Trip Report: Universal Studios Hollywood

Hollywood, CA

June 22, 2006

Note: The TR is an exceprt from my California Mega-TR, which is available here. .

We were referred to the hotel courtesy bus for transportation to the theme park, so shortly before 3pm a large group of us assembled and boarded the bus to Universal Studios. We had a nice bus driver who in addition to dropping people off at the usual spot in the middle of Citywalk, he was willing to make a second stop and drop people off almost right in front of the park gates, where the courtesy bus from the subway station stops.

When we arrived at the park, Mom and Rhonda needed lunch so headed into Citywalk, where I was more interested in getting into the park, It was already almost 3pm, and the park closed at 7pm. Not as much time as I would have liked, so I had to tour in overdrive. I headed to the park entrance.

Universal Studios Hollywood is almost entirely unlike Universal Studios Florida. The Orlando park was built as a theme park foremost, and had a token movie studio attached, the Hollywood park is chiefly a movie studio that has an amusement park attached. In fact the 'park' started out as just a movie studio tour that evolved into the world famous Universal Studio Tram Tour. More attractions were added to the studio tour until it evolved into an amusement park. I approached the park gates and noted the familiar iconic symbols of the hollow Universal Globe sitting out front, as well as the Universal studio gate in the middle of the entrance gate are in their usual places at this park.

I already have a complimentary ticket in hand from the organized group tour that I am participating in. I did note the dizzying array of add on options available for tickets. It seems that the base ticket is about $60, then it goes up from there. You can add on "Front of the line" privileges for about $40 more, or you can add on unlimited food (but not drink) privileges for about $20 more, or you can elect both add on options. I didn't add on any options and instead headed into the park. They use the same cursory bag check that the Florida theme parks are doing, then I noted the ticket validation computer must have been acting up as my ticket was manually voided by the attendant drawing a star on the back. Front gate formalities out of the way, it's time to have fun.

I entered the park and walked around construction walls that surround the parks front gate plaza sculpture. I didn't have time to look at that as I was ambushed not by the keyhole photo person, but by somebody offering me a free tote bag. I ask what the catch is and the person insists there is no catch until I reach out for the bag, then he attempted to drag me over to a booth to sign up for some credit card offer. I don't have time for this nonsense. I ultimately have to rudely tell the person to get out of my way, and I come to a crossroads.

Universal Studios has done something really neat, that is instead of putting a poster of the park map and a schedule in a case and calling that a park directory, they instead use a Digital Park Directory. What this means is that by the descriptions of the shows it tells you when the remaining performances of that show are going to take place, and by the descriptions of the rides it tells you what the status or wait time for the ride is at the current time. My heart sank when I glanced over at "Mummy" and saw "Temporarily Closed" listed as its status. That's a bummer. I proceeded to alter my park touring plans, I have since 'Monday morning quarterback-ed" my day in the park and realized I probably could have done things better, but as they say, it's too late to worry about that now. \

Right behind me was the Van Helsing attraction, and according to the digital board, it had no wait. I don't know what possessed me to see Van Helsing, but I found myself walking towards the creepy castle like building. The park guide billed this as a chance to see some props from the movie, so I expected a museum exhibition like atmosphere. Soon after I entered, I realized the attraction was really a walk through haunted house. The park is known for its Halloween event, so I figured this just might be a good haunted house. It was just a run of the mill haunted house which utilized props from Van Helsing, and even combined some live actors. Unfortunately for Van Helsing, I come from a region where a haunted house isn't good until you have a chain saw wielding maniac come running towards your group, combined with scenes of blood, guts and gore. I guess its okay for an all ages theme park haunted house. It did win points for the cool tableaux and the rolling barrel bridge illusion.

After I toured the haunted house, I started touring the park without the aid of a park map, and after strolling past the Blues Brothers stage and through an English themed area I came to Cyberdyne Systems. That can only mean one thing: Terminator 2: 3D, which I recalled from my visit to Universal Studios Florida as one of the best theme park 3D movies around. I joined the line, or I should say I picked up a pair of 3D glasses, and walked through the empty queue area up and into the pre show room.

The back story is that you are attending a media event for the company's newest product. The pre show room is meant to resemble the lobby, ahead of you are the doors to the auditorium with a small balcony above the doors, and a video wall off to the side. After they keep you entertained/distracted by flashing humorous messages up on a scrolling electronic sign, your host comes out on the balcony. Imagine the stereotypical PR person, you know infectious enthusiasm, sickly sweet in what she says, and yes a bit condescending. Imagine all those traits exaggerated and you have the Cyberdyne PR person. After welcoming the group she starts with "And how many have already managed to break the safety glasses you were given just a short time ago?" In my group there was a group of guests heckling the PR person, I don't know if that's scripted but the PR person was able to respond back and still keep in character. She introduced the pre show video as an introduction to her company.

The video was played on the video wall and offered an overly optimistic view of the company while detailing many of the futuristic projects they are working on. Or are they futuristic, in one case they talk about a future education system where "Every student gets exactly the same lesson, from exactly the same teacher, at exactly the same time", and I think of distance learning and web based training. In another case they talk about a mother who is able to tuck her child in, although she is halfway around the globe, and I think that I have heard that surgical robots are not that far off. The video is interrupted by static and then a rogue message cuts in, something about Skynet must be stopped. Just as you are wondering what Skynet is the PR video resumes and just happens to talk about Skynet which is a "Star Wars" style military defense system, where the Skynet computer would control missiles and command robotic soldiers that will take care of our national defense for us. "You can sleep easier at night knowing Skynet is there protecting you" . You switch back to the rogue video to learn that Skynet must be stopped before its too late, and it turns on the humans and turns the earth into a wasteland where the Terminator robotic soldiers take over. And, how do they know this, well the two ordinary people in the video claim to have come back from the future. They also come just short of saying there is a bomb in the building, but they do tell people they have 5 minutes to get out. The PR video returns and finished its overly happy spiel as if nothing had gone wrong.

After the video the PR host apologizes for the disruption and comments on how it only take a few sick, twisted individuals to ruin it for everybody. In short, unless you are familiar with the story, at this point you don't know who to believe, the bubbly PR person, or they nuts from the future. Soon the doors open and you go into the main theatre.

I entered the theatre, took a seat and prepared to watch the show. It starts out as a live action and animatronic show as the PR person takes the podium and introduces us to the robot soldiers they call the "Terminators" . On cue the robots appear on the sides of the auditorium on raised platforms and proceed to take target practice at the targets at the other side of the auditorium. It comes as no surprise that the robots are excellent marksman. Then the show gets interrupted as a terminator from the future comes riding through the audience on a motorcycle, and joined by the two people who were interrupting the PR video out in the lobby. They quickly take control of the auditorium and take out the PR person. Then what may be the signature special effect of the show occurs as the Terminator and the boy from the pre show get on the motorcycle and appear to ride right into the movie screen. The terminator robots lower down so you have a wide angle surrounding screen. They claim that you are jumping into the future to take on a then fully developed Skynet that has turned on its owners and turned the world into a wasteland just as promised. At that point the faux media event cover ends as you go into the future in the movie. The movie contains lots of good 3D effects, and you learn the seats have some motion base ability. What I don't get is why at the end of the show they slowly raise the seats up and then drop them down hard.

All in all the show was just as great as I remembered it, and soon I was joining the group of people heading out of the auditorium and down a ramp into the gift shop. A congested gift shop at that, there is one clear path out, but they have a large video game blocking that path.

I proceeded to walk across the back of the park skipping the Animal Actors Stage (see cute animals perform tricks), and Fear Factor (the park's new audience participation stunt show based on the hit TV series, and the character meet and greet areas until I came around to the Starway.

Universal Studios theme park is not a very large park and appears to be shoehorned into one small corner of the studio. That's not to say there isn't a lot to do, but it's a congested park. You enter through the original part of the park that has the tram tour and several shows along with the Back to the Future ride, some time ago the park decided to expand into a part of the lower lot. When I saw lower lot, I can't stress enough that this park is on a steep hillside, so to get from the upper lot to the lower lot, required either using the Starway or taking a van. Most folks opt for the Starway which is a clever take on the word Stairway. Yes there are stairs, but they also offer escalators. The difference in height between the two parts of the park require the use of 4 separate escalators to get from one half to the other. To help move people they have three escalators, which are reversible. I was lucky in the fact I was going down, and they had 2 lanes going down and 1 up. You can tell you are in a theme park due to the repeated announcements on how to ride an escalator, for those people that have never seen one before.

After going down the first escalator you come to a nice overlook where you can get a nice view of Hollywood, they even have coin operated binoculars whose timer mechanism looks suspiciously like a parking meter timer. They have also put some Apollo 13 props in this area. I proceed down three more escalators and arrive at the lower level. The layout of the lower level is pretty simple its basically a large I, you arrive at one end of the I which has Revenge of the Mummy on one side, and Jurassic Park on the other, then the center of the I has gift shops, food stands, a video arcade and a "I love Lucy" tribute museum. At the other end of the I sits Backdraft and the Special Effects Stages.

I noted the posted wait for Revenge of the Mummy to be 30 minutes, so I grabbed a soft drink from a conveniently placed kiosk ($3) and head towards Mummy. I admit I am not a skinny person, and I have had trouble fitting on some rides because of my girth, so I took a seat on the test seat outside the ride. The test seat signage indicated the pointer on the lap bar must go into the green area, however I could never find where the green/red markings were, so as a test seat it is pretty useless. I then placed my loose articles into the courtesy locker provided at the ride entrance/exit. One of the things Universal does is to provide electronic courtesy lockers that allow you to leave your loose items secure, while the timer makes sure no one abuses the courtesy (and collects fines from those that do). It's a interesting system here as the lockers don't use keys or combinations, instead the computer takes a finger scan when you rent the locker, so in effect you fingerprint becomes your key. Pretty nifty idea!

I entered the queue and was disappointed that the "Single Rider Line" was closed. Why is it that when I am at a park alone, the single rider option isn't available. I make my way into the large outdoor queue maze, and I must not have been in the line for over 5 minutes after I met up with the back of the line when they announced they were going "seeking volunteers for the single rider program, just present yourself to an attraction host" I wasted no time in bailing out of the line and presenting myself to the attraction host. I was directed back into the regular queue, but when I came to the first bend I saw another attraction host who was manning the single rider entrance. I indicated I wanted to ride single rider, so I was given a ride ticket and admitted to the single rider entrance. My wait just got expressed from 25 minutes or more, to third person in my line.

I noted the ticket I was handed explained the rules of the single rider program, namely that it is designed for single riders, not for groups, you will be seated on the ride as empty seats become available. (The rows on this ride seat 4, so if they have a party of 3 come through the regular line, they can take one person from the singles line to fill in the empty seat.) Again those arriving in groups will not be able to ride together. They stress that point two or three times in two different languages. We were then admitted through a special gate where we walked down a separate lane along the length of the indoor tomb like queue area. It seemed as though there were seats waiting to be filled as I think I only had to wait about a minute after I reached the boarding platform. My ticket was collected and I saw shown to the rear left seat in the car.

Instead of trains, Mummy uses individual cars, with 4 person rows, several rows per car. I took a seat and pulled down the lap bar, I felt an odd feeling as I lowered the bar when I noticed a mesh bag has been tied to the bar to hold loose articles. Apparently, any loose items that can't fit in the mesh bag can't be taken on the ride. We were soon loaded into the car and started on our way. This is billed as a roller coaster ride themed to "Revenge of The Mummy". Your car resembled a giant mine car and you start out at a slow speed almost as if you are riding a dark ride through the mummy's tomb. You travel through the cavernous tomb as you make abroad sweeping turnaround. After the turnaround you find out you have angered an Egyptian god or something like that as your car is catapulted to 40 mph and you traverse the roller coaster like portion. The coaster portion is mainly in the dark except for some static decorations that are lit by black light. The ride itself features no steep or sudden drops, and instead relies on a very twisted layout with lots of curves and gentle dips. That said, there is some slight floater airtime in the back seat. The signature element of the coater appears after you travel up a tall spike in the track as if you were headed to the top of the pyramid. There the walls are actually video screens and you can see snakes creeping out of the 'walls' headed for you as little brushes come in contact with your ankles to give the hint that there are snakes in the car. Neat special effect, then the brakes release and you travel backwards, but you don't go back the same way you came, instead a track switch has been activated and you go backwards via a different but similar route. At the end of the backwards section you travel into a room that is designed like you are in a part of the tomb that has a top opening where you can see the sun. This conveniently explains why this room is nicely lit, so that you can appreciate the fact your car is sitting on a giant turntable, which then rotates so that you pull back into the station facing forwards. The ride has two loading areas, one in back of the other, so that they can load two vehicles at once, and in this case you return to the opposite loading area than the one you boarded. I exited the ride, headed up the stairs to cross over the tracks, As soon as you make the turn at the top of the exit stairs the Egyptian tomb theme ends and its just plain walls as you exit the building, cross a bridge over part of the queue then come down stairs just in the right spot to stop at the on ride photo booth then you have access to the locker room along the exit path.

My overall reaction to the ride was that it seemed to be a bit too short. While I liked the special effects, and the novelty items like going backwards down a different track, and the turntable at the end, I think I would have preferred a slightly longer ride. Don't get me wrong the ride tracks real smooth, offers some gentle airtime, and is a solid performer, it could just be a bit longer.

At this point I got greedy and decided I wanted to take another ride on Mummy. I used the single rider queue again, but by this time single rider line was starting to get backed up, and it look me about 15-20 minutes to board (but the regular line was posting 1 hour). As fate would have it I was assigned the exact same seat when it was my turn in the station. There was a slight delay in the station ahead of me when a group who had entered through the single rider line, got upset that they could not ride together. I don't get that, every park single rider line I have seen specifically warns that "Groups will be split up" and that it is meant for single riders, yet groups get to the front of the line and then complain when they can't ride together. Its not just at this park, it seems to be common wherever I have seen single rider lines. I had another fun ride, I really do like this ride, just wish it were a bit longer. But I checked my watch and I hope I hadn't just made a real bad decision. I was relieved that I hadn't overstayed my welcome at the courtesy locker and was able to retrieve my items with no cost. Revenge of the Mummy is a ride that has a wonderful Egyptian tomb theme on the inside, but outside it looks like a soundstage building with the only signs of Egyptian theme being the ride hosts costumes and two sarcophagus that flank the ride entrance,

I headed down the walkway and got into line as I saw them filling the Backdraft theater. Unfortunately there were more people than room in the theater, so my impatience was starting to get to me as I had bigger things to ride, so I skipped out on Backdraft.

I also skipped the special effects stages and headed to Jurassic Park. Jurassic Park was posting a 10 minute wait so I decided to go for it. I entered the line and knowing it's a water ride I asked the host about a locker, and he replied that there are lockers available, even pointed them out to me, but then added that they cost $2. That doesn't make any sense as I could just walk back across the midway and use one of Mummy's free lockers. He assured me the ride wasn't that wet and my camera would be fine, in the same breath he offers to sell me a rain poncho. Why am I getting mixed messages here? I headed down a walkway where the tropical foliage has started to overtake the pathway, but I think that's part of the theme. I pass through the iconic Jurassic Park front gate, and why is that whenever I want to take a photo of a Jurassic Park gate at a Universal park the sun always appears to be in the wrong place. Jurassic Park the Ride is themed to a movie that is themed to an amusement park, so in a sense the ride is an amusement park ride themed to an amusement park ride. As most folks know, Jurassic Park is a fictional educational amusement park with real dinosaurs as the focus of its rides and exhibits.

At the end of the first walkway you come to some signs directing you around Jurassic Park, it appears the route to the safari tour (in the land rovers) is blocked off, so only the path to the River Adventure is open. Ironically, the book version of Jurassic Park details the River Adventure, but it is not shown in the movie, except possibly as Hammond details some of the future attractions. I enter the queue house for the Jurassic Park River Adventure", I note the single rider line is blocked off and that Hammond himself is featured in the looping video that plays in the queue house. The video has the safety warnings along with a basic description of the ride as Hammond shows off the boat (you can almost hear him say "I spared no expense" in your mind). The boat seems to come equipped with some rather unusual safety equipment for an amusement park ride, but of course Hammond says that its just there because it is required, as nothing can possibly go wrong. Towards the end of the queue maze, the line divides into two lanes, clearly marked as Lane A and Lane B. That would not earn a mention in most parks, but most parks don't label their virtual queue entrances as Gate A. I picked lane B as it was shorter when it was my turn to pick.

Just then I got a phone call from Mom telling me how wonderful the Studio Tram Tour was, so I made a note to head there as soon as I finished up Jurassic Park. I know the tram tour takes about an hour, it was nearing 5pm and the park closes at 7pm. I hope I didn't push it too long. I proceeded through the turnstile and the loader sent me to an empty spot in the front row of the boat. I noted an unusual queue gate arrangement, as after the queue gates opened, we stepped forward into yet another set of queue lanes, complete with a second set of gates. Then we boarded the boat, the ride has large lap bars that are shared by everybody in the row, and don't really come down that far. It made some of the smaller riders in my row feel just a bit uneasy.

The ride starts with a short lift hill, then you start to float past some dinosaur exhibits. At first everything seems to be going nice and tranquil as you explore Jurassic Park. Of course, you know that's not going to last, as you come to a fork in the path and your boat takes the one that is clearly marked as off limits. A cool effect is that the speakers placed alongside the waterway continue to narrate the dinosaur exhibit you should be seeing, and since each speaker is controlled separate, that narration comes from the path you should have taken, and adds to the going toe wrong way feeling. You then enter the side of Jurassic Park where everything has gone wrong, the power has gone out on the electric fences, and the dinosaurs have taken over. Quite animal exhibits no more, now they start attacking your boat. A real cool effect is when you pass under where you can see a turn in the safari tour above you, and a dinosaur pushed a land rover off the edge and it appears to be falling and stops just above and to the side of your boat. You then enter the show building, and go up the main tall lift while passing by some angry dinosaurs, all culminating in the signature moment when the T-Rex is about t have you and your boat for dinner when just as he is about to attack, you drop safely out of range as you head down the tall steep drop. At the bottom of the drop you emerge from the show building, generating a nice wave. I am glad I didn't get too wet, just a few drops. You then float back around to the unload area and exit into a gift shop. I dashed through the gift shop at high speed and came to one of those digital park guides. The digital park guide in formed me that it would be a 15 minute wait for the tram tour. I took off for the tram tour, which required riding back up the Starway (which had been reversed so two lanes were now going up) then through the confusing congested layout of the upper lot.

I reached the entrance for the Studio Tram Tour where the electronic signs were telling me the tram tour was closed for the day. "Please visit us another day". NO! I don't have another day! I also noted there was no gate, chain or other obstruction blocking the queue entrance, so I went into belligerent mode and entered the attraction anyway. I went across a walkway that looked down upon the studio below me, then started down an escalator. I was relieved when I started down the escalator and an attraction host at the bottom welcomed me to the tram tour. At the bottom of the escalator, I entered the tram station and took an empty seat in the back car of the tram that was being loaded. Moral of the story: don't always believe the signs.

We waited a bit for the tram to fill up. Knowing it would be an hour long tour I was glad the tram had cushioned seats, and looking around I noted the tram was outfitted with video monitors and along the tops were advertisements for their new and upcoming movies. Shortly before the tour started the gull wing doors on the tram cars were closed, and our host introduced herself, and it appears she is on camera so that even those of us in the back car can see her We soon departed the tram station and headed down the hill to the lower lot.

As we started the tram tour, it was revealed that we would have a second co-host, Whoopi Goldberg who would fill in other information via the video monitors. As we rode down the hill we got a basic introduction to Universal Studios and clips from some of their movies. We also basically made a lap around the lower lot of the park where I noted a Jurassic Park boat in a service area, then we got to wave at the guests in line for Backdraft. We then started driving between big warehouse looking buildings that were identified as sound stages. We were told that most of them were closed sets, which means that only authorized visitors are allowed to go inside, and that we would not be able to visit any of the soundstages during the tram tour, but the park does offer other VIP tour packages that would include the chance to see a production in progress. Seems most filming gets done on these soundstages.

We left the lower lot area and drove past a row of identical looking bungalows where visiting directors, actors and other movie personnel can stay during filming. I note the bungalows all look the same from the outside with no signs of personalization. From the bungalow area we headed into the back lot. The back lot is where the interesting stuff to see is. I'm not going to give a play by play because as I said its an hour long tour, but there were some highlights.

We toured various parts of the back lot which had different types of buildings. We went into an area that looks like the classic town square. We were informed that this town square is most famous as Hill Valley from Back to the Future, but by changing the fronts of the buildings it has been used in various films, and while we looked at the town on the back lot the video screens in the tram showed clips from films that showed this set in various incarnations. We then passed a New York City area, with some city areas and a row of brownstone houses. At the end of the New York segment we were told we had a chance to meet one of Hollywood's biggest stars, we then went inside a building and found ourselves on the set of King Kong. We saw King Kong swatting at the police helicopters, and then reach down and start to shake tram. As we exited the show building our host said "I did promise you would meet one of our BIGGEST stars"

We proceeded to tour other areas of the back lot including an old west town. While we looked at the western town our hose explained about perspective. Forced perspective is when you fool around with the reference points to make something appear larger or smaller than it really is. The example she gave was to notice how they have buildings with large and small doors and windows. When you film the damsel in distress you film her against the large building so she appears even more helpless, on the flip side, you film the hero against the small building so that he appears to be bigger and therefore stronger than in real life. We drove through a Spanish town with accents that look like they might have been used in Pirates of the Caribbean, at this point we stopped and watched a weather forecast on the video panels, which said the weather would be nice in all parts of the back lot except the part we were in where a flash flood was predicted, moments later torrents of water were rushing down the hillsides at the tram to simulate a flash flood.

Some time later we bypassed the collapsing bridge, but our host did point it out to us. A bit later we went past a row of picture cars, a picture car was defined as any vehicle seen in the movie, so we saw some of the more easily recognizable movie cars, finishing up with some cars from Fast and Furious. We then went into an open air round chamber where the tram curled around the outside edge of the space. The are had an urban Japanese theme with Japanese style vending machines along the walls, and in the center of the room were two card from the movie. Moments after the tram stopped an explosion took place and it looked like the cars were going to be hurled up and into the tram cars, but they stopped just in the nick of time. By that time the artificial fog cleared and we could see the robot arms. Our host asked the cars if they could do anything else, then some ballroom music came on and the cars moved in a way that made it look like they were dancing. She said, who needs "Dancing with the Stars", you've now seen "Dancing with the Cars"

Leaving that area we passed some props and things from Jurassic Park and headed towards Little Europe. Little Europe is so named because it can resemble any quaint European town, just by changing the language on the signs. Oh, and yes I know I probably got some of the elements our of order, but you can get an idea of how packed the tram tour is. We were told we would have the chance to visit a hot set. A hot set is a set where there is a production going on, so they want to restrict who goes onto the set in order to minimize the risk of continuity errors. The simple act of bumping or moving something on a hot set can cause a problem between takes of a movie were suddenly a prop disappears, reappears or moves around the set apparently on its own, or the time on the clock or calendar changes. We have special permission to visit this hot set because, its after hours and they have stopped filming for the day. We enter a soundtage and find ourselves on the set for Earthquake. Specifically we are in s subway tunnel where the roof caves in, water starts flowing down the stairs in torrents, and a gas truck falls from the road through the roof and catches on fire. It's a very impressive piece of movie special effects demonstration. The only negative is that you leave the building before you get to watch the scene reset. A bit later we drove down a dip almost driving through a pond so that we may get a camera eye view of a boat from another movie. We also rode past some more famous movie places, like Whooville, or the street from Desperate Housewives, the Bates Motel, and the house from "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"

We drove through the town of Amityville and the town is celebrating because they think they have captured Jaws and they have him in display. They don't have the only shark though as a shark pulls a man standing in the water down under the water level, then the hark reappears just a few feet from the tram. They even manage to work some impressive fire effects into this one as well. We also passed though an area meant to resemble War of the Worlds, we see commercial airliners in ruins, and a town in ruins and debris just littering everything. The tram even stopped for a photo stop.

We drove past more of the back lot and then things started to run together, there was a house built on stilts that is used in scenes where they need a house sitting over a lakeside, but you can see the house actually sits over a bowl of grass. Our host indicated the bowl area can be filled with water. And my, just like that it appears that an hour has flown past and we are pulling into the unload station. They thank us for taking the tour, and tell us to please refer and questions we may have to the attraction hosts as we exit.

It appears that they need to close the back lot early tonight as we saw them setting up for a party of some kind, and I get the feeling I was on the last tram of the day. The people at the exit didn't really rush us, but you could tell they were eager to get us out of there. At the escalators they had all the escalators out of the tram tour area going up, and as soon as we had exited the area the barricades went up. I also mentioned earlier the difference in approach between this park and Orlando. Here, you ride the tram tour and feel you have gotten a whole days enjoyment out of one ride, in Orlando, they took the various special effects segments, like King Kong, Jaws, and Earthquake and they made separate stand alone attractions out of them.

I exited the tram tour area and walked through a children's playground themed on Nickelodeon. Not much to report about it. I took stock in my options and realized I really only had two options, I could see Back to the Future the Ride, which I had ridden in Orlando, or Shrek 4D which I had not seen before. I opted to see Shrek, I entered the line for Shrek and the show must have filled for the group in front of me right when I got there because they cut the line for that show just as I had reached the turnstile. We waited at the turnstile for the next group to be admitted, while waiting the host went over the park guide for us and pretty much confirmed that I was right with my choices of where I could go. If I was lucky I may be able to squeeze in a ride on Back to the Future after this but that's about it. Some time later we were admitted through the castle gates around a passageway and into the pre show room.

We were in some kind of castle ante room. Of special note above our heads we could see the three little pigs locked in cages (one straw, one wood, one brick) with little video screens to show the eyes. Next to them is a metal cage holding an upside down pinochio, with an opening for a mechanical nose, and above the cage you can see his feet sticking up and waving back and forth. Next to him you had a video screen of the torture chamber showing the ginger bread man on a torture table. On either far side were the magic mirrors. The magic mirror fills you in on the story. Basically the evil master of the castle wants the girl, but Shrek rescues the girl and takes her far away, and now the evil master is torturing anybody he thinks ay know the whereabouts of the girl. The evil master cuts off the magic mirrors narration, threatens his torture victims, well except for ginger bread man who managed to escape. The last plea you here from the torture victims is to not enter the auditorium. You, of course, then enter the auditorium. The main movie is a 3D movie with certain theater stunts like vibrating seats on motion bases, or water jets that spray water on you or other things. The main movie continues the story from the pre show, were the evil master does in fact find the girl and captures her, you then travel along with Shrek and Donkey to rescue the girl and then everything ends all nice and happy. I noticed they sprinkled in a few jabs at Disney, and all in all it was a neat show, with maybe a bit too much gratuitous chair shaking,

The show ended, and I stepped out onto the midway and checked my watch, exactly 7PM. I'm not even going to try to find Back to the Future. I did look in some gift shops, and noted the cleverly themed Bedrock area with its Rock Vegas Casino games area, and an eatery that looks like the drive in from the cartoon. On my way out I spotted a photo opportunity area that had a sign "Visit Shrek Tomorrow", I laughed and took a photo, I wonder if that works like the saying on the side of Joe's Crab Shack "Free Crab Tomorrow" They do have some good theming, with a coffee cart named Brews Bros. placed across from the Blues Bros. show, or the Frank and Stein eatery next to Van Helsing. I took some photos of the main entryway and headed to Citywalk.

I went and met up with Mom and Rhonda at the PEZ store in Citywalk, and then we went to the Daily Grill. The Daily Grill was highly recommended to us by others on our tour, and I was just happy that there was no waiting. We had been told about the chicken pot pie. We ordered some, and they were the largest chicken pot pies I have ever seen, We followed that up with the largest Apple Peach Cobbler I have ever seen. Not only were the portions large they were also very good. Yes, I would have to agree with the group that the Daily Grill was an excellent dinner choice.


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