Universal Studios and the Great 3D Retreat

July 18, 2019, 6:07 PM · Universal Studios Florida has removed the 3D version of its video on the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction, replacing the ride's media with 2D video. Sister park Universal Studios Hollywood switched Minion Mayhem to 2D video earlier this year, following the debut of the attraction in 2D at Universal Studios Japan in 2017.

Minion Mayhem replaced Back to the Future in Japan, so the park preferred a 2D version to play on the IMAX-style screens on that ride. Now, Universal has brought a 2D version to all the installations of the Despicable Me motion theater show around the world.

It's the latest in what seems to be a developing trend away from 3D-based media for Universal. In addition to the Minion Mayhem changes, Universal shelved a 3D version of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal Studios Hollywood less than a year after that ride's opening. And when Fast & Furious - Supercharged made the drive to Orlando, it left its 3D version behind in California. Universal Studios Florida also closed its Terminator 2:3D show in favor of what's widely tipped to be a live-action stunt show, too.

Running a media-based attraction in 2D rather than 3D saves a park the cost of buying, cleaning, collecting and (potentially) replacing thousands of 3D glasses. And a switch to 2D potentially can save a park on projection costs as well, as 3D video demands stronger projection lighting to overcome the inherent darkness of 3D glasses' lenses.

While some fans enjoy the gimmick of 3D visual effects, the format bothers others, and some with visual impairments simply cannot see video in 3D. The use of 3D on motion base attractions carries additional risk, as 3D can amplify any disconnect between the physical motion of one's seats and the motion depicted by the video on screen.

Many fans have been complaining abut Universal's over-use of screens in its recent attractions, but I suspect that a good portion of that pushback is due to 3D fatigue, as well. With Hagrid's Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure and the upcoming Super Nintendo World, Universal is moving toward more practical-driven storytelling, but for its recent crop of screen-based attractions, it's easier to try to win back a few fans by dropping the 3D than it is to shut down those attractions and take a chance with something entirely new.

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Replies (28)

July 18, 2019 at 6:35 PM

It's not just 3D - it's that nearly all new attractions are SCREEN ATTRACTIONS ! It just gets on your nerves after one after another.

July 18, 2019 at 6:42 PM

Turtle Trek at Sea World is now only 2D. It's a walk thru exhibit, to the underwater Manatee area.

July 18, 2019 at 6:44 PM

So after the VR fad is rolled back, the remaining part of the 3D fad falls too. Great.

I am one who hates 3D attractions. On many implementations of the effect I have to work hard to maintain the 3d effect, and keep losing it; often I just end up with eye strain.

That said, the newer Universal implementations of 3D, like on Fallon I found generally easier than the older style... I may be in error here but I think Minions was in the older style that I struggled with. Disney implementations I struggled with - in Philharmagic for example, I could only make it work for seconds at a time and was thankful for the end.

I do laugh though here at home every christmas when I see pantomimes (Childrens theatre) offering "Amazing 3D effects". Every pantomime, ever, has been in 3D.

July 18, 2019 at 7:50 PM

I'm not a HUGE fan of 3D, there are rides it works and rides it doesn't. I feel that Minions Mayhem Definitely worked With 3D, so I am disappointed in its removal for this attraction.

July 18, 2019 at 9:25 PM

I agree that Minions was one ride that used the 3-D well, much better than many others. I think it can work in the right circumstances but it's way overused.

July 18, 2019 at 11:17 PM

3D is fine when an attraction actually benefits from it, but many rides that utilize it get little or no added effect. I also think it should be limited to one or two attractions per park, not used on half-a-dozen screen-based attractions right next to each other.

July 19, 2019 at 6:19 AM

I agree that there shouldnt be more than 2 3D attractions in a park. More than that and it just feels that the park designers lack creativity and not to mention the eye strain that many people experience. There are some attractions that I think utilise 3D very well such as Star Tours and Spiderman/Transformers but rides like Forbidden Journey and Despicable Me didnt need it to begin with. Despicable Me would have been perfect as a fantasyland style dark ride imo. Itll be very interesting to see what Universal does with Secret Life of Pets now that 3D is unlikely.

July 19, 2019 at 6:14 AM

I love 3D when used well. Attractions like Spider-man, T2-3D, Terminator, Muppet's, Avatar and Gringots work great in 3D.
Minion Mayhem also served well as a 3D attraction but the ip is underused and would have been much better as a dark-ride.

July 19, 2019 at 8:07 AM

I agree with OT - 3D can be incredible when used the right way. In fact, T2:3D was one of the best out there with screen effects that almost seamlessly integrated with live action. I think what is killing 3D is 4K and higher resolution projection. 4k and UHD images can look so incredibly realistic that they add dimension to the screens almost equivalent to what 3D does. Now, when you combine 4K/UHD with 3D, you get stunningly realistic images, but if 90% of what you're projecting is animated and thus latently unrealistic, what's the point? The "reach out and grab it" moments are still incredible, and something theme parks should never get rid of since you cannot create those kind of visuals in your home theater, but I can see the practicality of reducing the use of 3D in theme parks.

I will say that for my the 3D on Minion Mayhem didn't really add that much. There wasn't much depth to the 3D images with only 2 or 3 "in your face" moments. The issue with 3D is further complicated when riders are flung about while a screen stands still. Most cross-polar 3D technology (which is what is used on MM), loses the affect if you tilt your head more than 10-15 degrees, so it doesn't take much movement to cause the riders to lose the 3D image, which can be really disorienting during a ride.

July 19, 2019 at 8:31 AM

I don't have a problem with 3D so I'll miss it on the minions mayhem because I thought it used it well. That being said, I'll bet it's great without 3D so it's not the end of the world.

I do think things like spider man would be worse without 3D, but you never know. Sometimes well done effects are well done effects.

July 19, 2019 at 9:20 AM

So right Tracy. If Spider-man didn't have 3-D, how in the world are you supposed to believe that Spider-man lands on the Scoop, that Electro plugs in the high voltage wire, or that the Green Goblin's bombs whiz by your head, striking the structure behind and triggering the fire effects. 3-D has a place in theme parks, and when used the right way, it can be a pretty "Amazing" experience.

Movies are finding this out too. For about a 5-year span there in the early part of the decade, studios were spending millions performing stereoscopic conversions of 2D movies in the hopes of generating more revenue from higher 3D ticket prices. The audience widely rejected these cheap post-production conversions (Wrath of the Titans being the most egregious of the bunch), causing Hollywood to be more judicious in pushing 3-D conversions, and pushing directors to do more filming in 3D (thanks mostly to Avatar). Now when movies are released in 3-D, they are the best of the bunch, and typically look great.

July 19, 2019 at 9:33 AM

Honestly, I am hopeful for a glassless 3d future.

July 19, 2019 at 10:46 AM

So now minion mayhem is just sitting in a seat that bounces staring at a screen... this sounds like a downgrade to me, but I seem to be in the minority.

July 19, 2019 at 11:57 AM

I love 3D when used properly in a theme park ride. I too think this is a downgrade for Minion Mayhem as it was a mediocre ride to begin with. Fun for kids though and the queue is awesome.

That being said, I’m glad 3D is slowly dying in theaters, but also why I won’t go to any theater that uses the 4DX system. 2+ hours in 3D is bad enough... now motion seats and effects? Hard pass. It’s a crutch for bad movies.

July 19, 2019 at 12:02 PM

What about Disney's announced 2.5D with the Runaway Railway? I am curious what that experience will look like. Sounds like an effort to create a 3D-like experience without glasses, maybe by using visual tricks or other effects?

July 19, 2019 at 12:04 PM

I have to wonder if Universal has gotten wind of the rumored glasses-less 3D that the new Mickey and Minnie ride at HS will use.

July 19, 2019 at 12:14 PM

I actually like 3D and I think it enhances the attractions in which it is used.

I'll take a screen-based attraction any day over rides like It's a Small World, or if you prefer the old plywood cutouts and flashing light track rides like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride or Cinderella's Scary Adventures.

July 19, 2019 at 12:29 PM

3D is overused, but Minions was not an example of this overuse. Minions was one of the most immersive 3D animation experiences and it never seemed forced like some overlays.

I suspect that this matter is somewhat more complicated. Perhaps we'll see a DM dark ride in the new park, or a part of a land dedicated to DM. If that is the case, it may be on the chopping block at the current location.

July 19, 2019 at 12:42 PM

"What about Disney's announced 2.5D with the Runaway Railway? I am curious what that experience will look like."

Maybe that's why Disney keeps delaying it, because they can't figure out how to make it look 3-D without using glasses. I think they oversold what they thought they could do, and that's what is delaying the reveal of an attraction that was initially supposed to be open earlier this spring.

July 19, 2019 at 1:16 PM

Wouldn't you think that Disney would have done testing on the effects that they planned to create though? I can't imagine that they would promise an effect without rigging a prototype for it first.

July 19, 2019 at 1:38 PM

What works in a lab doesn't necessary translate to real life Nick. I'm sure they achieved the desired affect in a prototype form before getting the green light for MMRR, but that doesn't necessarily mean they can make it work on the scale of a full blown dark ride. Imagineers work in strange ways sometimes, as evidenced by the prototype for Soarin' made from an Erector set.

I'm just speculating that this is causing the delay in MMRR, but it seems as plausible as anything else. Who knows what the real story is, or what the finished product will look like. I just think it's curious that this attraction has seen such significant delays with a double-downed installation suddenly announced for Disneyland seemingly to aggregate the development costs across two attractions. The 2.5-D is the only announced detail of the attraction that would disrupt an otherwise standard dark ride development/construction timeline.

July 19, 2019 at 3:27 PM

Russell has a good point. In books on Imagineering, the open joke is how "sure it's easy for one department to think up this stuff, we're the ones who actually have to build it." Scores of much-hyped effects for rides didn't come to be because they realized it just couldn't work right in the actual building. When it's a ride meant to be cutting-edge technology, it's no wonder it's taking longer to get it right.

July 19, 2019 at 3:30 PM

I was under the impression that Radiator Springs Racer already used a glassles 3D effect during the Ramone Paint shop scene???

July 19, 2019 at 5:52 PM

July 18, 2019 at 6:35 PM
>>>> <<<< I aggree with you 100%, Andrew !
We go to "Location Based Entertainment Centres" (whether theme parks, stand alone attractions or museums) , to meet what you cannot (never) meet at home. (With never, I really mean both near future, and medium distant future >> 12 full business years at least, AFTER opening of an attraction, as 12 years is the average-minimum depreciation period for a theme park attraction...)

The 3D versus flat screen, versus 2.5D , in this perspective, is even futile.
Video enhanced (so called mapping) 'real-solid-environment' attractions however, can be a great future. Because they will not get old. The stance should never be "what is the newest tech". The stance should be : WHICH project will definately not age !

July 19, 2019 at 5:49 PM

AT your contribution,
Chad H
July 18, 2019 at 6:44 PM
I must aggree as well. There are many people who cannot stand 3D, due to purely physiological reasons. Eye problems, so to say.
Theme parks bluntly refuse to study into this subject.
- For many people, the 3D effect DOES "work out".
- For quite some people, it's a perceptible illusion, yet unclear, not natural at all, and tiring for the eyes.
- For some people, the illusion is faint and tiring from the first projection moments.
- For a minority of people, the illusion is non-existant, as it is so visually harmfull, they get (physiologically induced) crying behind the 3D glasses.

I THOUGHT theme parks were developing attractions accessible for all customers ?? NOT so...

July 19, 2019 at 6:53 PM

Universal relies too heavily on screen based attractions. FnF, Tranformers, Spiderman, Kong, Harry Potter, Minions, Sherk, Terminator, Simpsons, BTTF. It cheapens the experience. They are capable of more and then look like a one trick pony. Disney has moved toward screen based technology however, they are more effective at targeting the right balance ensure it does not take away from the experience.

July 20, 2019 at 11:13 PM

I can hardly ever get 3D effects to work. Kills my eyes. I had trouble on Transformers... but it's manageable and I can get through it.

But where it didn't work at all was Fast and Furious. All my wife and I saw was blurry images. The tram rocking and "accelerating" is neat, but the images are awful.

July 21, 2019 at 3:19 PM

Personally, I think the best use of 3D in theme parks are effects that pop out of the screen and get in your face, like in Spider-Man and Mickey`s PhilharMagic, or a 3D character that interacts with you, like the troll that picks up and throws your ride vehicle in Gringotts.

Depth of field is nice, but you can see that at your local movie theatre.

I hear in the "giant aquarium" effect on the new Jurassic World ride, it`s impossible to tell that it`s a screen, so they do seem to be advancing the art of 3D in some ways.

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