Vote of the week: A 'Treehouse of Horror' ride at Universal's theme parks?

October 2, 2009, 7:14 AM · Orlando-area theme park fans have been enjoying Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida for a week now, but the west coast version kicks off tonight at Universal Studios Hollywood.

I visited Disneyland's Halloween event earlier this week, which got me thinking about holiday overlays for popular theme park attractions, like Disney has created with Haunted Mansion Holiday. So I offer this question for you this morning:

Why doesn't Universal do a "Treehouse of Horror" overlay for The Simpsons Ride each year?

Kang and Kodos

Sure, it's take a lot of work - a new film would have to be edited, or even written and shot. The queue would have to be redecorated. And Universal might have to renegotiate its licensing deal. But Disney made the investment for Haunted Mansion and It's a Small World, with wildly popular results. Universal could do the same. A Treehouse of Horror ride also would extend the Halloween theme into the park's regular operating hours in mid-September through early November, something I am certain many fans, especially those with kids a bit too young for HHN, would welcome.

Is there a downside, beside the expense? Perhaps that some HHN fans consider comedy a spice, one that in moderation helps flavor the event but that applied too heavily would change its character.

What do you think?

Add your thoughts in the comments, please.

Replies (14)

October 2, 2009 at 7:26 AM · Universal has done some big things to try to keep up with Disney, but they also need to the small things just as much. The attention to detail is what sets Disney above Universal in my book, and maybe some seasonal changes like this would help.
October 2, 2009 at 7:32 AM · Easier than Haunted Mansion Holiday!
October 2, 2009 at 8:46 AM · I could argue for either side. I'm sure that returning guests would like a different experience, but first-time guests would probably rather ride it the regular way.
October 2, 2009 at 9:02 AM · Universal Studios Manager of Show Development Michael Roddy says, in the Halloween article in our Fall issue of Orlando Attractions Magazine, that number two on his list for future Halloween Horror Nights is to bring the Treehouse of Horror to The Simpsons Ride.
October 2, 2009 at 9:13 AM · @Matt What was number 1 on his list?
October 2, 2009 at 9:25 AM · It really isn't THAT much work. You need to animate a whole new film, but it's only a 5 minute film. Then the motion simulators need to be reprogrammed, but that's not too much trouble to create a new ride program. The outside facade only needs a very minimal alteration to let guests know it's Halloween themed.

I see a lot of comic opportunities to spoof the Haunted Mansion Holiday and other re-themed rides.

October 2, 2009 at 9:31 AM · Brilliant idea. Although I fear that the cost would run into many the end of day, the entire Simpsons ride is basically a new movie and queue system for Back to the Future. So upgrading it for Halloween would seem to be a similar (if slightly reduced) investment.

Nick (I will register next time, I promise)

October 2, 2009 at 10:17 AM · I actually took an online survey for HHH, and sugested the area in front of the Simpsons ride could become a "scare zone" with walk arounds of various Treehouse of Horror versions of Simpsons.

I also want a Planet of the Apes themed house.

October 2, 2009 at 11:49 AM · To be clear, I'm not talking about a Treehouse of Horror maze or scare zone. I'm talking about a new film for inside the ride itself, one that would play during the day as well as during HHN. (Though I'd welcome the addition of a maze and/or scare zone, as well.)
October 2, 2009 at 2:08 PM · Actually, its not as easy as simply creating a new film (video actually). When we undertook Simpson's, we began working on media and motion base programming many months before the BTTF attraction closed. It takes almost a year for a similar ride to progress from concept through storyboard and animatic stages to the finished video. It also takes just about as long to go through the process of programming all the motions into the motion base. Its actually done manually with a programmer riding the cycle over and over with an analog programming console on his lap, making fine tweaks to one of many actuators each time.

I like the idea, but the logistics are just too demanding to pull it off for a month or so.

October 2, 2009 at 2:32 PM · Treehouse of Horror has always been my least favorite Simpson's episode of the year. Sorry! In our area, at least, it often seems to come on AFTER Halloween, which makes me nuts.
October 2, 2009 at 2:49 PM · I'm interested - Which would be easier: To reprogram for a new film, or to design film to use the existing motion programming? I have no clue.

Treehouse of Horror could, and should, run between Labor Day weekend to first week of November, making it two months a year. (Could go down for switch rehab the last week of August, which tends to be relatively slow for Orlando parks.)

Split between two parks, and with an anticipated 10-year-plus run, I think that either method could be justified. But it would be an easier investment as part of a larger strategy to create Halloween attractions for day visitors to UO and USH, rather than putting all the season's eggs in the HHN basket.

I think it would help drive additional out-of-market visitor traffic to Orlando, since folks could justify the trip with a full day at the UO parks, rather than just the evening. But this is a go-big or stay-home play, so I can understand its lack of appeal to The Suits.

But the fans love it, if you look at the vote results so far.

October 2, 2009 at 10:43 PM · Again, I think it would be an interesting investment. It could be worked on in the slow period between January 1st and spring break, taking one dome down to do programming. The media servers actually have enough storage space to hold four shows of similar length, so it would be feasible to switch from one show to another without too much effort. The harder part would be all of the interior media themes -- the midway audio and videos, as well as the holding rooms would all need to be redone as well. There are at least 16 different video streams used throughout the building aside from the ride video. A large part of what takes so long to create the media is the rendering time -- the media is 4096 x 2160 resolution which is four times the standard "high resolution" of 2048 x 1080. It is also projected at 60 frames per second, which is twice the standard video rate of 30 fps (incidentally, Back To The Future was film based -- Imax, but that was projected at 30 fps -- well above the standard 24 fps typical of film). The ultra high resolution combined with the extreme frame rate make rendering a very slow process -- there are almost 20,000 frames in the short ride.

As far as programming new media to match the existing motion profile, that would be nearly impossible as all of your environments in the story line would have to match exactly and then it's no different than an Andy Warhol painting -- pretty much the same image with different paint splashed on it.

October 5, 2009 at 7:52 AM · A 5 minute ride wouldn't be that expensive, I suppose. And since it's about getting the timing right, they could easily just set it to use the same motion as the current one. Knowing that the vehicle shifts left on frame 320, then right on 400, etc.

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