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.


K. Martinez said...

Nice post. Last time I was there, Jurassic Park: The Ride was new. Looks like I'm due another visit to USH.

Major Pepperidge said...

Seems like a lot of bloggers and podcasters got to ride "Transformers" already! It gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from everyone. It's amazing to see it so empty, because you know it is going to be an insane crowd draw.

I saw the Mystery Machine last year, but why no Velma? Jinkies! (you have to say "jinkies" when you mention Velma).

Holy crap, it sounds like the Orlando version of "The Mummy" ride is way better than ours! What the hell? It's like reading about the Florida version of "Tower of Terror", I feel like a second-class citizen. I remember riding the Hollywood version and thinking, "That was IT?".

I still love the Jurassic Park ride, it was a walk-on last year. And I miss the E.T. ride!!

I'm slowly getting used to the new Blogger interface; it definitely threw me, early on.

Snow White Archive said...

Nice post. Transformers sounds like a lot of fun. I remember the Mummy from Orlando. Bummer Hollywood's isn't the same.

TokyoMagic! said...

K. Martinez, I remember going that summer that it was brand new too. In fact, the day after we went, there was a news story about so much hydrolic fluid (or some other flammable liquid) leaking into the water system of the ride and that all it would have taken was someone throwing a cigarette into the water to ignite it. People were being sent to the hospital because their eyes were burning after getting splashed on the ride. Scary!

Major P., I agree...Universal should have mega crowds this summer. And I was also wondering where Velma (Jinkies!) was. Hey and what about Scrappy-Doo?

SWS, Thanks! I do like Orlando's Mummy attraction, but I wish they hadn't sacrificed their King Kong audio-animatronic for it. Now that Hollywood's King Kong burnt up in a fire, there are no more giant Kong figures. :-(

Major Pepperidge said...

Rereading this post, it occurs to me that MANY of the things that Disney is working on for their parks sound relatively lame. At WDW's Fantasyland, they are putting in a double Dumbo and a Casey Jr. water-play area. The Seven Dwarfs mine thing might be nice, but looks relatively old school. Interactive lines... most people seem to walk right past that stuff after they've experienced it once. Themed restaurants are nice, but they are not cool cutting-edge rides!! I'm sure Radiator Springs Racers will be neat, but everyone says it is essentially a slower version of Epcot's "Test Track", with impressive rock work. Come on Disney, Universal is kicking your butts!

Dan Alexander said...

On my first (and so far only) trip to USH, the ET ride was under construction, so this place really looks different to me.

What a shame about the Mummy. I can remember reading that Florida's was better when both attractions opened. That is one of my favorite rides in Orlando.

Looks like Transformers is a big hit! It will be interesting to see USH's transformation when Harry Potter finally arrives in Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

""" 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."

You're crazy. There's no need to, the ride works just fine. Why does everyone want every attraction to be the same? The Spider-man ride is nice, but I like having rides like Indy where everything is real and not some slick image and looks and feels like a glorified video game.

Anonymous said...

"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."

It was pretty cool but on the same level as anything does or better? Let's not get carried away.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I agree with you 100 percent! You are preaching to the choir!

Dan, yeah, when the two Mummy attractions opened, I remember hearing something about how the California version didn't have the ceiling that ignited overhead because of different state regulations or codes, but I thought that was going to be the only difference.....boy was I wrong! But when I visited Orlando, it was one of my favorites too!

Anonymous, "....the ride works just fine. Why does everyone want every attraction to be the same." I am just stating my personal opinion and in my opinion, the ride does not work just fine. I have not liked Indiana Jones at Disneyland from the day it opened. It is too rough and many of the effects are too lame. I have been on the version of Indy in Tokyo, Japan and at least they have better lighting and effects than the version in Anaheim. I also like the "Dinosaur" attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando better and it uses the same ride vehicle as Anaheim's Indy and it follows the exact same track layout. And I didn't know that everyone wants every attraction to be the same. I certainly don't! I just want every attraction to be good, and in my opinion, Indiana Jones at Disneyland isn't.

Anonymous (comment #2), "Carried away"? I didn't think I was getting carried away. I was basing my comment on a comparison between the E.T. Adventure at Universal and the Peter Pan's Flight attraction at Disneyland....both of which are dark rides that have ride vehicles suspended from an overhead track. Both rides also travel over miniatures of cities and past other show scenes and animated figures. Disney's is two minutes and twenty seconds in length. Universal's is four and a half minutes in length....almost twice as long! Also, I don't remember Peter Pan actually saying my name as I rode past him. E.T. says goodbye to everyone in every vehicle addressing each person by name. I like the movie Peter Pan better than E.T., but if given a choice, I would rather go on the E.T. ride rather than Peter Pan's Flight. Disney just needs to get their act together if they want to keep up with Universal.....and again, that is just my personal opinion. It appears to be the opinion of other people as well.