The History of & Changes to Dueling Dragons | Islands of Adventure

The History of & Changes to Dueling Dragons | Islands of Adventure

This video idea was suggested by Kristen
McHenry. If you have any suggestions for future videos,
please feel free to leave them in the comment section. Since Dueling Dragons
was an opening day attraction, its story is very closely connected with the park
itself. So, in order to tell that story let’s take a trip back to the early 90’s
or, in other words, back when Universal was in the earliest planning stages for
Islands of Adventure, their newest park. Since the beginning, they had a pretty
good idea of what kind of attractions they wanted the park to host. One of the
first ideas they came up with was a set of two different rollercoasters that
would both be part of the same overall attraction and in that attraction, the
two different coasters would essentially race with one another. Now, that idea of
a racing coaster wasn’t exactly new at the time. The earliest examples of a
dual-tracked rollercoaster can be traced all the way back to the mid-1930’s when
the Grand National first opened since then that same concept had only been
further improved upon and by the late 90’s are already a few hundred more rides
based off that same concept that were scattered all around the world. But the
main difference between those rides and Universal’s new concept, was that they wanted
to give each track its own unique layout. So now, instead of having the two tracks
essentially being mirrors of one another they would instead split up and meet
back at different points all throughout the ride. Unlike any other racing or dual
track roller coaster that had come before it. Mark Woodbury: “And then we had this idea for a coaster, unlike any coaster around and the thought was to combine two
state-of-the-art coasters and unlike conventional wisdom would say you
know, avoid all objects, we intentionally set these two things out on a collision
course to create near misses at really incredible, incredibly high speeds.” Now
that was the basic idea that had been floating around Universal Creative for a
while during the parks development but they never really went anywhere with the
concept until very late into the planning process for the park’s “Lost
Continent” section, and as a result of that most of the attractions theming was
very dependent and based off what its surroundings already were. So, since the
Lost Continent already hosted shows like “The 8th Voyage of Sinbad” and “Poseidon’s
Fury” it would make sense that the roller coaster in that same section would also
have its theming based on a kind-of mythical or a legendary story. And, that’s
where the idea for the ‘Dragons’ aspect of the ride came from. “So, the idea behind
that was driven out of a notion of taking two dragons, you know, and having
this sort of dogfight or dragon fight in the air.” Once they had
a general idea of what the ride’s storyline would be it was time to
start designing the ride itself that task was ultimately given to Werner Stengel who designed a majority of both tracks. Once he was finished with the
bulk of the design, B&M took over and put some of the finishing touches on the
coaster’s layout and began to manufacture it. While they were doing that, the
Universal Creative team further developed the attractions backstory and
how that would be presented throughout the rides queue. After they have wrapped
up on that, all of the various props and theming elements were put together and
shipped out from Hollywood to Florida where they were installed in the queue. All throughout the construction process for dueling dragons so right ended up getting a lot of attention from most theme park fans and new sources. Not too much was actually known about the set of rollercoasters besides the fact that
they’d be something completely new when it came to dual-tracked coasters, a few
of the bigger rumors indicated that it would be the first of its kind to
feature a full inversion on both tracks but, none of that was really official until
Universal unveiled a model of the park in November of 1997. Steve S: “I walked into the model room, the first day. And I saw “Dragons”… And it was, at that point, just a paper track and some wood posts, but I saw the a-frame supports for the lift and I said ‘oh my god they have racing
inverted B&M’s.'” Out of all the attractions that could be
seen from that model, Dueling Dragons got the most attention, mainly because of its
size and use of new technology. Over the next couple of years certain elements of
the attractions queue and backstory ended up getting slightly tweaked or cut
altogether for example, the ride underwent a name
change in 1998 from the original: “Merlin’s Dueling Dragons” to the more
simplified “Dueling Dragons” along with that, budgetary restrictions also caused
this scene from the rides queue to be cut as well. As seen in its concept art,
guests were at some point supposed to pass by the castle’s treasure room and in
that room, they’d see a projection of the dragons fighting on one of its walls but,
eventually that scene ended up getting cut altogether a few years later. After
everything else in the queue was finalized and construction on the ride
itself was finished, the attraction was finally ready to be opened. Alongside the
rest of Universal’s in newest theme park. News Anchor: “The grand opening for the new, Islands of Adventure theme park is now set for May 28th. And this week, visitors and media
from all over the world are getting a sneak preview.” On May 28th of 1999
Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park officially opened. Steven Spielberg: “We are proud to unveil, Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure.” Announcer: “From the far corners of the world, come fantastic journey’s yet to be. As Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure comes to life, before your eyes!” Opening day for the park was huge, it
only took a few hours for each of its islands to fill up with guests and for
the wait time to start racking up. Dueling Dragons actually sported the
second-longest wait time on the parks opening day. Second only to “The Amazing
Adventures of Spider-Man” even for a few weeks after the parks grand opening,
Dueling Dragon consistently had a long wait time, even with both tracks running
at maximum capacity. A real testament to just how popular the attraction was. Most
of its riders were not only enticed by its unique theming and intense thrill
element, but also by it’s re-rideability. Since both the fire & the ice track had
their own different layouts, it encouraged guests to try both and that, in
turn, kept the right interesting as well as offered some slight variation. For about
eight years after the attraction first debuted it managed to operate
consistently with little to no issues whatsoever, and actually going so far as
to rank within “The Golden Tickets” top 50 best steel roller coasters,
every year since its grand opening. But, despite its increasing popularity and
continued success even after nearly a decade of operation, a new and upcoming
addition to Islands of Adventure was about to redefine the park and it’s theming
forever. In May of 2007 Universal officially announced its newest expansion: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter A new area in Islands of Adventure
based off the Harry Potter book series more specifically, the new section would
included various for recreations of different locations from the movies.
Along with that info, a few pieces of concept art were also released and from
that, we could tell the previous attractions like “The Flying Unicorn” and
“Dueling Dragons” were both still standing but, nobody was sure whether or not
they’d end up getting rethemed or removed later on down the road. And with
Universal really giving no official statement on the future status of those
rides, everyone was just left speculating. Shortly after that in 2008, Universal
announced that the set of roller coasters would indeed be rethemed and renamed to
go along with the new Harry Potter theme. Switching from the original “Dueling
Dragons” into the new “Dragon Challenge”. A few months later in 2009, the original
entrance to the ride was closed off and what used to be the rides exit, became
its new entrance. After that, the original queue was dismantled and all of the new
theming elements for Dragon Challenge were installed in its place but, we’ll
talk specifics on that a minute. The actual ride itself managed to operate
for a few months afterwards up until it officially closed on February 27th of
2010. Over the next four months, Universal further rethemed the attractions queue
as well as repainted the coasters tracks and train cars but, once they were
finished with all that, the somewhat-new Dragon Challenge was
finally ready to be reopened. on June 18th of 2010, Dueling Dragons reopened as Dragon Challenge in the all-new “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” the
attraction, for the most part, very closely resembled its previous
incarnation with a few slight differences here and there, the most
noteworthy being the rides new queue. In the original version of the ride the
queue served a pretty big role in telling the story behind the attraction.
A few different effects like Merlin’s spell book and the stained glass window
explained how these two dragons have been fighting over the town of Merlinwood for years, only stopping to kill the occasional knight who attempted to slay
them. The only man left in town after all this time is an old wizard by the name
of Merlin, who warns us to turn back unless we want to meet the same fate as
the aforementioned Knights. As we progress further into the queue, we begin
to see the remains of the dragon’s victims, either burned or frozen
depending on whether it was the fire or ice dragon that killed them. Beyond that,
and as we go deeper into the castle, we enter the catacombs where we see
thousands, and I do mean thousands of human skeletons littered throughout the
walls, all victims are the same dragons that we’re about to face. As far as a queue goes, Dueling Dragons did a really good job creating a very sinister and creepy
atmosphere for the attraction. I’d even go so far as to say it’s a better low-light queue than the mummy over at Studios. When the ride was converted into
Dragon Challenge, just about all of the original queue elements were either changed or removed. For example, the ride’s entrance, one of the most iconic things
about it, was changed completely. Originally you were greeted by two giant
dragons, frozen in what was essentially an eternal battle and if that’s not cool
enough, if you stood in the right spot you can actually see all the different
points where the coasters would nearly miss one another, all lined up perfectly
with the two dragon statues. Compared to that, the new entrance is a much more
lackluster stone portal with the words “Dragon Challenge” written on it. Beyond
that, the forest, which previously served as the extended queue still exists almost
exactly as it did before. Just now with the addition of a few new Triwizard flags
and the Weasleys flying car from “Chamber of Secrets” along with that the old
castle facade still stands as well, just now a lot more vegetation on it than
before. As for what all was inside it the first room, with the stained glass window,
became a giant tent like the one seen in “Goblet of Fire” along with that, Merlin’s spell book also ended up getting replaced with the Triwizard
Enchanted cup, also seen in “The Goblet of Fire”. Other things like the dead Knights and the skeletons in the catacombs were
also taken out and replaced with more simplistic scenes like the hallway of
endless candles in place of the Knights and just a bunch of cave-like rock walls instead of the catacombs. Lastly the
notorious “choose thy fate” sign was also removed and replaced by a set of two
different signs that show the names of each dragon. But besides the changes made to its theming, the ride was still pretty much exactly the same as it had
been before the retheme. The coasters were still dispatched at the same time,
they still met in all the same spots and each track still had its own special
maneuvers, really nothing ride-wise was actually changed. It wasn’t until a year
later in October of 2011 that Universal stopped dispatching both coasters at the
same time after a few incidents occurred that involved people getting hit by
objects from other riders. From that point on, both cars were dispatched on a
kind of back-and-forth basis. Eliminating what was, arguably the most thrilling
element of the ride. Another huge blow was delt a year later when Universal
instituted it’s mandatory locker use policy for the ride, that basically meant
that any and all loose items had to be put in a locker before getting on the
ride. Once again, this was in an attempt to kind of minimize the risk of items
flying out of people’s pockets and hitting other riders, in reality all it
really did was make even less people want to ride it than before since now they’d
not only have to wait in line for the ride itself, but also for a locker on top
of that. For the next six years the ride managed to operate on a mostly
consistent basis with no reported issues. That was, until July of 2017, when
Universal announced they’d be closing Dragon Challenge permanently to
make way for a brand new Harry Potter attraction. News Anchor: “All happening today, go ahead, get out there, it’s your last chance if you want to ride the “Dragon Challenge” rollercoaster at Universals Islands of Adventure but if you’re looking for a thrill you don’t
have to worry there’s a cool new attraction taking its place at the
Wizarding World of Harry Potter and of course, there’s all kind of stuff to do
there today, anyway.” About a month later and, following a very sudden spike in
rider attendance. Dragon Challenge closed forever on September 4th of 2017. In the
following days, the attractions signage was removed and construction walls went
up around its entrance, along with that the park’s maps were also changed to no
longer include the coasters as they began to deconstruct them. Details were,
and still are, very scarce as to what exactly will be taking over for the ride
and we likely won’t know anything else for a few more years, seeing as how the
new attraction isn’t set to open until 2019. Dueling Dragons was one of the most impressive ride experiences that
Universal has ever pulled off, everything from its detailed theming into the queue to it’s
extremely fun track design, made it one of the most memorable attractions that
Islands of Adventure ever had to offer. The 2010 refurb did change up the ride
theming and overall experience quite a bit but it at
least left the coasters intact, something that most fans of the ride did
appreciate. It is very unfortunate to see that one of the best attractions in the
park is now gone but, I do hope whatever replaces it is actually on-par with the
other Wizarding World attractions and isn’t just a clever retheme of an
older ride like Dragon Challenge was. Like I said, it’ll still be a good bit
before any of us will really know anything about a new attraction for sure
but, in the meantime, I think we can all look back comfortably and say that
Dueling Dragons was not only one of Universals best rides but also one of
the best dual-track roller coasters ever made. Until next time, remember the old saying: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t take it to the prom.” bye-bye now. ( ͡ ͜ ʖ ͡ )

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  1. In 2007, i had a book of "the top 10 rollercoasters in the us" and this was in it. Hearing that it closed and i never got to go on it makes me sad.

  2. I rode this when it very first opened. It was the first inverted coaster I ever rode and my love of inverted coasters started on this ride. I was terrified of inverted coasters before I rode this and now if it's not inverted it just doesn't interest me, even the huge hyper coasters. There's just nothing like riding a coaster like the hulk or kumba at Busch Gardens (Kumba being one of the most intense inverted coaster I've ever ridden). Montu is also really good.

    Speaking of which I need to go to Carowinds and ride their new ones soon before they close for the year.

  3. I went on dueling dragons back in 2008. I was 9 and scared of roller coasters that went upside down. My parents made me go on it and I cried hysterically the entire time because it scared me. I wish I would’ve had a second chance to ride it because now that I’m older I love all roller coasters!

  4. im from California and i went to Islands of Adventure for the first time in May 2017 and man, am i glad i got to ride Dragon Challenge. such an amazing ride

  5. I'm overjoyed to say I did my screaming on dueling dragons several times in 2001 it was an absolutely fantastic coaster plus I have the wonderful memory of hearing my 6ft 9 husbands of only three days (at the time) scream like a little girl I will really miss this coaster happy screamy times

  6. Whaaat? Dragon Challenge was one of my favorite rides in Universal, and I think I only got to ride it once T_T

  7. Glad I got to ride the original early 2000s before they started messing around with it. "If its not broken don't fix it!"

  8. Dueling Dragons is in my top 5 all time rides Ive ever ridden, and it goes down as my #1 for overall experience. No other ride Ive ever seen or been on got you so hyped for it as you waited in line, and the decoration and story behind it are incredible. Ill never forget my rides on it when it was Dueling Dragons and anything they do to change it will only make it worse. "Dragon Challenge" has to be one of the worst names for a ride Ive heard. I took more pictures, bought more merchandise for it than any other coaster in my life. It will always be one of my favorites!

  9. It's a great vid, even though it really bummed me out to learn they closed Dueling Dragons. It was my favorite coaster there for sure and maybe even of all the coasters I've ridden (to be fair that's not a whole lot but it's a respectable number for someone who lives out in the sticks in Vermont on a modest income). I always thought it was cool how the tracks were different. No matter what you usually wanted to ride it at least one more time.

  10. Sadly I never got to ride it I was to short to go on until I think was around 7 days before it closed so I never got to see the legend of the ride, but I am excited to see the new ride!

  11. I just hope that Dragon Challenge gets replaced with another thrill ride rollercoaster and not a screen-based attraction (looking at you, Fast and Furious…). Since it closed, the only rollercoaster remaining in the park is the Hulk.

  12. 10:37 Dragon Challenge is closing today! Head on out there for a finale ride!
    Yeah cause a closing ride is more important than a woman being shot in Kissimmee

  13. When I say this ride changed my life, I mean it. This ride inspired so much childhood creativity that I still use to this day as an adult. As an artist, I now have an entire world dedicated to characters influenced by this ride and currently developing a language. Few things make me feel as nostalgic as this ride and I'll never forget the sadness I felt when I joined the USF crew only to discover that my favorite ride would be closing days before my birthday.

    To say I'm sad that this ride is gone.. Is a major understatement. I swear if they replace it with a simulator, I'm going to fight someone. The amazing legacy that ride has left behind shouldn't be insulted with Comca- I mean Universal's gross ongoing trend.

  14. Harry Potter… overrated book that has ruined possibly the BEST rollercoasters I've ever ridden. I loved these coasters when I visited in 2001, such a shame they've gone.

  15. The last time I went to Dueling Dragons (2016), it was pretty empty. Despite it being the middle of August, I could basically walk right onto the coaster. I'm pretty sure I was the only one in my car.

  16. Rumor has it the ride was designed for Disney’s Animal Kingdom when there was supposed to be a fantasy themed land. Any word on that??

  17. The problem is that, after two incidents involving objects flying of pockets and hitting guesses (one of them even lost his only good eye and became totally blind) they ended the competitive aspect of the ride. And I suppose it makes more sense to have a new atracttion than one that can't function as intended.

  18. I loved this attraction when it first opened. I didn't care for it as much after the retheming and later, the lack of dueling. It was never the same after that. RIP Dueling Dragons. You are already missed!

  19. Good old Deuling Dragons. My first Inverted coaster ever. I was about 8 or 9 years old. I wasnt tall enough, so I tip toed in my shoes (with jeans covering) and they didnt even notice and let me ride.

  20. This was the one ride that I wanted to ride but it had already closed down when I was able to go to Universal. I would have killed to go on this ride.

  21. Nooooo!!! Last time I was at islands of adventure, it was 2014 and I was nine. Way too short to ride. And guess what? I completely missed the folder coaster. Ugggggghhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Lucky that I got a chance to ride this before they stopped "dueling" and ultimately before the demise of the ride. Awesome ride! It was the coaster that made me like coasters.

  23. I didn’t know this Coaster was gonna close in 2017 and lucky rode it. I loved this ride and o do not like how they removed it. It was good. Hadrigs might be good but dueling dragons is better

  24. Thankfully I got to ride it in 2004, when they did duel. Then rose them again when it re-branded in 2013. Was not as good when they went at different times 🙁

  25. Fuxk Harry Potter, they ate putting too much of It in both parks might as well just call it islands of Harry Potter now

  26. I was so pissed when they ruined it. I’m not a Harry Potter fan. I know lots of people are but to me Knights and Wizards trying to slay dragons are just so much cooler.

  27. So glad I got to experience this set of coasters man, and islands of adventure is still like that. The Hulk being a damn beast to this DAY🙌🏾💕

  28. It's like watching a documentary about a family member who's now dead. I never even saw it while it was "Dragon Challenge". I just remember it as Dueling Dragons.

  29. It's most unfortunate that this was removed. I don't think the new Hagrid's coaster, with all of it's problems, is anywhere near as good as the Fire and Ice coasters were. It just gradually got worse. First, retheming it and removing those phenomenal dragon sculptures at the entrance for that plain, boring, and non-descript Potter entrance was awful. Not to mention, the original creepy queue themed castle catacombs being replaced with that tri-wizard crap. Having said that, after those punk @ss kids threw quarters at the oncoming train, causing someone to lose an eye, and they stopped sending the coasters out at the same time afterwards, Dueling Dragon Challenge was never the same.

  30. Removing dueling dragons completely destroys Florida and the theme park! I will never visit universal studios islands of adventure cause of this!

  31. the location of this rollercoaster is now home to hagrid's magical creatures motorbike adventure; an upright launched rollercoaster that has you riding in motorbikes and although the coaster is fairly quiet the vehicles have on-board speakers that pump out motorcycle sounds so when you hear the train speeding past you, you hear motorcycle noises

  32. I am fortunate to have a memory of riding DUELING Dragons numerous times when I went to IoA in 2000, I absolutely loved the ride and themed queue, which was an attraction in an of itself. The entryway with the two Dragons frozen in battle, and the amazingly cool castle queue with fantastic props, which looked a lot better in person than they do in this video. I am a massive Harry Potter fan, but everything about Dueling Dragons was just better. That's one thing countless theme parks in the world don't seem to understand that Universal and Disney do, theming is such an important part of a great park. Sure you can have a large number of great rides, but with very minimal theming, it holds it all back from being something truly special. All I have near where I live is Six Flags Great Adventure, which has many amazing rollercoasters, but the theming in the park is almost nonexistent save for in a few areas. Maybe a lot of people don't care about that stuff as much, but it is crucial for me.

  33. One of my favorite coasters anywhere ever. Should never have been taken down. They could have shut down half of Universal Studios to make room for Potter land and no one would care.

  34. This was the first time I thought I was going to die and my mom got mad at me cause I went with my cousins💀

  35. I have Bungee Jumped,Skydived and even flown in an F-18Super Hornet. None of the latter even made my stomach gurgle. I rode on this amazing a Coaster 100s of times and it’s the only zero gravity experience that made me lose my lunch. It’s disheartening that a Harry Fucking Potter Attraction has been Putin its place,all to make some overrated British twit even richer

  36. So many good memories on these great coasters…such a shame took them away to add some more overhyped/overdone Harry Potter garbage 💩🤦🏼‍♂️

  37. I'm glad the Hagrids ride lived up to the hype and has some cool features and great themes. I won't go into details so I don't spoil it for everyone. I was sad that Dueling Dragons was rethemed and then dismantled. In 2011 someone lost an eye due a loose object, combine that with US sue culture and knee jerk reaction the duelling element and its best part is removed. This was an iconic coaster not only for its theme but the tech behind it, the first inverted duelling coaster the best in the park, if not florida. I hope someone builds one like this and we have a real successor.

  38. Dueling Dragons was one of if not my favorite coaster when I was younger. I had season passes and would go to Universal almost every weekend, and always looked forward to riding it. Such as shame the ride is forever gone and now only a memory…

  39. Holy crap it's gone?! I haven't been back before 2017. I knew it got changed to be Harry Potter which greatly disappointed me compared to the absolutely incredibly designed environment of the original, but I didn't know it was gone for good. I remember being so excited for this ride that I went on it in the rain once (a horrible but very memorable experience)

  40. Knowing I will never be able to share the original DD experience with my goddaughter seriously breaks my heart. I understand things evolve, but I really wish the park had done a better job of keeping the original experience intact. I remember when I went back and they had changed the entrance and no longer ran the coasters simultaneously. Such a shame.

  41. I had no idea this was gone until today when I watch a ride challenge video and disnt see it in the challenge. I'm so glad I had the experience to ride it when the dragons were still dueling. You couldn't go wrong with fire or ice.

  42. Fucking Harry Potter ruined islands of adventure. I had season pass to IOA for the first 5 years they were open and rode the shit out of Fire and Ice.
    I would pretty much gaurentee that whatever goes in it's place will not top the OG Dueling Dragons!!

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