Does Universal Studios have too many screen-based rides?

April 5, 2017, 6:04 PM · ORLANDO — Okay, let's go there. Let's revive the argument. Let's ask a Universal theme park ride designer if the Universal Studios theme parks have too many screen-based attractions.

That's what we did today at the media day for the new Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon experience, which debuts officially with a ceremony tomorrow morning at 8:30. The finale of Race Through New York is that race — presented on a 3D screen to visitors watching on a flying theater ride system.

And that has enflamed the long-simmering feud between many theme park fans online, who seem to love to debate the question about Universal and screen rides. Here's what the Creative Director of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, Universal Creative's Jason Surrell, had to say when I spoke with him this afternoon:

My $.02? This whole debate makes me flash back to the What time is the 3:00 parade? question. The debate over screen rides conceals other questions and concerns that some fans have about the parks, and if we limit ourselves to just the question asked, we risk missing the bigger issues at play here.

To start, the whole concept of a "screen ride" really makes no sense. What's on the screen is the show element of an attraction, separate from the ride system that carries people to or past it. So is the problem some fans have with the screen-based show, or the ride system that is so often employed along with it?

For Race Through New York, as well as Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Transformers, and the upcoming Fast & Furious Supercharged, that means some form of motion-base ride system. But screen-based rides don't have to run with a motion simulator. At Knott's Berry Farm last weekend, I rode the Voyage to the Iron Reef, which employs a tracked dark ride system but provides its show entirely on screens. Yes, that's an interactive shooter ride, but just because Triotech shooters — and Disney's Toy Story Midway Mania — use screens doesn't mean that interactive rides must employ that show medium. You can develop an interactive ride with practical sets. Just look at Buzz Lightyear. Or — irony alert — Universal's Men in Black Alien Attack.

And, technically, a motion simulator doesn't have to use screen-based story media, either. Obviously, if you're running a motion base on a ride vehicle through a dark ride building, you can use all the practical sets you want. (Examples: Disney's Indiana Jones and Dinosaur rides, and even, to a lesser extent, Universal's Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which includes a few practical set scenes.) As for a practical set for a motion simulator theater, Disney's Carousel of Progress knocked on that door without quite getting there. But Dynamic Attractions' Motion Theater, which teased at last fall's IAAPA Attractions Expo, enables not just practical sets, but live actors performing in front of a motion simulator theater.

So I think it's fair to follow up the "too many screen rides?' question with this: Is the problem with the screens? Or the motion simulators?

Or is it both?

I'm going to guess — based on personal, anecdotal conversations and observation — that for many fans, their problem lies more with the over-use of motion simulators than with screens. Simulators and motion bases are tough ride systems for many people, because there's no track ahead to give you fair warning what's coming. And a simulator ride can be programmed to a wilder mix of motion across multiple axes than even the most extreme roller coaster can deliver.

While one bad experience might set people off roller coasters, you typically can show them a milder track and talk them into giving another coaster a go. You can't do that with simulators. The fact that you can't see what you are going to get makes many fans more risk averse with this thrill ride system than just about any other... in my experience watching and listening to theme park fans.

But a motion simulator provides theme parks with one huge advantage over tracked rides — they take waaaaay less space in the park. None of Universal's theme parks are surrounded by abundant expansion space. Most of them are blocked by city streets, highways, or even rivers. While most Universal parks have expansion pads within their boundaries, the fact that space is not an exhaustible resource for them the way it is for Disney in Orlando and Paris, makes a simulator experience an attractive option for a chain that's trying to add something new every year or so to each of its resorts.

[Update: Even if the seats or the theater don't thrash riders about wildly, the 3D that so many of these screen-media attractions employ leaves many visitors queasy. Some guests simply cannot visually process 3D media, and for others, the resulting images look dark or blurry — failing to deliver the crisp "pop" off the screen that 3D should. The 3D backlash already has prompted Universal to remove it from the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, and I suspect that a significant number of fans would be happy if parks never employed 3D media on another new ride again.]

So what about screens in general? I don't think you're going to see another major, world-class attraction built in this industry that does not employ screens in some capacity. The faces on the animatronics at that new Frozen ride in Epcot? Screens. The backgrounds for many scenes in the Frozen live-action musical at Disney California Adventure? Provided by screens. Even the majority of the action on the beloved, and Theme Park Insider Award-winning, new Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Shanghai Disneyland happens on screens.

So the question really isn't the use of screens in new theme park attractions. That's settled. It's happening. The question then is, what is the appropriate percentage of screen use in the show of a theme park attraction?

And here, I agree with Jason. It depends upon the IP whose story is being told. You want stars, such as Jimmy Fallon, Harry Potter, or the Fast and Furious gang? You need screens. Sorry, but the Johnny Depp animatronics on Disney's various Pirates rides are the Mayor of the Uncanny Valley. Heck, that's why Disney's using screen technology to animate the faces of even cartoon characters on its latest generation on animatronics.

A full physical performance by a recognized actor demands the use of screens to depict that actor's performance. So I am totally cool with what Universal did with the Jimmy Fallon ride, especially given the rich practical environment in which Universal housed it, complemented with intimate, live performances.

That said, I also am totally cool with fans' desire to see screen-based storytelling in theme parks grounded within richly detailed practical environments. If all we are doing is wearing 3D glasses in a theater, as Blake Shelton teased Fallon on last night's Tonight Show, what's the point of paying to visit a theme park? We can get the same experience for less money at our local movie theater. Or, for some of us, even at home.

So here's my take: Within that question about "too many screen rides?" lies a series of pleas from theme park fans. Don't give us an over-priced movie theater experience. Don't abuse the use of 3D. And don't cram us in an over-crowded jiggle box that's going to make us sick.

Amaze us with convincing storytelling that brings us, physically, into a place that we cannot find anywhere else — not at home, not in a theater, and not at some shopping mall or even a regional, discount amusement park. Take us to another world, where our hearts and imaginations can soar... while our stomachs don't. Well, at least, not too much.

As I wrote in that old cast member story post about the 3:00 parade question, one of the tricks to great customer service is learning how to see past what a customer says, to address what the customer really needs. I really do think that's in play here, too. Theme park fans want something more than they're seeing for the parks these days, and I would include Disney in that along with Universal.

So who's going to give that to them?

Replies (44)

April 5, 2017 at 6:32 PM · I think people fail to think it through when criticizing a screen ride. They say its lazy but if you're chasing someone down New York that is impossible with an actual set.

Its tiring obviously as almost everyone would agree but if you have limitations screens is the realistic way to go.

Remember that Disney is also using screens too..

April 5, 2017 at 7:35 PM · Totally agree, I don't want every ride to be some 3D experience I can get at my local theater. Hello D-Box. In fact I only want very little to be like that. I know a lot of people that can't handle the 3D rides so a lot of rides at Universal are off limits. I will also agree that they made good use of the space for the Jimmy Fallon ride. This post is a much needed call to arms.
April 5, 2017 at 7:37 PM · It's funny how people are taking issue with the use of a screen for the. Re Fallon ride, while ignoring that there is live, interactive entertainment in the queue. THAT, is a rarity.
April 5, 2017 at 7:54 PM · I felt nauseous after riding The Simpsons, perhaps the worst motion simulator. They need to tone the
motion down. Almost every screen based ride has dialed up the intensity beyond necessity. Disney rides give you time to absorb the attraction like my favorite Soaring Around the World. Universal makes you close your eyes to avoid a headache.
April 5, 2017 at 7:57 PM · I think the screens debate (at least as it relates to Universal Orlando) has been exacerbated by the fact that virtually every ride of note that Universal has built since 2010 has employed - to one degree or another - simulator techniques. Couple this with the loss of several major "practical" showcases in Jaws, Earthquake/Disaster, and Twister, and the balance of ride experiences in USF has been tipped in favor of the digital over the "real." And, differences in ride system or not, USF now has three rides that are quite similar in overall experience (Minion Mayhem, Fallon, and Simpsons) and one that's a lesser "clone" of the best ride in IOA (Transformers). All of these rides are fine/fun when taken on their own, but taken together as part of one day at the park, the similarities really become apparent, and the rides lose uniqueness.

So what would I like to see in an ideal world going forward? Screens supplementing the action/story of the ride rather than being used as the primary method of conveying the action/story. I'd like to be moved through real, detailed environments with as many practical and physical things/effects in front of my eyes as possible.

April 5, 2017 at 10:08 PM · I could enjoy the Harry Potter castle ride all day long. Great story-telling with screens and sets. Perfect supplement to the screen visuals. Wish there were more rides like that one.
April 5, 2017 at 10:41 PM · When Universal was building rides faster than Disney, the mantra on the message boards was "Disney needs to be more like Universal." Now that Disney is providing much more variety and many more real sets, AAs and practical effects, many of us are now saying "Universal needs to be more like Disney."

April 5, 2017 at 11:57 PM · Brett Blake's response is the winner. Screens are fine for supplementing and complementing physical sets, but rarely can carry an attraction's full weight. If Universal can't tell the story without a screen, such as Fallon's screen ride, then Universal needs to rethink the story they want to tell so they don't need to rely on screens. Kong seems to have been the tipping point for a lot of fans who wanted and expected physical sets (with support from digital effects), and instead got lazy, ho-hum screen-based action.
April 6, 2017 at 1:09 AM · I remember before I ever went to Orlando being convinced that whilst I'd like Disney I'd LOVE Universal because the latter had the real cutting-edge attractions that, on paper, seemed to offer more 'wow'. Much to my surprise when I left Orlando to go home I had discovered that the opposite was true - what had 'wowed' me was the gentle immersive qualities of Disney over the 'flash, bang, wallop' of Universal.
Much has changed over the years with both resorts developing substantially but I still find the same rule applies. Universal attractions tend to slap me around the face with an intensity and urgency that after a few hours becomes wearing. I am constantly amazed at the technology and the execution but it's all about "Look what we can do with this!" more so than telling the story and immersing me within that. (Harry Potter in IOA is a classic example - brilliant technology and a stunning walk-through, but to what end? An incoherent 4 minutes of being thrown around whilst someone shouts "Dragon!").
So yes - it's not the screens as such but what's done with them, and the need to ensure that each attraction feels distinct from the others in the park.
April 6, 2017 at 1:24 AM · I disagree Tony and many posters, like Robert said you can go to any regional amusement park and wait in the steel cement ques and then experience the ride. Rinse and repeat. It's a fun experience at some great amusement parks like Cedar Point or Kings Island but they are not theme parks. A theme park is where you can be immersed in another place or time or even a different world. The ride itself is not the entire experience. The que, the way the whole set is designed, the food, the way the whole land is laid out is immersion. Screens whether motion or not are just a segment of the whole experience.

Heck Kong has more to it then screens. Practical effects, a stunning que, and live actors make for the whole experience. I for one can't ride the Forbidden Journey more than once per trip because my right arm doesn't work that well and it always hurts. Does that make me upset and the whole ride is a motion based mess with screens? Not at all because I enjoy the entire experience and immersion of the whole land. You can go through the que without going on the ride. Volcano Bay is going to be ADA compliant on some slides which is unheard of in waterparks. The creators and designers of these attractions want to include everyone even if you can't experience a section of the attraction. The first question you have to ask yourself, I'm I willing to be immersed by this product with live acts, amazing ques and surroundings, food, and the ride experience. Maybe like me, you have to leave out a part because of various reasons but does that diminish the whole?

If you only see something in Universal or Disney just for the screens than you should maybe save the money and go to a movie or the shopping mall.

April 6, 2017 at 2:13 AM · Screens in attractions follow the same rule as other things in life: excess is not good... The problem is that we can see the difference whatever the suspension of disbelief is. So, if a screen (or screens) is the best way to make an immersive experience for a given attraction, then OK. If it's a money saving device and no more, then it shows.
April 6, 2017 at 4:30 AM · The first time I rode Star Tours at Disneyland, ON THE WEEK IT OPENED, - BTW the line was backed up to the BEGINNING of Main Street. I was beyond excited, amazed and thought it was the best ride ever, so immersive. When they added the 3D, ugh. The glasses reminded me that I was on a ride. That's how I feel about Universal, every ride reminds me that I'm on a ride.
April 6, 2017 at 5:06 AM · I think the problem lies that Universal is relying too much lately on the same basic technology of simulator rides, especially when these are sometimes only a step up from what guests can do on their own with VR.

I also do not like to see parks repeat ride technologies in the same park grouping. What is the difference between Transformers and Spiderman? Fast and Furious and King Kong?

Universal stated that "they can build faster than Disney". That might be true, but they are also building the same ride system over and over again.

April 6, 2017 at 5:42 AM · For me, it's motion sickness, that's why Universal needs to ease up and offer a bigger variety of rides. Simpsons, Spiderman, Transformers, Minions, Forbidden Journey... so many of their rides make me horribly nauseated. It cuts out a significant portion of the attractions I'm able to experience and significantly decreases the value of my park ticket.
April 6, 2017 at 5:59 AM · I do not think they have too many screen based attractions. Many posters have already hit on the issues which are they can immerse you into a theme with minimal space. Another thing they can do is get the actors from the themes they are from to further accomplish this. Certainly, the downside is many people experience motion sickness. I think where the Disney vs. Universal comes from is that Disney is really geared for families from one to 91 and Universal has tailored its attractions to older kids with more thrilling rides. Universal has Dueling Dragons, Hulk, and Rip Ride Rocket, so that is going to eliminate the guests that don't care for more extreme attractions. If those guests also get motion sickness, you can see how limiting that can be, but I believe they have been successful because they went after this market. Also, if you are going to "experience the movies" the best way is by a screen based attraction. I fully understand that their approach is limiting to some, but my family has an absolute blast. I think Disney and Universal are where they are going to be as far as attractions go. Where they could learn from and improve from each other further is Disney could improve their wait times and Universal could improve their food quality.
April 6, 2017 at 6:00 AM · Men in Black Alien Attack sucks. The only reason people ride it is because either they have never ridden it or there is no line.
April 6, 2017 at 6:49 AM · I have no issues with using screens or projection mapping (which I actually think works better) to help immerse you in an attraction. I have not been on it, but from what I've seen I think the new Pirates ride at Shanghai is a great example of how to use screens properly - using them in conjunction with physical sets/practical effects to enhance a story and further the immersion effect.

The issue I have with Universal in recent years is the over reliance on screens, in particular 3D (there are only so many ways you can make 3D glasses make sense as part of a story), as the main focal point/story-telling aspect of a ride. Especially when doing many of the rides in succession, there is a burnout factor. I get that given their heavy use of IPs that screens are needed to some degree, but I just feel like they can do a better job of integrating screens creatively into rides. Their recent rides (Gringotts, Kong, Fallon) have some of the most immersive, detailed, highly themed queues I've ever seen in theme parks, including Disney. If they could put the same level of detail and attention into the rides themselves, they could take them to a whole new level IMO.

April 6, 2017 at 7:22 AM · Isn't most of star wars land going to be screen based, and the main new ride at Pandora?
April 6, 2017 at 7:37 AM · Another problem is the almost straight conversion of USH tram rides to USO as attractions. What comes to mind is the Kong and Earthquake rides. The ride vehicle resembles the tram. It creates a different experience than Disney. The vehicles are large with a roof that impedes the view. You always look to the side while turning your head. Thus, if you sit on the far side, you can't see much action on the other side.

Before the rush to screen rides, Universal converted its practical set tram rides to USO single ride counterparts like Kong (again), Disaster, and Jaws. The approach is still similar. You're on a tram tour, but slightly more detailed in story.

Harry Potter proved they could break out of the tram tour, but they went right back in with Kong. The next major tram tour conversion is Fast and Furious. What are the odds it's an almost straight conversion on a tram-like vehicle with poor sightlines?

April 6, 2017 at 7:53 AM · This is one of the best Theme Park articles I have read in a long time! You get it! It's all about immersion! I've been saying that for years now. That's what sets UO/IOA & WDW apart from all the others! Great Article!
April 6, 2017 at 10:00 AM · While I did point out above that I am fine with the screen-based attractions, what I have dreamed about is that Universal will make its own practical Haunted Mansion style ride. They have the rights to the most well known monsters in cinema history. The walk through House of Horrors was wornderful, but hard to man. Why not build a Castle Dracula with a bunch a practical sets with a ride through horse and buggy? A skeleton horse, of course. Sure, you can have some screens, but more projection based like Shanghai Pirates and have some live scare actors at the close of the ride. They really are missing something like that. The Mummy fills the macabre void somewhat, but Universal, you were founded on Monsters, dangit! That Atlantis attraction could be bulldozed (but I hear the Ministy of Magic may be going there). Surely, there is some location where that could be fit in.
April 6, 2017 at 10:19 AM · I think the greatest characteristic of screen-based attractions is their flexibility and ability to be re-skinned to infinitely different IPs and stories. However, so many of these screen attractions are treated like set-in-stone monuments. Part of that is because of the combination of screens and practical sets/effects that make dramatically changing the experience a tall and sometimes expensive task. However, I do not understand why it's so difficult to make alternate ride programs that use the same screens/set just with slightly different projections, sounds, and motions.

It took Disney 15 YEARS to update Soarin' with a new film, and it took Universal over 14 years to just to do a technology update to Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. Obviously if something's not broke, you don't fix it, and Soarin' and Spiderman are two of the highest rated theme park attractions in the world, but it makes you wonder why a park chooses to have the flexibility that screens provide but doesn't take advantage of that flexibility.

That's why I'm very intrigued by Busch Gardens Williamsburg's announcement to add VR to their motion simulator, one that has already been updated 4 previous times over its 27 year history. With VR now being used in local movie theaters, theme parks are going to have to offer unique experiences or enough of an up-sell to get guests to venture beyond their local multiplex or home theater. Motion bases offer that differentiation, but rotating and guest-driven content would be the ultimate trump card to what cinemas could provide.

I also agree with Anthony regarding Universal continuing to utilize identical technology across its parks. Though I would counter that Disney does the same thing with their boat-based attractions like Pirates and Small World and omni-mover based attractions like Haunted Mansion and Spaceship Earth. However, I think very few guests (aside from those of us that follow the industry very closely) care what type of vehicle they're getting into or what technology is driving their experience. Guests ride to get immersed in the story/world that is being presented as an escape from the real world, and as long as the content is engaging, they'll come back for more. I would bet that if you stood on line for Skull Island and ask everyone around you if they knew what other attraction IOA's ride is based, only a small percentage would identify USH's tram. I would also bet you could stand outside both Transformers and Spiderman and ask riders if there's another ride in the resort similar, very few would make the connection (I can guarantee you that only the biggest of theme park nerds would even know that you take 2 elevator rides on Transformers). Heck, assuming Fast and Furious uses the same ride technology as Disaster/Earthquake, I'll bet only a handful of guests would make the connection, and even fewer would draw the connection all the way back to the USH tram.

I think the only thing that guests of these dark rides will notice is whether they're getting into a car, a boat, a train/truck, "bench", bicycle, or coaster (many don't even know Gringott's is actually a roller coaster), and whether or not they have to wear 3-D glasses (or VR headsets as we move into the future).

April 6, 2017 at 10:27 AM · What happened to rides like the Jungle Cruise, and the original Disneyland Pirates ride. I don't want to watch television while I'm on a ride.
Universal's new Kong ride was a major disappointment. I thought we were going to ride through elements of Skull Island, with fantastic immersion. Instead...those screens again.
April 6, 2017 at 10:37 AM · Universal is staying in their comfort zone. For Disney that is dark rides and mild coasters. So I do not have a problem with doing ride systems you are best at.

However many people I know get sick with 3D. So they really miss out since they have to close their eyes for some parts. I want variety just so there are more options for them.

April 6, 2017 at 11:14 AM · Russell: I'm talking about the straight conversion of the tram tour to a full ride and taking its limitations, which makes full immersion more difficult. I don't care if people don't make the association since it is quite evident no one noticed. But people are increasingly noticing the screen projections, which I must point out are used in the tram tour for Kong and Fast and Furious.

The main problem with the tram ride is the poor sightlines. It's hard to enjoy the ride when you're turning your head and squinting at the screen from an angle. That's what you're getting at USO when it isn't necessary. They are building an entirely new ride from the bottom up. They didn't even bother to make changes to improve the guests' view like removing the roof or have the seats facing directly to the screen in the front or making a turn.

In other attractions, the open air vehicles face the action directly ahead. In the Kong ride, the forward cabin blocks the view from the front. What could have been a terrific experience of facing King Kong jumping at you from the top is relegated to the side view like what you expect from the limitations of a tram that has 4 truck segments.

"I think the only thing that guests of these dark rides will notice is whether they're getting into a car, a boat, a train/truck, "bench", bicycle, or coaster"

What if they do notice they're getting to a tram conversion? Shouldn't be that hard to notice, not that it matters, but people aren't that unsophisticated. People write long essays on the differences between Disney rides in Anaheim and Orlando. This is no different.

April 6, 2017 at 11:30 AM · Sometimes you want to force guests to look through windows or other narrow "frames". By having roofs and limiting sightlines, it allows attraction designers to take separate scenes and sometimes take shortcuts. Yes, I know no one wants to see designers skimping, but the fact of life is that projects have a set budget, and if you can hide equipment, or simply not dress a large portion of a set because 99% of the guests won't be able to see it, then you're going to make your cuts there. Even the Oceaneering vehicles used on Transformers, Spiderman, and Curse of Darkastle have deliberately high side doors so the lower portions of the sets do not have been dressed as intricately (and in some cases not at all), because you really don't see it. Framing and forced perspective have been used on dark rides for decades, and I wouldn't fault any theme park for using the technique.

The use of forced perspective helps guests to see the experience in a specific way, and I personally really like the limited views on the tram tours, because it made me want to ride it again, and forced me to interact with guests in different parts of the vehicle to see if they saw what I saw. Not everyone is going to sit front row, center (though motion bases and motion theaters are getting pretty close). So as long as the designers do a good job of spreading the action around the entire vehicle, I'm satisfied and typically drawn in to try the ride again in a different seat.

I also think it adds to the reality of the ride. Sure, Universal could have designed Skull Island with the same motion base as Transformers and Spiderman with an open roof and nearly 180-degree view. However, by using trucks, they can put guests into a more realistic experience to make them feel like they're really on the expedition, and when they don't get what they feel is the best view of Kong, they will be drawn to ride again.

April 6, 2017 at 11:50 AM · When I heard Universal went with self propelled trackless trucks for the Kong ride, I expected a leap forward. I didn't expect them to be like Transformers/Spiderman. That would be silly. What I didn't expect is tram conversion. It would be much better to get Indiana Jones 2.0. One step forward, half step back. Also, what happened to a different tour guide for each trip? This went away fast. A tram feature that never appeared, probably for the best.

Seems like they didn't skimp on Kong. The big Kong animatronic is a good thing. The elaborate entrance and queue was terrific. They didn't take it far enough to make a difference.

April 6, 2017 at 12:24 PM · An immersive queue is the icing on the cake. We still need a cake that is not just a variation on the same old thing.
April 6, 2017 at 12:28 PM · "People write long essays on the differences between Disney rides in Anaheim and Orlando. This is no different."

True, but the people that write those articles are not the "average" theme park guest. The truly average/normal park guest is oblivious to these things. I'd say probably half the country doesn't know the difference between Disney World and Disneyland and most of the other half thinks the shared rides between the 2 resorts are identical. We're a very small percentage of the guests that goes through the turnstiles, and even though it seems like there are a lot of people that have lots of knowledge because we congregate all over the internet on site like this, our numbers are very limited.

It could have been neat to have Indy-style vehicles on the ride, but again, Universal Creative may have deliberately put the roof on the trucks so they wouldn't have to elaborately dress every square inch of ceiling in the building. By cutting down what guests can see, it would reduce the cost of designing, building, and maintaining the attraction, and if it adds a little more realism to the attraction then that's an added plus.

April 6, 2017 at 2:36 PM · The cost goes to create two separate screens on each side of the truck and two different synchronized movies. The removal of the truck roof would mean a huge screen in front of the truck. I'm sure Universal can reuse their technology from the Terminator 3-D attraction for the extra wide screens or the Harry Potter Gringotts attraction. I would think the cost of the dressing the ceiling isn't a big deal. They have to create the caverns ceiling. People's peripheral view will go so far.

It would be an entirely different ride, but if that's the case, it'll be like comparing the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride with Shanghai Disneyland's Pirate ride. The newer ride is truly impressive.

April 6, 2017 at 3:00 PM · Love them. And with record crowds they are here to stay
April 6, 2017 at 3:27 PM · I'm inclined to give Universal more of a pass on "screen." This is just on the flimsy basis that still owes its roots to the Universal movie studio. So to my mind, movies=screen.

Disney, however, has set such an amazing precedent for dimensional outings in the Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Adventure through Inner Space, Submarine Voyage, etc. that I find I expect more from them.

That may not be entirely fair.

That said, some Universal rides pull the screen off more effectively than others. On Spider-Man I'm 100% convinced I'm flying around the Empire State Building. In Transformers and Gringott's, however, I'm always aware that I'm pausing and watching a screen.

Gringott's and Transformers are still impressive, but I get much more of a wow factor seeing the "live" dinos in the Jurassic Park or coming face to snout with a dragon.

April 6, 2017 at 3:35 PM · 3d glasses are a pain to wear with normal glasses
April 6, 2017 at 7:20 PM · You're wrong about why screen based attractions annoy theme park fans. There is no "Wow!" factor with a screen based attraction. Minions and Fallon are perfect examples of this. They are just movies in moving seats. There is no "How did they do that?" there is no knock-your-socks-off effects that you can't get watching TV or going to the movies. They all feel the same. I think that that is why Pirates in Shanghai gets a pass despite having a lot of projection screens. When the screens show up, they really knock your socks off. They are exciting and ginormous and come out of nowhere and you are amazed and entertained by them.

When you walk into the Fallon or Minions theaters, you see exactly what you are going to get. Movie screens and shaking seats. Nothing amazing.

Kong at IOA actually has the reverse effect. You see those amazing vehicles and the great sets outside and in the queue, but then once your car rolls into the inside of the show building... it's just screens. Not thought or effort is given to make them look like anything but projections on a wall. You are disappointed because you have these lush, detailed environments, and they are wasted on a ride where the main focus is not realistic environments, but 3D CGI animated movies.

So just because something has screens in it, doesn't necessarily make it bad. What makes it bad is a lack of specialness. A lack of being something unique to a theme park. A lack of something that you can't see at the multiplex in Dayton Ohio.

Universal has a real problem if they don't stop tearing out great practical-effects filled rides and replacing them with yet another ho-hum movie.

April 6, 2017 at 8:07 PM · That's true, even though Spider-Man is an older ride, somehow you are much less aware of screens. It just seems like the 3D characters pop out of nowhere, like when Spidey lands on your ride vehicle. Also, the world of comic book characters seems to fit 3D perfectly. It's like riding around in the pages of a comic book.

I do, however, love the scene in Gringotts when the troll tosses your vehicle. That was a step forward for 3D rides and interacting with a virtual character.

April 7, 2017 at 1:24 AM · There are no experience rides anymore. Like Jaws, the old Kong ride, twister, earthquake. I love Spiderman, but it was one of the only screen rides when it came out. But now we have every ride almost using a screen and its boring. There is no thrill in anything anymore. The new Kong ride was such a disappointment and i found the queue more entertaining than the ride itself. The only new rides i think the screen aspect works on are the Harry Potter rides. Most annoying being that Tranaformers is basically spiderman with a different film. Its just lazy to be honest. More experience rides please!
April 7, 2017 at 2:53 AM · For me, it's not about a track or about balance or ambiance. For me, it's simply a matter of oh look! More rides I can't ride because I 3D doesn't work well for me and those rides produce a severe anxiety response plus make me sick. I'm not sure why but when it comes to 3D I can only watch high frame rate film or animation. And even animation is iffy. I get sick sitting still and the picture never becomes clear. I know that's a personal problem but when you feel alienated by all the new attractions it sucks. Coasters are just fine for me.
April 7, 2017 at 6:16 AM · I look at it this way..outside of Harry Potter, which has so many other factors playing into it's popularity and sustainability...what screen rides will be looked at as "classics" decades from now or are considered classics now. Spider-Man and Soarin' are obvious examples, but other than those two, which ones? I struggle to come up with one. Haunted Mansion...classic...Pirates..classic...Jaws...classic...Kongfrontation (in my opinion)...classic...Earthquake (again, in my opinion)...classic..they were or are all practical-effects based.
April 7, 2017 at 6:49 AM · I just hope that dueling dragons isn't replaced with another screen based ride. I do enjoy the 3d rides but also like getting my steel track fix. As long as there is a good balance of the two I'm good with it.
April 7, 2017 at 9:38 AM · Robert makes a good point -- it's the combo of screens, practical scenes, and unique ride system that makes a ride great.

Take Forbidden Journey, for example. Here you have the unique Kuka robotic arm system, great practical scenes, and immersive yet non-3D screens.

Spiderman has much better practical sections than Transformers, and this is where the latter falls short. Combine that with a cloned ride system, and you have a sub-par copy. Note, I still enjoy transformers, just not as much as Spiderman.

Kong lent itself to the technology and layout they selected (given the space they had for it). As you approach the island you encounter the natives and the old lady, you go through the gate, encounter animatronics at the beginning and end. Now, when there is fast paced action, there isn't a way to do that without screens. Imagine an animatronic kong jumping around and killing T-Rexs. Not happening. What they have done here is selected the best tech for each scene.

Same with Fallon -- you get the approach - experiences - exit flow. It works well. Maybe with Disney you'd get an animatronic Fallon and a slow boat ride down the Hudson :-D

But, haters gonna hate.

April 7, 2017 at 2:39 PM · If I Park hop, I usually ride either Spider Man in Islands or Transformers in Universal. Besides the film that plays on the screen, the rest of the Experience just feels exactly the same. That's my issue with the new rides
April 7, 2017 at 7:55 PM · It's all about ratios. WDW has 5 or 6 screen based rides depending on what you categorize Energy as, while USO has 8. Problem is, USO has half the number of rides. Screens in astonishing physical sets should be the way to go, because screens aren't going away (Pirates of the Caribbean in Shanghai being a tremendous example) No matter how you do screens, it won't leave you in wonder as to how they did it. The Nemo rides at Disneyland and World are good examples. They're just screens. There's no wow factor when every facet of the entertainment is a screen, no matter how good the storytelling is.

Next Year, Universal opens another screen based ride. By that point, Disney World will have four new non-screen based rides. Na'vi River Journey, from what I've seen, is another example of how to do it right and wow guests while enhancing the experience with screens. It's not that Fast & Furious will be bad, but it's just screens. Nothing more, nothing less. Classics generally are the ones with physical sets. At Universal, The Harry Potter Stuff, Simpsons, and Spider-Man are all that really would be terrible to lose and are screen based, At Disney, Soarin', Mission Space, and Toy Story are all the screen based rides that would really be terrible to lose. Universal's classics are physical along with Disney's, and only one has figured out how to balance them out.

April 8, 2017 at 6:50 AM · "Sorry, but the Johnny Depp animatronics on Disney's various Pirates rides are the Mayor of the Uncanny Valley. Heck, that's why Disney's using screen technology to animate the faces of even cartoon characters on its latest generation on animatronics."

Disney is using screen technology to animate the faces of their cartoons because it is cheap. Because it is less to maintain. It has nothing to do with quality of the attraction.

April 10, 2017 at 7:21 AM · The Universal gods have heard your cries for less screens. It is rumored that all of Nintendo Land will be practical sets with screens being an after thought. I have to give it to Universal because I think Gringotts is a wonderful example of how screens and set's can be used together for total ride immersion with a limited amount of space.

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