What's your favorite format for theme park movie attractions?
Screen media provide such a powerful and flexible tool for theme park storytelling that they're not going away anytime soon. I have a theory that the current online backlash against screen media in theme parks started as a campaign by Disney fans to discredit what they saw as a medium used more by arch rival Universal than by Disney. (That's why attractions such as Kong and Fallon drew immediate complaints from those fans, but stuff such as the new Soarin' and Flight of Passage generally got a pass.)
But I don't think that all complaints about screen media can be dismissed as Disney fanboy bluster. Many theme park fans simply can't see 3D media as its creators designed. And many other fans are nauseated by the disconnect between the physical motion on a ride and the action they are watching on its screen, which too often does not sync perfectly. That's one of the reasons why I was so enthusiastic about virtual reality on roller coasters, because synching the VR action with the coaster track forces filmmakers to obey the laws of physics with the camera's POV in a way that they often don't on simulator, 4D, and even traditional theater films.
So while I think any campaign to purge screen media from theme parks is silly, I do agree that people have legit beef with certain formats of screen media and the way that they are employed within theme park attractions. In my Orange County Register column this week, I make a case for why I prefer 4K media over 3D films in theme park attractions. The high definition of 4K allows filmmakers to create more convincing and engaging visual environments, supporting more robust storytelling, while 3D too often is used as a gimmick to hurl junk at a screen. The 3D glasses often darken and narrow what riders see... if they can see the 3D come together properly at all.
I'm especially over 4D theaters, which too often ignore narrative to employ the full litany of 3D gimmicks, while assaulting the audience with wind, water and shaking elements that were surprising the first time we experienced them, but grew stale faster than a collection of Dad jokes.
That said, some people love 3D, otherwise parks wouldn't keep running those shows. And for kids who've never been in a 4D theater before, it's amazing. So I recognize that mine is just one person's opinion, and that others can differ.
What's your take on theme park screen media? What's the format you most like to see?
What's your favorite (or least favorite) theme park screen show or ride?
Read Robert's column:
When a 3D screen is implemented well, in a ride, it works brilliantly, but a ride should never rely solely on that tech. I don't count 4D, as it's now an experience that you can have at your local cinema. I've yet to see 4K, so I can't really comment on that. So, 3D would be my pick. As for favourite show or ride, well it's a predictable one, but I have to say Spider-Man for all of the reasons that any fan will already know.
I'm not against the use of screens in rides. The use of them is amazing in rides like Mummy, or the Harry Potter ones. My problem is with rides that use too many screens, and no other elements. Like 'Kong', for example. I think it'd be a much better ride if they had mixed plants and other elements with the screens.
3D doesn't work for me. My eyes can never come to focus. I usually see two of every object. I would say 3D has definitely improved over the years, however I still see double images. I personally would hope 4K gets utilized more since everyone can enjoy the attraction. 3D based rides push out at least a small percentage of riders.
I am so over putting on those 3D glasses!
There is no automatic cutoff of the type of screen based attraction. It seems like the traditional 3D attractions are less interesting and are slowly being replaced. California Adventure replaced Bug's Life and Muppets for 3D movie previews while Disney World still shows the original 3D films. Soarin' is doing quite well with digital 4K projection. Pairing a ride with screens seem to have a better result with more repeatability. As for whether a ride should have 4K versus 3D, again it depends on how well both turn out. Frankly, I do think Indiana Jones Adventure can benefit from screens. IJA doesn't really hold up so well. It needs more visual scares.
I didn't vote. I don't think it's preferring a type of media above another but how it's incorporated. Spiderman is, for me, the best dark ride in the world. It uses 3D screens and 4D effects but there is so much more that is in perfect sync. The same goes for Gringotts. Even Terminator, as a show, does a great job. But I hate Minions. That shouldn't have been a 3D simulator. Non human characters are best done practical. The 4D movies at all the Disney parks are another lackluster affair. I'd love to see the muppets for real and not on a screen. That sad Captain EO was perfect (for it's time).
This is really a loaded question. 4K is a resolution, while 3D and "4D" are presentation techniques. You can have all three in the same presentation with 4K projectors providing 3D images with 4D effects. I think all parks should consider upgrading their projection technology to 4K, because it is vastly superior, particularly on larger screens. What's the worst is when an attraction has 4K projectors mixed in with older HD projectors that are so obviously inferior.
None of the above. I prefer real sets where the narrative can be supported by the judicious use of screens. For screen watching in a theater or mostly stationary ride vehicle, I can go to the local cinema. In a theme park, an attraction full of screens is usually a crutch for cheap and lazy design.
As the three options are not mutually exclusive, I will change the question to this: Glasses or No Glasses? For me, unless the attraction would not work without 3D or 4D effects, I much prefer regular projection even if the resolution isn't 4K. While I don't have a problem with 3D images, as soon as the glasses go on I lose the immersion of an attraction and am reminded I'm just sitting in a moving seat while staring at a screen. Plus, now that 3D projection and 4D effects have become common at regular movie theaters (and even in some home systems), the novelty just isn't there anymore. 10-15 years ago, it was worth the investment, but now I'd rather parks focus more on the overall attraction and less on how fancy the digital visual aspects are.
Theme park attractions are much more about effect than about narrative. Walt intuitively understood that; only the Fantasyland rides had some kind of story, because they were based on his animated movies. 3D/4D creates some cool effects, and I, for one, forget all about the glasses I'm wearing. And why not convert more 3D attractions to 4K, like they did with Spiderman?
Personally I blame the dislike of 3D due to the insurgence of the technology by Hollywood a few years back. You remember it well....when films were remade or "edited" just to throw the latest 3D fad at you. It saturated our local cinemas and Disney was just as guilty of making a cash grab by re-releasing classics in 3D.
I hear you Sarah...Hollywood went 2-3 years by doing "cheap" stereoscopic post-production conversions that were awful, and obviously just a maneuver to find a way to charge customers another $2+ for their ticket. Movies like Clash/Wrath of the Titans, Sucker Punch, Terminator: Genisys, and others gave the technology a bad name, and caused a backlash in the industry. Production studios soon learned that they simply couldn't spend a few million extra dollars on a haphazard post-production 3D conversion and watch the profits roll in. Studios are much more selective of the films that get the 3D treatment now, and effects companies that specialize in stereoscopic conversion have gotten much better. Combine that with better projection technology (4K has become pretty standard across the industry in most major markets), and the result is a much more convincing, deeper, and realistic presentation. Also, with more directors using "Red" cameras and IMAX-3D, native capture of images has significantly improved (mostly because of the success of Cameron's Avatar), meaning the post-production conversion process is much easier (usually just stereo-scoping the effects and CGI characters), and giving directors more control of how they want their works presented.
3D at Universal is terrible. I rode the WWHP Hogwarts ride, it was so dark and the glasses were so uncomfortable, I couldn't really tell what was going on. I have since ridden it after they removed the 3D and you can see everything. The Minions ride is dark as well. Now for some reason Disneyland's Star Tours, and their other 4D movie previews are perfection. The lighting, and motion flow are exceptional. Universal needs to send in a spy or hire the imagineers behind the Disneyland 3D, 4D attractions.
I like the idea of screens enhancing a ride, such as Harry Potter or the Pirates ride in Shanghai Disney. While it would be awesome for everything to be physical, it would be incredibly expensive and in some cases impossible to pull off. I love me some real sets, but can also see screens pulling off effects (like plunging under the water in Pirates Shanghai) that add to the illusion. I don't like rides that are mostly or completely screens, like Minions. I had hopes of that being a ride similar to Winnie the Pooh at Tokyo Disney, wacky and lots of animatronics, would have been amazing and something different and unique for Uni.
When I first moved to Orlando back in 1997 I was working at UO on the IOA project. I had an apartment off Conroy rd. near the park. As soon as I had my ID and before I had made a lot of friends I would frequently hop in the car and drive over to USF just to see T2-3D.
I think Escape from Gringott's is a wonderful ride that uses 3D screens to the maximum potential.
3D never worked for me very well, although I have found that where you sit in the theater/ride vehicle matters a lot.
I still love 3D movies that put objects and characters right in your face, like T2:3D and Mickey's Philharmagic. When it comes to theme park 3D, gimmicky is good. It's all about the effect. The "story" is an excuse for presenting the effect.
Shouldn't the choices in the survey be 2D, 3D or 4D, not 4K?
Gary Goddard here - I'm traveling at the moment so I am not going to write as long a response as I'd like to but I'm intrigued with the discussion and what's going on here. As the creator of both T2/ 3-D and the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman dark ride attractions - among others - I can tell you the following: In every case the narrative must lead -- I always worked from the story first and THEN what is the BEST medium to get across the story - technology follows the narrative . Too many attraction designers (or owners) decide on a technology first and then try to cram the characters into it. That is how you get a crappy Iron Man ride in Hong Kong that seems not to understand the lexicon of Iton Man at all,. The other thing is pacing - just like a great movie or Broadway show - there must be pacing - anyway - it's not about technology - it's about the narrative and getting that right - and then using the right technology that is best for the story and experience. If you get that right - you will not care if it's 3D or 4D or with glasses or without ---- having said all that (and as the guy that started Universal down the projection highway) --- I would have to agree they have too many projection driven attractions. Excuse typos -- I'm traveling ----
My vote goes for 70mm like T2.
Great to hear from you Gary!
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