Posted on Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
This morning I got the chance to speak with Alan Gilmore, the Art Director of the Harry Potter films and Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I talked with Gilmore about the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts ride which was officially revealed this morning, and also got more details on the new Diagon Alley theme park expansion expected to open next month. (No official date has been released other than “Summer 2014.”) Hit the jump to learn the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts secrets revealed from my interview and more.
The Line For The Ride Is A Show You Won’t Want To Miss
The queue for Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts is a show experience that features animatronics, audio, projection, lights, sounds, and nearly every other trick in the book.
It’s a bit like the first Harry Potter ride. [Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey] Many guests found the queue experience was so good they thought it was the ride, then they went on the real ride as well. So we’ve kinda done that again. The queue is a full experience in itself. Its quite nice that people who get to the ride and be like, “oh my god there’s more.” You get to experience the unfolding of the story, which is really cool.
There will be a fast pass line which will let some guests bypass much of the queue, and sadly also the story moments. The experience in the real line is supposedly cool enough that first time visitors will want to wait in line to get the full interactive experience.
The Unexpected Second Ride in This Attraction: The Gringotts Elevators
The Gringotts ride is not the only ride guests will take inside this attraction. Guests will board a set of elevators which will take them down “30,000 feet to the subterranean Gringotts vaults.” Gilmore says these elevators are a ride in themselves:
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.
Elevator experiences aren’t new in the theme park game, but its always cool to have more story and experience in the ride queue. Disney’s classic Haunted Mansion uses hidden elevators to transport guests to the underground attraction during the queue show experience, but most guests dont even notice they are on an elevator. Disney also employed ”hydrolators” at Epcot’s The Living Seas, used to bring guests up from the bottom of the ocean seaport in which the experience was supposedly set. And of course, Disney’s Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror is an accelerated drop tower thrill ride set in a ride vehicle-themed old hotel elevator.
Don’t Call It a Roller Coaster — Its a Completely New Ride System
12 guests will board a car on tracks for the four-minute long Harry Potter and Escape from Gringotts ride, but Universal Orlando officials are refusing to call the attraction a “roller coaster.”
Its a new system, it replicates the tracks below Gringotts from the movie — you feel like you’re on those tracks spiraling around. Because the ride is fully 3D, the scenery is very big in this one, the 3D screens are much bigger than normal, so its a new way to pass through a ride. Its a whole new system. You can go very quickly. You go various speeds, and there are scenes and you pick up many moments from the story. When you’re going at high speeds it can be very exciting. The whole thing is quite new.
The ride also features new projector technology and a nearly 360-degree screen which will help immerse riders in the story at one point.
The Dragon Will Come to Life Inside the Ride
The 60-foot-tall fire-breathing dragon on top of the Gringotts bank attraction building comes to life inside the ride.
The dragon is in the story, and hes the guardian of the vaults. So you’ll encounter him along with all the main characters from the film. In the storyline, he visits you at several points and eventually, hopefully, the main characters escape.
Voldemort and Other Characters Make the Ride Experience Different From the Movie/Book
But the story won’t play out exactly like it does in the films. Some Harry Potter fans will notice Voldemort in one of the released images, and the dark lord does not go to Gringotts in the original story. But thats because the story diverts into its own experience:
Because this is a very unique storyline, in Harry Potter and the escape from Gringotts, Bellatrix Lestrange has infiltrated the bank vaults and Voldemort has infiltrated them with her as well. Voldemort’s moment in the story is quite exciting.
The Diagon Alley Experience Will Feature More Interactive Experiences
As for the new London/Diagon Alley sections of Universal Orlando theme park, Gilmore says that we should expect more yet-to-be-announced interactive experiences like the extremely popular Ollivanders wand shop in Islands of Adventure.
“There are many many layers to this new project, some of which haven’t been revealed yet. Yes, there will be a lot more interaction in the streets. The shops have a lot more layering and detailing, and there are a lot more moments people can be involved in. The overall design is much more intricate than the first project, more places to go, more ways to experience the land — its more immersive.
Guests will be able to walk around a small piece of London before being transported to Diagon Alley.
We have a modern day London facade recreating the Charing Cross Road, which was featured in the movies and the books. And we have a London underground station. There is a special entrance to Diagon alley that you have to sort of navigate. there is a replication of the movie, of how Harry Potter passes through, revealing Diagon alley. It is absolutely spectacular and enormous.
Don’t Expect a Moving Transforming Brick Wall Entrance to Diagon Alley
In the movie, Diagon Alley is accessible from London through the Leaky Cauldron, which is on Charing Cross Road, set between a bookshop and a record shop. A small wall in the courtyard transforms from a small hole to a large archway. Gilmore admits that the designers found it would have been too complicated to completely replicate the moving wall entrance to diagon alley as seen in the movies. Instead they created a static sculptured wall which represents what we’ve seen in the Harry Potter cinematic world.