Jurassic Park and some other stuff. Late April Dual Park Trip Report.

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Apr 5, 2011
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The delayed final part of my trip reports is here. I’m covering both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios in one report simply because there wasn’t enough at Uni to justify it’s own trip report.


Rides/Attractions

Jurassic Park River Adventure: Now my favorite water ride ever. The animatronics were outdated, they didn’t all function as expected, but I don’t give a MOD EDIT. This ride is how you tell a story on a ride. You set up the basis of the ride like you’re normal guests riding a normal ride (The Mummy did this too and I loved it), give a plausible reason you go off course, build up the danger, and have a big climax. I rode this three times and the only reason I didn’t do it more was because I decided to do both parks at the last minute.

Forbidden Journey: Probably the best dark ride I’ve ever been on. The ride system was so dynamic and fun. The scenery was fantastic and they did a great job blending movies in with them. I’m not big on my HP lore and I could have missed this plot point during the queue shows since it was moving so fast and the crowds were quite loud (so somebody can correct me if I’m off base), but I was a bit confused as to why Dementors randomly showed up on a normally peaceful day at Hogwarts. However, I did like the fact that the ride projected your own face onto a screen of fog like you’re really being attacked (or whatever the Dementor do). While I totally get that FJ is a family ride, the one thing I came away with after this was wanting to see what somebody could do with this ride system if it was more intense. This also has probably the best queue I’ve ever been on as well.

Flight of the Hippogriff: A neat little coaster that’s more fun than it looks. I liked the fact that while each seat could potentially hold two people, it’s not divided so single adults can sit comfortably.

Dragons Challenge: Two good (but not exceptional) B&M inverts. I get the feeling that the experience would have been much better if they still dueled, but they were neat still. Best trains ever.

Poseidon’s Fury: I liked this. Not every park has a walk through attraction like this and it is a shame. This kind of thing would be (have been?) perfect for BGW. My one issue would be how entertaining it would be on repeat visits, which would be important for a local focused park like BGW.

Hulk: Fantastic coaster, I really don’t know why B&M doesn’t do more launching coasters. Queue is also amazing.

Spiderman: Great. Simply fantastic. So fantastic, I’m not sure I can really enjoy DarKastle as much anymore.

Ripsaw Falls: A log flume with airtime *mindblown.gif*. Combine that with a great layout and theming, it’s the best log flume I’ve ever been on.

Disaster Inc.: I’m kind of split on this. On one hand it was funny at times and the actual disaster part was neat. However, it had three lengthy pre-shows and I’m not sure if the result was worth it. Still not a bad experience.

Despicable Me: It’s a motion sim. Not bad, but nothing outstanding either.

The Mummy: Amazing. Simply Amazing. It’s a lengthy dark ride coaster with lots of great plot and fourth wall moments. Despite being a bit old, the animatronics are still fantastic. Having a bit to stew on it, the fourth wall part where a ride op gets killed has to be my favorite story bit of any ride. There have been lots of comparisons made to Verbolten, but I don’t really think it’s fair though since Verbolten tries to do something different than Mummy.

Transformers: So it turns out that Transformers is a lot better without Michael Bay or Shia Laboof and in smaller chunks. I really enjoyed this one, and once again makes me wonder if I can enjoy DarKastle again.

T-2 3D: Awesome concept, but has aged terribly. Ideally this would be replaced with something similar to a special effects show with actors popping in and out of the movie, but with a newer franchise and updated effects.

ET: Dated, but still retains a lot of it’s charm. There’s a certain point where dark rides can move from “out of date” to “old school charm” and this one has hit the old school charm point.

MIB: I liked this so much. I have a soft spot for interactive dark rides, and the fact that you interact with other cars made this so much cooler. Great animatronics (running theme at these parks if you can’t tell), it’s filled with that signature MIB humor, and just plain fun.

Simpsons Ride: The ride itself was “meh”, but the ride itself is worth seeing all the theme park jokes the park lovingly put into there (as well as most of Springfield, but we’ll get into that later). I do feel that an update to the ride system could make the ride much more enjoyable.

Kratos Whirl ‘n’ Hurl: So here’s a novel idea: Make a flat ride where the ride is not only has some input, but the surrounding environment has interactive aspects. You can control your ship to go up and down to hit targets around the ride. It doesn’t seem like much, but the interactive elements separate it from your average flat ride.

Hollywood Rip Ride & Rocket: Not only is “Break Run: The Ride” maybe the second or third worst coaster I’ve ever been on (I haven’t figured out if it’s worse than Volcano, but it’s at least worse than Shockwave) but it’s also the douchiest coaster I’ve ever been on. While the trains are cool in theory, they force some sort of obnoxious pop music on you. The only choice I was ready to deal with was Beastie Boy’s “Intergalactic”. I can’t be the minority here, but part of a coaster experience is it’s roar. Then again, with all those break runs, you never experience it. (Am I right?) Vertical lifts are also pretty lame IMO.

Twister: Neat, and I know Uni had lots of these experiences in it’s past, but with today’s technology, there’s certainly more they can do in this space.

Universal’s Horror Make Up Show: I thought this was really cool. It’s part comedy show and part showcase of Universal’s horror movie history and some special effects. Certainly worth a viewing.

Parade: While I get it would entertain the kids, not being able to get from one attraction to another is pretty annoying. Also, it still has Hop in it. Really?


Theming

I really have so much to say about this, but the TL;DR version would be “Amazing, this should be the standard that all theme parks strive for.”

Islands of Adventure: Holy MOD EDIT. When walking in through the gates, I was immediately blown away by the level of detail that Port of Entry had. There were kinetic devices (fountains, moving signs) and audio elements all over the area. All the buildings and other formations looked fantastic. Little of it looked worn down in general. This was a great way to show the guest, “You’re not in Florida anymore.”, even with City Walk right outside. This level expanded to the rest of the park and rides.

Marvel Island was full of comic book references, from the obvious like Spiderman building being the Daily Bugle to more obscure characters being referenced on unused building facades. Toon Lagoon was colorful and larger than life. Even though I didn’t know who half these character were, they still had a ton of detail to their little stores and shops.

Even though it didn’t have much as far as attractions go, The Lost Continent was an amazing collection of detailed buildings combined with towering sculpted monuments fit for the legends that it’s based on. Seuss Landing was an island with theming galore. Including Sneetches, Oncelers, Things, and more. A fantabulous land just like what your family reads, a fresh coat of paint is all this play place needs.

Now we come to be big area of the park. The island based off a much loved book and movie franchise that has sparked the imagination of countless children and adults. Nothing came close to it’s success when it first came out and still is one of the most iconic franchises in our culture to this day. The series that tells people that with enough hard work, and a little magic, anything is possible. Jurassic Park! (Come now, what did you expect?)

While many people will say that Hogsmeade is (understandably) their favorite section, Jurassic Park is my “Harry Potter”, the series that I watched as a kid with wonder and imagination, and something I latch onto as an adult (“adult”?) to this day. When I came up to the iconic gate with the John Williams soundtrack playing, it was a sensation of excitement and awe that I haven’t felt for quite some time as an adult. I’ve seen some people say that this area was the least themed of them all since it’s mainly just a simulation of plants, but they don’t see the detail here. Everything from the signs to lamps and trash cans are done in a way that you see in the movie, with fake fossils ordaining them. The buildings here also took a page from the series. They will either look similar to the Visitor Center or the a maintenance building from the movies. The sound design here is also an inspired work of art. While music plays through the area, a few select speakers will play random dinosaur noises creating the sensation that there is something just beyond those plants that had me constantly looking around. I’ve never seen this done on such a large scale and it added so much to the experience.

Aside from the ride, there are two (three if you include the kiddy coaster) other attractions here. They’re not rides and one is educational (ewww) so they’re often glanced over, but if you’re a fan of the series then they’re littered with fantastic detail. Camp Jurassic is a kids exploration area, but it’s HUGE. It has security towers and gates from the movies you pass through. It has lots of electric fence. There’s also a cave section with hot springs. Not only is this section really muggy and steamy like real springs, but a little known reference to the books. In the books, JP is on a secluded island, and instead of bringing power from the outside, they invented GeoThermal Power using the activity on the island. Camp Jurassic is littered with stuff like this and I loved it.

The Visitor Center was also fantastic. It has kids learning about Dinosaurs in ways that match the movie. One example was an egg scanning device where guests had to adjust the screen and scan it in multiple ways to identify the dinosaur, which gives information about it. Then there’s the Ollivander's of Jurassic Park; the Raptor hatching. When a raptor is ready to hatch, an alert will sound and center staff with gather people to the incubator. A vet inside the care center will start talking to guests as the raptor. Once it hatches, they will pick up the hatchling and ask a guest for a name. The person who names it (I wanted to, but I didn’t want to ruin some kid’s fun) gets a certificate from the center staff. This recreation of a fairly iconic scene from the movie is the type of magic that theme parks should try to give to it’s guests. It’s not a ride or attraction, but it’s an experience.

Hogsmeade was great as well. They did a great job with the illusion that makes Hogwarts look life size. There were plenty of actors about that made it feel like it wasn’t just guests there. All the stores were detailed and had plenty of effects. I felt it did a good job of impressing me even though I’m not a big HP fan. The voice in the bathroom here are cool, but it made me jealous that the JP bathrooms didn’t have anything since the movie did have a significant bathroom scene. Ollivander's was pretty cool, just another simple experience that added a lot to add to the theme with the additional benefit of selling wands (I’m not going to lie, I wanted to drop down $40 for one by the end of it). Also, Butterbeer. They should be selling this everywhere. I seriously would like to go to a Taco Bell and be able to get Butterbeer.

Universal Studios: The individual areas here aren’t nearly as impressive as it’s sister park. It’s odd because the areas in front of the park largely blends together for the most part with the exceptions of a few large ride buildings sticking out like Despicable Me and Transformers. However, I’m not going to detract that from the theme because I get this area is one giant set and these are simply sound stages.

Amity/London/Diagon Alley was closed, so the only areas left besides the childrens area was MIB and Springfield. MIB was cool, very much in the style of the movie. Springfield was fantastic though. The level of detail they put in from the show was amazing, plus the theme park jokes were hilarious. They got it. They understand that some of the aspects of going to a park are kind of MOD EDITy and didn’t hold any punches. I didn’t spend nearly enough time here, but I will next time.

Other theming notes: I want to touch on the ride ops a bit. Not only did most of the uniforms match the specific ride (not area, but ride), but the level of variety of them as well. Hulk had full lab jumpsuits, Buzzsaw had Mounty outfits, FB had Wizards in robes, Transformers were in fatigues, Mummy were in desert outfits, each one with pretty great detail. This blew me away. The detail here was something I could have only dreamed about at BGW, even during it’s heyday. Guests were also only “guests” in some areas like Jurassic Park where you’re in an area themed after a theme park. You were called “recruits”, “muggles”, “trainees”, “minions”, ect ect. Something very small, but it added so very much to my experience there and I loved being called a “recruit”.

A few of them actually acted their roles. A few ops on The Mummy were rather quiet and mysterious. The ones at Transformers barked orders at you and one at The Simpsons was joking around and witty. I loved that so much. Another thing that the ops did which was kind of hit or miss was applaud your return since you passed, survived, or whatever on the ride. It was clear some people weren’t into it, and I can’t really blame them because it can be a little patronizing. But when ops really put energy into it, it was a neat touch.

Overall, the two parks really understood what good theming is and how it can enhance a visitor’s experience. Even if it’s something small like a recording in the right place or a single sign, Universal was on top of everything here.


Final Thoughts

I loved these two parks so much. I’m a huge theme nerd when it comes to parks and I was not expecting what I found at these two parks. My desperate attempt to go back during HHN might not pan out, but I certainly won’t give up on that hope. These park legitimately sought out to create a unique experience that you can’t find anywhere else and succeeded. The ride collection is also top notch. While RRR was a disaster, the large collection of dark rides with a decent coaster collection is a perfect balance for what I like in rides.

10/10 Would visit again.
 
Apr 9, 2013
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IOA is quite the park. I walked away with a very similar sentiment. Even the Cat in the Hat area was worth exploring.

Great reporting. I'm glad more of us seem to be documenting our experiences outside of the KD/BGW realm.
 
Aug 27, 2010
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You're review filled me with the wonder and excitement I get when I have been to Uni/IOA. Shame you couldn't go before Jaws left us though.

I need to go this year, no excuses.
 
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Apr 5, 2011
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So a little more gushing about Jurassic Park.

While I was waiting for the JP ride, they had to remove a boat. They announced it as, "Due to an unforeseen incident involving an escaped Velociraptor, we have to remove a boat. The ride will be down temporarily." When it came back up, "Thank you for waiting, the Velociraptor has been captured and we will be resuming operations now."

There was a point where a ride op came on the speaker and said, "Dr. Ian Malcom has requested that all our guests make sure they know what they're in for on this tour." and proceeded to describe the ride. Once again, simple stuff that the guests won't even experience all the time, but still does wonders for their experience.
 
Feb 9, 2013
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Going back to what PK said about what the ride ops announced when they were removing a boat.

They also do something like that on Darkastle to keep with the theme when it breaks down. I remember being so surprised when the ride got stuck last year when I was on it. The loud speaker came on, and it was the guy who talks to you as you get in and out of the sleigh, and he talked in a spooky voice saying that there was something wrong with the tour, and it'll start again soon. If I remember correctly it never really said anything about a break down specifically, like in terms of technical difficulties. If I didn't know that it was a break down I really would've thought that it was part of the experience. It also said something quite funny before it started back up that also stayed with the theme.
 
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Apr 5, 2011
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Dwight: Let me to go into further detail about why I don't like it.  Vertical lifts are rather uncomfortable to me, so when you factor in the mandatory terrible music, it feels like something out of Clockwork Orange.  The music also does nothing to enhance the ride experience like a dark ride, it's only a gimmick.  They should at the very least give the option for no music.  What's even the theme here?  This is the only ride in the park without a cohesive theme (Unless you consider "PARTY PARTY PARTY" a theme, in which it would be the Killarney Kommotion coaster(Koaster?(KKK?))) and it's out of place besides rides like Mummy and the park's other movie rides.

Even if the layout wasn't 50% break run, it felt forced into it's small footprint in the worst way possible.  It feels out of place at this park because the other rides seem to have their space made for them instead of being shoehorned in.  Maybe if it was at a Six Flags, the difference in quality to the park's other rides wouldn't be as noticeable.  However, this is at the same park as The Mummy and the sister park to where The Hulk is and the difference was simply stunning.  Maybe this isn't the worst coaster in the world, but Universal is so much better than H:RRR.  This thing cost $45 Million?!

Matthew: Verbolten does the same, and there are nice touches.  There's no reason all of the major rides can't do this.  A little imagination does wonders for a theme.
 
Mar 19, 2014
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I rode it as well last year and didn't like it either. The secret songs are the "Universal Magic" on this ride.
 
Mar 30, 2010
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Did you catch the name of the themepark the Simpsons were at? ;)

Definitely agree about T2. I bet that's where USO rehabs next. Although I LOVE the horror makeup show in that part of the park. One of our friends was picked to go on stage and it was that much better!

I've also been getting the feeling that the cartoon and marvel areas need a rehab/retheme as well. I doubt that will happen for a while though.
 
Apr 5, 2011
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I did not, but that thing was too full of references.

The one thing I regret missing was the Beetlejuice show, especially after how great the Horror makeup show was. This is kind of messed up, but the person they picked for my show was a from China and had a very limited English vocabulary and it ended up being great.

I'm not sure if Marvel will be getting a retheme or even needs one. Super heroes are really hot right now so the park has to be benefiting from that. Toon Lagoon, on the other hand, I could easily seeing getting the next retheme since the area was a bit faded and probably had very low character recognition with the kids.


Maybe JP should just take over that area~
 

Connor

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Sep 20, 2013
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I really wish they could make there own version of a test track style vehicle and implement that into a Jurassic Park Jeep tour. Imagine the T-Rex staring above you screeching at you as you try to get out of a mud puddle.
 
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Jan 7, 2014
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I understand that they might of made a reference to Busch Gardens in the shows, Duff Gardens, but the Simpsons Ride is based in Krustyland. Also I used the quick queue system at Universal when I went over Christmas break, so for the most part I did not see any of the videos in the queue lines until the main story videos.
 
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