Park of the Week: Islands of Adventure

Don't dismiss Universal's new, interdisciplinary take on theme park rides

March 8, 2017, 7:43 PM · ORLANDO — Okay, let me make sure that I've got this logic right...

Cedar Point has built a lot of roller coasters, so it should stop making roller coasters and build other rides, to keep fans happy.

Disney has made a lot of animated movies, so it should stop making animated films and develop only live-action family movies, to keep fans happy.

Legoland has built a lot of attractions that look like Lego bricks, so it should use other surface decorations on their new attractions, to keep fans happy.

Dollywood has a lot of musical shows, so it should it should stop using music in its new live performances, to keep fans happy.

Universal has developed a lot of screen-based attractions, so it should stop developing new rides that use screens and build nothing but animatronic dark rides, to keep fans happy.

Am I getting this right?

Okay, I'm trolling hard here, but I just don't get the this standard that some fans seem to be applying to Universal for its theme park attractions.

Universal uses a lot of IP that relies on actors — real human beings whose instantly recognizable faces cannot be convincingly recreated in animatronic form. (Just take a visit to the uncanny valley of Disney's Hall of Presidents creepshow to see how badly some familiar faces look in animatronic form. Sorry, but that is not Barack Obama.) Unless Universal wants to throw many millions of dollars into animatronic R&D in an attempt to beat Disney at its own game and develop mechanical faces that look and react exactly like Daniel Radcliffe, Helena Bonham Carter, Vin Diesel, and Jimmy Fallon, then it's going to need to use screens to bring these people into Universal's theme park attractions in a convincing way.

Because of Universal's reliance on live-action, actor-driven IP, Universal's theme parks necessarily are going to include a higher percentage of screen experiences than any other parks in the industry. The only way to avoid that is to create experiences such as Men in Black Alien Attack, where the lead actors are either marginalized onto supplemental screens (Will Smith) or eliminated entirely (Tommy Lee Jones). Universal can pull that off every once in a while, but it needs to deliver that stars that define its IP franchises on a consistent basis to please their fans. That means screens.

What about Gru and the Minions? Those are animated characters. Couldn't Universal have created an animatronic ride for them? Yeah, I'll give the haters that one. But let's remember that Despicable Me Minion Mayhem was one of the last major new attractions that Universal developed before its Harry Potter windfall allowed the company to buy out Blackstone Group, take full ownership of the Universal Orlando Resort, and escalate the budgets for its new attractions. Minion Mayhem was budgeted as a reskin of the old Jimmy Neutron ride, which itself was a reskin of the original Hanna-Barbera attraction. (Google it, kids. And join me later in the bottom of that rabbit hole. "Grape Ape!")

Fans loved the Minion Mayhem ride film and Universal made a sound business decision to dupe it in Hollywood and Japan. If Disney fans want to give Universal a hard time for passing on developing an original idea merely to dupe a cheaper, existing concept from its park on the other coast, I would invite them to Google "Pirates of the Caribbean" "Western River Expedition" before proceeding.

To Universal's credit, it's vastly improved the setting for Minion Mayhem with each installation, creating a Super Silly Fun Land (with spinners and playgrounds — no screens!) in Hollywood and an even bigger Minion Park coming to Japan this year. But, yeah, I'd love to see Universal create an animatronic-driven Minion dark ride experience some day.

All right, let's move down the list. Wanna talk about Transformers? Until I hear a solid refutation, I will go to my grave believing that Universal had no intention of bringing Transformers to Orlando, relenting only when it appeared that it might need to close Spider-Man in a deal to trade the Marvel theme park rights to Disney as part of a major financial transaction that would have released Steven Spielberg from Dreamworks (which has a distribution deal with Disney) so that he could return to Universal. But Spielberg elected to stay with Dreamworks, scuttling the negotiations. Ever wonder why Universal was in such a pants-on-fire rush to get that ride built? It didn't want to be caught for any length of time without a replacement for its all-time highest-rated attraction, so it rushed plans to dupe the Transformers ride from Singapore and Hollywood. Maybe I'm wrong here. But I'd love to hear a more convincing explanation for why Universal pulled the idea to build Transformers in Orlando out of nowhere and put it into the park in mere months. (Leak to me, people. You know where to find me.)

What about Kong? More screens there! Let's look at the unusual context around the creation of that experience, too. When a backlot fire at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2008 destroyed the Kong Encounter on the Studio Tour, Universal knew it needed a replacement. With Peter Jackson having directed a reboot of Kong for Universal in 2005, the park chose to turn to Jackson to help develop a new Kong encounter, based on his film. At that point, every encounter on the Studio Tour was practical, which actually made little sense given how much of filmmaking in the 21st century is digitally-based. Adding a digital encounter on the tour helped alleviate a deficiency on the attraction.

So when Universal decided to return Kong to Orlando, it had a wildly popular attraction from California to offer. But instead of simply duping King Kong: 360/3D, Universal plussed it. It encased the Hollywood Kong encounter in richly decorated new practical setting, added an extra video scene, then installed an animatronic and live actors in the queue, and finished the ride with a massive new Kong animatronic for its finale.

But the haters ignored the animatronics and the actors and grunted, "no more screens!"

We didn't know it yet, but Kong established a template that Universal followed this year with Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon. That attraction features another screen-based ride, with a flying theater, but it also includes a richly decorated setting, a character meet and greet, and a live musical performance.

I know that Universal's critics simply want to see a more diverse mix of attraction experiences across the park, including animatronics, coasters, dark rides, water rides, live shows, and, yes, even screens. I do, too. But instead of balancing its overall portfolio by building no-screen rides exclusively for a while, Universal is blazing a new path toward creating that balance.

With Kong and now Fallon, Universal is creating a diversity of experiences within each of its new attractions. They're not just screen rides. They're hybrids that employ screens, live performances, and for Kong, animatronics, on top of different ride platforms in either case. Kong and Fallon advance a model expands the definition of a theme park attraction beyond "a queue and a thing." They can involve multiple narrative elements — live, filmed, and mechanical — that launch from the moment you enter, not when you reach the load platform or pre-show area.

If this is the new model at Universal, balance will arrive soon enough. (Heck, rip out Shrek and Minion Mayhem in Orlando in favor of that animatronic Minion dark ride of my dreams, and the resort would be there right then.) So please excuse me for sitting out the "no more screens at Universal!" furor. I think what Universal is doing with its theme park attractions is fascinating, not lamentable.

Replies (67)

March 8, 2017 at 8:13 PM · I haven't been to Orlando, so I can only speak for Hollywood, where I was employed once upon a time in the days of the ET ride and the Star Trek guest participation show. I hadn't been back for about 20 years. When I finally did get the chance to experience the park again, I found that while I liked the newer technology and the motion simulators, I did wish for something, ANYTHING, that didn't jerk me around so much. Even the tram tour made me feel like a martini. Maybe it's my age talking, but a nice, calm Small World or Haunted Mansion type ride would be very welcome.
March 8, 2017 at 8:25 PM · "I know that Universal's critics simply want to see a more diverse mix of attraction experiences across the park, including animatronics, coasters, dark rides, water rides, live shows, and, yes, even screens."

While I can't call myself a Universal critic (I've loved USF since first visiting it in 1993 at age 6), this is exactly what I'd like to see, yes. I don't believe that's an unreasonable desire, nor do I think it makes me some kind of a screens hater. Islands of Adventure has pretty much a perfect blend of all of that, while Universal Studios Florida has gone overboard on 3D and simulators. When the bulk of the attractions in a park utilize a similar approach, that approach starts to lose its unique and interesting qualities.

March 8, 2017 at 9:07 PM · People often forget other AA heavy attractions Universal has made, unfortunately overseas: Speghetti space Chase and Madagascar adventure, and the now extinct ET. So it is frustrating for fans like me to know that Universal can create great Fantasyland style dark rides but take the easier and cheaper 3D route. I actually don't mind screens, it's more the 3D that I get really tired of. It was awesome in the 80s when it was novel but now after 1 or 2 3D rides I'm ready to experience something real. It was no surprise to me that VR failed in its launch this year. People will always prefer the real thing. Forbidden Journey and Hogwarts are 2 of the most complete and immersive attractions I've ever experienced. They are a perfect balance to me of screens when needed and real effects when possible.

Universal doesn't have to build AA heavy rides and screenless rides if they don't want to. Indeed they have been very successful with their new parks, but Cedar Fair and Legoland etc. are far from being the theme park standards. If they want to ever equal or beat Disney then believe they will have to.

March 8, 2017 at 9:20 PM · "Yeah, I'll give the haters that one."

Labeling people that don't agree with your opinion as "haters" doesn't seem to fit into the spirit that "all participants in the Theme Park Insider community treat one another with respect and a spirit of helpfulness."

March 8, 2017 at 9:34 PM · Robert... From my perspective, you are preaching to the choir on this issue !! I love, love, love roller coasters and will visit the local Six Flags park (GA) for my cheap and local coaster fix. Or even go up to Charlotte to ride Fury 325. But Universal Orlando resort offers me something much more important. A chance to enjoy these rides with my wife and 7 yr old grandson. My wife has had 4 back surgeries in the past 10 years and a fear of heights that keeps her off coasters. But she loves riding almost everything at Universal (Even Mummy, go figure). My Grandson loves coasters too, but has not reached the all-important 54 inch height. Being a typical 7 year old, he loves superheroes and Transformers. When we took him on the Transformers and Spider Man rides last Nov, he thought it was the coolest thing ever !! And... I don't recall him saying anything negative about the screens.

Appreciate your recent review of the Jimmy Fallon ride at USF. The last few times we visited Universal, we did not even bother with Twister. Good to see them to take that limited space and put something new and different in its place.

My point is not to disparage all of the "screen-based attraction" critics of Universal. I can understand and sympathize with their frustration over the situation. But different theme parks offer different experiences and I make it a point to enjoy whatever each theme park does best.

FWIW - I am excited about the new "screen-based" Justice League opening at our home park, SFOG. I honestly don't think it will measure up to what Transformers and SpiderMan have to offer. But for me, part of the appeal will be witnessing the reaction of locals (GA, AL, SC) who have never ridden anything like it before. In addition to competing with my grandson on the shooting part of ride :-)

March 8, 2017 at 10:33 PM · I heard Transformers was rushed because an unexpected tax windfall due to HP. In other words with the cash, use it or lose it. So they made the (literally) last day decision to add it. (Also, although the ride vehicles are similar, the building is not so if it was to replace SpiderMan, that building would have had to have been demolished.)
March 8, 2017 at 11:12 PM · I think a unique ride experience will always beat a similar one, even if it is very well done. I enjoyed older Universal attractions that varied (Twister, Backdraft, Jaw, BTTF) more because each had their own gimmick.

If you ride Shrek 4-D, Transformers, Minions, Simpsons, Spider-man,Kong, and it seems now Race through NY you are getting somewhat similar ride experiences. Those are all very well done (can't vouch for the last one but I trust you) but variety IMO is much more preferably than just expertly done simulator after simulator.

March 8, 2017 at 11:45 PM · Most of the arguments in Robert's post simply fail to hold water. For example: you talk about Disney's animated movies, and that is completely beside the point. The comparison is between theme parks, and Disney offers far more variety of experiences in their parks.

And it's very lame to say that Universal is forced to go with mostly screens just because they use actor's faces. You're giving them an excuse to cheap out on us. If you want to use the actors, they can use screens for that, but can still give us practical effects for most of the ride -- as they did with MIB, Forbidden Journey, Mummy.

It's also lame to call us haters just because we are pressing the company to give us more variety. I and other criticize because we are fans and we care about what we're getting for our theme park dollar. If I hated Universal, I would just stay away from their parks, and I wouldn't care at all what they put in there.

And I don't hate screen-based rides and 3D. In fact, I've always been a sucker for 3D. But at Universal, they just keep shovelling the same stuff at us, and that tendency has jumped the shark.

I'll admit that Escape from Gringotts is a very good ride, and did enough new with 3D that it was worthwhile. But when they announced Skull Island, I thought it would be a departure from that template, not just a plussed version of the 90 second UHS experience, which is just a small part of the Studio Tour.

You also made some weak comparison with Cedar Fair. We expect a lot more variety, diversity and immersive theming from theme parks, as opposed to amusement parks. That's one of the reasons we pay a lot more for theme parks than for our local Six Flags park, and we travel to go to Disney and Universal.

I also don't buy this hybrid idea. The queue and surroundings are the icing on the cake. That doesn't change the fact that the cake has too much sameness.

March 8, 2017 at 11:55 PM · Forbidden journey has the perfect mix of screens and practical effects for me, and set expectations. Sitting in front of one screen isn't enough now and people will soon be sick of the Tonight show museum etc after multiple rides.
March 9, 2017 at 12:54 AM · At least in my opinion, screens are not the issue. The problem is that a number of attractions within the park essentially provide the same ride experience, just with a different IP. Sure, Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks are full of roller coasters, but each one offers different elements and different riding sensations to guests. Disney's dark rides all contain unique settings and individual tricks to create immersive environments...not everything is a room of singing animatronics. Meanwhile, what is the difference between Simpsons Ride and Despicable Me? Unless you look deep at the technical specifications, primarily aesthetics. Even though there is more to other rides, it is hard to disguise when riders are simply sitting and watching a movie. If too many rides do this, it will get old over the course of a day.

As for the hybrid idea, while some may look at the attraction as a whole, most look at the ride component as 80-90% of the package. If the main draw is the queue, why have a ride that won't live up to it in the first place? Which are you more likely to return to: A restaurant that has average appetizers and outstanding entrees, or a restaurant that has outstanding appetizers and average entrees? For most, it would be the former.

March 9, 2017 at 1:03 AM · Bravo, Robert! As a designer of attractions that use both screens and animatronics (Creative Director for Sally Corp here), I can appreciate what each brings to the guest experience. Screens give designers freedoms that robots don't...namely freedom of movement and depth. At the same time, robots come with their own advantages...being able to "touch" the audience in a way screens just can't. They are just tools in a toolbox though. It all comes down to good design. The best rides will make guests forget the technology behind the magic and just have fun.

There is a misconception that screens are a low cost option for ride designers. Actually, animation, projectors and screens can be VERY expensive. It is important for us to acknowledge however, that this perception is one downside to using projected media and perception is everything!

In our new Justice League rides, we tried to strike a balance between the AA's, practical sets and screens. That mix seems to be working pretty well.

March 9, 2017 at 2:28 AM · Great article.
I think it's a different perspective in building a ride between Disney and Universal.
Most Disney rides are theatrical displays, small snippets that move a bit in a loop. As an audience you move slowly trough it to the next bit. The guest is the spectator.
At Universal the guest is a participant. There is a constant flow through the scene and story and they are part of the action.

When entering Universal Studios you meet 3 rides (Minion, Shrek and Fallon) that are very similar. Two of those rides are on the list to be cut. Both Shrek and Minions will leave the park and (I hope) get new iterations in Universal's next theme park. I'm positive their animation and game ip's will see many more animatronics.

Regarding Transformers: I heard the head of Universal Studio's Florida was nervous about Diagon Alley. The success of their first Potter land was overwhelming and they wanted another pull somewhere in the park to open before Potter to spread the guests. When attending the opening for Transformers in Hollywood he was taken about the reception the ride got and decided to have it build. UC was already preparing the old building for HHN when they got the message the building would be torn down.
Universal always knew Marvel was theirs so they never needed to counter anything except their own success.

March 9, 2017 at 3:15 AM · I laughed when I read Robert's first few paragraphs of this post! He makes a lot of sense and honesty this should go for more than just the screen debate. The constant one side is right and the other is wrong and if you disagree you are lame and you don't matter (not always said this nicely) is tiresome.

I love the good old Disney vs Universal debates and those are usually the threads with the most comments so I must not be the only one. (I've been a menber since 2011 and participated in my fare share!) But what I love is the playful back and forth and being able to come in with an open mind and listen to good solid points that make me think. The hardcore fanboys on either side will never admit defeat or failure so it's not worth trying to change their minds cause it's never going to happen.

The info that should be taken from this artical is that these companies are different and have strengths and weaknesses. We shouldn't constantly fault them for doing something they are good at if it gives us a new attraction or experience. Yes we should hold them accountable and not be willing to blindly give passes if an attraction is really bad. (And when I say bad I mean something that is without a doubt low quality and disliked by just about everyone. Not just a ride that you don't like for personal reasons)

Yes Universal uses a lot of screens but look at the amount of space they have to work with, the story they are trying to tell, the target audience they are going for, and the unbelievable rate at which they are pumping out new attractions! Agreed that the IP might also not be your personal favorite, but having a solid new crowd eating ride helps you visit an attraction you enjoy with less of a wait. And to fry the new thing yourself at least once gives you a new experience and may just surprise you.

Yes Disney works at a snails pace but they will be unveiling lots of new lands and attractions in the next 5 years that should be entertaining to guests and again give us new experiences. And to think these new experiences are going to be less than world class is rediculous!!! They might not all be home runs and be the best new thing of all time, and again the IP might not be your cup of tea, but new entertainment is still worth checking out.

Disney has had and still has their irons in the fire all over the world when it comes to construction. It is frustrating to see very little new in the US, but realize that they were trying to fix infrastructure on their two oldest resorts so they don't put the cart before the horse.

Voicing opinions is very welcomed and being able to express your take or desire on how you would like a park to be is just fine! Having the small chance that maybe a bigwig from the company might hear the opinion of "Bob Liebe" (insert your name there) and cater their new experience to your thoughts is what we would all love!

But when it comes to beating a dead horse on a topic or being so intrenched on one side that an open mind is nowhere to be found and we can just spew hate to the other side, it makes for a "swipe left" moment for me.

I don't think Robert was calling everyone who wants to see Universal do something else besides screens a "hater" with the intent to degrade them. (He himself said he wishes for more non screen rides too.) I believe this was nothing more than being playful.

If not, then I too am a hater and proud of it and take no offense. I would like to see more non screen based attractions, but I also can't deny what they've done in 6 years and still do find enjoyment in the new attractions with screens. I just try not to incorporate that opinion on every thread, every time, without question, and in a negative way to others! I then also don't flip flop when "my side" makes a screen based ride so it is now the best thing since sliced bread.

In the words of Anchorman Ron Burgandy, "Stay classy San Diego".

March 9, 2017 at 3:22 AM · The thing is I like Disney cartoons, CP rollercoasters, Legoland Lego, so more is fine if they keep the quality high. But I don't like screen based rides (with only a few rare exceptions such as Soarin' or Impressions of France). I not only don't want additional screen rides, I actually prefer none. Kong looks great with the vehicles, queue, show building, etc., but the screen action sucks bigly. Minions should be a dark ride, not a screen. Transformers and Spiderman suck as well with the screens. I don't feel a part of the action or narrative at all on those rides, and the 3D just makes it even worse. If Universal continues with the screens, they'll find themselves in the same position as Sea World with declining attendance because they're not giving the audience what it wants and doubling down on what it doesn't want.
March 9, 2017 at 5:09 AM · To most points, I agree Robert. I rarely tire of the same thing which is odd. If the movie is entertaining, I don't mind watching several of them. An entire park of simulators might even be a stretch for me, but that's not the case.
March 9, 2017 at 7:46 AM · Amen to the article. People are getting to sensitive today or maybe they just need a quiet space? Try finding a quiet space in a theme park. There is good points to all major theme parks. Universal has hit a home run with its immersion with Harry Potter and ran with it. With its interactive wands doing real effects (no screens), live shows (no screens), costumed employees (no screens), merchandise (no screens), and rides (some screens), a tram that moves you from point a to point b, and restaurants (no screens, that would be unpleasant). Immersion is the name of the game at Universal not just the screens. I rode the simpsons ride when it was just a ride and I thought it was ok. I really wanted to try those fake carnival games that they had on the facade of the ride. Now at Universal they have created a whole area of Simpsons where I can eat, drink, and walk through Springfield. The whole immersion aspect makes the ride seem better then it was now to me. Maybe it was just the Duff beer but I enjoyed the new entire simpsons experience.

Thats what the new Fallon ride has me so excited to go on once I go back to Universal with my wife. Do I want to just sit and watch a 4d experience, not exactly, but throw in a live music show, museum, interactive shows and games and yes I would like a good helping of immersion please. Disney has been first with this concept but has fallen a bit behind but the promise of new lands of immersion has my interest peaked especially Star Wars.

You have to ask yourself do you just like running from ride to ride to get the most ride time in a day or actually experience the whole surroundings to let yourself be in the situation, to be in the moment, to be part of the attraction. To me it's where the screen doesn't matter because they are just one part of the whole experience.

March 9, 2017 at 6:50 AM · What if Cedar Point built nothing but woodies. Would I expect them to build something else?

What if Disney only offered Meet-and-Greets. Would I want to maybe ride a coaster?

What if LEGOLAND only built Lego models. Would I be bored after a while?

What if Universal kept building ride after ride featuring the same technology? Would each ride have diminishing returns?

Yes to all of the above.

March 9, 2017 at 6:52 AM · The real question, and the one that should drive theme park management from the top executive down to the people operating the attractions, is whether everything is fun. Bottom line, Universal Orlando is fun. Currently, it is more fun than Disney. There are many reasons for this. Now, for somebody that gets motion sickness from simulators, maybe Disney is a better alternative. Having several relatives with that particular affliction, probably theme parks aren't the best place for them in the first place. Universal does have a few dead spots. ET is desperate for a renovation. Jurassic Park needs to spruce up its dinosaurs. The food is nowhere near the quality of Disney, and the parks need to stay open later, but I will take wonderfully fun attractions with reasonable wait times any day of the week.
March 9, 2017 at 6:59 AM · Personally, my main gripe with the overuse of screens at Universal is they're brutal on anyone (like myself) who gets motion sickness. I can't go on a significant portion of their attractions because they make me nauseous, and I'm sure I'm not the only one with this issue. They desperately need a wider variety of rides.
March 9, 2017 at 7:49 AM · Bravo, Robert! This.

And let's not forget the great practical effects Universal offers, when appropriate. That new King Kong animatronic is legit, for one. Also, there are many practical effects -- ET, Escape from Gringotts, Forbidden Journey, Jurassic Park, Men In Black, Poseidon's Fury, The Mummy, and Spider Man all contain at least some practical elements.

I do think Transformers could be better, particularly since the characters would lend themselves to some large-scale animatronics. This added to the fact that it uses an identical ride system to the better Spider Man attraction makes it seem a bit stale.

But in general, Universal has done a fine job at deciding when to use screens for fast-paced action, and when to use animatronics and practical effects. I agree that they need to continue using practical effects and animatronics whenever appropriate, and maybe even step that up a bit to the level of Forbidden Journey when possible.

On the other hand, Disney. Disney, Disney, Disney. If I never see another animatronic human, that would be great! Most of the Disney "audio-animatronics" creep me out. They creep kids out. These slow-paced attractions are fun once, maybe twice. Rides like Dumbo feel like cheap carnival attractions. Add the snails pace at which they create new attractions, and the accelerated pace at which people lose interest in things, and it's a nightmare. I'm excited for Avatar land, although I don't recall much from the movie. And I'm excited about Star Wars. But in general, Disney needs to step it up if they want to maintain interest and continue providing excitement to people over 10.

March 9, 2017 at 7:37 AM · I agree for the most part but does every ride need to spit water at you at some point?? Drawing the line there people!!
March 9, 2017 at 7:42 AM · A lot of the people criticizing Universal's superfluous use of screens are Disney fanatics. Then again, certain people just love to complain about ANYTHING.

If you like Disney, stick with it, Universal, same thing. You should experience them both before becoming a cheerleading fanboy for either one, however.

We did Disney for years, then went to Universal when my girls got a older. They simply like, Universal better, as do I.

March 9, 2017 at 8:48 AM · A HUGE thank you Robert for this great article. I 100% agree with you and I love Universal for all the great things they've done. They are a movie based theme park and not having screens is not an option!!! I love the practical sets too but I have never thought they had to many screens and if you hate screens that much then don't go to Universal. The comparison with Cedar Point is great. When I want to go on roller coasters I go to Six Flags or Cedar Point so keep building them. When I want to escape and have a great time forgetting about the outside world I go to Universal. I really don't care if all their future rides have screens as long as they are fun and entertaining.
March 9, 2017 at 8:51 AM · Still a fan- Keep quiet. Robert- A very well written and thought out article. Well done.
March 9, 2017 at 9:38 AM · This is an excellent article. Robert managed to pull a lot of opinions and factual bread crumbs and make a logical argument that makes sense. Why would Universal do it different? Universal isn't Disney. Actually, they are better in some respects and worse in others.

Since Men In Black and ET, they didn't attempt the full animatronics ride much. These two rides are very good. The cute ET dark ride was good, but the intro with the police cars unnecessarily killed the ride. They went dramatic danger to a calming space alien Zen. Sometimes, Universal can do without the full theatrical experience and just go with the attraction experience (be more Disney-like). Too bad ET no longer lives on. Seems odd that Spielberg's movie creations don't last long at Universal Orlando with ET and Jaws gone.

So here's another bread crumb, Universal's rides don't last very long. Screen rides make more sense as a business investment for Universal.

Disney's rides can benefit from some screen enhancements to its existing attractions. WDW's Pirates should get some scenes from Shanghai's Pirates. DL's Indiana Jones Adventure should get some screens in some dark spots where nothing happens.

March 9, 2017 at 9:17 AM · Thanks Robert for calling this out.

What a surprise that some people that prefer slow moving singing robot rides don't like bumpy movie screen attractions. I like em all. Except drop towers. I hate drop towers :) I don't understand the everything must be just like Disney to be good idea.

If you ride Spiderman and just see movie screens, then Uni probably isn't for you. If you ride Small World and just see your worst nightmare, then Disney probably isn't for you. There are many people that fall into the later category, but I don't see websites calling for Disney to stop building animatronic rides just to make them happy. Most of these people I know just look for other entertainment options that are more closely aligned to their own joys.

March 9, 2017 at 9:51 AM · Unpopular opinion:

Poseidon's Fury is one of the best practical effect attractions in Orlando. I love the facade, the queue keeps me cool in the summer, walking between rooms, stage tricks, and DAT WATER TUNNEL. I only wish they could modernize the finale a little bit with their new, gigantic budget.

March 9, 2017 at 10:41 AM · Granted I'm growing bit weary of the screens myself, but I give Universal major credit for adding attractions. I still love and miss the "innocence" of what Disney used to be. But, as I've said before, going to Disney has become way too complicated.

My only true complaint with Universal is that my wife dislikes the "intensity" of every attraction. She's not old, but she no longer has an interest in every ride being so intense. This is becoming a problem, because now she no longer wants to go to Orlando. ...And when mama ain't happy, nobody is happy.

I'm not saying abandon the screens and the thrills, but Universal does need a few "calmer" attractions that families of all ages can do "together." Give her a Waterworld caliber show in Orlando and she'd return. She could watch Waterworld multiple times a day in Hollywood.

March 9, 2017 at 11:35 AM · I'll stay out of the argument 'cause I like all types of rides... though I will say that I wish Universal used a LITTLE less 3D simply because I hate wearing 3D glasses over my REGULAR glasses. That being said, I love the new Kong :-)

But I have to tell you, Robert, that your reference to the "Hall of Presidents creepshow" totally made my day.

Great writing, as always!

March 9, 2017 at 11:58 AM · It boggles my mind how people make the jump from Universal Studios is based on movies therefore, their attractions must also be movies?? Did these people never visit Universal Studios before 1991 when they opened their first simulator ride? They do realize Universal studios existed 27 years prior sans screen based attractions or simulators???
March 9, 2017 at 12:21 PM · Bravo, Robert! Like anything else in this world, not every theme park is going to appeal to every fan. The beautiful thing is, if you don't like it, you don't have to go! I had a lot of other thoughts running around my head, but I think that sums it up. Attendance numbers indicate that plenty of theme/amusement parks around the country/world are appealing to plenty of fans. If you don't like one, find one that suits you better. (And all of us here in the comments will save money on blood pressure medication.)
March 9, 2017 at 12:31 PM · Can't wait for the Avatar boat ride as I love Mexicos boat ride and the Land boat ride , it's a small world boat ride, Pirates Boat ride and was so happy when Frozen was a boat ride as well :).
March 9, 2017 at 2:01 PM · I AGREE WITH YOU
March 9, 2017 at 2:03 PM · I am a broken record on this point, but since it is now the debate is which is more fun, Disney or Universal, for my family it has nothing to do with simulators or practical effects. It is that Disney has a massively broken line reservation system and going there simply is no longer fun because of it. By the way, is this MaxPass system possibly going to be an upcharge where in addition to photos you can get extra fast passes for a price? I know it would cause an uproar, but they have to do something or I just won't go back. I love Star Wars. Much more than Harry Potter, but I can ride the Forbidden Journey six or seven times a day even when it is most crowded. If I can only ride a Star Wars attraction twice a day during moderate times, I think I will explode.
March 9, 2017 at 2:34 PM · Wow, the Universal astroturfers and shills certainly came out in force!
March 9, 2017 at 3:57 PM · Tony, I am a Disney nut. I can name every person that designed the Haunted Mansion and can negotiate MK blindfolded. EPCOT is a pure joy to me and may be my favorite place on earth. I just cannot fail to voice my opinions about the changes that has caused our enjoyment to suffer. The thing is, I think they can get back on track. They had issues with some box office flops, now they are printing money, so they are capable of changing things.
March 9, 2017 at 4:49 PM · A Spielberg deal, as escribed by the blogger, was NEVER on the table.

The reason, Spielberg's 'Midas touch' is considered lost. Some blame his desire to produce Oscar worthy adult fare. Others blame the development execs he surrounded himself with.

Don't believe me...
Track his box office results.

Universal did. As such, they never intended on trading their Marvel theme park rights East of the Mississippi. Not to mention all the naming/marketing stipulations Wet of the Mississippi in their favor.

NBC/Universal saw DreamWorks Pictures II was failing. DWP wasn't even hitting the annual film quota they promised Disney. As such, they intended to wait out the deal. They did and Spielberg is back!

While it's estimated Disney lost over $200M on their DWPII deal, they did end up with full ownership of films created by DWPII. For example, the Hugh Jackman film Real Steel.


March 9, 2017 at 5:34 PM · Thank you for the history lesson, Daniel. Yes, I believe THESE people know or at least understand the history of Universal. The clarification is appreciated. It's a shame they decided to evolve with technology and develop their own claim to fame within the theme park world. And succeed quite well in the process. That is truly mind boggling!
March 9, 2017 at 6:10 PM · I actually LOVE the screen rides. I think they stay truer to the "Ride the movies" theme, that Universal originated. There is a vocal minority out there that thinks every ride needs to be a roller coaster or animatronic, but the majority seem to like them, as Universals attendance is at an all time high.
March 9, 2017 at 7:46 PM · It's great to read everyone's pro-screen based attractions comments.

That said, everyone would be surprised to know, Universal Creative 'off-the-record' has been happy and really stung by the HIGH que, but LOW ride survey scores from Kong. They expect the same from Jimmy.

Internal discussions are how to sell Minions, Kong, Jimmy and soon F&F as unique.

How do you sell, a rocking tram with your feet on the floor is not another version of a flying theatre with your feet on the floor?!?!?

UC is seeking, if the budget is approved, to up their game on F&F. Sadly, it looks like it will launch as planned. Why?

Corporate overseers are reportedly focusing on the massive investments approved for...
-- Harry Potter expansion: M of Magic for USO
-- Harry Potter redevelopment: dueling coaster at IofA
-- Nintendo: while originally designated as a replacement for USO kids area USO Creative is closely monitoring Toy Story Land and STAR WARS land construction. Why? If Disney contracts the budget the competition will be less impressive. If Disney expands the budget, like they did for Avatar --$1B per the internet is false--, competition will demand more immersion AND more impressive rides.

Corporate overseers feel their 'Ace' could be an immersive Nintendo third gate. The patents recently released lit social media on fire. Sure the buzz started within fan blogs, but then quickly went viral.

Internally the water park is not referred to as a third gate

March 10, 2017 at 1:46 PM · @Barry

I'm not sure you can say that Universals over reliance on screen and 3D simulators is their "claim to fame." I'm pretty sure that honor goes to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and before that the Studio Tour, industry leading stunt shows and movie making behind the scenes shows) and the level of detail, realism and immersive story telling that, until then, could only be experienced in a Disney park. They followed the leader and have been very successful because of it. Before Wizarding World they were only competition for Sea World

March 10, 2017 at 12:33 AM · Barry, that's how you counter my arguments, by saying I should just shut up? That's pretty feeble minded, isn't it?
March 10, 2017 at 7:36 AM · This seems like an apologist article for Universal to be honest. Very biased. I love Universal and Disney, Always have. I have zero problems with any of the screen based rides although I havent seen Kong yet and believe Fallon is going to have little if any re-ridability. But this article is reaching very very far in its analogies. I love most of your articles but this one stands out in the wrong way for me.

Are there too many screen based attractions there? Yes. Does that make them bad rides? No.

March 10, 2017 at 8:23 AM · I really like this piece, my only gripe is that Kong sucks. The ride is anti-climatic... I have owned annual passes for 5 years now, despite living out of state, so I'm a die-hard Universal fan... but that Kong ride was trash, when it ended I was left wondering how that was the end of the ride. One quick fight scene and it's over. The ride makes you feel like something bigger is coming, but never actually happens. That's why I dislike Kong, idc about the screens.
March 10, 2017 at 8:30 AM · I did a little simple math, and the number one park in central Florida for highest percentage of attractions using primarily movie screens or motion simulators is - Epcot!

Yes, that's totally correct. When you Disney apologists start slamming Universal for too many movie screens and simulators, you'd better look closer to home because Epcot is #1 in terms of the highest percentage of attractions being simulators and movies screens at 32%.

Of course, USF is very close behind at 30% of attractions being based on simulators/screens.

#3 in the movie/simulator attraction sweepstakes is DHS with 3 of its paltry 13 attractions being based on the screens (23%).

#4 on the list is IOA at 12% of its attractions being movie screen/simulator based.

#5 is the Magic Kingdom with only 8% of the attractions there using movie screens/simulators to entertain the masses.

#6 on the list is obviously AK with only one attraction being based on a movie screen/simulator, and that leaves it at 5%.

So the reality of the situation is that for many of you, your perceptions are wrong. You tend to think of Disney as only the Magic Kingdom, and on that basis, every other competitor is going to come up short. But when you knock USF when you compare it to the MK perhaps you should also throw a little derision at Epcot in the same rant because the flaws are bigger if not worse there than at any other park in central Florida.

March 10, 2017 at 9:09 AM · I think Universal is smart to use screens because they are easier to keep working on the most popular rides. Rides are ruined when a robot breaks or half works like the first dinosaur on Jurassic Park or the one that bumps you off course not coming up or the Trex not moving.

Go on Expedition Everest to see the worlds largest broken non moving robot.

Splash Mountain always has robots off or half working

Jungle Cruise would be helped with screens as they would not be as moldy and fake

Carousel of Progress is worst then a Chuckie Cheese show and should take Walt's good name off

Tower of Terror is a great screen based attraction and added more projections and screens

I love to ride the movies! I think Universal learned their lessons with overly complex anatronics from their opening in Orlando. Most people except for Disney fans would rather go on a fast thrilling ride then a slow moving rides that always have the signature effect or figure broken.

March 12, 2017 at 10:26 AM · @ Tim

That would actually make a great article for TPI. Interesting to know what parameters you used for "attractions". I hope you also considered live performances or the night time show for Epcot as it is quite the unconventional theme park. Also I would not consider hybrids like FJ a screen based attraction because their is a significant amount of practical effects/props besides the screens. I think also my expectations are completely different when visiting Epcot. Epcot has never been about rides. It's always been about edutainment and learning about world cultures. For that theme I expect documentary type movie attractions as very likely. Universal Studios also ironically was never about rides. Rides were fourth on the list after 1. The studio tour 2. Live action stunt shows (which have yet to be surpassed by Disney or Universal) and 3. Movie making edutainment. Universal has changed, however, and they have clearly made rides and immersive storytelling their new standard. So personally I have very different expectations when visiting the two. I would compare Universal parks to DHS, MK, DL or DCA but would have very different expectations for Epcot or Animal Kingdom.

March 10, 2017 at 2:48 PM · @ Daniel

I did a quick and dirty head count using the descriptions on the "Park Guides" pages for each park on TPI. I'm in the middle of a huge project for one of my masters level classes, and I just didn't have the time to put into the research.

I also counted nightly fireworks shows and parades and rated meet-n-greets the same as I would the Pirates of the Caribbean or the Hulk Coaster. The whole argument about what constitutes an attraction gets wearisome until you realize that the criteria for what constitutes an attraction is totally subjective based upon your age and interests.

FJ got designated as a simulator/movie screen. Gringott's did not.

The real underlying issue is the chapped butt cheeks that so many Disney fans have about all of the incredible things being done at the Universal parks during a period where Disney has relatively little for their domestic parks. Thus we get silly and disingenuous comments like "too many simulator rides" and "they do the same thing over and over!"

Really folks?

If a ride like Transformers were dropped into Epcot or DHS, many of these same people would be blowing up the message boards with praise for the wonderful thing that Disney has built. Instead they're stuck with a well-themed kiddie coaster and new parking garages in Disney Springs, and they've got to make lemonade until Pandora and Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land start making an appearance.

Why do so many people have to treat theme parks like their favorite sports teams? "You suck! We're the best!" I just don't get it.

March 11, 2017 at 12:12 AM · Bottom line: Universal has been given us the same old thing for a long time now. It has nothing to do with Epcot. Universal has just two parks, and way too many rides dominated by screens. To me, one of the great things about theme parks is the vast variety of experiences you can enjoy in them. So it is alarming when Universal seems to be going in the direction of turning their parks into giant 3D multiplexes, with moving seats instead of stationary ones.

No, I'm not a Universal hater. No, I'm not a blinkered Disney fan. I'm a theme park fan, and I, among many others will not shut up about a trend which we dislike.

I've been on theme park message boards since 2007. I remember when Universal was getting more praise than Disney (from me and others) because they were building and innovating more. Now Universal seems to be recycling their past successes, and copping out with gallons of CGI, while Disney is giving us a variety of experiences.

It's not about being a biased fanboy. It's about recognizing when a company is resting on its laurels and going down the wrong path. As long as Universal keeps leaning on that 3D screens/simulator crutch, the criticism will only grow. Give us something different! Until they do, they can forget about passing Disney in the theme park business.

March 11, 2017 at 4:25 PM · and Tim Hillman are spot on. Tim, thanks for the maths as well -- very interesting.

"Still a fan" -- I don't think anyone is disagreeing that we'd like to continue seeing more diversity of experiences. But if you ride things like Escape from Gringotts, Forbidden Journey, and Spider Man and only see screens, you'd better take another look!

March 11, 2017 at 8:38 PM · "Still a fan" nailed it 100%, rebutted Robert, and won the thread.

On other message boards, most posters are saying they are sick of the screens at Universal. The backlash is real, and it's not just "fanboys."

On Spiderman and Transformers, I see screens, and it's a yawning bore. Gringotts wouldn't need 3D glasses if Universal had made physical sets which would have been a much more persuasive environment. Forbidden Journey has a better balance of screens and sets; that's where Universal should aim if they must persist with screens. Disney has done an exceedingly better job of using digital effects and screens to support primarily physically set experiences, such as on Alice in Wonderland in DL.

March 12, 2017 at 5:07 AM · I want to thank Tony Perkins for naming a winner of the thread .... that's what we all have been waiting for. Thanks Tony Perkins.
March 12, 2017 at 6:44 AM · Tony, you are so much a Disney fanboy it's hilarious! Here's your "unbiased" words:

"But I don't like screen based rides (with only a few rare exceptions such as Soarin' or Impressions of France). I not only don't want additional screen rides, I actually prefer none. Kong looks great with the vehicles, queue, show building, etc., but the screen action sucks bigly. Minions should be a dark ride, not a screen. Transformers and Spiderman suck as well with the screens."

"I don't like screen based rides" - except for a couple of mediocre rides at Epcot.

"Kong looks great....but the screen action sucks bigly." (Interpretation) Yeah, I prefer a nice, gentle ride with a hideous queue any day over a ride with an immersive queue, intense action, and with a pretty decent animatronic at the end.

Transformers and Spiderman suck as well with the screens." (Interpretation) Until Disney builds something this freakin' awesome I'm going to be a total troll and pretend that the technology and presentation are just not good enough.

You have now entered Disney Fanboy Club territory - Please contact TH Creative for your membership package and secret decoder ring.

March 12, 2017 at 7:04 AM · Tony - it's hard to believe that someone like you whom only likes screen based rides at Epcot doesn't like Universal technology. Shocking.

It's a good thing the upcoming Star Wars and Avatar won't make use of screens. Oh, wait..,

Enjoy your Dumbo spinner and creepy animatronics!

March 12, 2017 at 2:30 PM · Ad hominem attacks from Universal apologists and shills, and no substantive argument, I'm not surprised.

When Universal makes a screen based ride as good as Soaring, then I'll give them props.
When Universal makes a film as beautiful as Impressions of France, then I'll give them props.
When Universal makes a narrative-driven dark ride as amazing as Shanghai PotC that deftly uses digital effects and screens to support fantastic physical sets, then I'll them props (as I did for FJ).
But when Universal makes a continuous habit of lazily designed screen rides such as Fallon, F&F, Transformers, Minions, Kong, etc. then Universal will be taken to task on discussion boards, social media and word of mouth. If Universal continues to double down on cheap screens, then they'll join Sea World as the Kodak of theme parks. Such a shame as Universal's physical lands for the Simpsons and Harry Potter are so good and immersive, but their recent string of new rides have been empty shells without substance.

March 12, 2017 at 6:00 PM · On the other fansite, I read on a regular basis. Micechat. Which is much more, caliornia and disney fan based, a lot of disney lovers (in fact, did), loudly criticize disney for the screen based submarine ride. I also saw, some critism from disney lovers, when midway mania came out. although, that subsided after a short while, because, people realized it was pretty repeatable. The avatar land, is (if reporting is correct), one screen ride and one slow boat ride, with ani montronics. Animontronics, are more expensive. Maybe, that is why disney, has been opening attractions, slower.
March 12, 2017 at 6:10 PM · Um, Tony, ad hominem means to attack the person rather than the message. Other than being a bit snotty when I labeled you a Disney fanboy, everything I said was aimed at your message and not you.

For the record, I almost always find myself in agreement with your comments on this site except in this thread. Unfortunately, you and "Still a fan" made some pretty subjective comments that were way over the top with respect to Universal screens and simulators. I dropped some statistics on you all which neither of you bothered to refute in the least other than to double down on the subjective silliness. So you got the fanboy treatment for not acknowledging in the least that your opinions were not facts.

As far as "no substantive argument" goes, I gave you some rough statistics. You gave some subjective opinions. Are you describing my argument or yours? Just wondering.

March 12, 2017 at 8:38 PM · First, I'm not a fan of screen attractions in most cases, period. I pointed out Impressions and Soaring as two that I consider quite enjoyable. And nothing Universal has done screen-wise has come close to those two for me. As for the rest of the Epcot screens (Canada, China, etc.), they're old, tired, boring and way too many of them. That's my opinion.

Second, the subject of Robert's "apology" post was Universal, so we're addressing those parks and their 33% screen content (per the tally from Rob Alvey at TPR). And almost all the recent, new additions (Walking Dead excluded) at Universal have been screens. Have most of Disney's recent additions been primarily screen-based? No, and not even close. The trendlines clearly indicate that Disney still invests in expensive, immersive, physical sets, while Universal cranks out comparatively cheap screens within a fancy show building/queue. That's not opinion, that's fact.

Third, people are sick of Universal's panoply of screens. Just check the reviews on other discussion boards, social media, YouTube, etc. Some are even saying they miss Twister. This is the only site where I've seen people defending Universal's screens, and most of the defense is the pitiful and whiney "but Disney has screens too" defense. Rob Alvey said at the Fallon opening, people were openly and disappointingly commenting that Universal had done yet another screen attraction (but a great non-queue). There's backlash, and it's real. That's not opinion, that's fact.

March 13, 2017 at 12:03 AM · Definitely a big backlash, and it becomes obvious when you check out other theme park message boards. And most of it doesn't come from "Disney fan boys" because those people wouldn't even know what is going on at Universal -- since they don't even visit those parks. I do visit them, and one of the selling points for our Orlando trips is the new attractions opened since our last visit. Well, in Universal's case, it appears that the new stuff is still way too much like the old stuff.

Tim Hillman dropped some stats on us, and like many stats, they were pretty meaningless. It doesn't matter whether Epcot has more screen-based attractions than IOA. It's not about individual parks; it's about the resorts as a whole. WDW, as a whole, offers a great deal of variety.

Meanwhile, a large and growing proportion of Universal's attractions, for the whole resort, are cut from the same cloth. This is especially glaring because Universal offers little besides rides -- no nighttime events, no parades. So when theme parks offer almost exclusively rides, and those rides have increasing sameness, it starts to wear on a lot of guests.

As I mentioned before, Disney used to get the lion's share of criticism on message boards, and I was one of those critics. Now Universal is facing a backlash, and it has nothing to do with bias or fanboyism. It has everything to do with what they are giving us.

Ever since the innovation of Spider-Man, most of their new offerings have been more of the same. Spider-Man is a great ride, but it shouldn't be the template for nearly everything that follows. Universal used to produce unique dark rides to rival Disney's best, such as Revenge of the Mummy, MIB and The Cat in the Hat. These rides all seemed to be designed starting with a clean slate, and a willingness to explore different ways of telling a story or presenting an experience.

Now it seems they want to take the lazy way out and fall back on their screens crutch, over and over. And that trend has been accelerating. That's a fact. Whether or not you like that trend is an opinion.

Well, clearly a lot of people don't like it. For most of us, I would guess, it hasn't been a deal breaker -- yet. I guess we should just shut up, and let Universal think that everything is honky dory...until nearly everything in their parks is screens, and they start losing customers.

Call me crazy, but I think everyone is better off if companies continue getting the free feedback offered by message boards.

March 13, 2017 at 7:23 AM · Tony -- since you're "not a fan of screen-based attractions", and I'm not a fan of creepy human animatronics, we'll agree to disagree. For instance, I like the Pirates @ Shanghai approach, with physical sets and screens, but I find the human animatronics to be very fake and take me out of the story. I'd rather see Depp on a screen only, honestly. And you said that Robert's article was "an apology for universal" -- not so. In fact, his article was in support of the new combination of disciplines that create an overall experience.

Still a fan -- The only ride directly copied from Spider-Man is Transformers (same ride platform). I agree that it is not their best. Jimmy Fallon is a refit into a small and land-locked space, and I think it's remarkable what they did in that space. You said they have no nighttime events or parades at Universal? Have you ever been there? Superstar parade (daily), Mardi-Gras, Christmas, and special event parades. Nighttime events -- Cinematic Spectacular, Halloween Horror, and misc. special events. If you haven't see the Cinematic Spectacular and you love movies, it's an amazing thing and you may walk away with a tear in your eye.

In fact, I'm not suggesting that we don't criticize overuse of a particular technology. I think Minions could have been done in a better way, Shrek should be removed and replaced, and Transformers isn't as good as Spider Man. But my criticism for Disney runs far deeper -- the mouse is irrelevant, the rides are mostly lame, the fastpass+ reservation system is awful, they roll out mediocre things at a snails pace -- and that's just getting started. Doesn't mean that I don't enjoy a few things there as well, or that I don't hope they improve things in the future. I'm looking forward to Avatar and Star Wars.

I am, in the end, through and through, a THEME park fan. And right now, Universal is hitting it out of the park.

March 13, 2017 at 9:26 AM · @Tony and Still a fan

Now we can have a substantive dialogue. You two are closer to the truth, but you're still way off base when it comes to your dissection of Robert's thread opening post.

First of all, let's examine the mentality of most theme park fans. For most of us, Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom are the basis for how we judge theme parks, and looking at 2015 attendance numbers, nothing else comes close. With the exception of one amazing theme park in Japan, even Disney can't do Disney like they do in the MK-style parks. Cinderella and the ugly stepsisters in Orlando are a great example of this. Epcot, the second highest attended park at the Disney resort in Orlando draws barely 57% of the attendance of the MK, and the numbers are worse for AK and DHS.

So, if Disney can't do Disney anywhere else like they do in the MK/Disneyland parks why should anyone else even try? They'll just end being like Europa Park, a nice but not notable Disney-lite park in Germany.

And that brings us back to Robert's original post where he described the unique development of the Universal parks in Orlando in terms of the Universal perspective - which many of you fail to acknowledge.

Everything that Universal does always gets judged and quite often unfairly so in terms of the Disney experience. Funny thing is, most of you don't compare the other Disney parks to the MK/Disneyland parks with the same fervor that you apply to the Universal parks. Your criticism of USF for having too many screens/simulators is perfectly valid within the context of the experience of a visit to Universal Studios. But you lose validity when you cherry pick selected attractions from across the Disney spectrum and use those experiences to adversely judge USF.

Look at Kong. What's the greatest weakness of IOA? Lack of family style dark rides. Kong meets the requirements - immersive queue, intense but not too rough ride experience, and a pretty decent animatronic at the end. But so many of you get stuck on the fact that the action is presented on a screen and totally discount the rest of the experience or the context of the park in which it is being offered.

What's the biggest knock on Transformers? It's too much like Spiderman! Yet they're in different parks, and Universal doesn't get any credit for that. Do they have to be 2000 miles away from each other for Transformers to get the respect for being an utterly amazing ride?

And here's where we get to the gist of the fallacy of your perspectives. Too many theme park fans suffer from an embarrassment of riches at the Universal parks. Ten years ago if somebody had told me the current lineup of the attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort, I would have laughed them out of the room. Now that we have all of these incredible attractions, we nitpick them to death without any consideration for what we have now in light of what we had back in the past.

Robert's article was merely an explanation of how attractions at USO got to where they are now and to a possible wishful path for the future. He also expressed a desire to have a more comprehensive attraction mix at USF (nothing really wrong at IOA) without denigrating the decisions made in the past by Universal management because most of the decisions by Universal Creative and Universal management have been spot on. It certainly wasn't an "apology post" as some have described it but rather a dissection of how we got to the current lineup of attractions at Universal and where things might go in the future.

March 13, 2017 at 11:16 AM · You guys are hung up on the idea that these are incredible attractions and we should all just be tickled pink instead of complaining. Sorry, we're going to keep complaining, and there are a lot of us on message boards who are saying that we don't like getting the same thing, packaged differently, over and over.
March 13, 2017 at 1:27 PM · I love Disney and Universal both. Always have. Both have strengths and weaknesses. Never felt a preference towards one or another based on brand or nostalgia - they're both a huge part of my childhood. At the end of the day, the attractions that stick with me the most are the ones that I feel immersed in, where I can truly pretend I'm IN the setting the ride is trying to present. Unfortuately, the vast majority of Universal's recent output (Transformers, Minions, Gringotts, Kong) have left me VERY underwhelmed and apathetic, which I never want to feel leaving a ride. It's always bugged me as to why, and it seems as if I'm not the only one experiencing this feeling. I mean, I know I've enjoyed plenty of screen-based rides in the past, so what gives? I've been thinking about it for a while, and here's what I've come up with (again, for myself personally)...

1) If the screen is serving as the only window for your "vehicle" (Good examples: Star Tours, Body Wars, Questor from Busch Gardens, etc.). This way there's no practical sets mixed in to force your brain to go back and forth from screen to real life, thereby not having the risk of "taking you out" of the experience. Having a filmed/realistic video on the screen in this case helps immensely (vs. being clearly animated, like Minions' and Simpsons' film is), since it looks realistic enough to get involved in and "pretend" it's real.

2) If in a large theater, then at the very least it has to have a realistic/filmed appearance to the video of the simulator in the first place, rather than be obviously animated. (Good examples: Soarin', Back to the Future) I enjoyed the actual ride experience of "Back to the Future" WAY more than I do "Simpsons," despite the awesome theming and sense of humor the queue and surrounding area supplements it with. When that dinosaur head comes at me in Back to the Future, it feels way more believable than a CGI Sideshow Bob in a giant panda suit coming at me in an artificial frame rate.

3) If in a moving simulator (such as Spider-man, Transformers, Forbidden Journey, etc.), the film must be realistic enough AND feature enough action in practical sets/animatronics to balance out the reliance on screens (Good examples: Spider-man, Forbidden Journey). Watch a POV of Spider-man, then compare it to the ride-through of Transformers. ALL the action of Transformers takes place on a screen. Likewise with Kong, and even Ratatouille for the most part. However, with Spider-man and Forbidden Journey, though a lot of the action takes place on a screen, there are many distinct physical sets/effects as well. The floating Statue of Liberty head, the Hobgoblin's exploding grenade, the dragon's opening mouth, etc. These really make a difference in helping ease the screen-reliance so much.

So it's not so much IF there's screens, but how are they being used? I'm finding that it really makes a big difference with me, and I don't think I'm alone.

March 13, 2017 at 2:01 PM · Diversity in rides requires diversity. Rocket is an example, Fallon and minions for whatever reason are simply more of the same.
March 14, 2017 at 2:27 AM · Universal does have an over reliance on screen rides. Some are more well done than others. Spider-Man and Gringotts were great. Simpsons and Transformers were meh. Kong was terribly disappointing. I absolutely give them all the credit in the world for the live actors in the queue and immersive experience from start to finish, but I groaned once we got in the vehicle and into the ride and pulled up to a giant screen. It was a huge letdown.
March 14, 2017 at 9:46 PM · I usually stay out of the screen debates because they're cliche, exhausting, and generally pointless. The comments here are an indicator why.
March 14, 2017 at 10:02 PM · I was terribly disappointed when the word broke that Skull Island was just a plussed version of the experience in Hollywood. It could have been the greatest ride in Orlando, if they had really decided to build Skull Island and immerse
us in it, sets, AAs and all. Instead, it's just another screen ride with queue embellishments.

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