View RSS Feed

SAMLAND

SAMLAND Declares Universal Studios Hollywood's Transformers a Home Run

Rate this Entry
by , 05-02-2012 at 07:27 PM


Time to cut to the chase as they say in Hollywood. The soon to officially open Transformers at Universal Studios Hollywood is a home run and one of the most exciting thrill ride additions to the Southern California theme park scene in years. The ride should drive record numbers of people to Universal the same way the addition of the King Kong experience on the tram tour did a couple of years ago.


Let's begin with a confession. I must admit that I am not a Transformers kind of guy and I am not really familiar with the franchise. I have a good friend who is a big fan and she just adores the Camaro that unfolds into a giant beatbox. I believe this is the character they call Bumblebee. All I know is that everybody was cheering wildly when he appears. I figured out pretty quickly who was the bad guy and his minions were as well as who was the hero. To show you how pathetic my knowledge of the Transformers franchise is, I just kept thinking these were the robots that jump up and down just before the TV commercials on Fox's NFL coverage.

As you probably know by now, the Transformers ride is a motion-based simulator very similar to Universal's Spiderman, and not unlike Disney's Indiana Jones and Dinosaur attractions. While the Disney attractions move through three dimensional sets and use Audio-Animatronics, Universal has created a blend of practical sets and 3D movies. I understand that Universal also had planned to use Audio-Animatronics in key locations but those were removed during the "value-engineering" phase of the project. The film technology is the same as Star Tours and offers a crisp realistic view. More importantly, in the Transformers, the 3D films add depth and allows your point of view to break through the walls and make this very tight track layout seem much bigger than reality.


Since the ride is in its soft opening phase, I had a chance to ride the attraction twelve times in a row. I know, it is a tough job but somebody has to do it right? During the test runs I got a chance to sit in every row, rode the ride without the glasses, and even got to experience the attraction as it broke down.


As you approach the show building, you have three different ways to experience the attraction. For those with big bucks, you can shell out for a Gate A pass and get one, no wait ride. For those traveling solo, there is a single rider line with virtually no theming in the queue but also a minimal wait. The regular queue line must go on for a quarter-mile and takes you through a variety of rooms that build on the storyline. If you didn't know what was going on before you entered the building, you will certainly know the storyline by the time you make it through this queue to the loading dock. The line is so long, you could probably write a dissertation about the mythology of the Transformers by the time you take your seat and pull down on the lap bar.


I must admit the look on the faces of those in the know, when they pass by the All-Spark, is quite funny. It is like watching people view the Holy Grail.

I will be curious to watch how beat up the queue is going to look in just a few short months. Throughout the queue are switches and buttons guests can push which do nothing. It is my guess that it won't be long until most of these have been ripped out of the wall by the guests.

Once you get to the loud, chaotic loading platform, the employees, dressed in military fatigues, will start yelling at you to "load, load, load" into the vehicles in less than 10 seconds. For some reason, Universal did not add a separate lane to allow for those who need a bit of extra time to load. In both cases when the attraction went down, it was due to the vehicles stacking up as they load people from wheelchairs.

Like Spiderman, I expect this ride to be down frequently. Because of this oversight, I would suspect that the one place you really do not want to be in on the lower lot, middle of the summer, a park filled with 40k+ of guests, and the ride goes down and everybody is trapped down there with nothing to do. Universal's Entertainment Department is so lame that I am pretty sure they have not figured out how to keep the masses busy, so expect a lot of very angry people and long lines at Guest Relations on those days. My experience is that the good news is when this problem happens, it does not take very long to get the ride to recycle and get back up to speed.


If you have been to Universal's Islands of Adventure and have ridden Spiderman, it will be impossible not to compare the two rides. My preference, only by a hair, is Spiderman. Bottom-line is I enjoy the humor in the Spiderman script. It could also just be I am more familiar with the Spiderman characters. Whatever it is, it is a minor difference

What really stunned me was the realization that Transformers is designed so that it could replace Spiderman when Disney and Universal inevitably get into another one of their fights. Although the California ride is on a condensed track and utilizes two elevators, the special effects follow the same path as the Florida attraction.


For example, when you get squirted with water or encounter a fireball, the effects are in the same places as the Florida attraction. There is even the little tunnel that you go through when you are hit with the levitation gun in Spiderman but it turns out to be a dead end in Transformers. Now, I am pretty sure nobody at Universal Creative will admit this, but believe me, it wouldn't take much to switch these attractions. Maybe that is why they spent so much money in Florida upgrading the film technology to the new higher definition Transformers standard.


However, for me the real star of the Transformers ride is the EVAC ride vehicles. They combine the synchronized movement of a film like Star Tours with an Indiana Jones-type motion vehicle that moves through space with the ability to "point" you in the right direction for the best show. What struck me is that the EVAC vehicles could be considered the next generation of ride systems pioneered by Disney, such as the Omnimover.

For those not familiar with the Omnimover, it is one of those amazing ride technology breakthroughs that changed everything in the amusement park world. The technology has been used in a wide variety of applications ranging from the Haunted Mansion to the Little Mermaid.

As the story goes, Imagineer and Disney Legend Bob Gurr was sitting in John Hench's office, another Disney Legend, reviewing what they had learned from the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. Gurr noticed a red plastic apple on Hench's desk and he picked up the apple and started to twirl it around by the stem. It was then that Gurr realized that he could develop a 'continuous chain' ride car that would rotate like the apple. Gurr worked the problem and designed the high-capacity ride system and the familiar clamshell shaped vehicle that we enjoy today. The name Omnimover was inspired by Walt's PeopleMover.

The Omnimover vehicles are linked together by a 'tow bar' and arranged in an endless loop. They could rotate 180 degrees to the right or the left, turn and point in specific directions, and could even rock backward. Along the track are cam-like activators that powered the vehicles. Disney worked with Arrow Development to fabricate the system.

The first application of the Omnimover was for Monsanto's Adventures Thru Inner Space in Disneyland's New Tomorrowland of 1967. That attraction connected 123 vehicles in a endless train that traveled along a hidden 682-foot loop. They were powered by sixteen electric motors from General Electric. With each vehicle carrying 2 passengers and loaded every 3 seconds from a revolving turntable, the ride capacity was an amazing 2,000 guests per hour.

Imagineer Claude Coats said, "When we were working on Adventure Thru Inner Space, we began to realize that it was the very best device to take people through the ride, because it would focus people in the best part of all the illusions.”

The Haunted Mansion would be the next attraction to utilize the Omnimover. Claude Coats recalls, "There there were going to be elevators taking people down to an area that was planned as a walk-around with about 40 people. We knew that wasn't the way to do it, but it was the only way to get any capacity into the show. Right about then we finished the Monsanto ride, and that lead us to the fact that we could best tell the Haunted Mansion story using the Omnimover." Coats noted, "We'd have guests almost by themselves, slightly secluded in each car, and not in a big group. We had complete control over the movements and timing...to see a certain element, a certain scene."

Coats recalled that the mechanism would be best "since some of the illusions in there were reflected images and so they were difficult to see from some angles." He added, "We could run them right through the best parts of an illusion, the reflected images and ghostlike things, without somebody at the edge of the crowd who couldn't see things properly. It was important that people were kept in proper orientation to get the best effect.”

For the Haunted Mansion, Gurr continued to refine the system and made some changes including reversing the angle of the safety bars.

The next leap in ride vehicle technology came with the transports for Indiana Jones. Imagineer Tony Baxter said, "Vehicles are not traditionally performers at Disneyland in the way lighting and music are. Thunder and lightning or sunshine or fog can tell you how you're supposed to feel in a movie or an attraction. While the Omnimover in the Haunted Mansion and the bateaux in Pirates are passive, in Indy, the troop transports, created by Bill Wolf and Ed Fritz, are part of the story."

For example, Baxter says, "When we come in front of the cobra and it lashes out, I wanted it to give a cringe of horror. So the vehicles does exactly what a human being would do, in feeling the concussion of that strike. [The transport] behaves as a result of that confrontation." Baxter describes the transports as "story tellers" and he said, "I think it got us closer than any ride in the park to putting our guests into the experience."

What the Transformers vehicles do is give the Universal designers the focused visual orientation of the Omnimover with the motion-based simulator of Indiana Jones and blended that with the latest in 3D film technology to create a ride that puts the Universal attraction right near the top of the list of best attractions to be found anywhere in the world.

Have you been on Transformers yet? If so, what was your experience and impression of the new ride?






UPCOMING EVENTS

One of the benefits of writing a book, like Walt and the Promise of Progress City, is the opportunity to speak to groups about Walt Disney and urban planning. Below are some upcoming events. Sign up to my Facebook or Twitter pages to get updates. If you are a local blogger or podcaster, please contact me and let’s get together.

May 3 @ 10:30 a.m to Noon
WINTER PARK LIBRARY
460 East New England Avenue
Winter Park FL

May 3 @ 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.pm
ORLANDO COUNTY LIBRARY
Albertson Room
101 East Central Boulevard
Orlando FL

May 5 @ 6:00 p.m.
WORLD CHAPTER DISNEYANA FAN CLUB

May 6 @ 2:00 p.m.
KEVIN YEE’S 30 X 30 CELEBRATION
Italy Pavilion at EPCOT

May 6 @ 7:00 p.m.
CONGRESS FOR THE NEW URBANISM
Was Walt Disney a New Urbanist?
With Chad Emerson Project Future

May 7 and 8 Walt Disney World
Meeting with various Cast Member teams.

May 20 @ 11:00 a.m.
WALT’S BARN
Griffith Park in Los Angeles
Home to the birthplace of Imagineering

There's more to come in June and July. Thanks for your support.





Follow Samland on Facebook and Twitter.


Submit "SAMLAND Declares Universal Studios Hollywood's Transformers a Home Run" to Digg Submit "SAMLAND Declares Universal Studios Hollywood's Transformers a Home Run" to del.icio.us Submit "SAMLAND Declares Universal Studios Hollywood's Transformers a Home Run" to StumbleUpon Submit "SAMLAND Declares Universal Studios Hollywood's Transformers a Home Run" to Google

Updated 05-03-2012 at 05:08 AM by SAMLAND

Categories
Uncategorized

Comments

  1. ChrisFL's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    The car is a Camaro, not Camero
  2. babyfirefly's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I got to experience the new Transformers ride and I thought that technically it was amazing, but the story was lacking. My friend who went with me did not know the Transformers story and was confused about who the good and bad guys were. To me a good attraction should be "universal" (no pun intended) and you should be able to know basically whats going on without having seen the movies (or cartoons). I have been on Spiderman in IOA and I prefer that attraction much better. I am a former attractions host at Universal (Back to the Future) and I really appreciate the great strides the company is taking to use new technology, however the storytelling still belongs to Disney.
  3. indianajack's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    The ride itself looks great, but the problem for me is I have a viscerally negative reaction to Transformers. Still, I'll go on and give it a shot.
  4. Dustysage's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Quote Originally Posted by babyfirefly
    My friend who went with me did not know the Transformers story and was confused about who the good and bad guys were. To me a good attraction should be "universal" (no pun intended) and you should be able to know basically whats going on without having seen the movies (or cartoons).
    I had a VERY different reaction. I've never seen a Transformers film, nor have I ever wanted too. However, I LOVED this attraction and had no trouble what so ever figuring out what it was all about. They make it quite clear. The bad guys have stollen the powerful Allspark, and it is up to us to save the world and get it back. That's pretty simple. You don't need to know ANYTHING about Transformers to enjoy this attraction. As for telling the good guys from bad guys, the evil looking guys who are trying to kill you are bad and the good looking guys who are trying to help you are good. I don't think it gets easier than that.

    The use of amazing visuals, strong story and the fluid technology of the ride vehicles makes this the top attraction in So Cal. That may all change when Cars Land opens, but Universal has out Disneyed Disney once again. I can't wait to see what they come up with for their upcoming Harry Potter land in Hollywood. Universal has proven that they are a worthy competitor to Disney and I urge everyone to visit the park and check it out.

    The single best thing that can happen for Disney fans this summer is for Transformers to bring Universal lots of traffic. That will unlock substantial development money at Disneyland resort. Dont fear Universal's success, its a good thing for a lot of upcoming Imagineering projects.
  5. jcruise86's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Sorry: duplicate.
    Updated 05-03-2012 at 05:59 AM by jcruise86
  6. jcruise86's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    FYI: there's already a good thread on reactions to this attraction, but here's my reaction again:

    My daughter (6) and I were not very familiar with Transformers, and we were very impressed with this ride. The advanced, 3D film fit so well with the vehicle's movements and blended so well with the props bordering the screens, that it seemed surprisingly realistic to me. I don't know how well it will age since technology is advancing so quickly (i.e. it might not have a Haunted Mansion-like run without some amazing updates), but for the summer of 2012 it might be the non-Cars attraction to ride--at least outside of Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. I hope Universal is so richly rewarded for such excellent work!

    I'm usually prone to motion sickness, but my one trip on this ride left me feeling fine.
    I don't think the line will get that beat up. The halls are so industrial looking that any tagging could be easily repainted overnight. I was disappointed that the colored buttons didn't do anything, yet.

    FYI: Universal Hollywood has and All You Can Eat counter-service meal pass (good at five restaurants in the park) for $21.95 per day for adults and
    $9.95 for kids 48" and under that runs through May 24. (I don't know if they'll continue it or raise the prices.) They were very cool and let my tall 51", 6-year-old first grader have the kids plan. The best meal for me was a large piece of chicken from the Jurassic Park cafe, and I had a good burger at Mel's Diner and got to eat it in a nice, quiet French-themed street around the corner. I like the oversized raisin oatmeal cookies for the included dessert at a couple of the locations. (It was still tasty two days later.)
    Updated 05-03-2012 at 06:10 AM by jcruise86
  7. DisneySam's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I have not gone on Transformers so I can not offer my opinion as to it specifically but I have gone on Spiderman. It may just be me but I really don't care for the rides that combine with the 3-D movie aspects. I really do prefer the overall immersion that you get with real environments like those found on Indiana Jones and Dinosaur, plus you don't have to bother with the glasses. Regardless of the interactivity of the ride vehicles I still feel like I'm watching a movie and that detracts from the ride experience. Universal is starting to rely too much on this type of ride technology and it is becoming old hat. Just my opinion.
  8. StevenW's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I don't think Universal will ever give up Spiderman, although I do think Transformers is a possible contingency. Inevitably, something better than Transformers can take its place, but we are talking 20 years out. The upgrade of Spiderman should be a signal that it is staying for a very long time.
  9. kburford's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I've been on both Transformers & Spiderman. They are similar and I really enjoy both! I'm not too eager to wait in a long line to go on it though. Thankfully there was about a 2 minute wait when I went a couple of weeks ago!

    As for the storyline, I had my boyfriend to give me the low-down. I had no idea what this All-Spark was or why it was so important. Not sure if I fully understand still. But I still understood the ride and thought it was a lot of fun.

    Funny story about the buttons you can press in the queue - There was a family behind my boyfriend and I. The mom asked if my boyfriend worked there when she saw him pressing all of the buttons. When he said no, she started freaking out and said he should stop because she was sure those freely open buttons at a child's height could surely cause something bad to happen to us in line or breakdown the ride. haha I almost wanted to act scared with her, but didn't want to freak her out more. She also didn't understand lining up to get in the ride vehicles and then tried to tell the employees how it was supposed to be done .
  10. popcorn's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I went on Transformers a couple weeks or so ago, I bought the cheapest AP solely based on what another reviewer said and Im glad I did. (that level pass does not include parking btw and does have certain blockout dates, but it was only @ $10 more than the reg. one day admission). I've been on the IOA Spiderman ride yeeears ago as well (but not since its update recently). I am a fan of marvel/spiderman things and pretty much not at all Transformers despite seeing the movies (the first one was ok to me I guess). Based on this info, believe it or not I think I might like Transformers more. The reason echoed what someone else wrote a while back...the Spiderman ride had a more cartoony feel about how the characters looked (to be fair this might be different now with its update I havent seen), whereas Transformers looked so realistic (both the onscreen, the blending w practical sets, etc). Before this, I would have said that Spiderman is my fave ride anywhere Ive been on, then Indy...now I would say Transformers, Indy, then Spiderman. I do get what people are saying, and somewhat agree, about so many film based attractions coming out, Universal and elsewhere. Terminator, King Kong tram section, Simpsons Ride (and BTTF before that), Transformers now, etc....but the difference to me is that it is SO well done and BLENDED with real practical sets, heat effects, water, etc., that it was in a different league to me. Unlike Star Tours (which I still DO like though btw), on Transformers I think I might have even forgotten that I was even wearing the 3D glasses shortly after starting the ride! I remember actually dropping my jaw or saying "wow" out loud while riding the thing I was so impressed. And yeah, the action does not...let...UP!
  11. popcorn's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Oops sorry one more thing/word of advice...originally I read (and was even told by an employee at Universal, wrongly) that going in the single rider line I was in at the time was the same things you see in the regular line. How in the world he got something that basic wrong I dont know but like people have now clarified, there is not much to see at all in the single rider line explaining story...and all you see are a few overheard tv screens that loop the same few min. footage again and again. Story explanation is almost non-existant on this side and there are NO props to see. Just tv screens, steps and WALLS! I would have actually waited in the regular line that was longer had I been told the correct info, so that I had the full immersion and storytelling on that first experience. So word of advice, do the regular line regardless on at least your first ride through. The queue will be new for me the second time I go I guess lol.
  12. Dustysage's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Quote Originally Posted by popcorn
    Oops sorry one more thing/word of advice...originally I read (and was even told by an employee at Universal, wrongly) that going in the single rider line I was in at the time was the same things you see in the regular line. How in the world he got something that basic wrong I dont know but like people have now clarified, there is not much to see at all in the single rider line explaining story...and all you see are a few overheard tv screens that loop the same few min. footage again and again. Story explanation is almost non-existant on this side and there are NO props to see. Just tv screens, steps and WALLS! I would have actually waited in the regular line that was longer had I been told the correct info, so that I had the full immersion and storytelling on that first experience. So word of advice, do the regular line regardless on at least your first ride through. The queue will be new for me the second time I go I guess lol.
    You bring up a VERY good point. Do the regular queue the first time you ride. It's helpful in setting up the story.

    Gate A and Single Rider are great for busy days and for repeat rides. But if you have an option and the line isn't too long, wait for the regular queue.
  13. Wreckless Abrandon's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Totally have to agree that Universal coming out with a top tier attraction is a good thing for Disney as it should promote competition. Give the Imagineers a bigger budget for greater things to come!
  14. SpectroMan's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    TWELVE times? OMG - I almost puked just reading about that. I think after two, any attraction with 3D/simulation and I'd be toast.
  15. Crazee4mm's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I received an email from Universal touting their AnnualPassholder Preview on May 4-6. I registered for the May 6, 4-7p.m. preview slot (I'm allowed to bring one guest) and have been looking forward to riding it very much. Anyway, when I went last week, the ride was open to all comers. Consequentially, it has been open every day and will have been open for approximately a month by the time May 25th. gets here. What will be so special about he "preview" when it has already been open for as long as it has? I have since ridden it over 40 times (love it!) over the course of 3 more days. Why should I go to the preview when it's already been open for weeks? Make no mistake, I'll be there (cuz my friend took the day off from work to attend the preview with me) but what's the point. At this rate, I'm concerned that the ride will be open to all when i show up for the "exclusive preview". Nobody at guest relations knew anything about the preview so I guess I'm on my own until I get there on Sunday.
  16. stitch1085's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Quote Originally Posted by Crazee4mm
    I received an email from Universal touting their AnnualPassholder Preview on May 4-6. I registered for the May 6, 4-7p.m. preview slot (I'm allowed to bring one guest) and have been looking forward to riding it very much. Anyway, when I went last week, the ride was open to all comers. Consequentially, it has been open every day and will have been open for approximately a month by the time May 25th. gets here. What will be so special about he "preview" when it has already been open for as long as it has? I have since ridden it over 40 times (love it!) over the course of 3 more days. Why should I go to the preview when it's already been open for weeks? Make no mistake, I'll be there (cuz my friend took the day off from work to attend the preview with me) but what's the point. At this rate, I'm concerned that the ride will be open to all when i show up for the "exclusive preview". Nobody at guest relations knew anything about the preview so I guess I'm on my own until I get there on Sunday.
    I agree completely previews are kind of silly when Little Mermaid at DCA "soft" opened I got to ride it 6 times in a row with zero wait but then I attended the PASSHOLDER preview for Star Tours and that line was OUTRAGEOUS I couldn't believe it! To top it off we went straight over to DCA to ride Mermaid because the line was so short and BAM that line was FOREVER and a day!!!! It was so silly, especially now that there is no wait. Point being is that SOFT OPENINGS are better to experience a new attraction since only a select few know about them. Once there is an email blast announcing a preview or whatever everyone and their mother attends! I haven't rode on Transformers but Spider-Man in Universal BLEW ME AWAY! I can only hope Transformers is half as good. I may need to get a Universal pass in addition (or dare I say it) instead of a Disney pass if Universal continues to step up it's game!
  17. mondo's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I haven't been on the ride but seen the movies. If you are uncertain which bots are good or bad, look at their eyes. For the most part red eyes= bad , blue eyes=good. Or the bad bots just look mean.
  18. downtownBLUE's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I rode the ride at Universal Singapore in January. Okay, I actually rode it a dozen times (Single Rider pays off!). It's a lot of fun. The first half dozen times, I rode facing forward and for the last half, I rode facing upward/backward. One could tell the ride in Singapore was actually intended for Hollywood first due to subtle details like aerial photos of a city which looked much more like LA than any Asian City. The single rider/Express queue provided all the detail of the normal queue, but because you move through it much faster, you do miss some story.

    It's an amazing ride, truly. It's fast, smooth and fun. This ride takes Spidey to another level. However, personally, I'd take Star Tours over Transformers, myself

    However, the computer voice in the queue is really, really funny. In both English and the little Chinese I understood.