Tuesday, November 8, 2016

There's a rumor Harry Potter's 'Fantastic Beasts' might kill off the Dragon Challenge coaster at Universal Orlando

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 10:02 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA COASTER_COLLECTION/INSTAGRAM
  • Photo via coaster_collection/Instagram
Next Friday, the wizarding world, which has changed Orlando more than almost more than any other franchise, makes its way back to the big screen.

While the new Harry Potter prequels are set well before the boy wizard makes an appearance, they’re expected to be major box office hits over the holiday season.

Here in Orlando, the rumor mill has been in overdrive lately about how Universal will cash-in on the new five-film series. In a run-down of various Universal Orlando projects  from back in July I mentioned a rumor that Dragon Challenge would be getting a complete redo. Rumors at that time pointed to an update to the barren land around the formerly dueling coasters and possibly the use of VR headsets.

The rumor died down by late summer but recently Screamscape, a theme park rumor and news site, revved them up this past week when it posted a thorough rundown and an update. Screamscape reports that “before too long Universal Orlando may simply”…”retire the Dragons forever and build another unknown new Harry Potter-themed attraction instead.”
Known originally as Dueling Dragons, Dragon Challenge was one of the few major parts of the former Lost Continent area to remain as the area was re-imagined as Hogsmeade. After some very high profile incidents, Universal stopped the iconic coasters from dueling causing them to losing much of their appeal.

While the rest of the Wizarding World seems to be always packed, Dragon Challenge is often times nearly a walk-on attraction with waits rarely above 20 minutes. This is, in part, due to the extremely high hourly capacity of the attraction; technically two rides in one attraction. But there’s little doubt that the ride is not nearly as popular as it once was.

Some in the theme park blogger community have pointed to the rebuild of The Incredible Hulk coaster, designed and built by the same manufacturer as Dragon Challenge (B&M), as what may happen to Dragon Challenge. With its popularity waning it’s unlikely that Universal would want to completely rebuild the attraction like they did with the much more popular Hulk coaster.

With the future of Dragon Challenge not so bright the next question is what will replace it? The obvious choice is these Fantastic Beasts films, which do align with the long rumored Forbidden Forest mini-land. Those rumors, which even pre-date those regarding Diagon Alley, typically include two main rides; one indoors and one outdoors. One would be a family boat ride, similar to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean or its’ new Avatar one, while the other would be a ‘pink knuckle’ thrill ride. There has always been talk of an expanded dining option, possibly with a dinner show-style offering. The Azakaban prison and an expanded Hogsmeade have also been mentioned as possible replacements.

Originally, the rumors pointed to the Fantastic Beasts attraction opening in 2019 but with Universal’s plate full, the rumored date now seems to have been pushed back to 2020-2022. It’s viewed as part of the one-two punch (along with Nintendo) against Disney World, which is planning major updates to all four of its theme parks as part of the resort’s 50th Anniversary in 2021. Star Wars, Avatar, Pixar, and surprisingly even some Marvel all are either strongly rumored or confirmed as part of the major expansions taking place across Walt Disney World.

While it’ll still be some time before we see any new Potter expansion in Orlando it might be time to catch some fire and ice, err, fireballs and horntails next time you visit Islands of Adventure.

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