Attraction: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Location: Universal Studios Florida
For fans of the Harry Potter series, stepping into the grand, soaring atrium of Gringotts Wizarding Bank packs a real emotional wallop. The cavernous space is perhaps one of the most iconic elements of Diagon Alley, and using the bank's lobby as a queue was a no-brainer. Brilliantly, Universal took the experience one step further. Each of the banking desks around the perimeter of the bank is staffed by a goblin, studiously weighing, recording, and writing with feather quills. Once in a while, a gobin will look up from his parchment, glare or sigh at the passing muggles, then get back to work.
At the far end of the atrium, a lead goblin delivers just the right amount of exposition before hurrying guests along to the corridors and elevators meant to take us deep into the wizarding bank's subterranean vaults. But even if the experience of the goblins is mostly passive, their silence speaks louder than words and creates an odd, captivating moment.
Attraction: Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!
Location: Disney California Adventure
Say what you will about Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! (and boy, have we...), but the irreverent and out-of-place superhero thrill ride does do quite a few things really well. Of course, fitting at Disney California Adventure is not one of them (even with a Marvel super hero land on the horizon). Fans of that park's billion-dollar redesign looked on in absolute shock as Imagineers stripped the Lost Legend: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror of its art deco Hollywood stylings (seemingly perfect for a park dedicated to, y'know, California) and – in a six month quick-change – turned the lightning-scarred building into a buzzing space prison powerplant looming over the resort.
Inside, the dusty library of the Hollywood Tower Hotel became the private office of Tanaleer Tivan (aka "The Collector"), a briefly-seen character from 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy. During the ride's pre-show, Tivan prepares us for our once-in-a-lifetime chance to board a gantry elevator and travel to the prison's upper levels where his greatest artifact – the Guardians of the Galaxy themselves – are on display.
However, the unscrupulous Rocket has already managed to weasel his way out, crawling through an air vent to reach and recruit us. The character cleverly appears to "fall" from a vent, crawl along the artifact cases around the room, stand and address us, then swipe Star Lord's cassette player. The character's appearance kicks off the more light-hearted approach that Mission: BREAKOUT! uses in comparison its predecessor, and it's the only chance most of us will ever have to see Rocket "in the flesh."
1. Hondo Ohnaka
Attraction: Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run
Location: Disneyland Park and Disney's Hollywood Studios
Video: Making of...
Chances are, you could rattle off a list of a dozen or more Star Wars characters without even having seen the films. Would Hondo Ohnaka make the list? Probably not... But of course, the Star Wars universe is populated by hundreds upon hundreds of characters supported by in-depth backstories of their own, and Weequay space pirate Hondo Ohnaka is no different. To date, the character's only "canon" appearances have been in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels – each an animated series. But Hondo's about to pulled into the larger mythos in a big way...
In spring 2019, Disney announced that Hondo would play a major role in the new Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run attraction in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Apparently cutting a deal with Chewbacca to get us behind the famous ship's control panel, it's only fitting that Hondo becomes our host while we wait for the attraction aboard the Falcon's bridge. Cleverly aged since his appearance in the cartoon (which was set in the prequel trilogy... quite a long time ago by the sequel trilogy timeline of the land), Hondo is brought to life as an A-1000 figure (Disney's most advanced – the same technology as Pandora's Shaman of Songs).
Even though it may seem odd that Disney opted to put their most impressive Audio Animatronics technology into a Star Wars character most people won't have heard of, we have a feeling that Hondo will become a de facto mascot of Smuggler's Run. And of course, it'll be absolutely hypnotic to be so close to such an advanced figure, even if he's just delivering safety instructions.
This list is only the start of any look at rides with Animatronic entertainment while you wait. From the birth of the Audio Animatronic with the Enchanted Tiki Room to the applications of this technology set to shake the industry in Galaxy's Edge, the incredible artform of three-dimensional figure animation has become a centerpiece of the industry.
If you haven't, be sure to check-in with our other in-depth Animatronics lists: the 25 Best Animatronics on Earth, 10 Animatronics You'll Find OUTSIDE of Rides, and the 10 Biggest Animatronic Malfunctions. Then, dig into hours of in-depth Disney Parks information in our Legends Library.