Chapter IV - Better Butter Beer
Today’s good morning “Jambo” sounded a little less enthusiastic than usual. It wasn’t for a lack of interest, but I could tell the early mornings were starting to get to our crew. I let them know that this would be the last day we needed an early arrival.
The reason I got everyone of bed so early was because we were going to tackle both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure and we only had this one day to do it. The crowd projections were on our side, but I knew there’d be a lot to cover.
Everyone just needs a nice Butterbeer pick-me-up.
And our first stop was indeed the Wizarding World. We rushed to Escape from Gringotts and made it through with nearly zero wait!
I must say I enjoy this ride, but, like many Universal experiences, the queue is better than the actual ride. I’m know much has been said about their over reliance of screens and projections, so I will spare you my thoughts (as you probably know what they are), but I’d like to add another issue I have with this ride.
It’s clear to me that whoever directed the actors did so very poorly. The acting from Domhnall Gleeson as Bill Weasley and Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix LeStrange are stilted at best. Gleeson gives a completely flat and un-whimsical performance, seemingly because it was, like, their second take and it’s shot in a way he may not be comfortable with. Carter has the most glaring issue, to me. There’s a point where it seems like she forgets her line or at least misses her cue.
Am I crazy? Check out a video of the ride:https://youtu.be/DJHfF2udZv8?t=180
It all seems awkward and unrehearsed. Maybe they only had the actors for a very limited time.
After a deposit at the wizard bank, some of us were feeling a bit peckish and decided to drop in for some brekky at The Three Broomsticks.
Megan tried the hot butterbeer for the first time.
We now both agree that this is the preferred form of butterbeer. Liquid form, that is; the ice cream is superior. It’s so damn sweet, I love it. Speaking of, does anyone know if they changed the butterbeer recipe since around 2011? I remembered it being a lot sweeter! It’s still cloyingly sugary, but not enough for my big ol’ sweet tooth.
We enjoyed our nosh and continued exploring the land.
I love the detail here. We haven’t had any chance to check out what I affectionately call WestPot, at Universal Studios Hollywood (we usually only go to the park for Halloween Horror Nights, and it has yet to open for that). I was able to visit the original in 2011 and Diagon Alley once before, in 2015, and it’s my favorite theme park land to date. I am a big Harry Potter fan, but I think I’m a bigger theme park fan and the land itself satisfies all of my requirements. So many details to uncover, so many sounds and smells and tastes to take in. It’s really wonderful.
I do have some
issues with it, of course. For one, I mentioned earlier, the ride leaves some things to be desired. More built out environments instead of reliance on screens would be great. They have cool animatronics in the queue! Why not the ride?
But, the biggest issue I have is it’s whole premise. You are a muggle visiting the Wizarding World. Excuse me? Disregard the breaking of the source material’s continuity, nobody who reads or watches Harry Potter wants to be a Muggle. It makes less sense too that we are buying wands and other magical things that wouldn’t work for us if we were Muggles. It’s a really messy premise they have set up here. Why not simply just let us be wizards and witches?
There’s also a similarly weird concept where the characters and Team Members of the land will ask if you go to Hogwarts and what house to which you belong, despite myself having an obviously not English accent and being 30.
My house is Gryffindor, by the way, and Slytherin can stuff it!
We offered no time to explore the rest of the park and hopped right aboard the Hogwarts Express.
This ride is great, I have no real issues with it, either. Especially since, apparently, they can fit ten of us in a single compartment!
This picture is clearly mid-Jambo.
We hopped of the train and dove right into Forbidden Journey.
Great ride! Still too much reliance on screens, but a great experience that combines a lot of techniques. Love it.
I really should just go to WestPot. I don’t have
to fly 2,000 miles away to ride this, why do I?!
It took me so long to realize that this is the Gryffindor common room! The switchbacks kind of mess with the illusion of it. And all the people.
Austin is just impressed that the man in the back can magically drink from his cup without his hands! Wooooooww!
After a very Harry morning, we continued on to Jurassic Park.
With a few exceptions, this ride is quite superior to the Hollywood version! The lush greenery is enough to make me say so. It’s much more immersive than seeing the Frankenstein parking lot behind a brachiosaurus. Points I would give Hollywood over Orlando: The T-Rex head you see before the drop.
That, of course, is irrelevant now due to the Jurassic World conversion.
Megan and Austin insisted on staying dry.
Kong was new for everyone. I must say I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I kind of hate the Hollywood version where Peter Jackson tells you to put on your 3D glasses and then you have to hang onto them for another 40 minutes. This one was enjoyable. Had some great practical effects mixed in. I was very surprised to see the driver on the vehicle was fake.
And this thing was one of the best animatronics I’ve ever seen. It was so believable in its movements and it had a real “goopiness” to it. It could have been on set in a movie, it looked so good. Yes, I know this ride has a giant animatronic Kong, but this one is the one that wowed me.
I’m not sure what Brian and Vanessa were saying here. I can only assume they were asking for change.
Around this time I was getting a little nervous. The crowds had started to pick up. Wait times were getting longer and longer and my party grew hungry. We stopped at the closest place to eat, which was in Jurassic Park. I wanted people to eat something nice in CityWalk, but we were trapped in the back of the park and I didn’t want to interrupt the circuit.
We finished eating and hit up Spiderman and Hulk. While walking past, those who fear no water hopped onto the Popeye rapid ride. Myself and a few others passed on this opportunity.
Natalie, would you like to go with them and have water in your socks all night?
Once we finished the Islands of Adventure loop, a handful of folks, who planned for a second day at Universal, went back to Jambo house to rest.
As for those who remained, we hit the Studios park. Mummy and Men in Black, back to back.
There was a parade going through…
Jen noticed that Squidward was having a bit of a wardrobe malfunction.
The sourpus face really sells how uncomfortable this must have been.
I wouldn’t let anyone leave without going for a bike ride with E.T
Oh man, this
is the nostalgic ride of my youth. I never got why Peter Pan has a crazy long line, but if people feel about Pan how I feel about E.T., then I totally get it.
I’m endlessly bummed that we have a crappy version Revenge of the Mummy over this.
The sun began going down and we knew it was time for our last rides.
I suggested Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit, but those who weren’t too interested wanted to get one last look at Diagon Alley and spend time in the bank vaults of Gringotts.
DJ, Vanessa, and I hopped in line for HRRR and had an amazing night time ride. It was probably the best ride I’ve had on it, it didn’t even feel rough. When we got off, Dj and Vanessa wanted to ride again, and I feel bad, but I told them we should meet our friends, who were probably already off Gringotts.
But it was minutes until closing…
Could we make it to ride Gringotts one last time? We ran to Diagon Alley. Well, more like we theme park ran, which is running while making your upper body look like its just walking.
We made it with seconds to spare! I threw my camera in a fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo and we escaped from Gringotts! After our ride, our friends were waiting, surprised to see us walking out of the exit.
That’s right guys, we got a HRRR ride AND a final Gringotts. Okay, I need to sit down, I’m out of breath.
I limped my way back to the rideshare pickup.. Three days of theme parking during all daylight hours had finally caught up to me.
The next day would have a later start, but definitely more walking…