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Attraction of the Week: Universal Studios Japan's Space Fantasy: The Ride

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Published: December 10, 2012 at 12:14 PM

Love Disney's Space Mountain? How you'd like to ride another creative team's take on a roller coaster ride through space? Just book your flight for Osaka, where you can blast off on Universal Studios Japan's Space Fantasy: The Ride.

Space Fantasy: The Ride
Photo illustration courtesy Universal Studios Japan

This Mack indoor spinning coaster opened in March 2010, replacing the park's E.T. Adventure ride. The ride itself is similar to Knott's Berry Farm's Sierra Sidewinder, which is another spinning coaster from Mack Rides. But the setting's nothing like Knott's outdoor coaster. On Space Fantasy, you'll fly through an elaborately decorated indoor "space", complete with star fields, looming planets and laser effects.

It's a far trip from a giant chocolate chip cookie flying across the wall.

Universal's even provided a backstory for this adventure. Here's the ride description from the Universal Studios Japan website:

"You board a spaceship departing from Earth with the mission to save the sun. The Earth and Saturn… As the magically captivating planets and comets race by, you dodge through clouds of tumbling asteroids blocking your way. Look out! They seem close enough to be touched! Twisting and turning, spinning and rocking,you will be thrilled as the story goes on. Toward the climax, you dash into the heart of the dimming sun!"

Uh, that doesn't exactly sound like a happy ending for riders. But the journey, from the queue through the ride itself, looks like a delightful trip. Check out this promotional video, which I like because it includes scenes from the ride's queue, which features "GestureTek" video characters that react to your touch.

Along with Efteling and Hong Kong Disneyland, Universal Studios Japan ranks high on my to-do list of top theme parks I haven't yet visited. If Space Fantasy isn't enough to make you long to visit someday, too, USJ will be the next theme park to get the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - their's is opening in 2014. And USJ remains the only Universal park with a Back to the Future ride, which remains a missed favorite among many theme park fans.

If you've ridden Space Fantasy, or would just like to someday, we'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From Brian Cahill on December 10, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Space Fantasy: The Ride is my favorite theme park ride. Anywhere. The blend of Space Mountain thrills and Anime design aesthetic is just pitch perfect. And the effect of entering the sun at the ride's climax is mind-blowing. I so wish they would bring this ride to Universal Orlando! :)
From Mike Gallagher on December 10, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Can someone...Robert or otherwise...please explain to me the "chocolate chip cookie" reference?
From Don Neal on December 10, 2012 at 2:36 PM
These parks in Asia have some really neat rides. This looks really interesting. I would love to see more of these mid-range coasters (Everest, BTMR, Mine Train, etc) mixed with great theming for families. Thanks for sharing Robert, I had never heard about it.
From Robert Niles on December 10, 2012 at 2:47 PM
Mike,

When I lived in Orlando, many WDW cast members joked that the asteroid projection at the MK's Space Mountain looked like a giant chocolate chip cookie.

From 74.82.64.160 on December 10, 2012 at 3:16 PM
Mike, the next time you ride space mtn in Florida, look at the astroids flying on the ceiling of the dome. They look like flying cookies. Some other people refer to it as flying cottage cheese.
From 74.82.68.160 on December 10, 2012 at 3:20 PM
Also, thanks Robert for sharing this. I never heard of this ride myself until now. Looks really amazing. I can see that the que line could be too asian for Universal's Orlando Counterpart, but if they did something to Americanize it a bit, this would be a smash hit in Orlando, and steal a lot of thunder from space mtn at WDW. ESPECIALLY after that stupid low budget upgrade it got the last time
From James Rao on December 10, 2012 at 9:53 PM
^$10M is low budget? For what was billed as an extended refurb, I think WDI did a nice job with Space Mountain. But, why let a Blog Flume entry pass by without bashing Disney? It just wouldn't be TPI, these days.

Back to the subject at hand, this Space Fantasy ride looks like a real nice family attraction. It would certainly fill a niche at one of their Orlando parks, and I would love to see Universal make the move to add it. However, my guess is most USO fanboys would probably consider it too-Disney-like and would not be pleased.

Incidentally, Worlds of Fun, my local Cedar Fair stationary carnival, has one of those spinning coasters similar to the Mack model described (the one at WoF is made by Gerstlauer, tho). At any rate, I always felt it was a great candidate for a dark ride. Sure, it is not the most thrilling coaster in the world (and it does make a lot of people sick), but it certainly would be enhanced with a good narrative, some special effects, and good old fashioned darkness. Looks like Universal Creative had the same idea! =)

From Mark Kausch on December 11, 2012 at 2:56 AM
Until DL's Space Mountain was refurbed for the 50th, many of us fans also joked about "Famous Amos".
From Mike Gallagher on December 11, 2012 at 3:44 AM
Mr. Rao, you've just captured the essence of Reverchon's Exterminator at Kennywood...which, having not recently been on Rock and Roller Coaster, ranks as my favorite indoor coaster.
From 192.195.66.5 on December 11, 2012 at 6:29 AM
It was closed when I was there... Bummer. Guess I'll have to go back.
From Rob Pastor on December 11, 2012 at 7:36 AM
James: Mike's analysis of your concept seems right on. The Kennywood Park "Exterminator" is a tough thrilling spinner coaster in a nicely themed dark ride setting in a mutated rat colony. The exciting attraction nearly always has long lines......Space Fantasy: The Ride would make a nice addition to Universal Studios. It could work in the Expo section near Men In Black. But with all of the other additions taking place, I would doubt Universal would seriously consider it.
From Mike Gallagher on December 11, 2012 at 8:45 AM
"Analysis?" Hey, I'm just a guy that likes rollie coasties.
From James Rao on December 11, 2012 at 8:55 AM
Thanks, guys, I now have one more reason to visit Kennywood! It's on the bucket list, I assure you!
From Rob Pastor on December 11, 2012 at 11:10 AM
James: Kennywood is a well kept secret. A lot of the early Disneyland dark rides had similar predecessors at Kennywood before Disneyland existed. Kennywood just expanded their second Winterfest festival and its a sheer delight. When we went 2 Saturdays ago the crowd was shoulder to shoulder and all the parking spaces were filled.
From José María Sandoval on December 12, 2012 at 5:56 PM
Excelent article!

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