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Uni­ver­sal Orlan­do’s per­fect­ly named new coast­er is def­i­nite­ly both mag­i­cal and an adventure.

When the Wiz­ard­ing World of Har­ry Pot­ter first opened in 2010 at Uni­ver­sal’s Islands of Adven­ture Park, a vis­it to Uni­ver­sal Orlan­do Resort imme­di­ate­ly moved to the top of every Har­ry Pot­ter fan’s buck­et list (mine included). 

The chance to step into the mag­i­cal world from the Har­ry Pot­ter sto­ries and lit­er­al­ly walk in the foot­steps of Har­ry and his friends was a dream come true, and the Wiz­ard­ing World of Har­ry Pot­ter – Hogsmeade checked every box of “must do” wiz­ard­ing expe­ri­ences, includ­ing: drink a frosty but­ter­beer, “fly” on a broom­stick, and explore the halls of Hog­warts School of Witch­craft and Wizardry.

In 2014, Uni­ver­sal Orlan­do added The Wiz­ard­ing World of Har­ry Pot­ter – Diagon Alley and the Hog­warts Express, allow­ing fam­i­lies to walk through the walls on Plat­form 9 ¾, see a fire-breath­ing drag­on, come face-to-face with the evil Lord Volde­mort, and even do a lit­tle mag­ic them­selves with the help of inter­ac­tive wands. Well, now, there’s a brand new expe­ri­ence that may just be the most mag­i­cal of all: Hagrid’s Mag­i­cal Crea­tures Motor­bike Adven­ture is a “sto­ry coast­er” that takes park guests on a wild ride through the For­bid­den For­est, an area strict­ly off lim­its to Hog­warts students.

Fly over at Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Universal Studio, Orlando FL

Rid­ers fly through a real for­est with over 1,100 trees. © Kia Khazani

Handling That Line

I’m sure there are witch­es and wiz­ards who wish there was a spell to mag­i­cal­ly whisk them to the front of the queue – which on open­ing day stretched to an astound­ing 10-hour wait – but this Mug­gle assures you that the queue is just as mag­i­cal as the ride itself, which is exact­ly why Uni­ver­sal Cre­ative calls it a sto­ry coaster.

“Walk­ing through the queue is not sep­a­rate to the ride. It’s all one jour­ney,” says Alan Gilmore, Art Direc­tor for the Har­ry Pot­ter films and The Wiz­ard­ing World of Har­ry Pot­ter. “Every time I do [a Har­ry Pot­ter attrac­tion], I push hard­er to do that, and this time I think we achieved it.”

Hagrid's Worktable

The queue takes rid­ers past sev­er­al of Hagrid’s work tables. © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

War­wick Davis, the actor who played both Pro­fes­sor Flitwick and the gob­lin Griphook from Gringotts Bank in the Har­ry Pot­ter films agrees. “Walk­ing through the queue and expe­ri­enc­ing the immers­ing nature of the place sets it apart from many oth­er roller­coast­ers,” he says.

Gilmore also explained to me that Hogsmeade and the For­bid­den For­est are sup­posed to be very far apart, so the first thing the cre­ative team had to do was come up with a way to make the “jour­ney” from the ride entrance in Hogsmeade to the ruins in the For­bid­den For­est feel like it crossed many miles, which is why the path mean­ders. But, most impor­tant­ly, it’s dur­ing the queue expe­ri­ence that we dis­cov­er Hagrid, the school’s groundskeep­er and, at one point in the sto­ries, the Care of Mag­i­cal Crea­tures pro­fes­sor, has set up secret work­shops inside aban­doned ruins to col­lect and study mag­i­cal crea­tures.  Who knew? The coolest part is that these mys­te­ri­ous ruins have nev­er appeared before in the books or movies because they were cre­at­ed just for the ride.

Magical Creatures from Harry Potter

Draw­ings of mag­i­cal crea­tures can be seen in Hagrid’s secret work­shops. © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

“We gath­ered details from [Scot­land, Eng­land, and Ire­land] to cre­ate our own spe­cial place and invent­ed our own medieval ruins – some­thing even old­er than Hog­warts,” Gilmore told me. “You don’t know what it is, but it def­i­nite­ly has a back­sto­ry about Hagrid and the stu­dents. This is where they come to learn with him.” 

Sets from Hagrid's Motorbike Adventure

Art Direc­tor Alan Gilmore researched Scot­tish archi­tec­ture to cre­ate the ruins where Hagrid’s secret work­shops are hid­den. © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

The ruins them­selves have a few details that obser­vant Har­ry Pot­ter fans might notice like a stat­ue at the entrance depict­ing Grindy­lows, the water demons Har­ry encoun­tered in the Black Lake dur­ing the Tri­wiz­ard Tour­na­ment in “Har­ry Pot­ter and the Gob­let of Fire.” There are also many appear­ances by the “green man,” a face sur­round­ed by leaves that Gilmore told me is a sym­bol of nature. 

Green Man Harry Potter World

The green man, a sym­bol of nature, appears through­out the queue. © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

“[In the films], the green man first appeared in Dum­b­le­dore’s office – not many peo­ple know that – and there are also sev­er­al on the love­ly old rick­ety wood­en bridge to Hog­warts,” He said. “We don’t want peo­ple to know about these things straight away – you have to find your jour­ney; you have to find these details. We want peo­ple to ask ‘What is that and what does it rep­re­sent?’ It’s tak­ing the whole idea of a theme park and tak­ing it fur­ther to an education.”

Edu­ca­tion is def­i­nite­ly a major com­po­nent of both the queue and the ride. In addi­tion to the things that will make kids ask, “What is that and what does it rep­re­sent?” Gilmore also incor­po­rat­ed some straight-up edu­ca­tion­al fea­tures. I par­tic­u­lar­ly like illus­tra­tions of mag­i­cal crea­tures from the wiz­ard­ing world, includ­ing some that kids will actu­al­ly encounter dur­ing their ride, like Cor­nish Pix­ies and Blast-End­ed Skrewts (crea­tures that have nev­er been seen out­side the pages of the books). The ride also takes place dur­ing a Care of Mag­i­cal Crea­tures class, and while Hagrid’s mag­ic is a bit spot­ty at best and the class does­n’t go as planned, he still man­ages to teach us about the crea­tures we see.

Blast_Ended Skrewt_Universal Orlando Florida

Rid­ers will encounter the Blast-End­ed Skrewt, a mag­i­cal crea­ture that has pre­vi­ous­ly only appeared in the Har­ry Pot­ter books. © Uni­ver­sal Orlan­do Resort

The Coaster

Along with inno­v­a­tive sto­ry­telling, Hagrid’s Mag­i­cal Crea­tures Motor­bike Adven­ture also employs inno­v­a­tive coast­er tech­nol­o­gy – and breaks a few records as well. The ride is now the longest in Flori­da (at near­ly a mile in length) and has sev­en launch­es (the most in the world). It also fea­tures a first-of-its-kind free-fall ver­ti­cal drop of near­ly 17 feet – a sur­pris­ing way to escape the clutch­es of men­ac­ing Dev­il’s Snare. The 50mph action-packed ride – both for­wards and back­ward – won’t dis­ap­point thrill-seek­ers, but because it does­n’t have big drops or inver­sions, any­one who skips coast­ers because of those is in luck. And if that’s not enough, Hagrid him­self is Uni­ver­sal’s most life-like ani­mat­ed fig­ure yet.

Animatronic Hagrid Universal Orlando

Will the real Hagrid please stand up? © Uni­ver­sal Orlan­do Resort

 

Fun Facts: Rob­bie Coltrane, the actor who played Hagrid in the movies, record­ed a cus­tom script for the ride. Plus, the fig­ure is 7 feet 6 inch­es tall (exact­ly pro­por­tion­al to Hagrid in the Har­ry Pot­ter films) and his cos­tume was designed by the same team that cre­at­ed Coltrane’s on-screen wardrobe.

“Hagrid is such an icon­ic char­ac­ter and an inte­gral part of the Har­ry Pot­ter fran­chise, so we were excit­ed to devel­op a tru­ly inno­v­a­tive and authen­tic ani­mat­ed fig­ure to bring him to life for this expe­ri­ence,” said Thier­ry Coup, Senior Vice Pres­i­dent of Uni­ver­sal Cre­ative. “We worked tire­less­ly to make sure Hagrid’s full essence was cap­tured with the utmost atten­tion to detail for our guests to feel com­plete­ly immersed in this all-new adventure.”

Bike or Sidecar?

For me, one of the most unique fea­tures of Hagrid’s Mag­i­cal Crea­tures Motor­bike Adven­ture is that you have a choice of rid­ing on the motor­bike like Hagrid or sit­ting in the side­car like Har­ry. Each gives a dif­fer­ent ride expe­ri­ence, so I def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend try­ing both. I per­son­al­ly pre­ferred the side­car, which sits low­er to the tracks and hugs the curves. The motor­bike is ele­vat­ed a bit, which pro­vides a more hair-rais­ing ride (espe­cial­ly if you’re lucky enough to get the front row like I did), and def­i­nite­ly gives the feel­ing of fly­ing through the trees.  Plus, only motor­bike rid­ers get to push a pur­ple but­ton on Hagrid’s com­mand to kick into a high­er gear.

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Orlando FL

Choose your per­spec­tive on Hagrid’s Motor­bike © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

“I think the ride will real­ly fire kids’ imag­i­na­tions,” Gilmore said. “I spent my child­hood climb­ing trees and explor­ing forests and old build­ings. I want kids nowa­days to get that sense of escape.”

What Did The Kids Think?

As any par­ent knows, that’s a tall order because kids nowa­days can be pret­ty hard to impress (espe­cial­ly tweens and teens), but a few hard-to-impress L.A. teens I know were lucky enough to ride open­ing week­end and were very gen­er­ous with their praise:

  • “Hagrid’s Mag­i­cal Crea­tures Motor­cy­cle Adven­ture is a one of a kind expe­ri­ence. From pro­vid­ing ful­fill­ing con­nec­tions to the fran­chise fans know and love, while also [chal­leng­ing] expec­ta­tions at every cor­ner, this ride lives up to the hype and rede­fines the future of theme park attrac­tions.” — Nima Khazani
  • “Hav­ing two com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent rid­ing expe­ri­ences on the same ride is some­thing I had nev­er seen before. The mix­ture of thrill and them­ing cre­at­ed a per­fect ride expe­ri­ence.” — Jacob Friedman
  • “One of the most thrilling expe­ri­ences I’ve ever had. There are a few unex­pect­ed moments that will def­i­nite­ly blow you away.” — Kia Khazani
  • “Hav­ing been on a ton of roller­coast­ers, this one was by far one of the most unique expe­ri­ences I’ve had, and it blew away my expec­ta­tions.” — Jacob Simantob
  • “I’m a huge Har­ry Pot­ter fan and was excit­ed to have a chance to go on [the ride]. I got super lucky and end­ed up in the front row! All I can say is… the launch­es were insane and the ride felt like it would nev­er end. Hap­py to say it’s my new favorite roller­coast­er!”- Ethan Sharim
Teens at Universal Studios Orlando

Noth­ing but good stuff from L.A. teens about Hagrid’s Mag­i­cal Crea­tures Motor­bike Adven­tures. © Jacob Friedman

 

Accord­ing to Mark Wood­bury, Pres­i­dent of Uni­ver­sal Cre­ative, there are three key ingre­di­ents in a great attrac­tion: a great envi­ron­ment, won­der­ful char­ac­ters that have great sto­ries to tell, and the sto­ries them­selves. As far as I’m con­cerned, this attrac­tion has it all, and like Ethan, it’s def­i­nite­ly my new favorite mag­i­cal expe­ri­ence – at least until the next Wiz­ard­ing World attrac­tion opens.