We've been counting down the 10 new theme park attractions that we're most looking forward to in 2020. Today's entry comes from Universal Studios Hollywood, where Universal has an opportunity to establish a new model for what its theme park attractions will look like in the new decade.
The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! is taking over the site of the former Globe Theatre on the park's Upper Lot. Scheduled to open sometime this year, the ride appears to be departing from Universal's recent model of screen-driven, motion-base rides. In its announcement last year, Universal said that the ride will feature "live, dimensional and animated characters" along with filmed media. (Remember that "Audio Animatronic" is a Disney term, so Universal often says "animated" characters for that.)
Beyond that announcement, though, Universal has not done much to fire up the hype train for this new attraction. Still, the new building that will house the ride impresses, recreating a block of New York apartments across from Gru's neighborhood and the Despicable Me ride, effectively making the western half of the Upper Lot into an Illumination animation studios land.
So what's the story here? "Guests will assume the roles of stray puppies as they join a familiar cast of leading characters from The Secret Life of Pets — Max, Snowball, Gidget, Chloe and Duke, along with a host of other animal friends — on the ultimate quest of finding forever homes," Universal announced.
I love the idea that Secret Life of Pets will transform visitors into pets. Great theme park attractions fire up our imaginations, encouraging us to see ourselves as participants in an adventure, rather simply as observers of someone else's story. This franchise relies upon the conceit of letting us in on housepets' points of view, but it never explains why we have access to that POV. Off the Leash answers that question, at least for the ride's sake, by making us pets, as well. That should charm a lot of kids who visit... plus quite a few adults, as well.
Beyond that, I'm excited for Off the Leash because I want to see Universal try something it hasn't done much before. Screen-based rides provide the most accurate and reliable way for fans to spend time with the movie and television stars that Universal builds its attractions around. But people who spend money to visit theme parks instead of movie theaters demand a more immersive, life-like experience than just looking at flat screens.
Universal Creative has heard that message. (Loudly and clearly, from my conversations with some of its creative leaders.) With a multi-story show building and the potential of advanced dimensional shows effects and next-generation ride vehicles, including maybe even trackless navigation systems, Universal has some interesting tools to play with here.
I can't wait for this secret to be revealed.
Previously on "All aboard the 2020 Hype Train":
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