The Exclusive Opening of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure!

Jun 12, 2019

Posted by: Emma Pocock

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Leaky correspondent Kathy Paz and editor Dawn Johnson made their way to Universal Orlando Resort on Monday to cover the grand opening of the newest attraction in the wizarding world parks–Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure! We followed the development of this new ride from its announcement through its construction and were both honored and excited to be a part of the launch.

Before the big day even dawned, with media passes in hand, we knew we were in for an adventure…

On Monday, posts of Harry Potter alums at play in the parks began popping up on social media, much to the delight of fans. Rupert Grint, best known to Potterheads for his endearing portrayal of Ron Weasley, and Tom Felton, who played childhood enemy Draco Malfoy, appeared to have set character differences aside in favor of a visit to Jurassic Park.

Tom Felton’s reaction to this velociraptor animatronic is priceless! (We wager you’ll be watching this on repeat.)

Then James Phelps, who played Fred Weasley in the Harry Potter films, posted a picture of his escapades at Universal’s Volcano Bay, and we wondered what mischief he, and perhaps his brother, might get into while on location. Our excitement rose as we suspected they would participate in the ceremony Tuesday evening and, wands crossed, be among the secretive special guests teased for afternoon interviews.

Warwick Davis, memorable in the role of Professor Flitwick and Griphook, also announced that he was on location in Orlando, and it was beginning to look like a full-fledged Potter reunion!

Evanna Lynch also posted an Instagram story to say she was in the park, along with her dad, who was thrilled at the luxury camper they were staying in!

Before we could wrap the day with visions of Cornish Pixies dancing in our heads, Universal invited attending media to an exclusive dinner at their new City Walk restaurant, Big Fire, which opens later this summer.

The restaurant boasts American fare and an open-fire concept. The homey yet contemporary atmosphere is pleasant, the playlist of old and new favorites is familiar and enjoyable and the view through window after glass window is gorgeous. But the real standout, of course, is the food!

We sampled many of Big Fire’s signature dishes, from filet mignon to rack of lamb, shrimp, fried green tomatoes, lamb sliders, macaroni and cheese and cornbread and chili. These down-home dishes are the epitome of comfort food–and the desserts are equally delicious and appealing.

We enjoyed Big Fire’s take on the traditional s’more, apple pie with vanilla ice cream and a flourless chocolate cake with cherries and bourbon ice cream. If this restaurant is open on your next visit to Universal, it ought to be on your list of priority destinations.

Tuesday finally arrived, and we began the day with a tour of Universal Orlando Resort’s newest hotel, the Endless Summer Resort, which opens to the public June 27. The theme of the value-priced hotel is fun, sun and surf, and the bright colors and open spaces of the boutique hotel’s design definitely reflect that.

The hotel offers 750 rooms, both standards and suites. Standard rooms feature two queen beds, while suites include an additional room and bed, as well as a kitchenette! The Sand Bar, located at the edge of the surf board-shaped pool, serves up entrees under $10 and cocktails between $9-$10.

It looks to be a great option for guests who want to experience the magic of Universal while keeping overall traveling expenses reasonable!

But we really couldn’t wait to make it back to the theme park itself, where we knew the creative team behind the attraction, special guests and a preview of the ride awaited!

We took full advantage of the journey to the Forbidden Forest’s ruins to give fans an up-close look at the track’s many twists and turns.

After arriving at the attraction, we had the privilege of interviewing Gary Blumenstein, the Creative Director of Universal Creative. Blumenstein told us about hidden details in the ride’s design, his take on the backstory behind the ruins and more on the process of creating the incredibly realistic animatronics.

We also met with Alan Gilmore, the Art Director for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as well as on several Universal Orlando Resort rides, including Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. Gilmore discussed the magical creatures selected for expanded storyline of the themed “storycoaster”–and whether Universal’s creatives had any plans to feature some of the creatures newly imagined for the Fantastic Beast series in future attractions. He also told us that his favorite part of the ride is the motorbike!

(Look out for the full write-ups of our interviews with Gary Blumenstein and Alan Gilmore soon.)

As we’ve come to expect, Universal gets every detail of its attractions right. From the immersive queue experience to the apparel worn by the staff, each aspect of the attraction invites fans in to the wizarding world. (Check out this costume–she looks more than ready to take on a dragon or a Blast-Ended Skrewt!)

And, of course, one of the highlights of the day and the moment we’d been waiting for–we finally got to walk the entire queue and ride the ride! We saw graffiti on the walls of the ruins, evidence of students’ non-sanctioned after-class activities from days long past. We saw crates and cages, tools and leather work gloves, the Monster Book of Monsters, posters of magical creatures, shelves full of dragons eggs, a pumpkin juicer and barrels of malt whiskey.

Finally, the ride was everything we hoped it would be! The seven launches set it apart from every other rollercoaster in the park, accelerating with an exhilarating suddenness not rivaled by other rides, regardless of their speeds. The twists and turns took riders through the ruins and the forest, bringing us face to face with the aforementioned Blast-Ended Skrewt, Fluffy the three-headed dog, a centaur, the Devil’s Snare and a unicorn with its foal. These animatronics enhanced the “story” aspect of the coaster, which took riders through one of Hagrid’s unorthodox, but thrilling, Care of Magical Creatures lesson.

We couldn’t wait to ride it again and expect that you’ll feel the same!

Then we participated in a panel with the cast, including Tom Felton, James Phelps and Warwick Davis, as well as Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and Oliver Phelps (George Weasley). (Rupert Grint was nowhere to be seen–maybe he refused to get off the ride?)

The Harry Potter cast talked about their favorite parts of the new attraction and the enduring love for the wizarding world created by J.K. Rowling. Before they signed off, we asked them to share the one thing the couldn’t leave the park without doing. (Follow the thread below for their answers or view the full video on Leaky’s Facebook page!)

The panel was another major highlight in an already magical day, and we still had the grand opening ceremony to look forward to! But, before media and guests began to assemble, we knew we couldn’t end the day without a trip to The Leaky Cauldron and some Butterbeer ice cream, so we made a mad dash for Diagon Alley.

When it was time for the ceremony to begin, we stationed ourselves on the media platform, anxiously awaiting the “visual moment” teased by Universal before the event.

The ceremony included another visit from the cast. Warwick Davis and Evanna Lynch took to the stage in good spirits, quickly followed by Tom Felton and Rupert Grint, who made a dramatic entrance in the Weasley’s battered, enchanted Ford Anglia. Last, but by no means least, James and Oliver Phelps rode in on Sirius’ motorbike, to the great delight of the crowd.

The ceremony also featured a special message from Robbie Coltrane, who originated the character of Hagrid onscreen, and it was wonderful to see him, even though he was unable to present it in person. He was greatly missed by all! 

Finally, the “visual moment” arrived, and Warwick Davis conjured up all the charm of Professor Flitwick as he led the crowd in a rousing exclamation of “Wingardium Leviosa,” sending crates floating into the air while clouds of color shot into the blackened sky. 

As the crowd dispersed to take in the sites of Hogsmeade at night, and try to squeeze in one more flight on Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, we made sure to capture all the new merchandise available for purchase now that the ride is set to open on Thursday.

We loved the plush unicorn and Monster Book of Monsters! (Which will you be adding to your personal collection, Potter fans?)

Overall, it was the perfect end to a whirlwind of a day. We were celebrating a ride all about our most beloved Hagrid, after all, so there was really no other way it could go! 

What did you most enjoy about our opening ceremony coverage, Potter fans? Will you be here to ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure on Thursday, or very soon, and what part of the attraction are you looking forward to most!?

Look out for a detailed review of the ride, HD photos, a video diary of our experience and write-ups of our interviews, coming very soon too ALL Leaky’s channels!

Stay posted via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube!

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.