We’ve spoken about all of the rumored attractions for Universal’s Epic Universe over the past year or so, but none have had fewer details than the rides in the upcoming park’s Wizarding World land. New rumors for the area seem to indicate that one of the rides would finally allow fans of the franchise to something they’ve always dreamed of, soar on a flying broomstick.
Let’s dig into the innovative new theme park technologies that could make this a possibility in today’s news update. Be sure to check out the video version of this story below for additional visuals.
Designed to be Universal Orlando’s newest theme park, Epic Universe has been rumored to contain lands and attractions based on properties like How to Train Your Dragon, Nintendo, Universal Monsters, and the Wizarding World. The third Wizarding World land in Orlando, after Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida, this version has been rumored to feature two attractions themed as two Ministries of Magic.
According to rumors and site plans, the area’s largest attraction on the left side of the land was to be set within the British Ministry of Magic, as first seen in the Harry Potter books and films. The area’s other main attraction, on the right side of the area, was designed to resemble the French Ministry, which first appeared in the second Fantastic Beasts film. While we have previously speculated on the channel on what we thought these attractions could be, there was never any good rumored details for either of them, until now.
The area’s second attraction, the one we think might be set within the French Ministry, is now rumored to have been designed as a Virtual Reality experience where guests would be able to pilot their very own flying broomstick. It would employ a VR headset, a motion base, and multiple types of interactive controls, to be used in combination to allow you to take off into the sky on your own Wizarding adventure.
The first ride that was developed combining these types of technologies, creating the world’s first high capacity VR experience, was The Twilight Saga: Midnight Ride, which opened at Lionsgate Entertainment World in 2019. This attraction was recently awarded the THEA award for Outstanding Achievement, presented by the Themed Entertainment Association.
The Twilight VR experience has a capacity of 240 guests per hour, the most for any VR attraction at the time. However, judging by site plans for the area, it appears that the Epic Universe attraction could theoretically hold as much as 12 times as many riders! Also, unlike the Twilight ride, the Wizarding World’s version would place each rider into smaller loading zones, for a more personalized ride experience.
The Epic Universe attraction is rumored to contain 6 preshow rooms, where groups of 24 guests would be fitted for the headset (minus the heavy VR elements). Then, riders would be split up and shown to their brooms inside of adjoining smaller rooms of 6 each.
After mounting their flying broomstick (and presumably buckling their safety belt,) the VR elements would be lowered from the ceiling and attached to the headset they’re already wearing using quick snap magnets, similar to way the Mario Kart ride in Super Nintendo World has riders snap in the main part of their augmented reality glasses. This makes loading and unloading much faster, as the resizing of your headset is done prior to even entering the ride chamber.
A patent for ride vehicles with dynamic movement was recently published by Universal, and may have been developed for this project. The patent explains how it would not only move ride vehicles in accordance to a predetermined routine, but input from the rider would cause the ride profile to change on the fly for their individual ride vehicle. Like the Twilight attraction, this ride could have small groups of riders traveling together through the virtual experience, but some level of control or decision making would still be up to you.
The ride system patent also shows examples for a similar system that could possibly use small screen domes rather than Virtual Reality headsets. As is often the case when it comes to patents from Universal, these variations may be included as additional uses, and aren’t necessarily their main purpose. Part of what makes the Twilight ride experience successful is being able to look in any direction, being able to not only control where you go, but also what you see by turning your head.
It’s rumored that Universal has even spent time developing a type of virtual reality that would eliminate, or at least cut down, on the possibility of motion sickness. Rather than only matching the motion of the headset to what the user sees in the viewfinder, as may be the case with your consumer VR headset, this attraction would also take the motion of the ride vehicle into account. This should help to eliminate the disconnect between what the head and body are doing, helping to reduce the possibility of motion sickness.
Taking it a step further, The Twilight ride also uses hand trackers to perfectly synchronize movements of the rider’s virtual representation in real time. For the Potter attraction, this could possibly mean we would not only be able to fly on our own broomstick for the first time in a Universal theme park—but maybe we would be able to perform magic with a wand while doing so? Or, perhaps we could participate in a Quidditch match, reaching out to virtually grab the golden snitch or scoring virtual goals. While these story aspects of the attraction are not yet known, they are technically possible using this technology.
While work on the Epic Universe theme park in Orlando is currently paused, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell says they still want to pick it up when signs that the industry is recovering are more clear. The original target opening date for the new park was 2023, but with construction halted, and depending on when it’s started back up, a possible opening is starting to look more like 2025.
UPDATE: Universal announced construction is resuming on Epic Universe! Learn More.
Rumors from behind the scenes seem to show that companies like Nintendo and Warner Bros. — which are both set to have lands based on their properties open with the park—are still very excited about seeing their new attractions open in Orlando… It might just be a matter of when.