I’ve been putting this post off for a while now. I didn’t feel ready to discuss how upset I was or how angry I still am over the tragic closing of Dueling Dragons. I think it’s time I try to put it past me so I can hopefully go back to the parks again, something I haven’t been able to do since.
As you all know, Dragon Challenge is one of my favorite rides at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Originally named Dueling Dragons, this ride has been a fan favorite since opening in 1999. Being an original ride, it’s got some great history. It was there before Harry Potter was incorporated and stood out as a staple ride for your Orlando vacation. The great theming of the ride helped that out as well. Come on, you’re riding a dragon next to another dragon. What more could you ask for?
The closure of this ride has been rumored for quite some time. The consistently short wait time was a red flag for fans that this ride wasn’t getting enough attention. Personally, I look to Universal for this. Advertisements of the parks used to focus on The Incredible Hulk and Dueling Dragons. Lately, the focus on Dragon Challenge has switched to Rip Ride Rockit, the newest coaster. The placement of the ride didn’t help its survival, either. Had the Dragons originally been in the front of the park, I doubt they’d be considered for closing. They simply took away the necessity for this ride on your trip to IoA.
With such nostalgia guarding the ride, the unnecessary closing of the ride would obviously rub fans the wrong way. Clearly, Universal didn’t care.
I arrived around 5 pm to Islands of Adventure that day. On my mission to get to this funeral, I trekked through the park as quickly as a could. The looming threat of bad weather was concerning, but we’d wait it out. I saw a lot of management walking though the park so I was under the impression that Universal delivered and gave an event to their fans.
Boy, was I wrong. All there was given to us was an extended queue for the lockers and some extra security. My heart dropped as I saw the missed opportunities for a franchise to give back to its fans. I was among the line that waited for two hours to wait out the impending storm to get one last ride in, even staying until after the park closed with unwavering dedication. The cheering that echoed through the cave walls when they reopened the ride was filled with joy. I’m not sure how a theme park neglects its fans like that by not giving them anything in return.
I know what you’re thinking, “Wow this girl is way too passionate about Dragon Challenge.” Yes, I’m horribly sad over this ride being taken out, but I’m mainly angry with the manner it was handled. There was some PR gold to work with that night, and for some reason, nothing happened. I will give some credit, when I walked off the ride for the last time with tears in my eyes, I saw tables with candles and black table cloths. Maybe there was a ceremony done, but I have yet to find it anywhere online. If anyone has a link, I’d happily look it over to see what they did for the closing.
The reason franchises are so great to be apart of is the fans. They give so much to what they love, it gives that company or studio room to give back and interact. We see this at any convention. Comic Con is a great example of how franchises can give back to their fans while also getting great publicity for it.
Simply put, nothing was done for the fans who came in original merchandise, who recited the original story of Dueling Dragons, and who waited for hours through weather delays. It’s not up to your fans to make your events. Whether it was PR department’s fault or if higher up management didn’t consider it worth the money, Universal slept on what could have been a great night for fans and for profits.
As a fan, here are some of the things I wanted to see done for the Dragons:
- Re-Release of old and new merchandise. I’m not sure how much it would have cost to do this or if there were licensing restrictions, but this would have been a huge money maker for Universal. The old merchandise I saw has me currently scouring eBay for the chance to get one. People were even making their own shirts and selling them in honor of the occasion. That’s all money that could have gone to Universal and could have kept fans happy and feeling justified.
- Cocktails and Mock-tails. The seating area next to Dragon Challenge could have been rearranged for a small cart. All they needed was a slushie cart with red and blue flavors and some alcohol to throw in the adult drinks. Boom, Fire and Ice themed drinks for everyone in the family. In that long bag line, this would have been a gold mine and a life saver.
- Regular park hours. I don’t know why they scheduled the closing date on a night with limited hours. Not only does that limit the people who could only ride after work, it puts your employees in a tough spot. You know the line will be long and extend past park hours when you close two hours after people get off work. Better time management could have helped a lot with this process.
- Pass Holder and Press Event. Universal’s annual pass holder events are a blast. There’s shorter lines, a better environment for fans, there are sometimes prizes, and it’s a nice way to give back to your regular consumers. Had park hours closed early for a pass holder event, that would be understandable. With press there, they see first hand how universal cares for pass holders and gives them a nice article about their incoming ride.
- Duel. I know they can’t duel for safety reasons, but maybe at this pass holder/press event, they could have had an empty cart duel to start off the night. This would be on every fan’s social media and would have gotten great feedback for the parks.
- Invite the Creator. This is an idea that might not have worked but the designers of the ride and the concept creator could have been invited to the pass holder and press night to speak to the fans and watch one last duel before their babies got taken down. This would be another great way to show that Universal is a family community and something you want to be apart of.
After the disrespect to the fans and the Dragons, I’m not sure it’s a family I want to be apart of anymore. I had high hopes for that night and they all fell through. With the way Disney World respectfully handled the closing of The Great Movie Ride, there’s no excuse for Universal on this one. Hopefully they can step their game up for their sake and for their fans.