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Why 'Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit' is a really, *really* good move for Universal Orlando

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Published: March 20, 2008 at 2:39 PM

Theme Park Insider readers reacted with excitement to the news that Universal would build a major new roller coaster at the entrance to Universal Studios Florida next year. Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit makes a great deal of sense for the Universal Orlando Resort, and for reasons that go beyond the addition of what promises to be a popular new attraction.

1) Grassroots promotion

Universal's announcement that riders would be able to select their own on-ride soundtracks on Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit drew many comments from fans, and understandably so. Theme park attractions need more interactivity. Theme park fans of my generation (X) grew up with movies. But today's emerging theme park consumers grew up with video games. To reach those visitors, a park needs to offer rides that evoke a video game experience, ones that react and change as riders make choices and respond to cues.

That's why Disney's poured millions of dollars into its upcoming interactive Toy Story Mania rides, advancing what it started with its Buzz Lightyear shoot-'em-up rides a few years ago. Legoland just debuted its own video-game inspired dark ride. Roller coasters offer fewer opportunities for rider control than dark rides, but Universal's customized music soundtracks represent a solid first step.

But the real payoff from rider customization doesn't come at the beginning of the ride. No, it lies at ride's end. Universal also announced that Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit will feature on-ride video of riders, which those riders will be able to mix and e-mail to friends.

And, one presumes, eventually upload to YouTube.

People love roller coaster videos online. Unfortunately, almost all of them are bootleg, recorded in violation of parks' published safety policies. But parks occasionally do enable safe on-ride video recording, typically during press events for new coasters. With lipstick cameras on the rides, cut in with professionally recorded long shots of the coaster on the track, these ride videos impress even casual fans, and get folks excited about visiting the parks.

Our on-ride video of Busch Gardens Europse's Griffon, shot at the park's media day last spring, has been watched nearly half a million times on YouTube. Imagine thousands of 'Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit' riders posting their own legally and professionally-recorded videos to the Web, and the buzz that could create for Universal.

2) Crowd control

Of course, Universal's not going to have a problem attracting visitors to its Orlando resort next year. Remember, there's this little thing going in at the neighboring Islands of Adventure park called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. So why spend the money on a new ride at Universal Studios Florida when Harry Potter's going to bring so many people to Universal Orlando anyway?

Simple: crowd control.

Remember, visitors to both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure park in the same parking structure at the Universal Orlando Resort. They then walk on a common pathway through the CityWalk entertainment complex before reaching the lagoon and splitting off into one of the two parks.

'Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit', by soaring 17 stories at Universal Studios Florida's entrance and flying through the CityWalk complex, will provide an impressive visual "weenie" to draw some folks over to the right, as so many visitors follow Harry Potter to Islands of Adventure, on the left.

If 'The Wizarding World' delivers the crush of customers that the Harry Potter franchise has delivered in books and movies, Universal's going to need something, anything, to siphon visitors away from what could otherwise be many-hours-long waits next summer in Islands of Adventure. A few readers have criticized Universal for placing 'Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit' so close to USF's entrance, and winding it through CityWalk. I think that this placement is essential in positioning the coaster as a viable alternative for people intimidated by the crowds swarming Harry Potter.

We'll see how 'Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit' turns out. Many times, theme park attractions look great in concept art, then fail to deliver once up and operating. But the design, features and placement of this roller coaster reflect smart, forward thinking from Universal Orlando.

Readers' Opinions

From Joshua Counsil on March 20, 2008 at 5:02 PM
Oh, it's a smart move, I won't argue that. Crowd control was probably the first thing on the execs' minds when they designed this. Harry Potter will likely have ridiculous draws.

And it looks sweet, but just as you said, Robert - concept art often fails to deliver. DinoRama looked alright in the concept art, too. And Aquatica looked much sweeter in the concept art than it does in reality.

I just hope the heart is still there.

From James Rao on March 20, 2008 at 7:47 PM
Good article, Mr. Niles, and what you wrote makes sense. I just hope USF isn't spreading itself too thin. There are already rumors about cutting back on some of the planned attractions for Harry Potter and making it more of a shopping/exhibit type area. And like everyone else fears, who really knows what this new coaster will end up actually being when complete?

Having said that, the announcement is excellent news, and my planned return to Orlando in May of 2010 is looking better all the time: Harry Potter, Rockit, Toy Story Mania, and a refurbed/re-engineered Space Mountain....just for starters!

Saving all my pennies for the trip!! =)

From Eric Malone on March 21, 2008 at 12:31 AM
Great article, but personally, I think the bigger draw to the area will be the new Harry Potter stuff. I love Universal's new coaster idea, but I'm far more excited about the Harry Potter area in IOA.

Might be because I've read all the books, but hey. I started when I was fairly young.

Anyway, the new coaster will bring roller coaster enthusiasts from near and far (including me), but as great as the roller coaster enthusiasts group is, I have a hard time believing they'll meet and beat the number of people the new Harry Potter island will inevitably pull.

From Mike Duchock on March 21, 2008 at 6:34 AM
Robert, I completely agree with your points about the new coaster but also I think that this is a major departure from the theme of "Ride the Movies" at Universal Studios. Every other major attraction at the park involves a major movie property (Men in Black, Terminator, The Mummy, etc) or the filming of a made-up movie (Disaster). HRRR has no discernable movie connection besides having "Hollywood" arbitrarily added to its name. I greatly applaud Universal’s efforts to create the next generation thrill ride that will appeal to the younger demo who craves interactivity and an outlet for creative expression. On the other hand it seems that the new coaster will not have much themeing or tell a story at all.
From Gareth H on March 21, 2008 at 7:40 AM
Well its also showing the retreat from "Filming" in the park that was one of the reasons for opening there in the first place. Shame, but there will always be night time commercials.

Still, will be nice to have another coaster there, good forme, not for the wife!!

From Marc Ricketts on March 21, 2008 at 8:47 AM
I have nothing but positive feelings for this. I also feel it fits with the idea of riding the movies since one gets to make their own movie of themselves on the ride. I can certainly see the possibilities of technical problems arising, like any other complex new technology, but, other that that possibility, sounds a winner!
From Ted Heumann on March 21, 2008 at 9:40 AM
I completely agree. I also am saddened that it doesn't have more theming.
But in point number 1, you forgot about, "we can now promote someones music on our attraction for a small fee".
From Chris Wilkes on March 21, 2008 at 10:09 AM
I think the whole idea of the whole ride being constantly filmed from different angles and allowing the riders to then edit their own MOVIE of their time on the ride is exactly what makes this ride much closer to a good fit than it's sister ride at USJ.
I like the reversal.
Not "Ride The Movies".
But certainly "Movie-ing The Ride".
From Iris Hernandez on March 21, 2008 at 2:48 PM
Wow, loved this article. I was already totally siked about this new coaster and bring the crowd control issue in and it makes me even happier. I also thought the placement of it was a good idea. Best advertisement ever for the park. Personally the news of the new coaster had me more excited than Harry Potter could ever get me. I just LOVE rollercoasters. GO Rockit!!!! Cant wait to make my own on-ride video.
From Chris Walton on March 23, 2008 at 11:52 AM
I personally feel that an outdoor roller coaster would be out of its element at USF, that's what IOA is for. It would truely take away from the park's credibility as a working movie and television studio.

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