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Despicable Me, Improved Spider-Man Ride, and More

Coming to Universal Orlando in 2012

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The entire audience at Universal Orlando's Despicable Me ride will be transformed into minions.

The entire audience at Universal Orlando's Despicable Me ride will be transformed into minions.

Universal Orlando, 2011. Used with permission.
Universal Orlando is on a roll. It 2010, it opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to great acclaim and enthusiastic crowds. Apparently not content to rest on its laurels, the resort is forging forward with one new and one enhanced attraction for 2012 as well as a new parade, a new nighttime spectacular, and a new mini-golf course. The resort is dubbing all the hubbub "The Year to Be Here." A 3-D motion ride experience based on the hit Universal movie, Despicable Me, promises to put guests in the middle of the frenetic action (as if the action at Universal parks would be anything but frenetic). And The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, the attraction that got my nod for being the best in the world until Universal outdid itself with Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, will be getting a super-dooper HD makeover that promises to make guests' Spidey senses really tingle. The Universal Orlando openings are part of a host of new attractions coming to Florida theme parks in 2012.

The Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride is now open. Read my review.

The enhanced The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man has opened. Read my review.

Universal's Superstar Parade is now stepping off daily at Universal Studios. See scenes from the parade and learn more about it.

Despicable Me Ride Quick Facts

  • Type of attraction: 3-D motion simulator ride
  • Location: Universal Studios Florida
  • Planned opening: Some time in 2012
  • Height requirement: Has not been announced, but the cutoff for the family ride will probably be about 40"

See Despicable Me Ride

Not Really all that Despicable

Like other motion simulator attractions, such as The Simpsons Ride, the Despicable Me ride will sync the action projected onto a screen with the motion of passengers' seats. In this case, the action will be presented in 3-D CGI animation (yup, riders will have to don dorky 3-D glasses). The digital animation will be rendered in 4K high definition. To the uninitiated, that may sound baffling or nerdy (or both), but Thierry Coup, senior vice president of the Universal Creative Studio, assured me that the 4K technology would produce ultra-high resolution footage with stunning clarity. "This marks the first time that this kind of high-end projection system will be used in a theme park attraction." (Although the revamped Spider-Man ride will also feature 4K high definition animation.)

The ride film will be located in the building that housed the Jimmy Neutron attraction (and the Hanna-Barbera ride before that). Coup says that Universal plans to make major changes to everything in the building, including modifications to the theater's motion platforms. When Universal Studios Florida first opened, it featured an extensive Nickelodeon collaboration that included a Nickelodeon Studios tour and onsite tapings of many of the popular cable channel's shows. The closing of the Jimmy Neutron ride marks the end of a major Nickelodeon presence at the park.

The premise of the Despicable Me ride is that Gru, the ubervillain voiced by Steve Carell in the movie, moves his evil empire to Universal Orlando. (I guess corporate synergy prevented him from considering Disney World). His three adorable daughters are along for the ride as are the bright yellow, pill-shaped, mischief-making, begoggled minions. Inevitably, mayhem and hilarity ensue. Despite the title, Gru's despicable demeanor is tempered by his charming brood. Somehow, the entire audience is transformed into minions, and the family-friendly, warm and fuzzy story ends with a Saturday Night Fever-style disco dance-off

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man Ride Quick Facts

  • Type of attraction: 4-D, roving motion-base simulator, dark ride (really!)
  • Location: Islands of Adventure
  • Planned reopening: Some time in 2012. (The current ride will close for a short period of time to incorporate the enhancements.)
  • Height requirement: 40"
  • Ride review of the updated Spider-Man attraction

See The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man Ride

The Spider-Man Ride Has Long Legs

When Spider-Man first debuted in 1999, I emerged slack-jawed and awe-struck from the attraction and proclaimed it the best and most sophisticated ride on the planet. Twelve years later, it still is, well, amazing. But I have noticed that the projected images appear to be a tad washed out. The planned upgrade should resolve that.

Using the same 4K high definition technology and 3-D projection system as the Despicable Me ride, Universal promises that the imagery in Spider-Man will show markedly improved brightness and detail. To take advantage of the new projection capabilities, Universal is commissioning all-new CGI animation for the attraction.

Coup says that the story and the animated scenes will remain essentially the same. He also says that the ride system will be getting modifications and enhancements. "We plan to adapt the ride profile to match the animation and take the whole ride to a higher level." Considering that the ride already blurs the line between virtual and reality, get ready for an even slacker jaw. "We will use new tools to make everything even more realistic--well, a stylized Spider-Man hyper-realism,” adds Coup.

In light of Disney's 2009 purchase of Marvel Entertainment, it's interesting that Universal has chosen to reinvest in Spider-Man. According to the terms of the sale, Universal has the right to maintain its current Marvel attractions in perpetuity. (Disney, however, is free to develop Marvel attractions at its properties in California--but not Florida--and elsewhere around the world.) Still, I wondered whether Universal would remain committed to the legacy characters. "[Spider-Man] will be there forever," Coup says. "As long as we want it to be."

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