Epic Universe Isle of Berk – Dragon Racer’s Rally and Fyre Drill

Updates:

  • 2024-04-24 – Added note about Silver Dollar City’s RiverBlast.
  • 2024-04-25 – Over on my Facebook Page, Joel E. left this comment: “the Mack rides version also uses a conveyor belt loading system which gives its higher capacity then the interlink version at lost island”. I did not realize there were two manufactures of this type of ride, and ass-u-me’d the Epic one had to be the same as the one at Lost Island. The wikipedia entry for Epic calls it a “Splash Battle” ride, and the wikipedia entry for Lost Island calls theirs an “Interlink Splash Battle”. Do we have any confirmation on who makes the one going in to Epic – Mack Rides or Interlink? If it’s Mack Rides, then the version I mention at Silver Dollar City truly is closer, not only in how it will be set up, but by manufacturer. It seems there are only four of the Mack version in all of the USA right now.

Previous UOR Article: Garden Walk maps.

Today, Universal Orlando Resort released official information about the upcoming Isle of Berk land at the upcoming Epic Universe theme park, basically confirming what folks have been speculating about for many months.

You can see a CGI fly through of the land on their official YouTube page:

This land will feature three rides and a show:

  • Hiccup’s Wing Gliders (a family coaster)
  • Dragon Racer’s Rally
  • Fyre Drill (slow moving boat ride where you can squirt water at other boats and targets)

Roller coasters can be fun or painful. Family coasters like Hiccup’s Wing Glider are generally less abusive, and therefore more pleasant to ride than the extreme (and sometimes painful) coasters. Thrill fans will likely be unimpressed by it. Coasters like this are a dime a dozen – there are plenty of fun roller coasters across America, so this one will likely only seem special to fans of How to Train Your Dragons due to the theming it will have.

It is the other two rides I wanted to comment on here. We have both of them here in Iowa at the Lost Island Theme Park in Waterloo. That park opened in 2022, and I have photos from the past two years in my gallery:

https://themeparks.disneyfans.com/LostIsland/index.html

From looking at concept art and the CGI video, Universal’s version of these two rides will have better theming and better queues but the ride experience should be the same. Here is what you can expect.

Fyre Drill (Awaati Battle at Lost Island)

This is an unusual ride that could be quite fun in the right situation. At Lost Island, the boats hold eight people — four facing out the left side, and four facing out the right. There is a water gun in front of each rider, and a round crank wheel that is used to squirt water. The water guns can be aimed a bit.

Awaati Battle at Lost Island (7-15-2023).

The boats are designed to be loaded from either side, but at Lost Island all eight riders board from the right side and four can cross over to the other side from the front or back. Loading is done with the boat out of the water on a conveyor belt, similar to other water rides.

Awaati Battle load area at Lost Island (7-15-2023).

The speed of the boats is slow. I’d estimate they are as slow as, say, “it’s a small world” at Disney. This is not a thrill ride. There are no lap bars or seatbelts. While there may be some speed adjustments that could be done (speeding up water flow to increase hourly capacity), I would still expect this family-friendly ride to be slow at Epic Universe. (Like, you can walk faster than the boats go, on the pathways around this version.)

As the boats slowly wind through the course, there are times when it curves and you can find yourself facing another boat. This is when it can get fun, as riders in each boat do their best to aim their water guns at the other boat. When this happens, the folks on the opposite side of the boat miss out. In the photo below, you can see the left boat is facing a walkway where they could squirt at guests walking along that path. For the right boat, you can see there is another place where a boat “could” have been at that moment allowing that both to have a target on both sides.

Awaati Battle boats face each other at Lost Island (8-27-2022).

At Lost Island, the timing seems to be pretty random, so in our rides, we have found times when we only faced another boat once during the entire ride. This makes it less fun.

Along the way, Lost Island has some small set decorations which you can squirt at, but as of 2023 they did not have any type of interactive targets to aim for.

Awaati Battle decorations at Lost Island (7-15-2023).

Universal could easily improve this ride by having things to aim for that do something. From looking at the concept art, this seems to be the case. It even looks like there might be some things that squirt back.

At Lost Island, there are also some free water canons along the walkway. This lets other visitors pump their water gun and try to squirt boats as they slowly pass by. Since the boats move quite slow, if someone is doing this, and if they have good aim, you will get drenched. It’s one thing to try to squirt someone on a river rapids ride (they are likely already drenched) as it briefly passes under water guns there, but in a slow moving boat ride like this, expect to get drenched if Universal has similar water canons.

Awaati Battle sidewalk squirter at Lost Island (8-27-2022).

Above, notice you can turn the crank (just like on the boat), but there is also a foot peddle that makes it squirt on its own.

At Lost Island, these water canons are free. If they have them at Epic Universe, I expect they will be “pay to play” like the ones at Ripsaw Falls at Islands of Adventure.

The slow speed of the ride itself will likely be boring to anyone who expects this to be like a log ride. It is not. Also, those who like slow moving boat rides (like “it’s a small world” or Pirates of the Caribbean or whatever) but to not enjoy being sprayed with water will probably want to skip this one. I expect Epic’s version will see much higher crowds than at Lost Island, where folks seem to skip it and move on to more thrilling attractions.

We’ll have to see how much applies when Fyre Drill opens at Epic Universe.

See photos of the Lost Island version here:

https://themeparks.disneyfans.com/LostIsland/LostIsland2023/Awa-Water/AwaatiBattle/index.html

Update: For something much closer to what Epic is building, check out Silver Dollar City’s RiverBlast attraction. In addition to being heavily themed, it also features interactive water-activated targets along the route.

Dragon Racer’s Rally (Amara Aviators at Lost Island)

This was another type of ride I saw for the first time at Lost Island, though much like the boat ride, these exist at other parks already. It is a basic spinner ride that raises up, similar to chain swings and other rides, but with a twist. A literal twist. In addition to tilting (like chain swings do), each seat has “wings” that you can tilt independently. You can tilt one up and one down and flip yourself over (or even spin, once you get the hang of it).

Amara Aviators at Lost Island (7-15-2023).

Lost Island has one tower, and Epic Universal will have two. Lost Island’s version is basically un-themed (just some decal type decorations giving it a steampunk gear look) while the Epic Universe one looks like it will have some nice dragon theming.

Amara Aviators ride seats at Lost Island (8-27-2022).

Since this ride type is relatively new, it should be a fun new experience to most riders. But, if you are not wanting to flip and spin, it ends up just being a similar experience to many of the spinning swing type rides found everywhere. (We have a much taller spinner at the other park in Iowa, Adventureland, but it does not tilt or have the flipping that this type of ride has).

I expect this will be a great fun thrill for anyone who likes spinning and flipping rides.

See photos of the Lost Island version here:

https://themeparks.disneyfans.com/LostIsland/LostIsland2023/Udara-Air/AmaraAviators/index.html

Thoughts

Since both of these rides exist here in Iowa, I cannot say I am too thrilled about them making up 77% of the rides at Isle of Burke. BUT, I am interested in seeing the theming and details that Epic Universe adds to these off-the-shelf rides. As a big fan of theming, great details make a “ho hum” ride much more interesting to me.

I will say that, in visits to Lost Island, I mostly just walk by Awaati Battle. It’s not a ride I would wait a long time for, and it’s not fun when the boats are mostly empty with no one to squirt at, or to squirt back at you. I fully expect to stand in a line “no matter how long” to ride it at least once at Epic Universe, but unless there are some amazing scenes along their route, I don’t expect it will be a “must do.”

Your milage may vary, of course. Something considered “ho hum” here in Iowa might be much more exciting at Epic Universe.

I can’t wait for the 2025 opening to happen so I can find out.

Until then…

Addendum: If you stay at any of the on-site hotels at Universal Orlando, be sure to check out my Garden Walk maps. They show walking routes, water taxi docks and more.

Over 44,000 Universal Studios/SeaWorld Orlando photos…

As of today, March 6th 2024, my Universal Studios-SeaWorld photo gallery now has over 44,000 photos. The most recent ones include SeaWorld’s Seven Seas Food Festival and Universal Studios Florida’s Mardi Gras.

http://us-sw.disneyfans.com

New to the gallery are photos from Universal’s Endless Summer Surfside hotel – one of the two “value” hotels over there. The gallery now includes photos from many of the resorts – Dockside, Surfside, Cabana Bay, Aventura, Sapphire Falls, Hard Rock Hotel.

I did visit Jake’s at Royal Pacific (the first time I ever explored the Water Taxi’s) but I do not know where I would have sorted those photos. I also remember having a drink on a rainy day at some outside bar at Hard Rock Hotel, and walking around Portofino Bay one morning, but I cannot find any photos to back that up.

Needless to say, sorting and organizing these galleries is an ongoing project here.

More to come…

Not knowing is more fun.

In the early days of the public Internet, even before the World Wide Web, I felt very plugged in to what was going on with Disney theme parks. I followed usenet newsgroups like alt.disney.disneyland and rec.arts.disneyparks. I was on the GEnie online service hanging out in the Destination Florida RoundTable (which also featured a Disneyland area for some reason). Folks routinely posted about their recent visit to the parks. It was because of discussions there about the building of the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland that I made a goal to return to Disneyland once that ride opened. I had not been there since Space Mountain/Big Thunder were new.

Over the 1990s, fan sites, web message forums and all kinds of new resources replaced the old newsgroups and pay services. If something was known, it was shared. I felt completely plugged in, and on top of every tidbit happening—from the change of a cup size or altering of paper napkins, to more major things like ride refurbishments.

It was a great time. But now I have regrets.

I became disconnected, though not because I wanted to be. I had financial struggles for nearly a decade. If I couldn’t go, I didn’t need to follow a dozen websites daily to see the latest news about Disneyland of Walt Disney World.

In those years, money was so tight I took no vacations. I had no home phone, no cell phone and no home internet. The only contact I had with cybespace was through an iPad or taking my laptop down to a place with free WiFi.

I was only able to return to Disneyland thanks to a friend offering me free lodging in his vacation home, and after getting a different job that had slightly higher pay.

That trip, my friends, was probably the best Disney trip I’ve ever had since my first ones as a kid in the 1970s. I was aware that Cars Land had been added but did not know any details. One of my local SoCal friends, Steve (R.I.P.), escorted me through Disney California Adventure park where I saw the new entrance area and many other changes since my last visit in 2009. He walked me past the main Cars Land entrance, distracting me with details on the other side. He wanted me to walk through the backside arch in to the land and see the “mountain range.”

We did.

Cars Land (2017)

And it was epic.

Riding Radiator Springs Racers spoiler-free was also an absolute pleasure. I had read no reviews, seen no ride through videos, or even read comments about it.

Best. Ride. Ever.

Because of that, I continued to try to avoid spoilers. This made the Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout a fantastic new experience when that ride opened.

The magic was back.

I have not had a Disney annual pass since the pre-Covid era. I did, however, taken advantage of a low cost (“three months free”) passes to Universal Studios Orlando, which turned out to be a gateway back in to regular theme park trips — just not to Disney.

And since I had not been following Universal at all, ever, I did not even know there was a new mega King Kong ride there. I remember walking from Jurassic Park and seeing this “mountain” looming in the distance. “What is that!?” I thought.

Reign of Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Approaching it that first time was thrilling.

Between the time I started writing this article, many months ago, and the time I finish it today, I have become a bit more plugged in with Universal Orlando — watching YouTube video “news” about the park from time to time. But, no where near the level of plugged-in-ness I was in the 1990s-2000s with Disney.

And I think I prefer it like this.

If you ever feel burnt out or jaded, try unplugging for awhile. It might just give your next visit a boost!

Until then…

Victoria Frankenstein at Universal Epic Universe

I remember when “Interview with the Vampire” came out and folks familiar with the source books were upset that the vampire Lestat was cast by an actor that did not at all resemble the description of the character from the books. Folks like me who had never read the books did not notice or care.

But Universal Epic Universe information was released the other day and I found it interesting that the Monster of Frankenstein’s creator has been gender flipped in the new park version – Victoria Frankenstein. I doubt that many have actually read the original Mary Shelley book (I certainly haven’t), but the story is so iconic that I think the name “Victor Frankenstein” is pretty well-known. I wonder if their story will be a sequel of some sort with Victoria being his daughter or a relative.

Victoria Frankenstein is not new – she has appeared before in remakes:

The 2007 film Frankenstein introduces Victoria Frankenstein. Instead of making the creature out of corpses, she uses stem cells, intending to use her experiment to save her dying son. The experiment goes wrong, however, and the creature escapes. When Frankenstein catches up with the monster, she comes to love it because it is her only remaining link to her son who has since died.

A 2014 ongoing web series Frankenstein, MD, created by PBS Digital Studios and Pemberley Digital, focuses on Victoria Frankenstein, a medical student determined to prove herself in her field. This series gender-swaps several characters – Elizabeth becomes Eli Lavenza and Henry becomes Rory Clerval.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Frankenstein

…though the Frankenstein movie from 2007 does not appear to be a Universal Studios release and I do not know if PBS has any connection to Universal for their web series. At least they aren’t the first to do it.

Press release mentioning Victoria may be found here:

https://www.nbcuniversal.com/article/introducing-universal-epic-universe-companys-most-ambitious-theme-park-date

Over 3600 new Orlando Halloween photos coming soon…

Photos from this year’s Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida and Howl-O-Scream at SeaWorld Orlando will be added to the gallery in coming weeks. We were able to visit all ten haunted houses, the scare zones, and the one (!) show at Universal, and also all five haunted houses, the scare zones and three (!) of the four shows at SeaWorld Orlando.

While Universal’s offerings had zero scares (the only time we heard anyone scream all night was from a chainsaw in a scare zone), they sure were amazing walk through theatrical experiences.

SeaWorld, however, actually had real haunted houses — letting in groups rather than a large conga line. The groups were too big so most scares were spoiled, but we were certainly startled many times during that four hour event (mostly in the scare zones).

Over at my Des Moines Haunted Houses website project, folks there know I scream like a little girl and am a pretty easy target. Seeing these two big theme park haunts be so tame was a surprise — especially with the reputation of HHN being one of the biggest haunt events in the nation.

More to come, and much more to say…

Islands of Adventure 1999 soundtrack on YouTube

Tracks from the official Universal Studios Escape (as it was known back then) Islands of Adventure theme park have been posted to the official Universal Orlando Resort (as it is known today) YouTube channel:

https://youtube.com/@UniversalOrlando

The soundtrack was released for the 1999 opening, I believe, but these tracks are listed as being from a “2000 reissue” version. I may have the original disc somewhere, and I know it had many more tracks than what have been shared so far.

I am just hoping the crazy track from Toon Lagoon makes it. The custom soundtracks were one of the best things about Islands of Adventure. Toon Lagoon especially stood out with its massive multi-track arrangement with speakers all over the land playing parts of the looping soundtrack. (This would be done two years later with the opening of Disney’s California Adventure when it had something similar for the Paradise Pier section of the park.)

Enjoy!

Universal Orlando’s video recording policy.

I have seen so many videos taken at Universal Orlando Resort on attractions that specifically forbid photos or video recording. I wondered if there was some kind of exception for video bloggers, so I asked…

 Please know that Universal Orlando Resort does not condone the behavior you described of these YouTube vloggers. For the safety of our Guests, as well as show quality when applicable, we do not allow filming, flash photography, or Go-Pro style mounted cameras on our attractions. 

Universal Orlando Resort Guest Communications

So, yeah. I guess all the signs that say don’t do it actually are there because you aren’t supposed to do it.

Universal Orlando Garden Walk maps

Updates:

  • 2024-04-25 -Over on my Facebook Page, Jeremy O’L.point out that “Aventura is connected multiple ways as well.” There is an official way to walk north out of the Aventura lobby and reach the Garden Walk, or you can walk across the parking lot an in to the lobby of Sapphire Falls and continue walking to the Garden Walk from there, or down to the Sapphire Falls Water Taxi dock. Google limits how many layers I can have on a map (which is why I had to split them up in to West and East maps), but I’ll see what I can do about adding this. Thanks, Jeremy!

I created some Google Maps layers that show the walking path (called “Garden Walk”) between the on-site hotels and the park entrances. It includes markers for the boat docks, bus dropoffs and security checkpoints, as well. You can enable just the items you want to see. (For example, you only care about the walking route from Aventura to Universal Studios Florida.)

West Side – Cabana Bay, Sapphire Falls, Royal Pacific (for Aventura, you can walk across the parking lot to Sapphire Falls and then use their map)

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1rqDurcJoaW48Ppmmxk-yXpuHxbJphBA3&usp=sharing

East Side – Hard Rock, Portofino Bay

https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=12rcfdPcjgizN3UQ8KPZqchAdG1eJUxF1&usp=sharing

Enable the “Legend” to see the different layers you can turn on.

Please comment if you find any mistakes, or if you have items that should be added.

Universal and SeaWorld to get their own photo section

When I got my first digital camera in 1996, I never could have imagined there would be a time when I’d be updating photo galleries with over 150,000 photos in them. Initially, all my theme park photos were able to fit in one master “DisneyFans Photos” gallery. Today, the number of files in that gallery far exceed what my web host account can allow. Because of that, I had to split the gallery up in to multiple accounts – Disneyland, Disney World and non-Disney Theme Parks.

Due to how much time it takes to update the non-Disney gallery each time I return from Universal and SeaWorld (due to having to go through all the other theme park photos), I am finally going to split off Universal Studios (Hollywood and Orlando) and SeaWorld in to their own sub-gallery.

This will group photos as follows:

  • Disneyland
  • Walt Disney World
  • Universal Studios & SeaWorld
  • …other Theme Parks

I am in the process up creating the new US/SW gallery (over 31,000 photos just from those parks) and will begin uploading it later tonight. I will then redo the Theme Parks gallery to remove Universal and SeaWorld. Hopefully folks will find them at their new location.

As one of the longest running theme park sites on the Internet (from my pre-domain days back in 1996, to the DisneyFans.com days and now this site), I hate to make big changes like this. Apologies in advance for the links that will be broken…

More updates soon…