemort. It just so happens that guests visiting Diagon Alley are visiting Gringotts at this exact same moment, welcomed in for a tour.
Outside, the Gringotts Bank building is the focal point of all of Diagon Alley. Standing more than 60 feet tall, its crooked architecture and columns lead upward to the stunning dragon that occasionally breathes huge balls of fire.
Video: Diagon Alley Dragon breathing fire in Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando
The experience begins immediately upon stepping inside Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
For those who want to know what the queue and attraction are like without reading the details, a spoiler-free review is included first below, followed by a more complete look at all the elements after that for those who want to see it all.
The entire experience of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is incredibly entertaining, immersive, and a whole lot of fun. From the moment guests step inside Gringotts Bank, it is instantly clear that this is unlike any other attraction around. There’s a feeling of freedom found while moving from room to room in the queue, each offering something unique. Though there are certainly long lines ahead when Diagon Alley opens on July 8, with an extended queue moving outside the building around back, once indoors the fun begins.
Many technologies and effects are used throughout the queue to bring characters to life in different ways. It unfolds in stages, providing high quality entertainment in phases, keeping guests engaged and entertained while waiting to get on the ride. Most importantly, it rarely feels like queue entertainment or a “pre-show,” instead perfectly coming across as a tour of Gringotts Bank. There’s even a mini-ride within the queue that gives guests an unexpected thrill long before boarding.
Once passing from the gorgeous Gringotts Bank into the depths of its vaults, the ride begins. What ensues is a wild adventure that’s unlike any other attraction in existence. New technologies have been used for the ride mechanism as well as the scenes that fully envelop passengers. Up close encounters with “Harry Potter” characters happen throughout the experience, as do surprise thrilling moments.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is not a roller coaster, not a dark ride, nor any other definable type of ride. It’s a unique combination of several ride styles, featuring elements reminiscent of Transformers: The Ride 3D, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and Revenge of The Mummy, but also including new movements that have never been seen before in a ride like this.
The ride is impressive and engaging from its first scene to its last, but a strong focus on virtual elements does take it down a notch or two. The visuals are almost entirely on screens with 3D projections. They look fantastic – better than any ever seen before – but still feel like watching a movie. Fortunately, the incredibly elaborate set dressings that surround the scenes add a lot to the overall experience.
In the end, the entirety of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is a game changing attraction, largely due to its unique ride system and impressively large queue. I hesitate to even call the queue a queue, as it is an integral part of the story, making guests feel like they’ve stepped into the world of “Harry Potter.” Like the rest of Diagon Alley, the detail is impeccable and no one will come out of this attraction disappointed.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts begins to surprise and amaze immediately as guests step inside. From the initial bank lobby all the way to the conclusion of the ride, there isn’t a dull moment.
Video recording is not allowed on the ride itself, so the video below captures everything up until the ride begins, walking through the entire queue and showing its many impressive elements.
Video: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts full queue walkthrough at Universal Orlando
It’s clear Universal’s designers were going for realism when designing Gringotts Bank. Instead of having guests step straight into its main lobby, a smaller (but not small) rotunda greets visitors with elegant design and a massive ceiling. It’s setting the stage for the scale of everything to come.
Around a corner, the incredible Gringotts Bank lobby is free of structure. It’s meant to feel like stepping into a real location. Guests are allowed to freely wander around the room, approaching animatronic goblins doing their jobs. The attraction’s employees are all dressed as Gringotts security, continuing the authentic feel. There is nothing about this room that feels like the queue of a ride, instead an open space that makes one incredible photo opportunity.
Goblin animatronics are slow moving but lifelike, occasionally looking up to make eye contact.
The head banker lets guests know that, whenever they are ready, they can pass through to the next room to get checked by security before proceeding into the vaults.
The freedom to linger or proceed when desired is unusual for an experience like this and quite welcome.
The path then takes guests passed a few vaults and into the security screening area, where friendly Gringotts officers lead everyone into cubicles to have their pictures taken for security IDs. It’s a new type of “on ride photo,” taken in the queue for purchase after the ride, either as a traditional picture or as an actual Gringotts ID to wear around your neck. The prices are expensive (a photo and ID will cost you around $43), but it does make for a great collectible.
The marble decor of the bank lobby has been replaced by dark, glossy wood in this section of the queue, home to bankers’ offices. It’s also here that guests catch their first glimpse of the antics going simultaneously with the story starring Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who appear in silhouette discussing their plans.
Copies of the Daily Prophet newspaper are lying around, complete with fully animated images that look even better than those in the original Wizarding World. Universal has definitely improved upon this effect.
The first of two major scenes arrives next as guests step into Bill Weasley’s office.
There a goblin welcomes everyone in, explaining the rules of the Muggles’ visit to Gringotts Bank. Shortly thereafter, Bill Weasley joins him with a bit of magic. Naturally, with a Weasley involved, there’s some joking around too.
The scene plays out quite believably, even if the technique used to make the characters come to life is familiar. It’s similar to that seen in the queues of Disaster and Forbidden Journey, but far improved with sharper visuals. And much like in the Disaster queue, the projected characters interact with real life props in the room, enhancing the believability of the scene.
From there, another impressive mini-show takes place, this time aboard an elevator that’s meant to take guests miles downward into the Gringotts vaults.
Video: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts elevator ride in Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando
A moving portrait explains the safety of the ride that’s ultimately ahead before stepping aboard the elevator.
What unfolds inside the elevator is reminiscent of The Haunted Mansion stretching rooms in that all the visual activity is seen through the “glass” views overhead.
The elevator floor bumps and shakes while the view above moves quickly upward, giving the illusion of high-speed travel. There are some brief moments of entertainment during the trip, but mostly it’s meant as a method of making guests feel like they’ve taken a journey into the dark underbelly of the bank and it does that well. More interesting entertainment definitely could (and probably should) have been included in the journey, which is mostly mundane. But it is a great effect that perfectly makes the transition to the next “underground” area.
Stepping off the elevator, 3D glasses are picked up – the same ones used for Transformers: The Ride 3D and Spider-Man.
Oddly enough, the next move is to climb a winding staircase. After traveling 9 miles underground, you’d think the elevator could have stepped just a few feet short to skip this step. There is an elevator available for those who can’t make it up the stairs.
Finally, at the top of the stairs is the loading area, massive with stalagmites and stalactites surrounding the ride vehicles on both sides of the cavern. This is when the anticipation truly begins.
Vehicles are trains of 2 cars, each seating 12 people (4 in each row). Rows are slightly staggered upward, ensuring the back row can see over the heads of those in front. The bucket seats drop down quite a bit, but aren’t too snug. Lap bars fit tightly, but not too tight. There are also leg harness to prevent flailing – for good reason.
Entering one of the Gringotts vaults, the ride begins.
The first scene features Bill Weasley and a goblin welcoming Muggles to their tour. The goblin offers to connect his vault car up so he can lead everyone on a tour. But things go horribly wrong immediately as Bellatrix Lestrange appears, alert of the fact that Harry, Ron, and Hermione are breaking into the vault and assuming that riders are involved in the caper.
Video: Bellatrix Lestrange appears in Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride at Universal Orlando
Thrills begin instantly after a blast from her magic wand, which sends the car plummeting downward in a steep, unexpected drop. It’s a surprise that sends riders soaring around some tight turns through the vaults and into the vast expanse underneath the bank. Immediately it’s clear this will be no slow moving ride.
The 3D visuals used to make Bellatrix and the rest of the scenes and characters appear are practically perfect. It’s clear they are projected, but they look incredibly lifelike and work well even as virtual sets. Unlike Tranformers and Spider-Man, these screens aren’t extremely tall but rather curved and wrap around ride vehicles, increasingly so as the ride continues, fully enveloping riders into each scene.
When the vehicle finally comes to a halt, it makes an unexpected move. The vehicle spins to the left facing outward into a crevasse. Armored trolls appear (as security?) and begin to bash away at ground around the vehicle, seeming to free it from its track and sending it “falling” downward – virtually. It’s a similar moment as the big falls in Transformers and Spider-Man, as the vehicle tilts forward and rocks around.
Fortunately, the drop is cushioned by Bill Weasley’s magic, who is in the midst of taming the Gringotts fire-breathing dragon. He sends riders onward through the vaults, rapidly spinning back to facing forward and moving through a series of real sets.
In one of the best simple, but effective effects of the ride, a goblin is seen running down some stairs, a 3D projected visual blended with a real set. Riders then fly past more physical sets of vaults, highly detailed as if taken right off of a film set.
But it’s not long before Bellatrix returns, this time with an even bigger adversary. Guests come face to face with a snake, flicking its tongue out before retreating to reveal Voldemort walking out from a vault. Riders see these characters head-to-toe, seeming to be standing just a few feet way. Voldemort is menacing in person and it’s instantly clear that his appearance was sorely missed in Forbidden Journey. He truly completes the “Harry Potter” ride experience. It’s a thrill simply to see him.
Bellatrix sends more magic wand blasts at vehicles, sending riders spinning around, further into depths below Gringotts, amist a sea of bubbling lava. Bellatrix and Voldemort appear once again to finish guests off. But just as the Dark Lord is about to strike riders down, Ron, Harry, and Hermione swoop in aboard the dragon to rescue everyone. They’re on their way out of Gringotts, just as they were in the film, but come to our aid in the process.
The group look and sound great, even though their representation is (presumably) computer generated. They did not film or record anything new for this attraction, but it is unnoticeable. We follow them out after they have saved the day and the experience ends back where it began.
On the way out, pictures can be purchased and picked up before being dumped into a gift shop.
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is definitely more family-friendly than Forbidden Journey. Though its ride vehicles do some pretty amazing movements, they don’t come close to the extremes that happen on Forbidden Journey. It has roller coaster-like moments and some spinning, but is never too extreme. It’s simply “Harry Potter” fun that even more guests can enjoy.