Yesterday, Cory Disbrow shared an early preview of the brand new Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon ride at Universal Orlando. Today, Stephenie Pashkowsky takes us on a detailed look at the unique attraction as well as her discussions with Universal Creative. This isn’t an E-Ticket, but it is a surprisingly comfortable experience and one which breaks ground in “How” guests will experience attractions in the future.
This article contains spoilers for this attraction, so don’t read if you want to be surprised!
Maybe you’re a fan of past Tonight Show hosts. Maybe you love Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. Maybe you love NBC. Maybe you loved themed attractions. Maybe you love Pizza. Whatever you love, there is something for everyone at Universal Orlando’s newest attraction, but before we talk about it, let’s talk about what it replaced and what it was rumored to be.
Back when Universal was still all about being the behind the scenes footage of movies, Twister was a special effects attraction. It featured Bill Paxton (RIP) and Helen Hunt preparing you to see what it takes to pull off incredible special effects in the movies. Then you got to see wind, rain, and fire as a set was inhabited by an actual tornado created with wind and smoke. It was a solid C-ticket and fun peak into how movies are made. It opened in 1998 and closed in 2015.
In 2015 they announced that Twister would close, and a ride starring Jimmy Fallon would replace it. As details came out about the ride, Universal was quoted as calling it The World’s First Flying Theater”. Which got the bloggerspehere into a tizzy. Rumors galore, many people anticipated a Soarin’ type attraction where we would “fly along” with Jimmy through New York.
So it turns out that Universal used the terminology “Flying Theater” because that’s the name of the theater they used from DyMoRides, the company they likely used to develop and build the ride. From the company’s website:
Classic Flying Theatre
The traditional way to simulate a flight experience is to seat guests in an airplane, glider, hang glider or starship. Whether the guests are seated and supported from below, or seated in a much more mechanically complex hanging structure (i.e. supported from above) makes no significant difference to the guest experience. The human sense is not completed and therefore the experience is like being a passenger in an aircraft or hang glider.
DyMoRides therefore concentrates on the quality of the motion as the key differentiating factor from its competitors. Motion algorithms have been developed to provide incredibly smooth motion, capable of being overlaid with complex vibrational modes exceeding 100 Hz for motion and texturing effects such as engine noise and air turbulence. The higher frequencies also enable the guests to “feel the soundtrack” augmenting the reality of the audio system. The hi-tech electrical and control systems facilitate a virtually instantaneous and silent response to provide a completely natural feeling of flying.
The Classic Flying Theatre has a seated configuration with restraints to minimize load/unload times, on-board audio and special effects. Our standard stadium seating has adjacent rows offset by 50% to provide excellent sight lines with perfect viewing for all guests. Wide range of capacities from 30 persons to 120 persons”
Jason Surrell (Creative Director at Universal Creative) was kind enough to meet with me (and the rest of the media) to explain how this attraction came into being. – In 2014 Jimmy Fallon approached NBC/Universal and basically said, OMG you guys own a theme park, I really want to have my own ride! And Universal was like, This is awesome. I’m paraphrasing. As they hashed out the process, they realized that converting a talk show into an attraction would be challenging. They collaborated with Jimmy and his team of writers and the creative team watched hundreds of hours of his show to try and find something that would stick. It was while they were watching these clips, they realized that Jimmy Fallon’s wacky races would be the perfect way to bring the theme park world to the Tonight Show World. These races feature celebrities as they race through the hallways of studio 6b at 30 Rock in Rockefeller center in New York City. Only this time, YOU are the celebrity and he’s racing the entire audience.
“It gives us a vehicle, it gives us motion, it gives us a crazy route… It’s a race through New York with Jimmy Fallon.” New York City is the costar of this show, so even foreign visitors who are not familiar with Jimmy Fallon and the Tonight Show will be excited to see NYC, a very famous town, on their Florida vacation. The ride is located in the New York section of the park, which is obvious considering the show is shot in New York. But it’s so special to The Tonight Show because Jimmy Fallon returned it to New York from Los Angeles, where Johnny Carson and Jay Leno broadcast their Tonight Show from. (Carson took the show to LA in the middle of his reign). It worked out perfectly since Twister was already located in the New York backlot, having had a Ghosbusters attraction there before Twister.
Ready to go inside? Like any attraction at a theme park, Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon (RTNYSJF…wait this doesn’t help at all lol) starts with a queue. But this isn’t your average queue. Universal has taken the queue-less queue and tried to perfect it beyond what Dumbo and Fastpass+ is doing at Walt Disney World. In a way, this is the star feature of this new attraction.
This will be the first attraction at Universal Orlando to feature an all new Virtual Line experience, which in theory, takes away the concept of waiting in line. The Virtual Line system is accessible via the Official Universal Orlando Resort App or at kiosks located outside the attraction entrance. This feature was not turned on during my experience so I did not have the chance to review it. It will hopefully make touring Universal a lot easier, though I don’t think it will replace Express Pass, as the wait was 60 minutes later on in the day.
You can still enter the queue the old fashioned way of not planning and just showing up! So how does the queue-less queue work? The attraction takes advantage of giving you things to do, so it doesn’t feel like you’re “waiting in line”. Technically you are waiting. But you don’t notice because of how exciting the queue is. And I’m not kidding. Universal has discovered what the people want. And that’s immersive themed queues.
Beyond the quickly outdated video games installed around Walt Disney World’s queues, the first holding area is a treasure trove of Tonight Show memorabilia. As I toured this room, I was overwhelmed with wonderful memories of watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson with my dad. I mean they have a replica Turban from Carson’s The Great Carnac! Each host is represented with a window display of artifacts, pictures, an actual suit of theirs and clips from their shows. This is a place you can bring your parents and your grandparents to and really reminisce about old TV. They also have some old TV filming equipment on display with cue cards and NBC memorabilia.
As you enter, an NBC Page (not Kenneth) hands you a card. It’s colored. There’s several colors, but you just need to be concerned about the one they give you. In the room there are lights around the ceiling and floor, as well as an NBC Peacock on the walls. When it’s your turn to move to the next level, your card’s color will light up on the peacock and in the ceiling and floor lights.
Once it’s your turn to move upstairs you take the stairs (or elevator if you need it) near the entrance and you’ll likely notice there is a wandering panda bear committing antics on people. That’s Hashtag the Panda Bear and he’s FAMOUS from the The Tonight Show! He’s available to dance, joke with and of course take pictures with! During my time there I saw him taking a nap, being sassy to people, playing games and dancing around. He’s a fun addition that you wouldn’t expect them to have full time, but they said he’s always there!
Entering the room, you’ll notice couches line the wall. Yes it’s time to sit and relax. Maybe check your phone and read the latest MiceChat article. Oh no! Your phone is dying!? WELL THE COUCHES HAVE CHARGERS IN THEM!!
I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING. I love when there are chargers. It’s brilliant and we need them in every corner of the park for the days when I forget my external battery. As your sitting, charging your phone in air conditioned bliss while you wait for the attraction, you can also explore the touch screen table kiosks that feature 8-bit games from the show, trivia, Thank You Notes, and more! Jason told us that these kiosks have the ability to be updated and will stay current with the show, providing plenty of content for years to come!
Before you enter the ride, you actually get to be serenaded by The Ragtime Gals, The Tonight shows own Barbershop quartet that sings modern music in barbershop style. For all those fans of Disney’s limited time magic where the Dapper Dans sung modern music, your voices were heard by Universal! These guys are super entertaining and adorable.
I can’t help but think of costs when I see things like this in an attraction, I mean they have hourly wages for Hashtag and 5 entertainers. I’m proud of Universal for making this kind of investment in it’s attractions. Anybody can install animatronics that drop their ears, but Universal is actually helping the economy here!
Can you believe we haven’t even gotten to the ride itself yet? Well, this is where the pictures stop. You aren’t allowed to take photos or video on the ride or during the safety spiel which is super annoying because the Safety Spiel is a pretty amazing rap from the house band, The Roots.
The ride is really fun and features many of Jimmy’s characters from the Tonight Show
such as Sara from “Ew,” and Jimmy in “Tight Pants” as well as Hashtag, the Roots, and pizza. There is also a cameo by his wife and children (notice on the left at the first checkpoint). I’m convinced the subway driver is Tom Hanks, but that doesn’t make any sense and I have no source. I really enjoyed myself on this, it’s lighthearted and has a bit of a PeeWee Herman vibe to it. Silly and fun!
On the technical side It seats 72 guests, 12 across in 6 rows. The 6th row is the back (best seat IMO) and the 1st row is the front. I am a plus size woman and stand 5’10” and I fit into the seat just fine, with a little room even, but I would say the seat belt had another 4 inches or so before it was taught. So if you are a plus size lady or fellow, check the seat at the door before you ride.
The Simpsons makes me nauseous and this didn’t give me even a hint of nausea. If you get sick on motion simulators, I would give this a shot as the movement is quiet fluid and realistic. The attraction is in 3D and requires 3D glasses. It also uses fans to create wind and has smells in it, though they were incredibly faint when we rode, which is a good thing if you’ve been on Stitch’s Great Escape at Disney.
I’m sure you’re shocked by this info, but, the attraction empties into a gift shop where they have all the merchandise from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon that you never knew you needed. I got the tattoos and put the Jimmy one someplace private. (You can be my idiot boyfriend anytime, Jimmy Fallon)
The ride will officially open on April 6th, 2017 and to celebrate the attraction’s Grand Opening, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” will take the show on the road and tape from Universal Orlando Resort from April 3 through 6. Additional details on celebrity guests and how to become a part of the show audience will be released over time.
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” airs weeknights on NBC
They also have a sweet tribute to Bill Paxton in the window next to the attraction. The window is to the right of me in the picture of me below!
I’ll see you in the parks!!
Thanks for reading folks, I’ll see you in the movies!
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