Thea Awards Recipients

Thea Awards 2015

Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement: Attraction

Harry Potter & The Escape from Gringotts, Universal Studios Florida, Orlando USA

The excellence of guest experience and placemaking in Universal Studios Florida's new Harry Potter built environments continues with the innovative Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. It begins with a highly elaborate, deeply immersive queue experience featuring a visit to the Gringotts Bank where animatronic goblin tellers appear to work in an incredibly imposing space and even interact with guests. An elevator ride (that could, in other circumstances, stand as an attraction in its own right) and filmed characters integrated into dimensional settings have been taken to a new level of believability in the lead-up to this incredible ride.

The ride system is outstanding in its ability to confuse the rider with its capabilities, performing as a coaster at one moment, an omnimover the next and then as a simulator with complex motion control. All of this is synchronized to the action in the show with media so well integrated into dimensional sets that removing the 3D glasses is the only way to tell for sure what is or is not constructed. Using what must be the largest screen images ever employed in a ride-through attraction, combined with extremely sharp-filmed imagery, delivers the convincing illusion of absolute reality.

The story is engagingly understated: We are merely here at the same time as Harry and friends were in the vaults during the last film - so the perspective is familiar to fans and also understandable even to those not conversant with the Potter ouevre. Music is a key part of making this adventure emotionally engaging as well. The final notes as the ride concludes are strong enough to get some riders welled-up with emotions - having just experienced something extraordinary. In the themed entertainment industry this attraction seems clearly to be the new yardstick by which all will be measured.


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