In my Orange County Register column this week, I look back at 10 of Disney's attraction rethemes over the years, ranking them from 1 to 10 and grouping them into three categories of success or failure.
Anyone want to take a guess as to which one I thought worked best? Because I think that anyone who's been around here for a while probably could guess the one I picked as the worst. (Stops to pour one out for Dreamfinder.)
I listed only Disney rethemes in my Register column. What about Universal? While Universal has swapped a lot of shows over the years and certainly torn down its share of attractions to build new ones, I could think only of five instances where Universal rethemed an attraction while pretty much keeping its underlying ride. Here they are, but instead of ranking them from best to worst (IMHO), I've listed them from most controversial to least.
Back to the Future to The Simpsons Ride: So you knew this had to be first, right? Many fans still refuse to forgive Universal for dumping Doc Brown in 2008 in favor of Homer and his family. But 2015 was approaching quickly and Universal needed to change the ride film in order to keep this trip to the future from becoming an anachronistic trip to the past. And The Simpsons probably has a lot more fans out there than BTTF does these days, thanks to its incessant reruns. So Universal probably made the right move here with the switch. As for the ride? Well, as they say on "The Simpsons," it's not just good... it's good enough.
Dueling Dragons to Dragon Challenge: The Harry Potter retheme didn't bother fans nearly as much as Universal's earlier decision to stop running the two coasters in dueling mode. Robbed of its biggest thrill — the visuals of multiple near misses with the other train — fan focus instead turned to wondering why these enormous coaster tracks were looming over the otherwise spot-on depiction of the village of Hogsmeade. So last year, Universal torn 'em down to make way for a new Potter ride.
Earthquake to Disaster!: This wasn't so much as re-theme as a de-theme. Universal removed the references to its 1974 film, Earthquake, and instead recast the production as a pretend film directed by the fictional Frank Kincaid. Then it tore the whole thing down to make room for next year's Fast & Furious: Supercharged ride.
The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera to Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast: When the 70s kids grew up, the 90s kids got a new show starring cartoon characters they'd actually heard of. And when the 90s kids grew up, Universal gutted the building and created a Despicable Me ride for the 2010s kids. So what happens in another 15 years?
The Flying Unicorn to Flight of the Hippogriff: Perhaps the least rethemed-retheme in theme park history, Universal threw on some extra decorations when transforming this lively Vekoma junior coaster when it became part of the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Nothing on the ride itself changed.
What's your favorite theme park retheme — from Disney, Universal, or any other theme park company?
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