Surprising absolutely nobody, Universal Studios’ popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter is expanding yet again, this time with the construction of a brand new ride in the Orlando park that will add more screams to England’s already rowdiest college town: Hogsmeade.
According to the park’s official blog, Orlando’s existing Dragon Challenge ride will permanently close down on Sept. 5 to make way for a thrill ride that will “redefine the category” of roller coasters. “The new attraction will be one of the most highly-themed coaster experiences we’ve created,” the company writes. “It will combine a new level of storytelling with an action-packed adventure…and a few surprises along the way.”
Of course, those clues are about as helpful as a golden egg out of water. If you’re hoping to guess what narrative paths the Universal creative team might go down, we have quite literally nothing else to go on other than the mere superlative of innovation — something unwise to doubt, considering that the Wizarding World parks have broken new ground with 3-D technology and design in both Orlando and Hollywood, but woefully vague nonetheless.
The fun part for fans, then, is to figure out which storyline of the Harry Potter films which the parks have yet to employ that (1) makes acceptable sense to be placed in Hogsmeade (2) bears enough action to justify a roller coaster adaptation (3) hasn’t been done before in the Wizarding World?
One untouched option that comes to mind is a riff on the Shrieking Shack, particularly as it appears in the never-ending climax of Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry, Hermione, and Ron only arrive at the Hogsmeade-set location through a twisted underground slide beneath the Whomping Willow. Alone, that brief journey isn’t nearly memorable enough to deserve an entire coaster experience, but perhaps the addition of the time travel shenanigans before and after said excursion could offer some justification. Several roller coasters already employ systems that allow you to ride a coaster forward then backward; the Wizarding World’s innovation could lace in key storytelling elements during a second forward thrust through the post-Time Turner part of the story — a.k.a. lose a Ron, gain a hippogriff. (To that point, Buckbeak’s heavy representation at the parks could render this entirely unlikely.)
The Forbidden Forest is another option, one we already know is nascent territory to the Warner Bros’ creative teams (a Forbidden Forest expansion just opened this year at the Harry Potter studio tour outside of London). On its own merits, the forest certainly has enough narrative possibility between its hidden Triwizard dragons, vengeful centaurs, and casual thestrals, but with the rise of the nascent Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, a beast-packed coaster guided by Newt or Hagrid (whoever is available) could be brilliant.
Hogsmeade doesn’t exactly have much more action going for it, barring a drunken stumble through The Three Broomsticks or the beginning stages of Harry’s return for the Battle of Hogwarts (which would be the most horrifying family ride). But of course, anyone who’s been to these parks knows that these rides aren’t exactly restricted by the rigidity of canon. Dozens of action-packed sequences from across the world could serve as perfectly mineable story material — say, any of Harry’s escapes from Privet Drive, the Order of the Phoenix Ministry battle, or the entire high-stakes DIDYOUPUTYOURNAMEINTHEGOBLETOFFIRE drama of the Triwizard Tournament (which will be missing from the parks after the closure of the loosely-themed Dragon Challenge ride). Does it really matter that this coaster is placed in Hogsmeade? Perhaps not. I mean, Hollywood’s Wizarding World put Ollivander’s wand shop literal inches away from Hagrid’s Hut, and he doesn’t even go here.