The visually stunning and chaotically thrilling Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction is the latest proof that nobody does movie-based motion simulator rides better than Universal Studios Hollywood.
During a test-and-adjust preview on Thursday, I found the technically spectacular 3-D attraction to be jam-packed with laugh-out-loud slapstick humor and spine-rattling action in what's sure to be a crowd-pleasing hit with visitors.
And despite all those well deserved superlatives, I still feel like I've seen all this before.
Following in the sizeable footsteps of Transformers, King Kong and even a 50-foot-tall Maggie Simpson, the new Despicable Me ride is sadly nothing more than just another movie-based motion simulator attraction in a theme park overflowing with them.
Imported from Universal Studios Orlando, the "new" Despicable Me ride has a unique pedigree. The "reskinned" Florida attraction that debuted in 2012 formerly featured a Jimmy Neutron theme in 2003 and a Hanna-Barbera overlay when the park opened in 1990. And while the underlying technology has been upgraded over the years, the basic ride concept transplanted in California – a movie theater with moving seats – hasn't significantly changed in nearly a quarter century.
Because of its distinct history and location, Universal Studios Hollywood has always been pinned in by height and sound restrictions – meaning far too many of the park's rides are housed in boxy studio soundstages.
Universal Creative has done a beautiful job on the Despicable Me facade depicting the suburban neighborhood of Gru, the kind-hearted evil villain from the animated movies voiced by Steve Carell. The still unfinished Super Silly Fun Land, based on the film's waterfront amusement park, may yet prove to be the most overlooked yet important element in the Despicable Me makeover of the former Terminator 2: 3-D theater.
Combining a multi-level water play area with a spinning Dumbo-style Silly Swirly Fun Ride, the new mini-land next to the Despicable Me building will add a scream-filled soundscape and dynamic kinetic energy sorely lacking throughout the ride-in-a-box park. With its stylized mountain peaks and colorful backdrop beyond an inviting entry arch, Super Silly Fun Land offers a rare location in the park where visitors step into a themed outdoor space rather than simply walking past it.
The current "soft opening" of Despicable Me Minion Mayhem means the new ride may be open or closed at any time between now and the April 10 unveiling. Construction on Super Silly Fun Land is expected to continue right up to the opening date.
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