Islands of Adventure
NBC Universal / Comcast
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(10/14/17) Dragons Demolition and Forbidden Forest Update (MORE...)
(10/12/17) The Dragons Are Nearly Gone (MORE...)
(9/30/17) Dueling Demolition... The Dragons Are Coming Down (MORE...)
(9/14/17) Dragon Challenge Now Coming Down (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Dragon Challenge CLOSED FOREVER on Sept 5th, 2017
Hogwarts Express / Wizarding World Expansion - All the details and the official Screamscape review for the new Diagon Alley and Hogwarts Express attraction areas can be found here.
General Park News - (5/15/17) According to a post at Behind The Thrills, Po, the Dragon Warrior from the Kung Fu Panda animated film series was added to the costume character lineup at Islands of Adventure on Saturday.
Big news came from Universal Orlando on Thursday afternoon with the surprise announcement that "Christmas is coming to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter" this year.
Yes, at long last a celebration of the Christmas season will now take place not only in Hogsmeade Village, but also in Diagon Alley as well, with the addition of beautiful winter season decorations, all new live entertainment experiences, perhaps some special holiday treats and much more!
Included in this will be a very special new nighttime spectacular spectacle that will take place on Hogwarts Castle itself, aided by music, special effects and projection mapping that will bring sights and sounds inspired by the film series to life at night from November 18, 2017 through to January 6, 2018.
2016 - Skull Island: Reign of Kong - (6/27/16) Greetings everyone, I'm writing this briefly from Universal Orlando where Screamscape was invited down to take a test ride on the new Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction and I wanted to get my impressions down while they were still fresh. While the attraction is still closed to the public, they have been quietly soft-opening it in the later afternoon / early evenings lately for those lucky enough to be standing nearby. While they don’t have an official grand opening date for it yet, they did tell us that they felt it would be very soon.
With that in mind, we were led into the queue area for the attraction, which features a very impressive amount of hand carved fake rockwork to create the experience of being transported to Skull Island in the 1930’s… ahead of the expedition to the island documented in the Peter Jackson film. You arrive in the midst of an exploration effort from the Eighth Wonder of the World expedition company who has set up a base-camp and is making runs around the island with a small group of off-road trucks and a motley crew of brave explorers, each there for their own particular reasons. As mentioned before you will eventually be led on a tour of the island in one of five 72 passengers trucks (12 rows of 6), each equipped with a different driver (a complex animatronic) who will share a little of their own personal back-story in the first segment of the tour. Each has a different personality and will help create one of five different possible experiences for you by how they act and react to the perils of Skull Island all around you during the journey.
Now I’ve gotten ahead of myself a bit… so lets dive back into the queue experience which kind of reminded me a bit of the old removed “skull” section of the Dueling Dragons queue. Much like that attraction, the queue for Skull Island is very much a big part of the overall attraction experience, but taken to an entirely new level. After passing through the outdoor queue you will entire a dark gothic looking temple structure full of wicked looking rock carvings, as if someone was trying to warn you to keep away. Inside you will pass through some large ornate rooms and then into dark narrow passageways, and if you keep your eyes open you might see some special apparitions.
Clearing there is something powerful present in these caves, and you will look encounter a special figure who chants and tries to communicate to you something that is clearly very important to everyone, but unfortunately she doesn’t speak English and the exact nature of what she is saying isn’t clear, other than the word “Kong”. Is it a greeting? A warning? You aren’t sure as you move deeper inside. Here things get a little darker as you encounter a few bodies set up on display… along with some special surprises that I’ve never experienced in an attraction queue before.
Paragraph Spoiler Alert for those who want to know! The queue actually contains some live actors hidden away who will jump out and scare you as you pass by. As a fan of Halloween Horror Nights I loved seeing this aspect brought to life in the queue, and they actually did manage to “get me” soon, causing me to blurt out an “Oh $#1T!!!” along the way, so applause to them! I’m not the easiest person to scare.
With that out of the way, we eventually move into a loading dock area where large crates of supplies have been dropped off (A lot of explosives and weaponry apparently), along with some large crates with air holes and warnings about containing dangerous unknown creatures… apparently samples of the local wildlife they are sending back for study. In one large glass container they have a small but particularly nasty looking worm-like creature… a Carnictis. Surprise… it’s still alive and not too happy about being contained in a giant glass aquarium-like structure. Moving along you a given a pair of safety glasses and approach the giant truck for your expedition around Skull Island.
The vehicle is very impressive as it has no track and can move along very quickly along the rough terrain, venturing outside briefly into the jungle for a proper approach to the huge 36 foot tall entry doors into a large temple structure. It is here you are introduced to your driver who tells you a bit about themselves and what’s been going on so far at Skull Island. It is also worth noting that in case of bad weather (rain, lightning, etc…) your ride experience will still go on, and there is a short-cut door that can be opened to allow the ride experience to take place, minus the small outside run, which is a fantastic bit of forethought in my opinion when you consider just how many other attractions are forces to close down in bad weather.
Entering the temple, you are instructed to put on your glasses as you enter the darkness and begin with a quick encounter with some sleeping giant bat like creatures hanging upside-down a few inches from the truck. They appears to be stirring from the light coming into the cave unless the doors close behind you and the truck moves on to find other members of the expedition group. From here things progress quickly, as your truck will pass by a couple of large scenes told through 3-D projection screen technology that are quite impressive. They set the scene and kick off the action that will drive you through the rest of your adventure, as the exploration team members are scattered by strange creatures and fighting for their lives. I enjoyed the second scene quite a bit as you quickly find yourself coming face to gaping maw with full sized Carnicnis creatures. I was mouth agape in awe and wonder as one of the heroes fought off the creatures and even managed to blow a few holes in the ones interested in getting to us inside the truck. Here is where the “mouth agape” part comes into play, as the goopy creatures are blown up I found myself getting hit in the mouth with the splatter, and I had to suppress my natural urge to spit it up. The timing and excellent 3D look of the scene unfolding before me was just so damn convincing, I was sure for a moment that I had a mouth full of Carnictis goop.
From here you move on to the next scene which is inspired by the action that takes place on the King Kong 360 attraction that opened a few years ago at Universal Studios Hollywood. For those worried that they just copied the scene entirely, this is not the case. The scene has been extended on both ends and had various elements replaced and re-animated, replacing the Hollywood park’s backlot trams with an Eighth Wonder truck and more. The end result is similar however, as your truck is surrounded on all sides by T-Rex style dinosaurs and other hungry creatures, and the arrival of King Kong who goes into battle to fight them all, keeping you safe along the way, bounding from one side of the tram and back again. Here is where you almost feel overwhelmed, because there is simply so much action taking place on both sides of the tram that you will need to ride this attraction several times before you can try to understand the full picture of what is taking place all around you. No worries though, if you only ride once I’m sure you will follow Kong around from one side to the other, but don’t be surprised if you feel something slobbering on you from behind because chances are there is indeed something there. The jungles of Skull Island are very dangerous and inhabited with hungry creatures of all shapes and sizes.
The action isn’t done as your driver manages to get you away to safety however, as you quickly find yourself in a face to face encounter with the might Kong himself on the right side of the truck. Here is where old-time Universal guests may have a brief flashback of the old Kongfrontation attraction, but this is an animatronic of an entirely new century. The movements are so much more fluid and lifelike, with facial movement that seems very realistic and entirely free from the comically memorable “banana breath” of the old attraction. This is a living breathing King Kong, live in the flesh, right before your eyes and he is inspiring to behold and a great final scene to end the attraction with.
As I said before, my initial reaction was that I wanted to jump on another truck and try it all again, but unfortunately we were only allowed to take one ride through Skull Island. The fact that I wanted to do it all again right away bodes well for the attraction and the re-rideability factor it should maintain over the years to come. The other great thing is capacity… Skull Island is a serious high capacity attraction. With the trucks holding up to 72 riders and dispatch times said to send off a truck every 2 to 2.5 minutes you are looking at an hourly capacity of between 1,728 to 2,160 passengers per hour which is fantastic.
While I was allowed to take pictures of the queue, I was asked not to take any pictures of video of the ride experience itself, which is fine, as I wouldn't want to spoil it for you all. You’ll jump have to get down to Orlando and try out Skull Island: Reign of Kong for yourself. You won't regret it.
2017 - Wizarding World of Harry Potter Night Show - Rumor - (12/24/16) Did you happen to catch any of the footage from the VIP opening night for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood earlier this year? Much like the opening in Orlando several years ago they organized a fun event that featured some fireworks, bright lights in the sky and projecting mapping on Hogwarts Castle. The big difference between between the 2010 and 2016 events however was the huge improvement in the technology used to make it happen, making the newest version much brighter, clearer and more impressive than ever.
With that in mind Screamscape sources tell us that a new night show concept may be in the works for Islands of Adventure as early as 2017 that would see just such a show installed to perform on a regular basis when the park is open after dark. Check out the video below of the Hollywood show VIP Opening show to get an idea of what you may be in store for, minus the live orchestra of course. Jump ahead to the 1:10 mark to see the start of the edited down version show, highlighting many impressive moments.
2018 - Jurassic Park Update - Rumor - (7/20/17) It is just a rumor at this point, but Screamscape has heard that Creature Technology may have been hired by Universal Orlando to make some more large scale animatronic creatures for them. Creature Technology was the group Universal hired to build the new giant Kong figure seen in the Skull Island attraction and if the rumors are true, the group could be working on building some new dinosaur figures for Islands of Adventure. I don't know if these are for something new, or if perhaps the time has come to upgrade the old figures in the River Adventure ride. With a new Jurassic World film coming out next year, the timing would be right to perhaps introduce some new dinosaur encounters into the ride.
2019 - Harry Potter and the Forbidden Forest / Dragon Challenge Replacement - Confirmed - (10/14/17) A reader sent in an awesome photo of the Dragon's demolition site where it looks like the vertical loop of the old Ice Dragon is still standing, but you can see how much of the rest of the ride has been cleared and wiped off the map. In case anyone is wondering, Screamscape sources have confirmed to us that the castle themed queue and station building will remain and be re-purposed for the new launched coaster attraction through the Forbidden Forest.
(10/12/17) A reader sent in a very sad photo of the old Fire Dragon coaster where it looks like they are just about done removing the last of the former Dueling Dragons coaster. So sad... lets hope what is coming will be worth it because it is going to have to blow me away twice to make up for the loss of the two dragons.
(9/30/17) A collection of photos showing off the removal of Dragons Challenge / Dueling Dragons at Islands of Adventure can be found on Facebook, embedded below. It just makes me so sad to see this, as there has never been another set of dueling B&M Inverted coasters built anywhere else on the planet, and Orlando's coaster count has dropped by 2.
(9/14/17) So sad to see, but demolition has begun on taking down the closed Dragon Challenge / Dueling Dragon coasters. You can see the first sections of track removed in the video below from Midway Mayhem.
(8/29/17) Dueling Dragons / Dragon Challenge fans... you've only got a few more days left to get your last rides in on two of the world's most unique B&M Inverted Coasters. A new photo update from OrlandoParkNews shows off Islands of Adventure including a look around the current Dragon's entrance area and just inside where some early survey markers can around be found in the ground and ribbons on some of the trees.
(8/3/17) New construction permits filed by Universal for a “Project 942” have been spotted, leading many to believe these could be for the planned new Harry Potter themed attraction that will take the place of the Dragons Challenge coasters in 2019. The permits filed thus far are for the demolition of some existing structures and setting up on-site construction office trailers.
(7/25/17) Don't say that I didn't warn you, but Universal Orlando confirmed yesterday afternoon that the two Dragon Challenge coasters (B&M Inverted, formerly known as Dueling Dragons) will close forever at the end of September 4th. Just a little over a month away, and I'm really sad about this, because I was kind of hoping they would leave it open at least long enough to start Halloween Horror Nights so I could get back down there for one last ride, but unfortunately it isn't meant to be.
Confirming the rest of the rumors that Screamscape has been reporting, Universal also confirmed that they are closing it to make way for an "all-new thrill ride will take you deeper into J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, where you will encounter some of your favorite characters and creatures. It’ll be unlike anything we’ve ever done before and it will be fun for the entire family."
"The new attraction will be one of the most highly-themed coaster experiences we’ve created. It will combine a new level of storytelling with an action-packed adventure…and a few surprises along the way."
"This ride is going to redefine the category and transport you to thrilling places, drawing you into even more exciting adventures within the wizarding world. It’s going to be the perfect addition to Hogsmeade."
So RIP Dueling Dragons / Dragon Challege... you will be missed by many as not just one, but two of the best and unique inverted coasters ever built, combined into one world class coaster experience that has never been matched anywhere else.
Universal also confirmed that the new attraction will be ready by 2019.
(7/14/17) Curious to see just what the new Forbidden Forest roller coaster cars may look like? Intamin has built one like it before at Dreamworld in Australia called the Mick Doohan's Motocoaster. The interesting thing isn't the front of the train where all the seats look like motorcycles, but instead take a good look at what the cars for the last two rows look like in this photo here, where it features motorcycles with sidecars.
(7/13/17) After hearing rumors about how the ride system used for Arthur at Europa Park was intended for the next Harry Potter themed attraction for the past 18 months, imagine my surprise as I am now learning that Universal Creative has decided to switch gears entirely for the Forbidden Forest ride hardware. Note that I’m still hearing that Universal love the Mack creation and still want to use it… just for something else they have in mind down the line.
So what will the Forbidden Forest ride be like now? If the new information sent to Screamscape is true, Disney isn’t going to like this news one little bit, because Universal is said to be designing a custom motocycle themed launched coaster attraction concept. I’m told they are working with Intamin to create this, and the bike would be themed to look just like the one Hagrid rides, complete with a sidecar, which would offer you a unique way to experience the ride in two different seating positions.
From the little I know so far about it, it sounds like it will continue to use the Forbidden Forest theme and feature stops for show scenes to play out (much like Gringotts) where you would have encounters with various creatures. I’m also hearing that it will feature forward and backwards track sections as well, which should prove to be a fun new feature.
For now I’m trying to dig up a bit more detailed information, but the warning that Dragons Challenge is set to close later this year is still holding true. No one seems to know when it will close for sure, but I could see Universal attempting to tie the event to the announcement of the dates for the 2018 “A Celebration of Harry Potter” event. Typically I think the dates and rundown for this event is released in the fall (in time for the ride to close) and the event taking place usually in January I believe, which would be a great time and place to announce the new attraction. Just spitballing here though… no firm information on any of that just yet.
(7/9/17) While Universal has yet to even hit that the time of the Dragon Challege may soon be at an end, Screamscape sources tell us that we could see the unique dueling B&M Inverted coasters close down forever as early as this fall to make way for an all new Harry Potter themed attraction that will take over the space in 2019.
So what will this new attraction be? Based on information I’ve been gathering for some time now the popular rumor leaked was we should expect a new family coaster / dark ride attraction concept themed to the “Forbidden Forest”. While I don’t know much more about the theme than that at this point, the really interesting thing will be what ride system Universal is rumored to have chosen to use. If all the rumors hold true, Universal may be working with Mack Rides to adapt their “Inverted Powered Coaster” ride system for this new attraction.
If you are wondering, based on the name alone, yes… this is a powered coaster attraction, something we don’t see too much of here in the US, where the ride’s inverted coaster trains are entirely under power for the ride experience, but that same power system that controls the speed of the train (and can even stop and start it to allow for scenes to play out) also controls the unique ability to rotate each car individually to point the riders at whatever they should be looking at at any given time, much like how the cars on Spider-Man and Transformers rotate as they travel so you can view the action of each scene unfold. Another interesting feature of this ride system is that it can combine bother indoor and outdoor track sections with no issues, and since it is powered, the cars also offer a complete on-board audio system option as well lighting and even limited 4D style effects.
Mack Rides created this unique ride system to build their very own highly dark ride themed to the Arthur and the Invisibles animated film series, also known internationally as Arthur and the Minimoys. It is safe to say that nothing quite like this ride system exists anywhere in the Orlando theme park market, so it would stand out as being a very unique offering if the rumors hold true.
To date, I believe the ride system has only been used twice… for the original Arthur ride system built in Europa Park that opened in Summer 2014 which is showcased well in a video below from Mack Rides, and then a second attraction just opened last month in new MotionGate Dubai called the Dragon Gliders, themed to the DreamWorks “How To Train Your Dragon” film series. A good POV video of this new ride that features extensive use of projection screens mixed with real scenery in an all indoor setting can be seen below that. Between both of these videos, you can get a good idea of exactly what kind of attraction Universal could create to bring the The Forbidden Forest of the Harry Potter universe to life.
One thought I had though… since the Dragon Challenge (formerly Dueling Dragons) already features one of the longest indoor and highly themed queues ever built along with station areas built to handle inverted coaster systems, I do have to wonder if Universal could opt to re-purpose some of this existing infrastructure and make it part of the new attraction experience as well. Just a thought as the Mack Rides system uses a moving walkway under the trains in the unload/loading areas to keep capacity numbers high and the trains in motion at all times, and the very long existing areas already in place for the Dragons ride would suit this purpose very well also.
As for the Forbidden Forest itself... while this will be a family friendly ride system, the experience itself is sure to test your courage as the forest was always said to be strictly off limits to the students of Hogwarts except for the rare supervised class field trip, as it serves as the home to many a creepy and dangerous creature from the Wizarding World. Perhaps the most well known (and creepy) resident of the Forbidden Forest is Aragog the Acromantula, who for all intents looks like a giant demented killer tarantula about the size of a monster-truck. Lets not forget about Aragog’s thousands of children... which is why I think you’re going to be happy that this is an inverted coaster experience where your legs are high above the ground. Other residents of the Forbidden Forest include Unicorns, Centars, Werewolves, Hippogriffs, assorted normal common animals... oh... and one enchanted flying Ford Anglia. For those wondering, guests of Universal Orlando already pass briefly through the Forbidden Forest while riding the Hogwarts Express where a few creatures as spotted along the way.
(11/9/16) Following the Screamscape rumor that the Dragon Challenge coaster may be removed to build a new Harry Potter themed attraction, OrlandoWeekly has posted their own update claiming that it just might be something themed to the new Fantastic Beasts film series set to kick off later this month. While I'm sure a Fantastic Beasts attraction is something that WB and Universal are looking into, the rumored new Potter attraction I'm hearing they could possibly build is definitely themed to something else... another slice of the Potter universe that we have not seen in theme park form before. Of course at this point there are just too many pieces on the table to spill all the beans just yet, so stay tuned.
(10/31/16) Remember back when we first learned that Hulk was going to be torn down and rebuilt, we learned soon after that once Hulk was done there was a good chance that the two Dueling Dragons / Dragon Challenge inverted coasters would likely be next. Welll..... about that... according to the latest rumors... that may no longer be the case.
Like Hulk, it seems Universal has determined that the world famous dueling inverted coasters will soon reach the end of their projected lifespan. Unlike Hulk however, it seems that they may have changed their mind about just what to do about it. Several courses of action were apparently considered beyond just rebuilding exact copies of the Fire and Ice dragon layouts... including the idea of altering the new layout to be merged into one seriously extended length coaster, as well as scrapping the entire ride concept in order to reuse the large footprint it sits on to build other new concept attractions going forward.
While I am hoping to god that my sources are wrong on this one, the story being leaked says that before too long Universal Orlando may simply opt for the later option, and retire the Dragons forever and build another unknown new Harry Potter themed attraction instead. In short, I would find that option to be devastating, as the old Dueling Dragons coasters have a very special place not only in my heart, but I also believe them to be world famous icons of Islands of Adventure itself, just as much as Incredible Hulk and the park's iconic lighthouse out front. Removing the Dragons would be such a shame... as it would drop the number of major coasters in the park from 3 down to just 1.
So with that in mind, as you visit the park going forward, do take the time to get plenty of rides in on the old Fire and Ice dragons, and maybe drop by guest services to fill out a comment card about just how much you also enjoy them if you too would like to see them remain in the park's lineup. Plus there is plenty of room to add a new attraction to the Potter lineup right where Poseidon's Fury is sitting, or even where the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad show arena is instead.
???? - Wizarding World Halloween Celebration - Rumor - (4/28/17) Screamscape has heard a fun rumor related to that freshly announced Christmas comes to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. According to our sources, this is just the start of things, with the long term plan being to grow and extend the celebration of the holidays inside the Wizarding World next to include the Halloween season in the next year or two, with each regions of the Wizarding World (Hogsmeade at IOA and Diagon Alley at USF) getting into the spirit of the season in their own way.
No word yet on if this will extend into some additional Halloween Horror Nights style fun for Diagon Alley or not after dark, though Universal Studios Japan did put on a Dementors Attack street performance last fall, so I’m sure this is something they may also be looking at. But looking at what is going on in Japan right now with the new Expecto Patronum projection show that even includes a drone-powered floating Dementor, a version of that show could also make for a nice family friendly Halloween themed after-dark event for the Hogsmeade area, standing in contrast as a family friendly event going on at IOA, while the more hardcore Halloween Horror Nights events is taking place over at the Studios park.
???? - The Secret Life Of Pets Dark Ride - On Hold / Canceled - (7/10/17) According to the latest rumors the proposed Secret Life of Pets dark rides that were once planned for Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando have now been put on an indefinite hold for the time being. If they do opt to go ahead with them, I’m hearing that it would likely be 2020 or 2021 at the earliest if they do build them, which is a long time to wait for an attraction based on an animated movie that came out in Summer 2016.
While they have not been officially canceled, I’m told that the general feeling is that unless they get approved to be built sooner than later, they will likely be canceled in favor of newer projects instead. Meanwhile the other scuttlebutt was that the previously designed attraction was put on hold so they could send it back to the drawing board to look at other possible ideas for the ride system, as well as budget review if I had to guess. Again... I’m thinking time, plus the fact that the corporate office is now focused on taking advantage of their new Dreamworks Animation IPs, is not doing the “Pets” project any favors.
(2/26/16) Look for a copy of the same new dark ride experience planned for the Hollywood park in 2018 to open in Orlando in 2019. This will be a major new family dark ride expected to feature a good number of classic animatronics. The location for this attraction is still up in the air between replacing Shrek 4D in Universal Studios Florida or to take over the Toon Lagoon theater space at Islands of Adventure.
Where it opens will depend on how other projects in development turn out, as well as where they think it will receive the best impact and improve that park’s experience. Currently, the attraction is said to be leading more towards using the Toon Lagoon theater site than taking over Shrek. It is a bigger space and USF will have opened two new attractions already nearby Shrek by then (Race Through New York and Fast & Furious) and IOA is most likely to be the park that could use the boost of a new attraction at that time. Of course, this also depends on how much of the rumored Jurassic Park enhancements get green lit and built by this point in time as well.
(1/16/16) If you've read our rumor for Universal Hollywood, you know that Universal Creative is working on a new dark ride concept themed to the upcoming animated film, "The Secret Life of Pets", from the team behind the Despicable Me film series. Fans of the Universal Orlando Resort were quick to write in to ask, “What about us?”.
This question comes with good reason behind it, as most of the new attractions we’ve seen added to one coast have made their way to the other within a few years such as Despicable Me, Simpsons themed restaurants, Transformers, and construction under way to build a new Skull Island: Reign of Kong, Fast & Furious Supercharged and least we forget the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that will open in Hollywood in a few months. So what about Universal Orlando?
After doing a little digging I’ve been told that the loose plan right now is to build a copy of The Secret Life of Pets in Florida, provided that the Hollywood version proves to be a hit when it opens first. This means we won’t likely see a clone open until 2018 or 2019, which seems just about right as the Orlando resort will have their hands full with already announced projects through to 2017. As for the location of the ride, I’m told they have their sights on a possible location within each of the Florida parks right now.
Over at Islands of Adventure, I’m told that the current site of the Toon Lagoon Amphitheater is being considered for a number of new projects, including this one. With that in mind however, another BIGGER project is hoping to land that site first, but we’ll discuss that story at another date. At the Studios park however, the site of choice is a little more interesting and would see the Shrek 4D attraction close to make way for the new dark ride. This would also put the Secret Life of Pets right across the street from that park’s Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction, creating a nice little themed zone for the Illumination Entertainment properties. Since this project is still several years out, if approved at all, anything can still happen to change it, but I’m leaning towards this going to USF myself over the Islands of Adventure site, which has another important project also wanting that particular site.