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A first look at Universal Florida's 'Disaster!'

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Published: December 23, 2007 at 10:33 PM

Today I managed to get in the first soft opening of the all new replacement to Earthquake at Universal Studios Florida: "Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride."

Now prepare for the spoiler.

The closely kept secret is that the host and main star to this attraction is none other than Christopher Walken.

You start in the main room, as before. But instead of learning that Singing in the Rain was actually filmed singing in the milk, and that the budget was so low they swept the leaves up after each shoot, you are treated to the humiliation of guests (Always fun) while the overly camp Assistant to the Director picks out the stars for the show. This time I counted six stars, not including yourself of course.

The next room, where you normally shout out ET, Grinch & U571 and have a video presentation by the gun toting Chalton Heston, has now been replaced by 2 screens and a stage. On stage the overly camp assistant introduces the director, who is none other than Christopher Walken.

Now this room is very clever, as Christopher Walken is not on the screens as you'd think. He's actually a 3D projected hologram, intereacted with the Camp Assistant. There are a few clever interactive situations here that I'll not spoil for you. But so far a very clever highlight to the new show.

On to the next room. The oh-so-boring U571 set up has thankfully been relaced with green screens, backdrops and moveable props. The stairwell is still there but plays no real role as it did before. This was okay, much better than what was previously done on Earthquake.

Now onto the ride itself. I was looking forward to the changes. After hearing about the truck being removed, then brought back in again I was interested to see what had changed.

We got loaded onto the train. The only noticable difference was the addition of about 4 flat screen TV's on each carriage. These screens displayed the safety warnings associated with the ride. My gorgeous wife and I were seated next to a Universal Exec, making notes (Actually, he was next to us the whole time.)
The station, I'll note, was exactly the same as before, no changes or additions.

The train started, but this time, we were given a brief of what to do by the Director on the screen.We rolled into the station and I had a good look around. So far, exactly the same. To be honest I was disappointed here. The only change I noted was a smoke effect added by the turnstiles. Everything else was exactly the same. That was very disappointing.

There was one change. The Director who normally jumps out of the room was nowhere to be seen. Instead the video screen turned back on and we were told by Christopher Walken that now we'd see the film, including footage filmed on the final room, and footage taken on the train. (The train footage part may have been stock footage.) This was a great addition. We were able to see everything taken in the final room, mingled in with footage of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. This was really a great addition and very funny. You'll also note that the return journey to the station was slowed down to allow you to view the entire video.

All in all it was a great re-work of an existing attraction. I was gutted they didn't change any aspect of the earthquake effects on the train, but the highlights were the return video and the Christopher Walken room. Very funny. For anyone going in January, when it is opening, definatley check it out.

I also want to mention that an insider notified me last week that once this & the Simpsons opens, the next attraction to close will be "Terminator". You heard it here first.

Readers' Opinions

From matthew romick on December 24, 2007 at 4:39 AM
WOOT!
tremie was sooo old it was even older then my dog!
but if it's gone what will replace it?

"The x's ride of doom" based on the Nick tv show.
now that would be funny
matt

From Mark Hollamon on December 24, 2007 at 6:03 AM
Now granted, I have not even set foot on the revamp, but from the account given, it is pretty much what I thought it would be and that's a fresh coat of paint on an old barn! If you are a first time tourist the ride is pretty cool. Even maybe the second time you ride it. After that I pretty much don't want to waste 30 minutes or so of my day to sit through the three minutes of FX (if it is that much).

I am a local with passes and have seen Disney add attraction after attraction the past few years to keep fresh and offer a bigger bang for the buck. USF is basically the same park it was 5 years ago with the exception of Mummy's Revenge (a great addition) and Fear Factor (meh). I bought Premier Passes for the second year in a row only because they dropped the price for renewals to $200 and with a free HHN ticket and valet parking as perks I thought we would go ahead mostly out of the "we've always had them" attitude and not value. We will see what happens when "Potterland" opens. That will be the real turning point.

We need some fresh REALLY NEW attractions to both USF and IOA! When was the last time IOA added anything of value? It is getting to be a bore! I hope I don't sound like a spoiled local! Vacationers for the first time will find the parks are a LOT of fun! I wish I could get that feeling back for USF!

From Ashleigh :) on December 24, 2007 at 8:49 AM
Oh please, not the Terminator! Can we not close Twister down first?!

Merry Christmas y'all.

From Paul Jeffs on December 24, 2007 at 8:59 AM
I hope Terminator is only closing for an extensive rehab and clean up of the film - it's a great attraction and the very definition of "putting you in the movies".
From Gareth H on December 24, 2007 at 10:17 AM
I'm thinking that with the new Terminator TV show coming out, maybe they are looking to revamp it, although without Arnie I can't see too many people going to it. I aslo can't see the show lasting too long.
Maybe they've made another film for it, but again, Arnie hasn't had the time to it in receny years, so I highly doubt it.

As it is a big theatre they can easily put another show in, like maybe a Deal or No Deal Interactive Game show, similar to Millionaire at Disney. That would be pretty good and definately something I'd go to!!

Hmm, what do you think about that?

From Domenik Jost on December 24, 2007 at 11:27 AM
My friend actually worked on the ride. It's pretty neat. He designed the video highlights they show from the train now. He said though that the way universal wanted it, each shot is only about 2 seconds long and not enough for people to see themselves unless you are a very good observer.
Well I can't wait to go on it, i was in there during remodeling when they were working on it, he showed me around, but obviously it wasn't running. Can't wait to go on it.
From Gareth H on December 24, 2007 at 11:51 AM
From the laughter on the way back, 2 secinds is long enough.
You can clearly make out the people who were humiliated on stage. You just have to be watching the screen.
From Eric Malone on December 24, 2007 at 12:55 PM
Sounds interesting, but somewhat expected. I'll be looking forward to going on Disaster! next time I go to Universal.
From Chris Walton on December 24, 2007 at 4:42 PM
Awesome! I love Christopher Walken! He's one of the great actors of our time! And he's friggin' hilarious...

I can't wait to check it out!

Nice work Gareth.

Can't wait to see Ahhhnooollddd go! Buh bye Guvna' !!!

BTW, I have a fever and the only prescription is...MORE COWBELL!!!

From Greg Shilton on December 24, 2007 at 5:09 PM
Will the closing of Terminator be for USF AND USH????

Please say yes. I'm so done with Terminator...

Oh crap, but a TV series of it just came out. Does that mean it will be updated?

bah.

From Robert OGrosky on December 26, 2007 at 11:27 AM
Now it would be a real disaster if Terminator was closed!!!!

With the filming coming up with Chistian Bale playing John Connor there is no reason to close down the best 3 d movie ever made. Add some scene's/rearrange something but no reason at all to close a true classic attraction!!

From Anthony Murphy on December 28, 2007 at 7:07 AM
Sounds good!
From Chris Walton on December 28, 2007 at 9:55 AM
Down with the Guvna!!!!

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