Hagrid-themed Harry Potter roller coaster ride opens at Universal Orlando

Wizard schools, Quidditch, butterbeer and mythical creatures that blast fire from their rear ends — it’s a plot just begging to belong in a theme park.

No wonder JK Rowling’s Harry Potter behemoth franchise at Universal Orlando keeps on rolling — literally.

The much anticipated new ride at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando opens June 13, and will bring long lines of Muggles to experience its sights, thrills and pretty awesome animatronics all in one long, sweeping roller coaster.

As of late, Universal and Disney have been steering toward computer graphic imaging rides where the rider is actually stationary or moving slowly but projected into a virtual reality via surrounding projections. The first, award-winning Harry Potter ride, Forbidden Journey, uses a robotic arm to swivel the rider seats through a dark ride, while Escape from Gringotts has short bursts of a fairly tame coaster that blends in with 3D effects around you.

Which is fun, but … well, not quite the same as blasting through the ether in real time. So, yay! Fans were thrilled to learn that the newest addition to the park, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, is a true, fast, wind-in-your-cape outdoor coaster. Its dips, speed and thrills will have you believing in Arthur Weasley’s dubious powers to make an old Triumph motorbike and sidecar fly. And that’s going to make many parkgoers — and legions of Potterheads — very happy.

“It starts fast and gets faster,” says Gary Blumenstein, creative director for Universal Creative. His team also liaised with Warner Bros. and the Potter films’ production designer, Stuart Craig, and art director, Alan Gilmore to bring a film-set-worthy backdrop to the ride as well as the theming for the all-important line. Unless an owl carrying a letter shows up at your house anytime soon, this is as close as you can get to being at Hogwarts.

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is billed as a “story coaster.” It features the voice of Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) who narrates your ride on his motorbike or in the attached sidecar as it serpentines through the enchanted woods.

“It’s a combination of thrills and stories,” says Blumenstein. “It features advanced animatronics that makes it a family coaster that everyone can enjoy.”

The ride will get you up close and personal with Hagrid’s three headed mutt Fluffy, Cornish pixies, unicorns and the blast-ended skrewt, who features in the books but is seen here for the first time. (There’s no Dobby, though — apparently he’s too busy wandering around garages in Colorado.)

Hagrid is there too — his animatronic has 24 movements, and the team worked with actor Robbie Coltrane to accurately recreate his nuances. They even used digital scans of his teeth and hair when hand-sculpting the face.

Entering the ride area, you’ll walk past Hagrid’s hut, set among the evocative ruins of the Forbidden Forest, before walking through a tunnel leading to Hagrid’s care of magical creatures class. Seems Hagrid’s also been doing a bit of animal husbandry on the side, not to mention some dragon egg collecting. Strange rumblings and curious shadow around you make you wonder where the hatched one went. Or what strange creatures may have been concocted …

But it’s the ride itself you’ve come for, and this skillfully hits the Goldilocks spot — thrilling and fast, swooping and scream-inducing, yet not so terrifying that only adolescents will ride it. While it dramatically changes direction with some really cool bursts of speed — and some great surprises — it never inverts or flattens you with major G forces, and the smooth track means you leave with all your fillings intact.

Which is just as well, since you’ll be grinning from ear to ear.

More good news: You’ve got an excuse to ride multiple times, since the experience is different for the sidecar rider and the person on the bike, who sits 6 inches higher and can lean into the handlebars (and push the purple button for that “get us out of here” moment.) And since you’re outdoors, daytime and nighttime rides are also called for.

With four new Potter e-books lined up, who knows what other ride-worthy inspiration the JK Rowling series will come up with. Meanwhile, park goers can rest assured that Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure casts a perfectly magical flying spell.

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