High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride reviews
Theme Park Insider readers offer their ratings and reviews for High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, a track ride in Seuss Landing at Universal's Islands of Adventure. (The minimum height to ride is 34 inches.)
Written by Robert Niles
On May 25, 2006, Theme Park Insider Editor Robert Niles interviewed Chris Lauren of Universal Creative about the "High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride," new track ride in Seuss Landing, now slated to open at Universal's Islands of Adventure in "mid June" 2006.
THEME PARK INSIDER: What happened with the old Sylvester McMonkey McBean ride? Why didn't that open with the park, and what's been going on with that for all these years?
CHRIS LAUREN: Well, it was a matter of making sure that we had the right show, the right experience for our guests. At the time, we felt it wasn't going to be. And we've been pursuing opportunities to come up with the right technology, the right experience. And that is where we're at now, and why we're at where we are with this attraction.
TPI: What was the original vision for the ride when it was initially constructed? And why didn't that work?
LAUREN: The initial vision was individual cars, and a - more like a bumper car situation. And it - as things progressed, they were not proving to be what we wanted them to be for our guests experientially. We didn't feel like we could deliver the best quality experience. So, we've - over the years, refined our efforts. And that's where we're heading where we are, with what we have today.
TPI: What kind of experience did you think you were going to get there? Was it a safety issue, or just a show quality issue?
LAUREN: It's a show quality issue.
TPI: When was the decision made to give this another go?
LAUREN: [Laughs] The decision was made for this particular effort, about a year and a half ago. There were several opportunities where we explored potentials in between then and now, of course. But this one gave us our best opportunity, when we think to provide the best guest experience. Again, and I think taking a more active role for the guest, as opposed to a passive role. Seemed like a really good opportunity.
TPI: I want to talk a little bit more about that active role in a little bit. But, first I want to ask: Having the old designs, and the track, did you find that that helped you in the development of this new attraction, or was a bit of an obstacle in developing the new attraction?
LAUREN: You know, Robert, I don't believe in obstacles. I believe that what we had was a different kind of challenge. And it was taking what was intended and built many years ago, and revitalizing it, and re-storifying it, to be more current.
TPI: Walk me through the ride, and describe what the guest is going to see, from entering the queue, all the way through the unload.
LAUREN: Certainly. The set-up is for all of us Sneetches and Seuss enthusiasts to queue up at the entrance to the attraction, where we have the Wondrous Star-On Machine busily jerking and berking and bonking and glurking. And we enter into a tunnel, which is appropriately labeled, "Sneetches In." Where we queue through the lower portions of this facility, in and out of a garden space, and past storyboards that tell the story of the Sneetches. Along the way, we queue ourselves upstairs, and past a funny contraption that is maintained by Sylvester McMonkey McBean, who we'll see popping in and out of our view. And end up at the train station, where we hop aboard one of two different tracks and take an aerial tour of Seuss Landing. Of, through, above, and out over Seuss Landing.
TPI: Are there going to be internal show scenes at any point in the ride, or is it all external?
LAUREN: Well, that's a good question. There are several internal show scenes that we'll pass through. That were specifically intended to be there when we were originally working on the show concept. So, one we'll pass over, as opposed to through. And we have an opportunity, actually, to pass inside of one of our restaurants, as well. Which will be a nice unique experience. I don't know, when we've been exercising the vehicle, I took my ride through there. It dropped a few jaws.
TPI: That's the Circus McGurkus?
LAUREN: Yeah, that's correct.
TPI: Okay. Which Seuss books are you drawing upon and referencing in this attraction?
LAUREN: Oh my goodness, yes. Specific inspiration, specific stories that are referenced in this - of course, we use Sneetches and Other Stories. We're using Oh, the Places You'll Go. We're using And To Think That I Saw it All On Mulberry Street. We're using Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?. We're using Dr. Seuss's ABC. Those are more the specific references and inspirations for the stuff directly connected to the ride. But I would venture to say that as you traipse your way through Seuss Landing on this, we'll be pointing out quite a number of other books by Dr. Seuss.
TPI: Is everything in the ride directly out of a Seuss book, or did you guys go off on your own a little bit with it?
LAUREN: Well, I think there had to be some interpretation of some Seuss stuff. But the majority of it is very faithfully reproducing the Seuss characters and environment. And I think if you went through Seuss Landing, you'd see that there are places where you just can't 100 percent make Seuss, but you have to use that as your inspiration, and make sure you stay as true as you can to the nature and form of Dr. Seuss's style.
TPI: Okay. Let's switch gears and talk a little bit about the technology underneath the ride here. Talk a little bit about the ride system, who designed it, and what we can expect from this.
LAUREN: The ride system was fabricated by Mack Rides, in Germany. It is a self-powered, or a powered train system. There are three engines that drive each train. It is capable of speeds up to 35 miles an hour, though we won't be exercising it at that highest rate of speed. At that point, you're running at coaster speed. And this was intended as a tour type of attraction. It has an on-board PLC [Programmable Logic Control: a computer that manages the ride system - Editor] that's smart enough to know where the train is, within, I believe, three centimeters of any given spot along the track. Which gives us a level of interactive programmability that we don't often have. And so, we've made sure that we leverage that type of accuracy, and work to show that took advantage of that type of technology.
TPI: You'd mentioned before that this is a bit more of an active experience. Explain that.
LAUREN: Certainly. As opposed to, say, getting on a coaster where it moved through a space, and you, basically, are getting a visceral reaction to the motions that the coaster goes through. This particular train - I'm gonna stay away from using the word "coast," because it is a tour. Essentially not only do you get to enjoy the views, but you're made aware of them. And it becomes a treasure hunt. So as you're out there, as a Seussophile, there would be a - I think a real opportunity to go out and look for all things Seuss. All the references. Because on each track loop, there are two stories associated with it that will play on-board audio. And you'll be asked or made aware of the various things throughout Seuss Landing and characters from the books, plus being given the opportunity to do some - one is a call-and-response type of show. So, the narrator on board will make some sounds, for example, and ask you to imitate those sounds. So, along with enjoying the view, you can participate in some interactive audio conversation, let's call it.
TPI: So, you had mentioned the two tracks. Does that mean that there are two different ride experiences? Or they're just in parallel?
LAUREN: It is two different ride experiences in that they have - they do not run in parallel. They go through different areas, and land. And there are different story lines associated with each of those different routes. For example, one route will take you through the big top [Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoopendous]. The other one will not. It will take you out by the Caro-Seuss-el, and give you an extended exterior viewscape.
TPI: How many ride units are you going to be running on this, and what kind of hourly capacity are you looking for?
LAUREN: We're looking for just over 1100 [riders] an hour. There will be four trains. Each train consists of five cars. Each car takes four passengers.
TPI: Are there going to be any height restrictions on the ride, or other boarding restrictions?
LAUREN: There will be a minimum height, and it'll be 34 inches. Which, for most folks, is your typical three-and-a-half year old. So, that's as tinsy as you can get on board.
I had the opportunity to go out and, while we were doing some testing, and observe a few things. And got to hang outside for a while and just enjoy the view. And it's just plain fun to be up and out there. It's really a fun view. The land itself was always intended to be seen from above. A lot of the props and sets and set-ups for Seuss Landing were directed to the view from above there. And it's nice to see those realized. And even more thrilling to become a part of that. And I think what I noticed as I was going around, was just how much awareness people had of the train as it moved through the land. 'Cause most folks tend to focus right in front of them. But when the train went through, it has a real presence. It really energizes the space. We'll probably have two trains moving through the land at any one time.
TPI: The average theme park visitors, they see the final product. But they don't see what goes into making this sort of attraction. What are some of the interesting things that the geeks among us might find curious about this process?
LAUREN: I would say that the enthusiast would want to know that when we're working on a design for an attraction, it's not a finger bowl. It's not just shallow experience. But we work very hard to set up a structured experience that is as rich and meaningful as we can. And in many cases, just setting that up is telling stories, if not directly to the guest, to ourselves, to make sure that all the components that we put in there have a reason for existing that makes the guest experience richer. For example, whenever I'm working on a Seuss attraction, it's my goal to call up references to as many Seuss books and characters as I can. So that should the real enthusiast get on board - in this case, on board the train, and go for a ride, that if they open their eyes and they start looking, they'll see references and let's say odes, to many Seuss books.
In this one, for example, I focused on - I Had Trouble Getting To Solla Sollew. And you'll find characters from the books, and set-ups, throughout this attraction along your way. Many of the scenes themselves will have references to other books as well. So, I think for the real fan of theme parks, what they're gonna be looking for are those nods and winks to the type of person that pays attention to detail, and understands the subject and sees the connections and the references along the way. As opposed to something where it's just, "Wow, you know, that's a really pretty umbrella." Well, that's not just an umbrella. That's the one that the Cat in the Hat used. So, it's more of that type of depth in content.
TPI: So there's a reward for repeat riders.
LAUREN: Absolutely. And I'm always thinking about the next time someone wants to get on it. And that's why, again, this particular arrangement, and this particular time, is when it was right to do this attraction. Because we have multiple stories on multiple tracks, with multiple views and levels of participation.
TPI: Do you have a musical soundtrack on this ride?
LAUREN: We do. On board, there will be a music bed, as it is called, rather dryly, that just moves things along. But there will also be an original score in the queue area and load station.
The inspiration for that was, we felt that we have, for Seuss Landing, an overall - in the vernacular of the industry, BGM, or a background music score, that was originally intended to play as if, if you thought of the entire land as an orchestra, different areas in the land were different sections of that orchestra. Some areas were the strings, some were the brass, some were the percussion. So, the overall intent was your experience was that there was a coherent piece of music that played throughout. But it had a different tone to it, as you move through the land. So in this one, what we wanted to do was hearken to the train station as we're playing this - the train type experience. And so, the idea is that the rhythm and the beat, while assuming the characteristics of the orchestra of Seuss Landing's composition, has a distinct train melody to it. There's a - sort of a chug chuga chuga beat, that follows along with the Seuss BGM soundtrack. It's a little bit of a dance. And the composer is a local fellow here. And so it's a collaborative process, as are all attractions.
Good views. That's about it. 5/10 - Bryce McGibeny
We find ourselves enjoying this ride a lot more then we thought we would, + great view from the area. - David Shaul
A decent "Peoplemover" type of attraction. Would be better with one track that went around the whole land, though. - Sean Huckel
This ride is really nothing special. It is really meant to be for kids only. On this ride, you do get a good view of the Dr. Seuss themed area of the park, and the narration on the ride can be enjoyable. But this is definitely not a must-ride ride. - Raul Hernandez
Nothing amazing in this ride, just a bit of fun for the younger kids. It often has a long wait, don't wait more than 15 minutes! 4/10 - D H
It's a good ride. If you have to wait in line for more than 15-20 minutes, try back later. It's not worth waiting in line more than that. (Especially on a hot day!) If you have kids, try to make an effort to ride it at least once. - Bob Liebe
Great ride if the line is short. I wouldn't wait more than 10 minutes unless you have small children. It has great views of the entire park and a bit of nostalgia from childhood books. - Terri Pierce
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