Based on Universal's highest-grossing film franchise (yup — look it up), the new ride brings the grand finale of Universal Studios Hollywood's Studio Tour to Florida as a stand-alone attraction. Whenever Universal brings a scene from the tram tour to Florida, it requires some restaging and plussing in order to make that encounter work as a complete attraction experience, and Universal revealed today more of the detail on how they will do that for this franchise.
First, Universal has to get you onto a ride vehicle. In this case, instead of the tour trams, you will be boarding tram-like party buses, arranged for you by Ludacris' Tej Parker character, who does not appear in the California original. Instead of hiding from Owen Shaw in Roman's garage, as your tram does in Hollywood, Dom has invited you to a post-race party... which you will get to on those buses. But after that point, just as in Hollywood, it all goes terribly wrong, the villainous Shaw has found us, and the chase is on.
The Florida installation will include new walk-through pre-show scenes inspired by the films, including Tej's War Room and the Family Room. The heart of the ride will remain the 360-3D chase through city streets, similar to the ride experience on Skull Island: Reign of Kong, which was another plussed-up Hollywood transplant. After the ride, visitors can take photos with show cars from the latest Fast & Furious movie in a post-ride exhibit, located next to the ubiquitous gift shop.
Fast & Furious - Supercharged will join this year's new Universal Studios Florida attraction, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, in using the resort's Virtual Line system. That requires you to reserve a entry time using Universal Orlando's official app or at kiosks next to the ride's entrance. Once inside, you will be pulsed in groups through the pre-show scenes then onto to the buses, much like visitors are through the downstairs "Tonight Show" museum and upstairs green room before reaching the show theater on Fallon.
By my count, Fast & Furious is the fifth Studio Tour encounter from Universal Studios Hollywood to be developed as a stand-alone ride at Universal Orlando, including two iterations of Kong:
Fast & Furious is being built on the site of the former Disaster ride, which was a reboot of the original Earthquake attraction at Universal Studios Florida. The Kongfrontation building became Revenge of the Mummy, and the Jaws ride went away to clear space for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.
Rate and review:
I think what we're seeing is park managers/designers mandated to install a new attraction every single year, and the intense amount of design and engineering required for original attractions is not conducive to that model. Let's wait for the details for the Forbidden Forest coaster as well as plans for T2, KidZone, Fear Factor and what they have in store for Nintendo in Japan before declaring that UC is out of ideas. Not every attraction is going to be an e-ticket (not even Disney can design/build at that pace - Flight of Passage was WDW's first fully original attraction since 7DMT, which opened in 2014). Forbidden Journey set an incredibly high bar that in my opinion is still the pinnacle of theme part attraction design 7 years later. Nothing built in the past 7 years has come close to what UC achieved with FJ (Flight of Passage is the closest so far), and with talents spread across multiple projects around the world, hitting another grand slam like that might never happen again.
Perhaps my view would have been different had we been able to sit at a screen. I really enjoyed the displays on the lower level, but didn't know how long we were going to wait upstairs before our color was called. That for me was the biggest problem. I would have spent another 5-10 minutes downstairs had I known that it was going to be 20 more minutes of waiting upstairs and we weren't going to be able to sit at a touch screen. I also enjoyed the 10 minute set from the quartet and the few minutes from Hashtag before our color was finally called, but I would have gladly traded that for a pre-show movie, time downstairs (with a signal down there that our color was being called), or some more seats to explore the content on the touch screens.
Certainly, there's something to be said to not being stuffed in a line, but there's typically a progression to a standard queue that builds anticipation and indicates when you're getting close to the end (assuming it's buried so deep in a building you can't see where it ends). Universal's virtual queue does not give guests that anticipation and slow build. Instead, they give you a room ill-equipped to handle the number of guests stuffed inside and a system that doesn't even let you know the order in which you will be queued to ride. It also doesn't give Universal Express guests any advantage to get on the ride any faster (except when the online virtual queue is triggered on exceptionally busy days), which to me is a HUGE disservice. I understand that queues are important to attraction design and execution, but if I can ride Mummy or Men In Black without having to sit through extended pre-show videos and increasingly detailed queue spaces, then why do I have to sit through all that schlock to see Jimmy Fallon pull a gimble box through NYC? We paid extra to not have to stand in line, and got stuck for 30 minutes to ride a mediocre attraction, not cool IMHO.
As such, they are stealing a page from Team Disney Anaheim and are seeking funds to plus the ride portions of screen based rides. UC’s internal discussions have also focused on how to replicate Team WDW’s success on Pandora’s screen based ride.
UC is also focusing on Comcast’s mandate to replace thrill rides with Disney type family friendly ‘e-ticket’ rides moving forward.
Why would I have a problem with you saying that? I actually think Skull Island (just rode it for the first time last week) is a pretty good plussing of the original Kong 360 segment from the Hollywood tram experience. I understand people's criticism of Universal pseudo-cloning tram segments from Hollywood to Orlando, but I think as long as it's an improved and complete experience as a stand-alone attraction, there's nothing wrong with it. I'm more concerned about the virtual queue on F&F than the ride itself. I haven't experienced the newer F&F segment in Hollywood (last time we were there in 2013 the F&F segment of the tram tour was mostly practical effects with robotic arms), so I don't have a basis of what may be coming to Orlando, though it can't be much more depressing than what had become of Earthquake/Disaster.
I don't have as big of an issue with screens as some people, but I do criticize when parks let screen-based attractions go stale even though they present designers the easiest opportunity to keep attractions new and fresh. I did criticize Universal for essentially installing the same ride system in adjacent parks when they installed Transformers at USF, but whenever I talk to average guests in line about the 2 rides, very few understand that the two are virtually identical, and even fewer realize that you take 2 real elevator rides on Transformers, which is what allows the attraction to occupy such a small footprint compared to Spiderman. So while us theme park nerds will take Universal out to the woodshed for an apparent lack of creativity in attraction design, the average guest is completely clueless when similar or identical ride systems are installed practically next to each other with different skin/theming, and sees the virtually cloned rides as two completely different and unique experiences. Skull Island presents a very happy medium between screens and practical effects IMHO, and perhaps F&F will do the same with some aspects borrowed from the original F&F tram experience I remember from 2013. I just hope they learn from the deficiencies of the Jimmy Fallon queue when developing the virtual queue for F&F, because for me, the 30 minutes of waiting, even with Universal Express, left me cold and unenthusiastic for the ride itself.
We will see plenty of other top-tier rides and shows coming down the pipeline.
Let's not judge this before we get a chance to experience it!
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