Disaster! opened in early 2008 as a retheme of the park's Earthquake: The Big One experience, one of the original attractions from the park's 1990 opening. By 2007, though, few park visitors had heard of or remembered the 1974 disaster film Earthquake that inspired the attraction. And those who did likely stopped caring about, or even thinking about, the film decades ago. In addition, the increased use of computer-generated imagery [CGI] in special effects made obsolete — or, at least, out of fashion — many of the practical effects depicted in the attraction.
Disaster! gave Earthquake: The Big One an additional seven-some years of life by ditching the references the to 1974 film and overlaying a tongue-in-cheek story of a fictional, low-budget film studio instead. Instead of watching an earnest recreation of how filmmakers shot a Charlton Heston movie 40 years ago, we now watched as "Disaster Studios" founder Frank Kincaid (played by the delightful Christopher Walken) tried to wrangle all of us into the production of his latest cheesy disaster flick, "Mutha Nature."
The new version kept with audience volunteers being used in demonstrations of special effects, with the explanation that Disaster Studios couldn't afford any of that fancy CGI for its productions. And the subway ride at the climax remained much the same, except this time we all were the extras, being directed to scream on cue. At the end, we got to watch the "film" we'd helped create, as scenes from "Mutha Nature" showed on the overhead screens in the subway train, with scenes starring the audience volunteers from our show cut in.
But if Disaster! postponed the attraction's demise, this new storyline could not prevent its closure. The Orlando Sentinel's Dewayne Bevil said it best:
Last day of Disaster at Universal. 10 minute wait. A mean person would say the people have spoken— Dewayne Bevil (@ThemeParks) September 7, 2015
If you never had the opportunity to experience Disaster! (or just walked by if you did), here is a fill video of the experience, including the pre-show, special effects demonstrations and subway ride at the end.
In addition today was the final day for the Incredible Hulk Coaster, which starts a long refurbishment tomorrow that will see the installation of a new launch system, on-ride effects, and new show elements in the queue and loading area. The new version of the Hulk coaster will reopen sometime in the middle of next year.
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