The newest attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood will open June 15, starring an overweight panda and cutting-edge projection-mapping that places riders in the middle of an action-adventure yarn in China.
"Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest," is a theater experience featuring seats that gyrate and shift to bring the story to life — with water, smoke, wind and other effects to boot.
It is based on the popular film franchise from DreamWorks Animation, the studio Comcast's NBC Universal acquired for $3.8 billion two years ago. It replaces an aging attraction from the Glendale animation studio featuring the ogre Shrek, who last starred in his own film in 2010.
The real star of the latest attraction, however, will be the seven high-definition projectors that can project moving images on an uneven, 180-degree surface. The mapping technology has become popular at theme parks, having been adopted to portray flying owls and wizards on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood and Disney's most iconic characters on Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland.
The Kung Fu Panda attraction is among several new offerings this season from Southern California theme parks aimed at keeping visitors coming back.
In June, Disney California Adventure Park will open its Pixar Pier, which was previously called Paradise Pier, a tribute to California boardwalk life. The area is being overhauled to include characters from Pixar Animation Studios movies, including "Up," "Monsters Inc." and "The Incredibles."
SeaWorld San Diego plans to launch its newest attraction, a roller coaster dubbed Electric Eel on May 10.
Meanwhile, Disneyland plans to close its popular Pirates of the Caribbean attraction on Sunday to remodel the scene that shows the pirates auctioning off women to become brides. The new scene will instead show pirates selling off the possessions of the townsfolk.