Written by Joe Lane
Published: May 17, 2004 at 9:44 PM
As most of you know, NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment recently completed their merger on May 12th, becoming NBC Universal. The new company is a multimedia giant--NBC will team up with cable channels like the USA Network and Sci-fi Channel. They also gain Universal's movie-making division which brings in millions through box office and DVD releases. And then, of course, there's the team parks. One can only begin to imagine the implications surrounding this situation. Many theme park fans held great concerns for their beloved parks and rides.
Well they need not worry. In an announcement this Monday from Bob Wright, chairman and CEO of NBC Universal, the company is already working to 'improve' the current state of Universal theme parks through the use of company synergy. Synergy. A word Disney traditionalists have come to hate. As of press time, and this is confirmed to be true, NBC and NBC Sports merchandise is available for purchase at Universal parks. T-shirts, caps, key chains and golf balls, all sporting the multi-colored peacock, are on sale as we speak, and who knows what else will be presented in the coming months.
But this is only the beginning. According to Ron Meyer, president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios, the Universal Creative team is already hard at work retooling popular Universal attractions to be based on the same popular NBC shows America has come to know and love. In fact, concept artwork and photos have been leaked onto the internet--it seems the UC team has been hard at work since the merger was first announced months ago.
Take, for instance, Jaws. Jaws terrified thousands of movie-goers and kept the beaches empty for years. The proposed new attraction will call for a few new additions and a change in name: Friends. Although the popular sitcom aired its final episode this month, the Friends phenomena is anything but gone from everybody's thoughts (Lord knows how hard we try). On this boat ride, guests will not only come face-to-face with the mighty man-eating beast, but will also encounter the six New York buddies as they struggle for survival against the shark--and the odds are stacked against the friends.
The changes extend into entertainment, as well. In a turn for the better, the old Wild, Wild, Wild West Stunt Show theater is going to get an extensive renovation to make way for a new NBC-themed presentation: The Saturday Night Live Stunt Show. How the creative minds plan to pull this one off is a mystery at the moment, but expect a lot of pratfalls and sight gags mixed in with a little improv. Personally, unless they manage to sign on Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz to perform daily shows, I just don't see how it'll work.
But wait--it gets better! As you're likely aware, Revenge of the Mummy officially opens on May 21st. Using state-of-the-art technology, it's being heralded as the world's first psychological thrill ride. The hype around this attraction is comparable only to that of a reality TV show. That's why a second mentally-based attraction is already in the works: Revenge of the Apprentice! Guests will find themselves on a roller coaster dark ride, full of thrills, chills and two-faced Omarosa, reaching a grand finale encounter with Donald Trump.
Speaking of 'The Donald', there will be an all new crew of streetmosphere performers roaming the studio back lot. If you're lucky, you might see Mr. Trump himself, or perhaps Dr. Frasier Crane? How about Jay Leno or the cast of Days of Our Lives? Just look for the Character zones throughout the park for an opportunity to take a picture and get an autograph. Shame they can't bring back some of the old Hollywood icons, but as we all know, it's about hype, not history.
Of all the information released, there is perhaps one show that has great promise. Despite the recent release of a third Terminator film, interest in the James Cameron-directed 3D attraction is waning. That is why Universal Creative is working closely with Michael Lorne and their NBC counterparts to create a refurbishment that will combine epic action with unbelievable comedy and amazing technology: Late Night: 3D with Conan O'Brien. Just like the original Terminator 2: 3D attraction, the new show features live actors on stage, jumping on and off the big screen. Conan has signed on to star in the film, of course, along with Max Weinberg and the Max Weinberg Seven, Joel Godard and the ever infallible Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. All in glorious 3D.
With all this information, there's chaos within the industry as the competition struggles to deal with high quality television entertainment integrated within theme park attractions. Not to be outdone, Disney is already implementing its emergency contingency plans. In a shocking move, Disney CEO Michael Eisner has given Project ABC the green light--shocking, in that this involves spending cash, although not much. The project includes such added attractions as a TGIF-themed Dumbo-clone to appear in the Disney-MGM Studios and Disney's California Adventure (the ride at DCA, to cut costs, will be much shorter than its MGM counterpart).
Meanwhile, the ABC network will be spinning off a second show from their successful Extreme Makeover series titled Extreme Makeover: Attraction Edition. Design teams and workers will have a deadline to make over an old Disney attraction, like Space Mountain or Pirates of the Caribbean. The catch? They have four months, but a budget of a thousand bucks. Can they refurbish the attraction before the deadline with limited funds? It wouldn't be the first time.
It seems Anheuser-Busch is also struggling to get a piece of the action. The brewing company is already in the middle of negotiations between CBS and FOX. While the Survivor franchise would go well with parks like Busch Gardens and Sea World, it seems FOX may have the upper hand thanks to their old classic series When Animals Attack. Then again, that American Idol nonsense could spoil their chances.
Keep checking back here on Theme Park Insider for updates and information on NBC Universal and more biting satire and witty Photoshopped images. ;-) And expect a special JOE INSIDER review of USF's Revenge of the Mummy this weekend (no joking). Clearly, fear is not a factor for you... er, I mean, keep on ridin'!