The Masterclass of an Attraction Queue

Edited: July 30, 2021, 2:00 PM

I've been to Universal Studios Hollywood a few times this summer and the one thing to keep on amazing me is the Secret Life of Pets queue. The overall attraction is very well done and seems to be a throwback to old-school dark rides. However, for me, the queue is what makes the attraction.


Before I begin, I want to discuss what the point of a queue is. Most of the GP will say it's to hold and organize people that want to ride an attraction. At the end of the day, that is what a queue does and I'd say that every mainstream park has done an effective and efficient way of carrying out that goal. However, what sets apart your Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks from the Disney and Universal parks is the other goal: to set the story. Movies and shows can verbally tell the audience what the story is and what is going on, theme parks have to visually show the guest in a non-linear path. Movies and tv shows can also visually show the story, attractions have it the hardest because a screen is easier to look at than an entire environment.

More recently, attraction queues have been improved as creative teams at Disney and Universal try to invent new ways to keep the guest entertained and busy while waiting in a long queue. The most common form of a queue is the good ole switchback. Switchbacks can be found in every park around the world, even at the big boy parks. If you look at Disney's older attractions, all you see are switchbacks with attempts of theming. At Disneyland, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, all the Fantasyland rides, etc all have switchbacks. Even the "newer" attractions like Toy Story Mania and Radiator Springs Racers utilize the switchback. The three attractions (that I've been on) I want to point out that deviate from this trend are Smuggler's Run, Rise of the Resistance, and mainly Secret Life of Pets.

While all these queues at one point have a switchback, it doesn't feel like it's the whole point of the queue. The most impressive room in Smuggler's Run is the engine room, where the queue ascends slowly as the line forms around the centerpoint of the room, the engine. The engine flares, flickers, and even almost explodes. Around the room are small trinkets, tools used by the workers, and even snacks. The rest of the queue is treated almost like an airport with the long hallway into the Falcon being reminiscent of walking down the hall to board an airplane (idk the correct terminology). The only switchback really used are the ones outside and even so, the Falcon is there to look at and observe every little detail. Even the switchback poles are luggage and containers.

Rise of Resistance does an even better job at this with its Resistance Base. While the outside portion of the queue does contain small switchbacks, its main point is to set the guest in the story. While you walk through the indoor portion, you walk past gun and ammunition containers, planning boards, luggage, and crates. The queue can be themed more intricately with doors with sounds coming from inside about the Resistance's plan, more music and Resistance workers talking on the comms, but it's still better than ost queues in the park. What sets this queue apart from so many others though is how the line is not made up of ropes and poles directing the guest where to walk, but rather rocks, containers and luggage guiding the guest to the pre-show, which leads us into the masterclass of queue making.

Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash is the best queue I have ever seen. While at the beginning there is your standard outdoor switchback, the real queue begins once you set foot into the apartment building. You enter through the lobby and make your way through the various apartments in the building which is themed differently based on the room. Instead of using the standard metal poles and chains as the line, the queue is made up of furniture, hallways, indoor dog fences, tables, chairs, etc. It doesn't feel like you're in a queue but in an actual apartment building. Throughout the queue, you can see drawings made by little kids and toys played by kids. The queue is so good that it even contains multiple animatronics of dogs chilling in their everyday life. In some apartment entrance doors, you can peak through the mail hole and see different dogs hanging out inside the room. In air vents you can see the same guinea pig appearing, talking, and strolling along up to the ride. In almost every room there is kinetic energy and something to look at. The queue does so much right that at the end, the ride just feels like a bonus to the attraction.

All my friends think I'm crazy but I feel like no one is giving Universal enough recognition and praise for this queue. They have perfected the queue and I can't wait to see what's in store for the future of their projects and the theme park industry. If all attractions could have queues like this, I wouldn't mind waiting as much.

Replies (6)

July 30, 2021, 2:05 PM

In case you haven't seen it yet, you can see what we're talking about in our full queue and ride POV video:

July 30, 2021, 2:47 PM

Shame the end of the attraction And end of attraction queue is so plain :/

August 13, 2021, 8:16 AM

The ends good attraction queues are deliberately plain. As you approach a ride's loading platform, you DON'T want guests slowing to stare at intimate details in the queue, holding up the line and slowing the loading process. Pretty much every attraction that has an intricately themed queue lightens up on that theming when you get close to the loading platform.

August 13, 2021, 2:53 PM

Good point. The main que for Rock n Roller Coaster is a fake record company, complete with gold records, album covers, etc...then pre-loading is just an alleyway. Ditto a lot of the boat rides at WDW like Pirates, intricate starts then loading much simpler.

Another great example is Star Tours. The entire great queue with the video screens, the robots, etc, then the final area is mostly theme lighting but not much else. It's just a good trend that works.

August 14, 2021, 4:36 PM

One could argue that the DL version of the Haunted Mansion was the attraction that started truly amazing queues. The Potter attractions have queues that are better than the rides for some people (not to me, but for those that are prone to motion sickness).

August 14, 2021, 9:16 PM

JC, while I enjoyed being able to walk onto Forbidden Journey one time I visited it, it hit me I was missing a pretty great queue.

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