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Fear Factor Live at Universal Orlando

In a self-fulfilling prophecy, Universal brings the NBC stunt show and gross-out fest into its park and puts guests in the spotlight.

Written by Joe Lane
Published: June 6, 2005 at 11:17 AM

Fear Factor Live at Universal Orlando
Monday, June 6, 2005

When I think about the NBC/Universal merger, I'm fondly reminded of this little piece of satire I posted in May of last year. The article poked fun at some rather outrageous synergy opportunities that presented themselves now that the two entertainment giants had become one.

Funny how things work out for the best sometimes.

Thursday, June 2. A cloudy, damp, gray morning marked the beginning of technical rehearsals of Universal Studios Florida newest hybrid attraction: Fear Factor Live, a stunt show based on the popular NBC hit reality series.

Fear Factor Live
Fear Factor Live at Universal Studios Florida

What makes Fear Factor Live unique among its brethren is the interactive aspect. Six guests are chosen prior to each show to participate in three stunts in a fashion similar to that of the NBC show. Audience volunteers (usually young kids) participate by triggering distracting elements such as wind or water.

Between each stunt, additional volunteers are submitted to skin-crawling encounters with a selection of spiders, snakes, roaches and scorpions. Others compete in a drinking contest of the worst kind, involving stomach-churning concoctions.

And the formula works. TV junkies are a highly voyeuristic bunch, and Fear Factor Live fulfills that desire by placing average, everyday individuals into extraordinary situations, from hanging 30 feet in the air to throwing dead squid.

And while traditional stunt shows feature a rotating cast that follow a script, Fear Factor Live becomes a new experience every show with the guest competitor element. There's no way to tell how each fresh face will react in a given situation--or who will win.

Sadly, the show is still slightly constrained by its theme park environment. Creative Director Jennifer Sauer talked about the design of the show and its stunts. In late May of last year, the Universal Creative team sat down with members of Endemol USA and "Fear Factor" producer Matt Kunitz. Together, they went through hours of "Fear Factor" footage, trying to come up stunt ideas that were not only interesting but repeatable.

Sauer said that while the show format will remain unchanged for an undetermined amount of time, there is a possibility of introducing a variety of different stunts in the future, depending on the attraction's popularity.

Fear Factor Live
An audience volunteer shoots a high-powered water cannon during
a stunt called 'The Eel Tank Relay.'
Use your imagination.

As theme park attractions aim for bigger thrills, the need for safety rises as well. A crew of trained stunt people check and double check all the safety equipment, while in the technical booth, computers run redundant safety checks. Guests who volunteer go through a very serious casting procedure to be sure they are in good health. Visit the Universal Orlando website for details on casting requirements.

And if you don't qualify for the physical stunts, you could always gulp down a Fear Factor smoothie.

Fear Factor Live makes it home in the San Francisco/Amity portion of the park, in the old Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show theater. Long-time Universal fans will get a hint of nostalgia upon entering: the facades of the old western buildings have been refurbished and the mulch-covered ground is now paved with rubber surfacing.

Fear Factor Live
The Fear Factor Live design utilized the old set from
the original Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show.
The overall theme is that of an old industrial park.

Almost immediately, guests will notice two yellow convertibles parked on either side of the set and the large video screen built on the wall of one of the buildings. During the show, a mounted cameras help guests get better views of the action. There's also a live cameraperson getting close-up shots during the gross-out portions of the show, executed in a fashion similar to Disney-MGM Studios' Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show.

At the first preview of Fear Factor Live, Universal President Bob Gault, Endemol USA President David Goldberg and "Fear Factor" executive producer Matt Kunitz made some introductory comments before the show began.

Among the six contestants slated to appear in the first performance were Dean and Ashley Molina, winners of this season's "Fear Factor" Couples' Competition, and Eric and Stacey Knox, winners of the "Fear Factor" eBay charity auction. Also competing were Wendy and Kirby, two park guests who were selected to round out the six necessary for the show to go on.

In the end, Dean won the competition, proving for a second time that fear is not a factor for him. I asked him afterwards what Fear Factor Live was like compared to the real thing.

"I like having the audience there," he said, mentioning the fact that you forget millions of people are watching you on TV, "I was able to look and see my family and you get pumped from that."

Rumor has it that the delay in the Universal Hollywood version of Fear Factor Live stems from the extreme nature of its stunts. If this May 6 article from the Chicago Tribune is true, then the stunts planned for the Hollywood version will make the Orlando show look like child's play. Good news for Universal Hollywood guests; bad news for Universal Orlando visitors.

On the TPI Rating Scale, I'm going to give Fear Factor Live a 7-Good for execution of theme and entertainment value.

That and the fact that the painfully uncharismatic Joe Rogan doesn't appear once in the show. Thank you, Universal.

Readers' Opinions

From Chuck Campbell on June 6, 2005 at 7:00 PM
So, the sideshow geek has returned, eh? We have seen the geek, and he is us!
From jordan smith on June 8, 2005 at 10:09 AM


From Kevin Baxter on June 10, 2005 at 1:39 AM
You don't think Joe Rogan is charismatic? Really? REALLY? I think he RADIATES charisma. He is a charism.... oh, sorry, I fell asleep. Where was I?
From Chuck Campbell on June 12, 2005 at 1:51 PM
Perhaps if Mr. Rogan were to chug a jug of scorpions . . .

Tell me: Is "Fear Factor" about facing one's fear, or admitting one's stupidity?

From Kevin Baxter on June 13, 2005 at 12:52 AM
It's to see if you have overcome your fear of being stoopid on national television. DUH!
From Chuck Campbell on June 13, 2005 at 3:02 PM
Now that's one fear that it's best not to overcome, I think.
From Kelly K. on June 15, 2005 at 11:13 PM
I hate to be the voice of dissent, but the very idea of watching people subject themselves to mild forms of torture makes me want to run and hide. Definitely not an attraction I will worry about seeing.
From Nonya Beazwax on June 21, 2005 at 8:09 PM
Between what ages are you allowed to paticipate in the show. I think I wanna give it a try. :-)
From Kevin Baxter on June 21, 2005 at 9:58 PM
I have heard the USH show has special sections for kids (like to come up and try chocolate-covered bugs and such) but actual contestants need to be 18. I'm sure that part's the same at USF, but I don't know whether they have the filler bits there.
From Josh Revani on July 21, 2005 at 9:21 PM
From Gareth Hurford on December 19, 2005 at 4:24 PM
Orlando resident / very frequent USF visitor who thinks this is a short lived attraction. Very poor attempt at filling a space and cashing in on the NBC/universal combo

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