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PENNIES FROM KEVIN - What You've Been Missing/Universal Studios Hollywood

Kevin has come up with a completely original idea for a photo essay! That's right... COMPLETELY ORIGINAL.

Written by Kevin Baxter
Published: September 24, 2004 at 7:40 PM

I have been to USH too many times over the past couple years so I decided to wander around and discover things I usually don't bother to do. Which reminded me of Joe's What You've Been Missing column, so I decided to fill my time taking snapshots of different things, since Joe probably won't be heading out here anytime soon.

Of course this trip was all about Revenge of the Mummy, so there were lots of things people haven't seen yet. Like these gorgeous statues outside the ride entrance.

I want my mummy!

You can't really tell, but these things are so fantastically shiny. I even saw someone buffing them at one point. On the right is a picture of the freaks "encouraging" you to go to the gift shop, since it is surprisingly NOT at the end of the ride. You can't tell but the building behind now says "NBC Universal." The new name is all over the place but a lot less intrusive than there on the side of the Mummy building. (Note the Universal Orlando ad right next to it. Good idea!)

Another thing Universal does that I really like are these "practice" seats in the queue. They are intended for riders who might be afraid they won't fit on the ride. They also make for great photo ops, if you get in close enough and make your model act appropriately scared.

I wish I had tried out the lap bar BEFORE smashing my knee with the one inside the ride!

Another great thing Universal does is adding characters TO the rides. These mummies looked like statues but were humans scaring the crap out of people exiting the ride. As they went on break, they stayed in stumbling character, even down the stairs. Nice.

I always see new characters when I go to USH. Last time I saw Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the dragon and SpongeBob, all of whom I've never seen there. I also saw Frankenstein's monster, who I haven't seen since he used to terrorize the tram loading process DECADES ago. This time there was Patrick, who hung out with SpongeBob, and Donkey, who had a great waffle cart set and Eddie Murphy's recorded voice. Very well done.

Dumb and Dumber

I also saw a fat, sweatsuited Professor Klump, who did a good Eddie Murphy impression. It's these human characters I have really come to love, like Fiona and Doc Brown, as they are able to interact in a completely different way than the big-headed peeps.

I waited around for the Special Effects Stages show, which didn't start until 11:30, just to see how they incorporated the new films.

More like the Blockbuster Stages!!!

In the first stage, all they have added is one little Van Helsing effect, which was lame, but the castle's image was in front of the host, who stuck his head out behind it (which you could see only on the screen) then said, "Now it's Dracula's castle... and my butt!" which he stuck out. Very funny. (I must say here that when it comes to hiring hosts - not actors - for shows like this, Universal does a much better job than Disney. The hosts for this show are always excellent, as they are for the Horror Show at USF and T2:3-D on both coasts. Disney can do fine, but just check out many of the hosts on the Great Movie Ride. Just saying...)

In the second stage, I thought they might transform Fluffy (the robotic creature) into the Werewolf from Van Helsing but they didn't. There was a bit about how that movie created its monsters, but not enough. The final stage is the sound stage and it is the easiest to add new movies, as long as they have scenes with the required sound effects. Here they not only had long scenes from Van Helsing and Riddick but a couple from Peter Pan too, which got major applause from the audience, about 80% of whom were foreign. (Must've been more popular overseas.)

As I said, I had waited for this show, and since there isn't much to do down here if you don't feel like riding the two rides or seeing Backdraft, I stepped into the Lucy exhibit.

The seating is perfect for how many people bother to visit!

This is a nice little exhibit, but it is taking up valuable space! Nothing huge could fit in here, of course, but if they dumped Backdraft AND this, they could fit something MAJOR. Don't close Waterworld until you address this ignored area!

Wandering around, I noticed that this Universal tries to make up for its okay attraction roster with lots of photo ops.

You'll have a gay old time!

The stockade has been there forever, but the other three are relatively new. Well, the Babe one comes and goes, but people really seem to love it. I heart Babe!

Finally, make sure to stop on your way to the Studio Tour for some fantastic shots of the backlot.

On the left is where Wakko, Yakko and Dot live!

On the right side is the lagoon where Creature from the Black Lagoon was filmed, among other films, and is where the parting of the sea happens. Behind the backlot is the Warner Bros lot, which should look familiar since this is just a faraway shot of the one they use at the beginning of their films. On the left, in front of that non-studio building, is their famous water tower.

At the pace USH is improving, hopefully I will return next year. But they have to encourage me!!! Hint hint...

My two pennies... Gimme yours!

Readers' Opinions

From Jason Lester on September 24, 2004 at 10:08 PM
What about Jurassic Park? Nobody mentions it anymore. And how about the Mummy. What rides did you do?
From Kevin Baxter on September 25, 2004 at 11:27 AM
Well, Jason, since I already did a lot of that here, AND since you already responded on that thread, I figured you'd remember. ;-)

Anyhow, I rode JP and it was okay. Same as it ever was. It's a fun ride, but after IOA opened, it kind of lost its luster.

From J. Dana on September 25, 2004 at 12:31 PM
I really do like USH. The Jurassic Park ride, in my opinion, is better than it's Orlando offspring...longer. The views of the backlot are pretty spectacular (see Kevin's photo). And Kevin, you have a point about the hosts at this park. USH does have the advantage, though, of being smack dab in the middle of the Hollywood entertainment megalith, so getting "underemployed" actors to be hosts isn't a hard thing to do.

The primary host on the Special Effects show is an actor and improv comedian from....(drum roll) Orlando, Florida. He used to be a regular at Orlando's SAK comedy club (which produced Wayne Brady...more trivia). For those who've only known Orlando, this would be the equivalent of taking one of the comedians from Pleasure Island's Comedy Warehouse and placing him/her as a guide on the Great Move Ride. That's really the only comparison since I can't for the life of me think of any shows Disney has any more that are similar to the special effects show. I do know that Disney has professional improv actors for its Millionaire shows, but that's about it.

Another thing I like is the way that professional actors get marquee billing at the Waterworld show. We see their headshots with a roster of their film and stage work. At Orlando's MGM show Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, all the professional stunt actors don't get nearly that type of billing. And, yes, there are some pretty impressive talents there. For example, the alien from M. Night Shymalan's "Signs" is the big Nazi guy who beats up on Indy. Many of the street-scene tumblers are trained competitive gymnasts who've done alot of film work. I'm not saying that the show is all about them, but it's interesting to know. I guess at USH, it just adds a level of credibility when we hear the pedigrees of the actors.

The Frankenstein and Van Helsing characters have been "laid off," since the busy summer season is done. But the Marx brothes are still goin nuts, marilyn monroe still makes me swoon, and all those other characters are still keeping guests entertained.

I LOVE the backlot tour here. It actually is a backlot, and it actually has working films being made--which makes sense, since it's the largest studio backlot in the world.

More trivia: although much of the Creature from the Black Lagoon scenes were filmed at USH, the majority of the outdoor/on-the-river scenes were filmed at another, lesser known theme park. You know which one? Silver Springs in Florida. For those of you driving to Orlando, stop at Silver Springs in North Florida, just off the the I-75 interstate. It's a great little park, VERY pretty. Not much in the way of thrill rides, but fun glass-bottom boat tours of the Black Lagoon.

And although we all Love Lucy, I'm with Kevin. Put out that Backdraft fire already and update this spot. ESPECIALLY since it requires traveling down a mile of escalaters. For those who don't know, USH is split into the upper lot and the lower lot. The lower lot has the Mummy, Jurassic Park, Backdraft, special effects show, and the Lucy tribute.

And Kevin, are you sure that the Donkey is all pre-recorded? He seemed to respond to guests when I saw him. Maybe it's just LOTS and LOTS of recorded phrases.

I actually like the Universal Studio Park in Hollywood better than the Universal Studio Park in Orlando (this does not include IOA, just the two studio parks).

From Robert OGrosky on September 25, 2004 at 2:36 PM
I have only been to USH one time and while i had a good time at the park(except for there policy of not letting one bring in a water bottle orbag of candy too snack on which is about the worst i have deal with of any theme park i have been too)i do enjoy USF much better and the park offers much more to do. One of the big problems is the set up, as once you leave the lower area it is almost too time consuming to return when the park is only open till 600pm. I was looking foward too the tram ride but other then seeing some sets it was a big disappointment. The speical effects shows were very good and they did have a great collection of different actors roaming the park for photo ops. I also didnt like that when the tiime of yr i went(early Dec) big portions of the park opened 1 or more hrs later than other parts of the park.
It was a good place to visit but off the parks i visited in CA this one was the most disappointing.
From JP parking Guy on September 25, 2004 at 2:44 PM
I agree USH, is a lot of fun. Jurrasic Park is much better thatn its FL counterpart. The only detractor is the escalator to the lower lots
From J. Dana on September 25, 2004 at 4:27 PM
Can you imagine if those escalators ever broke down?!! Jeesh, I think most of the guests would never come back up.
From Kevin Baxter on September 25, 2004 at 7:08 PM
Well, they have THREE of them, so there should always be one working on the way up. As for going down, take the stairs. I timed it and it takes over 5 minutes via escalator and half that if you walk your lazy ass down there! Better yet, if no one is on the escalators, walk down them.

I am 99% sure it was Eddie Murphy's voice. I'm really good with voices and can usually catch a copycat. (I KILL at Name The Commercial Voiceover Actor!) But I didn't stick around forever to hear whether they were taken from the films or what. The little bit I saw had Donkey blathering on, but it wasn't directly at anyone.

Either way, it would have to be recorded. Someone would just have to pick what Donkey was going to say.

It is nice to see USH getting some love, but as many people have said on here, it isn't an every-year park. Not even every-other-year. I think the Mummy coaster may have dropped it to a five-year park, which is quite an advance, as before it was at least a seven-year park. Put a Men in Black style ride right there in the Lucy/Backdraft area and this park would drop to two years, at least.

From Jeffrey Torres on May 30, 2005 at 6:33 PM
I was thinking if they should break down backdraft and special effects stage to build a new ride or maybe put the men in black ride. because backdraft is old and trash and should of been takin off years ago and special effects stage is not worth seeing.
From c zir on October 18, 2005 at 7:59 PM
The "Donkey" puppetry at Universal Studios is the work of an actor named Jason J. Lewis, who has already done voice double work for Shrek 3.

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