Jimmy Fallon ride begins soft opens at Universal Studios Florida

March 2, 2017, 4:56 PM · The Universal Orlando Resort today started technical rehearsals for its new flying theater ride, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.

The ride, featuring the host of corporate sibling NBC's The Tonight Show, debuts officially on April 6. But Universal's letting fans in early on a soft opening. (We will be in Orlando for a media preview next week, and will run our review after that.)

This isn't Fallon's first appearance in a Universal theme park attraction. Since 2011, he's been the on-screen host for the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood — a gig that pre-dates his promotion from Late Night to Tonight Show host in 2014.

In Orlando, Universal has transformed the old Twister show building into a truncated version of NBC's 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters in New York, where Fallon's The Tonight Show is taped. According to Universal's description of the attraction, fans enter through the lobby of the building, under the idea that they're going to see a taping of the show. But what they'll get is a chance to experience an all-new type of flying theater, in which they'll race through the city with Fallon, who'll be piloting his own "Tonight Rider" quadcopter on the screen ahead.

Then it's a 3D adventure through the city, with appearances by multiple Tonight Show personalities and characters (some also played by Fallon), with in-theater effects, including the smell of New York pizza. (Warning: That's the good smell effect.)

The theater will be a 72-seat "flying theater" ride. If you're wondering what that is relative to other theme park attractions, it's like Soarin', but with more motion. A flying theater typically offers a stationary screen that's not firmly attached to the moving rows of seats in front of it. A motion simulator, such as Star Tours, has a smaller floor plan and features a screen that is attached to the base of the theater and moves along with the seats.

Just to further confuse you, a 4D theater, such as Shrek, is one in which individual seats in the theater might jiggle or move, but the entire floor remain stable. And if you haven't thrown up your hands and given up at this point, let's go Full Geek here and make a distinction between flying theaters such as Fallon and Soarin', and other rides such as Minion Mayhem and The Simpsons Ride, which feature multiple, smaller moving and shaking ride vehicles in front of a stationary screen. We're calling those motion base shows — though that's not an industry standard term.

Anyway, back to Fallon. The queue and gift shop at the end of the ride will offer plenty of Tonight Show-themed bits, including a meet with Hashtag the Panda, performances by Ragtime Gals barbershop quartet, and televisions playing clips of many of the show's most popular routines, including History of Rap and Lip Sync Battle. There also will be an Interactive Host Desk, from which you can send Thank You Notes to family and friends.

The ride also will feature Universal's new Virtual Line system, where fans must obtain return times via the resort's official app or kiosks in front of the attraction. Universal Express will not be available during the soft opening.

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Replies (26)

March 2, 2017 at 5:06 PM · People are saying it's fine for what the ride is. If you expected an E-ticket, you'll apparently be disappointed, but why would you expect a Jimmy Fallon ride to be an e-ticket in the first place?
March 2, 2017 at 5:35 PM · FWIW, I don't consider Soarin' to be an E-ticket-level attraction. (Hides for duration of comment thread.)
March 2, 2017 at 5:39 PM · Before the fire comes out and pitch forks come out, let me say this.
They have .67 of an acre to play with. You can't do much about it if you think about it.
The line is great the ride is meh. Its a people eater.
March 2, 2017 at 5:59 PM · I still say universal missed out by not taking the sharks from jaws and putting them in the twister building as Sharknado. It would have been better than this for far less money.
March 2, 2017 at 7:19 PM · There was that prominent Sharknado rumor that I'm kinda bummed out didn't come to fruition. I remember reading about it and thought it had real potential. The sheer self-aware stupidity of the films has already proved a comedic cult hit. Imagine that kind of fun mindless experience being in the middle of a Sharknado in reality. The "WTF" concept alone would've drawn numbers and provided great exposure for SyFy.
March 2, 2017 at 8:29 PM · QUESTION: "Why would you expect a Jimmy Fallon ride to be an e-ticket in the first place?"

ANSWER: Well, in Jurassic World a Jimmy Fallon ride was an e-ticket...he was the narrator for the dinosaur safari gyroscope ride. Which was an e-ticket for sure.

Life imitates art?

March 2, 2017 at 8:42 PM · I absolutely love the exterior of this building. The truncated 30 Rock looks really good, at least from the photos. Looks like the real thing.

Hollywood Studios would be wise to take a cue from Universal for any future Streets of America type things they ever would wish to build.

March 2, 2017 at 9:18 PM · A 3D Adventure at Universal!? No way! And when I think of adventure I think of The Tonight Show Sarring Jimmy Fallon.
If only there was a comedy / adventure franchise that takes place in New York that they could have put in that building instead. But I figure an idea like that wouldn't have a ghost of a chance. Busted!
March 2, 2017 at 9:48 PM · I was one of the lucky ones who was able to ride the new Jimmy Fallon ride today. They only had it available to team members yesterday and today. Tomorrow starts the "soft opening" like they did with King Kong: Skull Island. There were some unique features for the que line. There were interactive game consoles available to use to help pass the time. There's also a little live entertainment set up for guests. They have Jimmy's barber shop quartet singing different funny songs and performing some comedy. The ride itself was fun but I can see how it may not be a "must do every visit" type of ride. It runs through all the characters that Jimmy does on the tonight show and shows every New York trademark location. The "tonight show vehicle" flys at one point and even goes under water. It's very enjoyable with lots of infused humor. It'll definitely be a big hit throughout the spring and summer park attendance periods.
March 2, 2017 at 10:47 PM · Queue has a Conan O'Brien tribute. Didn't expect that. The quartet show is all Jimmy Fallon. Juvenile, but entertaining in small doses. Still waiting for someone to upload the ride to YouTube.
March 3, 2017 at 12:30 AM · I've never ridden a flying theatre attraction, so that aspect is interesting. Nothing else about this excites me, but I'll reserve judgement until I actually ride it.
March 3, 2017 at 2:53 AM · Robert, I'm trying to avoid taking the bait on the Soarin'. I enjoy the ride, but it's one of my wife's favourites. The queues speak for themselves, I'd class it as an e-ticket.

As for Jaws going Sharknado? That'd be jumping the shark.

March 3, 2017 at 4:27 AM · Someone must have told Jimmy Fallon he was funny once? Look what we're left with.
March 3, 2017 at 8:09 AM · I don't know about this ride but don't waste your time on King Kong! 2.5 hr wait for nothing!!!!!
March 3, 2017 at 8:38 AM · I'm really getting bored with screen based attractions. Enough is enough.
March 3, 2017 at 9:33 AM · Robert, I have to side with you. Soarin' is a great ride but I think it only gets its "E" rating from the sheer size. It has a full queue because it takes awhile to move people through it.

I don't watch Jimmy Fallon but I'm still interested to experience this.

March 3, 2017 at 12:57 PM · What sort of attraction is it? Is it a simulator ride or is it like minions ride?
March 3, 2017 at 3:00 PM · With Soarin you are seated and then lifted into the air with your feet free to dangle in the air. As the hang glider moves your feet react to the movement.

Can you compare it to a roller coaster where your feet dangle? NO WAY!

Can you compare it to full immersion? NO WAY, just look up or to the sides and the screen ends.

Can you notice the CGI? OH YEAH!

Is it the same ride system as Jimmy Fallon? NOT AT ALL!

Is USF PR spinning it and asking for loyalists to reinforce 'it's just like Soarin!' YES, but can you blame them? NOT AT ALL!

March 3, 2017 at 4:42 PM · I'd still rather race through New York with Sterling Archer.
March 4, 2017 at 2:11 AM · Twister was on it's last legs. It would have costed a ton to replace everything and have a shark instead of a cow fly around. The attraction had low ratings and wasn't visited a lot.

This building is very small and Universal managed to make is quite a substantial attraction with the whole experience. The whole thing with getting a ticket for the show, visiting the "museum", interactive games and live performances are as integral to the experience as the ride itself. The exterior is a great fit to the New York area and they even created a event space and bigger restrooms. The merchandising is unique to the ride and NBC. I'm impressed.

March 4, 2017 at 7:58 AM · The attractions externals, the build up the ride are brilliant. But the ride itself is for the first time i've been let down by Universal.

Too many screens - just horrendous.

March 5, 2017 at 5:37 AM · Had a chance to ride yesterday and I was impressed. In my opinion, it is the best simulator technology on property. With that being said, it still is just another simulator. Probably the biggest (and generally only) letdown was that "America's first flying theater" is basically the same ride vehicle technology used on Despicable Me but seating a 100 or so people in the ride vehicle.

The queue area is fantastic and I believe (based on my personal experience) that the attraction accomplishes what it was designed to do for NBC Comcast - generate interest in The Tonight Show. Prior to visiting the attraction, I had never seen the show nor had any interest in watching the show. I knew of Jimmy Fallon but that's about it. As a matter of fact, I thought that the whole idea of a Jimmy Fallon ride was bizarre when I first heard it announced. By the time I got out of the attraction, I had a newfound interest in Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show.

I think it makes a great addition to the park - children and adults will equally love the attraction. But as much as I enjoyed the ride, I just couldn't help having that "another simulator" thought in the back of my mind.

March 5, 2017 at 11:16 AM · Another simulator?

Would you prefer a slow-paced show with "audio animatronics" a la Disney? A tonight show recreation like Hall of Presidents? I wouldn't.

Also keep in mind that USF had a very limited space here. What they have done with that space is fantastic considering the facade upgrade to New York, the queue, the ride experience, the store, and the merchandise.

The new King Kong animatronic proves that Universal Creative still excels at that technology as well. Knowing when to use it is key. If the action is too great, or the realism would be in question (like doing humans), they generally make good choices.

March 6, 2017 at 1:43 AM · I'm curious as to the international appeal of this ride and how it'll date. I can't see it doing great on either front. Personally find Fallon irritating so I've no desire to see it.
March 6, 2017 at 8:01 AM · There was absolutely nothing new to this ride. The queue line/area is unique, but it stops there. Race through New York is Back to the Future with a make over.
March 7, 2017 at 12:05 AM · Awesome that we have something completely new in this building. We do have The Tonight Show in the UK but I dont watch it. Kinda feel like I may skip this as I think I won't 'get' it. Look forward to more reviews.

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