In the previous articles in this series, we looked at how respondents to Theme Park Tourist's Wizarding World of Harry Potter survey rate the new land overall, and their views on the area's shops and restaurants.
In this final part, we'll take an in-depth look at reader's opinions on the Wizarding World's rides, including headline attraction Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, plus rollercoasters Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Located inside Universal's recreation of Hogwarts Castle, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a high-tech dark ride experience and the only all-new attraction in the Wizarding World's line-up. Expectation levels for the ride were high, with over 74% of survey respondents who have yet to visit the new land ranking it as the attraction they are most looking forward to riding. But does Forbidden Journey live up to expectations?
The answer is an almost unanimous "yes", with the vast majority of Wizarding World visitors ranking Forbidden Journey as "awesome". Unusually for a theme park attraction, the ride's queue line plays a large part in this. Snaking through Hogwarts Castle and featuring numerous elements from the books and movies, the line is almost an attraction in itself. One reader suggests that a long wait to ride could be a good thing: "You really do need at least a 45 minute wait to fully appreciate the work done inside the castle."
The few negative marks for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey largely come from guests who were unfortunately not able to experience it. The size restrictions imposed by Universal have caused some controversy, and one disappointed guest laments: "One of the unfortunate ones to get sent off the Forbidden Journey due to size limitations (along with some pro footballers and basketballers...I may be a little overweight but not hugely so but the damned harness wouldn't close) so didn't get to experience the ride."
Despite the size issue, Universal has clearly met the expectations of most Harry Potter fans with its latest creation. But has the company surpassed its previous high-watermark – The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman (located close to the Wizarding World at Islands of Adventure)?
Despite Spiderman's enduring popularity, Islands of Adventure appears to have a new number one attraction with 84% of visitors rating Forbidden Journey as the better of the two rides.
Prior to the Wizarding World's opening, Spiderman was rated as the best theme park attraction in the world by many fans. Does this mean, then, that Forbidden Journey now holds that crown? According to most riders, it does:
Some 82% of riders rank Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey as the best theme park attraction in the world (of course, we have no way of knowing how many other rides the survey respondents have tried out). After its success with Spiderman, Universal has raised the bar still further – and anticipation of the Transformers attraction (due to open at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Singapore in 2012) is sure to skyrocket.
Featuring dueling inverted coasters built by Bolliger & Mabillard, Dragon Challenge is a rethemed version of the existing Dueling Dragons attraction (which opened with Islands of Adventure in 1999). The coaster itself has seen only minor cosmetic upgrades, with the biggest change being the addition of a new plot to the queue line based on the Triwizard Tournament as seen in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
With over two-fifths of survey respondents who have visited the Wizarding World coming from Florida, it's likely that many had experienced Dragon Challenge on many occasions in its previous guise. Despite this, the ride still receives still strong reviews:
Although not quite as big a hit as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Dragon Challenge is clearly an enduring favorite. It seems possible, though, that the intense coasters are attracting a new (and unprepared) audience now that they are part of the Wizarding World. One reader complains: "Dragon Challenge ride stalled every time my kids went on it due to someone getting sick on it."
Flight of the Hippogriff
Under its previous name of The Flying Unicorn, the Wizarding World's other rollercoaster was only ever a minor, child-friendly attraction. Now, its proximity to the magnificent Hogwarts Castle has given Flight of the Hippogriff a new lease of life. Having undergone a more extensive retheming than Dragon Challenge, the ride receives a more positive response from visitors than perhaps would be expected for a relatively short, low-velocity coaster:
Unlike the online reviews covered by our recent round-up, survey respondents do not rate Flight of the Hippogriff as highly as the vastly more expensive Dragon Challenge. However, over half do rate it as "awesome" or "very good", and it doesn't receive a single negative review.
It is clear from the results of Theme Park Tourist’s survey that the Wizarding World is home to a truly world-class ride in Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. The attraction's queue line also sets a new standard for pre-ride entertainment, putting many recent mega-budget rides (including Universal's own Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit) to shame. While less significant, the rethemed rollercoasters of Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff are also well-received by guests and add to the overall experience on offer.
Part 1 and part 2 of our survey results do show, however, that guests are clamoring for Universal to further extend the Wizarding World. Additional rides are the number one request, with expanded shops and a Potter-themed hotel not far behind. With the remainder of the Lost Continent area looking ripe for absorption into the Potterverse, it's likely that Universal is already considering its options. There seem sure to be exciting times ahead for Harry Potter fans and theme park lovers, with J.K. Rowling's books offering almost unlimited potential for Universal’s creative minds to exploit.
We'd like to thank everyone who took part in our Wizarding World of Harry Potter survey, and to congratulate the winners of the prize draw. Look out for further competitions and polls on Theme Park Tourist in the coming months.