Monday, April 30, 2012

Universal Studios: Part 1 - Transformers The Ride & The Lower Studio Lot

Welcome to Universal Studios Hollywood! Since my last visit to this park was almost nine years ago, I thought it was finally time to head on over there to check things out. I guess I was also motivated by fact that their new Transformers ride has begun "soft openings" even though it isn't scheduled to officially open until late May.

Here's the current park map.

Universal likes to tack "THE RIDE" onto the names of their attractions.

It was a very gray and dreary day here is Southern California....but no rain!

For now, we'll just take a look at the Lower Studio Lot. After traveling down four very long, glass-covered escalators or "Starways" as Universal calls them, we've arrived at the Lower Lot. I remember when the Glamour Trams used to drop guests off in this area for a tour of the stars dressing rooms (hello Lucy!) and a visit to the special effects stages (The Bionic Testing Center!), but that's the subject of another post!

The new "Transformers The Ride" actually sits in the spot where the former Backdraft attraction and the old special effects stages were located.

The wait-time was posted as 10 minutes, but it was really just a "walk-on" that day. It's kind of hard to see in the photo, but the cast members working the attraction are all wearing military fatigues.

The queue winds around through a NEST (Networked Elements: Supporters and Transformers) base. There are large monitors along the way with video describing what your "mission" is going to be as a "new recruit" and introduces you to the different Autobots that you will be encountering along the way.

The AllSpark is on display in the queue (inside the glass tube below).

The ride vehicles are supposed to be an Autobot named EVAC.

They are pretty much identical to the ride vehicles used for The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman attraction at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. That attraction's ride vehicle can be seen below for comparison.

If you don't care about "spoilers," you can click here for a detailed description on Wikipedia about the actual ride and each scene that it goes through. Personally, I loved the new attraction. The ride itself is also similar to the Spiderman attraction in Florida. Riders wear 3-D glasses and travel through scenes/rooms that usually have one of the walls replaced with a projection. The mixing of real physical props in the room with the projected images works very fact, it works so well that I would love it if Disney gutted the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland and did something similar to this including an upgrade of the ride vehicles with Universal's newer technology. Oh well, I know THAT will never happen. All I have to say is that when the Radiator Springs Racers attraction opens in Anaheim this summer, it better be pretty incredible because it's going to have some pretty stiff competition from Universal.

We will now move onward to view more of the Lower Lot. Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and Daphne can be found driving around in The Mystery Machine and posing for photos.

Nearby is the "Revenge of the Mummy THE RIDE." Note the Pharaoh on stilts underneath the archway.

Here is his female counterpart.

The last time I was at Universal Studios Hollywood, the E.T. Adventure attraction was closed and being gutted to make way for this indoor Mummy-themed roller coaster, so I had not been on this attraction until now. In the meantime however, I had been to Universal Studios in Orlando a couple times and rode on their version of the attraction. What a huge disappointment the Hollywood version was! This one was missing most of the animatronic figures including the fake "ride operator." In fact it's missing the whole scene where the vehicles pull into a fake unloading station and the animatronic ride operator in the booth is turned into a skeleton while the entire ceiling ignites in flames above you.

Not only was this ride missing so many elements of it's Florida counterpart, but it was too short! I came home and looked up the ride times for both attractions. Orlando's version is 3 minutes long and Hollywood's version is only 2 minutes! Can you imagine riding Space Mountain and having it be a whole minute shorter in length? Both Mummy coasters opened within a month of each other, so obviously they were in development at the same time. Too bad one park had to get the short end of the stick.....and at the expense of the E.T. Adventure which I thought was a pretty cool attraction. It was definitely on the same level as anything Disney does, if not better. At least Orlando still has their E.T. attraction. I hope there aren't any plans for replacing it!

This guy was located across from the Mummy attraction. He's kind of hidden in a corner near a smoking area. Nobody even seemed to be noticing him.

The last time I was at the park (with my nephew, below), this large figure was located near the entrance to "Jurassic Park THE RIDE." Not only did they move him, but they got rid of the car and the bent street light.

Here's a view of the same area today.

This signed piece of cement is located near the attraction entrance.

And here are some scenes from the actual attraction. First up, we have Ultrasaurus.

Next, is Stegasaurus.

Here's a Parasaurolophus which causes the boat to go off course.

A crashed ride vehicle!

That car looks like it's about to fall.

I remember when this attraction was new, when the car fell into the water below, it caused a large splash of water that soaked everyone on that side of the boat. That didn't happen this time.

Splash down!

Jurassic ducks.

Next door is the Jurassic Cafe.

This guy was dragging his leg around the patio of the Jurassic Cafe. "IT'S THE MUMMY!!!"

I hope everyone enjoyed this tour of Universal's Lower Lot. I will eventually do a post on the Upper Lot. I just have to say that the new Blogger format is NOT very user friendly....not for me anyway. I had a lot of trouble with this post when it came to the alignment of the text and pictures as well as the uploading of the photos. Hopefully, it will get easier!

***Post Update*** I have completed my post on Universal's "Upper Lot." It can be read by clicking here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tokyo Disneyland Opens! - April 15, 1983

In honor of Tokyo Disneyland's 29th birthday today, I'm posting an article that appeared in The Los Angeles Times six days before the park officially opened on April 15, 1983. I'm also including a few photos of some of the attractions mentioned in the article. These are all photos that were taken during my very first visit to Tokyo Disneyland.

This first part of the article mentions Tokyo Disneyland's castle being the same one that "adorns the California park," but in reality it is the same as the castle at Walt Disney World in Florida.

The Starjets can be seen below. These also resemble Walt Disney World's original Starjets attraction more closely than Disneyland's Rocket Jets. Fortunately, Tokyo's Starjets have not undergone a hideous remodel job like the Disneyland and Walt Disney World counterparts have.

This photo shows a far more crowded "World Bazaar" in comparison to the photo above, which was taken during one of the park's preview days.

The 18 minute presentation of "movies and three-dimensional visuals outlining Japan's 3,000 years of history" mentioned below, was Tokyo Disneyland's Meet The World attaction, which was unique to Tokyo Disneyland, but has since been torn down. :-(

Another attraction that was unique to Tokyo Disneyland at the time it opened was Pinocchio's Daring Journey. As the article mentions, it was only unique to the park until the New Fantasyland opened at Disneyland the following month.

Happy 29th Birthday, Tokyo Disneyland!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Theme Park Update: Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm & Universal Studios

Well, it's time for another Disneyland Resort update, but today I will be including a brief Knott's Berry Farm and Universal Studios update as well.

The latest news from Disneyland is the big celebration that has been planned in honor of the 75th Anniversary of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." During the celebration, a special "Snow White Sandwich" (served on white bread, and with apple slices instead of fries) will be available at select restaurants throughout the park. To promote the special menu item, Snow White can be found in a new "meet 'n greet" over at Carnation Gardens along with Dopey and Grumpy, who will be wearing special costumes created just for the promotion.

And speaking of Snow White and food, Disney fans have been demanding that the new Carthay Circle Theater in Disney's California Adventure be a restaurant, but Disney said "No, we insist on making this recreation of the Carthay Circle Theater a tribute to our first feature-length animated film and the man behind it's creation, Walt Disney!"

So now, the latest plans are for an "E" ticket-quality dark ride to go into that space. Here's a sneak peek at the Audio-Animatronic figures currently being installed in the attraction.

Meanwhile, across the esplanade at Disneyland, Peter Pan's Flight recently had it's official last day of operation and is now being converted into "The Many Adventures of the Absent-Minded Professor."

The overhead track will stay in place, but brand new sets will be installed as a part of the attraction's re-theming. Replica's of Professor Brainard's Model-T will also be replacing the old pirate ship ride vehicles.

Instead of flying over London, the new vehicles will now fly over a miniature version of Washington D.C.

The Audio-Animatronic figures of Fred MacMurray and his faithful canine companion are going to be state-of-the-art.

Let's jump back over to Disney's California Adventure. I forgot to mention the new exhibit in the Blue Sky Cellar. Exit surveys have been showing that guests are not very excited about the "Lush New Park Planned Just For YOU!" that was going to replace the Maliboomer.

So management has decided to rebuild the Maliboomer in it's former Paradise Pier location. This time however, it will have just one tower instead of three, but that single tower is going to be five times taller than it's predecessor. The new attraction will be called, "Fun Mickey's Fun Tower of Fun." A model of the reworked attraction is currently on display in the Blue Sky Cellar exhibit.

Now we will venture up north to Universal Studios Hollywood. Based on their exit surveys, which were showing just how much the old King Kong Audio-Animatronic has been missed by guests, they have decided to replace the newer 3-D projection of Kong with another giant-sized Audio-Animatronic figure. This new A.A. figure will also be state-of-the-art and is currently being constructed off-site. Work is expected to be completed soon and they are hoping for a mid-summer opening date.

And last but not least, over in Buena Park....Knott's Berry Farm has just announced the closing of their recently reopened "Sky Cabin," but the good news is, they are bringing back the old "Sky Jump" parachute attraction. This time around, instead of standing up in open-air baskets, riders will be seated in enclosed gingerbread houses that hold up to four people. This is part of a plan to give the Boardwalk section at Knott's a new "Nursery Rhyme" theme. The new name for the area has not yet been announced, but it will include a brand new dark ride, "Knott's Fair-y Tales" which will go into the old Kingdom of the Dinosaurs space. The area will also feature new versions of old favorites such as, "Jack and Jill's Perilous Plunge" and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf's Supreme Scream."

Well, that concludes this special "April 1st" theme park update. Happy April Fool's Day, everyone!