Friday, July 30, 2010

Ride the New Movies at Universal Florida

After a Grand Slam breakfast we were off to Universal Studios, Florida to ride the movies.

I had grand memories of this place from when I was younger. There was the Back to the Future ride, the Ghostbusters show, and the King Kong ride. These were the things that stood out, that lasted on as memories. These were the rides and shows that, of course, are now gone. And when you think about the fact that there was a new King Kong movie, and that Ghostbusters is pushing for a new one too, it seems all a wee bit odd. The Back to the Future series isn't really doing much, but it's so loved that – well, it's alright. Surely they were removed to make way for new wonderful experiences that will be just as loved. Surely.

Passing the rotating orb, we turned left, and into the second park. Islands of Adventure would have to wait until tomorrow to be re-explored. Remembering where all the longest lines were we headed straight for the E.T. Ride. Getting there just as the gates had opened we hoped to bust straight to the front. There was no one else in line! Of course, this was because the ride was broken.

“Sorry fellas, E.T. has gone on a little trip, and we're hoping he's back soon.”

I hate the company line. I do.

“So, is this an all day broken thing, or a come back in two hours broken thing.”

The guard looked at me, eyes narrowed, “it's an E.T. will be back when he's back thing.”

God damn. I thought that people would hate having to stay in character, but this guy was loving it far too much. Right – whatever. I had no time to waste, there were still other rides and experiences. Just because one was broken did not mean they all would be. To the Simpson's!

Walking into the Simpson's area was just like entering Harry Potter land, though a bit less extreme. First you are met with the Quic-E-Mart, where Katherine peered around to find a Bort license plate. Sadly, opportunity missed, there were no license plates. However, she did find a Quic-E-Mart employee badge made out to Bort. With this novelty in hand, we carried on to Krustyland. Walking through the clowns giant head, we got in line for the ride, which had a safety video brought to us by Cletus.

Through to the inner line, where Universal proves a master at line psychology, we walked past Hans selling popcorn, Patty and Selma operating the lost and found, and many other in world oddities. All around were posters of the other various rides, 'now broken', in Krustyland. These posters and images are what they should have been selling here. These are the unique items that would be great to bring home. But no, only plush Homers, and Barts were on sale.

The ride itself – obviously replacing the old Back to the Future ride – the simulators having gull wing doors that closed down – was actually pretty fantastic. Sure I missed chasing Biff through the future, but if it had to go, I'm glad it was replaced by the well thought out Simpson's simulator ride which had us crashing around Krustyland, with the family making fun of all the theme park cliches, like the terrible churros, and how no ride can end, lest it is beside the gift shop. Then we burst into downtown Springfield, and took a pass through outer space to see Kang and Kodos before finally settling to a stop as a couch gag entrance.

Leaving the ride, my head was spinning once more. So much was I sucked into the world, that it felt like I had been bouncing around on the intergalactic thrill ride, working to escape the killing hands of Sideshow Bob.

From there we walked past a squishy seller to the Alien Attack of Men in Black. One more we were in a themed line. This time for a world fair. However, once inside the elevator the true nature of our visit was explained, we were training to be MiB agents. As we made our way through the compound, we past intergalactic immigration, and various occupied work stations until we were placed in our mobile chairs, which would take us through the course.

With three unknown girls behind us, Katherine and I took to the front seat, and embarked on our quest. A downed ship was in the middle of the city. We had to blast aliens all the way through it, not unlike the Toy Story ride at Disney. At one point, other riders are shown to be aliens and shooting their car causing them to spin out of control.

By the end, Katherine was sitting with 29 000 points. I on the other hand was the object of her rage, “how could you possibly get 181 000?!” Apparently some of us have what it takes to be Alien Bounty Hunters and some of us do not. Sadly, as the points were averaged out, an the girls in the back did a similarly terrible job, our cars score did not qualify us to be agents, and we were flashed with the the memory eraser before being let back out into the world.

Outside the world fair was the town of Amity. Not full of ville-style horror, but another terrible creature from the deep. Jaws.

Sure, a shark hung proudly outside the ride, but there is always more than one bloodthirsty great white in the waters. And as we made our way through the line, with the same videos playing now, as they did fifteen years ago, I chuckled as we waited. In the boat, our pleasure cruise soon turned to horror as we were, gasp, attacked by the shark.

The captain of our boat now poked fun at the age of the ride, and how understood every moment would be, making it more of a comedy than a horror. Still – it retained its charm, as one of the last surviving relics from the early days.

Just down off of Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, was the Disaster Ride. As we approached, we were told that it too was broken.

Just across from it was the new Mummy Ride. It took some time, as we made our way through the hour plus line, just what it had replaced. King Kong. That is the ride no longer here. And that was upsetting. King Kong was a great ride, with the best line – through the New York subway system – that Universal had. Now we were in a line, the theme of which I couldn't even pick up on. It wasn't until the very end that I realized the theme of this line was simply that we were in line for a roller coaster. This may seem like a silly idea, until you got on board the coaster only to discover that it was cursed. Throughout the ride the ancient evil was trying to kill you. Ride operators were murdered in front of your eyes, while flames shot up around you.

In the greatest moment of the entire experience the ceiling turned into bubbling flames, threatening to consume, heating the entire area.

I wondered later, after the simulated terror, what type of safety protocols they must have for this ride.

And then, after the actor Brandon Fraser was killed doing an interview to end the ride, we were released. Maybe it wasn't all that terrible – but it wasn't King Kong great. There's something nice about the giant set ups that don't rely on video projector equipment. This ride? Think of it as Pirates of the Caribbean meets Space Mountain.

Outside, there was a terrifying red coaster that threatened fun and terror. But what was this t our right? A table with someone wearing a TNA (Total Nonstop Action Wrestling) T-Shirt? I had read on the map that they did live tapings here. I regretted that we missed the taping of Family Feud the day before, but now – checking the map – today and tomorrow, only, they would be taping two live episodes of TNA wrestling. I grabbed two free tickets, and was told to be back in three hours.

Katherine was less excited than I was at this turn of events, but she had given Monster Trucks a try in the past, and was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps this would turn out to be alright too.

Before we would find out, we went through the replacement of the Ghostbusters show. This was a “Twister” experience. I like Twister far more than I should, and the Helen Hunt interview was far more of a delight for me than many others, I'd imagine, but even watching the cows fly, and the signs crash, and feeling the winds blow, it just wasn't that great. Not only did this replace the Ghostbusters show, but it also meant that the Ghostbusters fireball was repainted as just another building, and that the Ecto-1 no longer made its way around these sacred streets. There is no excusing this travesty.

Ohh the Mystery Machine! Scooby-Doos car was parked on the street while he was shaking hands. I took my pictures, then peeked inside. It was as it should be, with snacks in the back, and a big shag interior. I noticed that the vehicle was unlocked. Opening the sliding door to get inside I was met with an unhappy guard, “that's not for opening.”

“Maybe it should be for locking then,” I grumbled as I walked away.

Lunch at Mel's Drive-In soon put that behind me, as did the optical illusion photo placing the Hollywood skyline in our image. Few people took advantage of this, as it was well hidden and not pointed out. Still it was neat.

Our next stop? The Terminator 2, 3D show. I loved this when I was younger, and I still appreciated it. In Cyberdyne we watched a video explaining the technology of the future (half of it, already here – as this video was created in the mid nineties.) We were also told by Sarah Connor how the world was going to end at the turn of the century. Well, that's a good ninety years off now, not so big a threat. Again, one wonders if they should have made reference to dates in something that was supposed to be timeless.

Watching Arnold take out the machines, and save the world by destroying the T-1000000 (I can just picture them – if the T one thousand is cool, the T one MILLION(!!!) must be ultra awesome.) was still fantastic. I, for one, welcome our new machine overlords.

E.T. was back online, and its line through the dark forest was the best part of it. This ride has not aged well, and is just as creepy as it ever was. His home planet, where he totally abandons you, is disturbing. Also – if his adult supervisor could come to Earth to tell you to bring E.T. home, why couldn't he just pick him up? Still – when he says goodbye to you personally there's still a big of charm. “Good-bye MichaelKatherineLisaSamErinCarter.”

The Jimmy Neutron ride was a simulator with a twist. You felt real terror when you saw something big approach. This thing hurt like a mother. It kicked, and it kicked hard. Each time something passed our way, your spine was pounded into the chair, and you winced in pain. This was a children's ride where fear was made real. A true terror amongst terrors.

Finally? Shrek 4D. It wasn't bad – but the whole line was themed as if you were going to be tortured in the torture chairs. Every other line here worked its theme well, but then you got inside, watched a movie, and left. At the end the staff said the hope you enjoyed the torture. Either they refer to the movie as torture – admitting it was terrible (it wasn't actually) or they just threw the theme to the wind. Which is upsetting, as it stands alone in that regard.

No time to worry of that though, it was five. That meant time to return to the TNA waiting area!

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