Last week, to end spring break, some Film School friends and I met up at Universal Studios for a day of Florida Resident Discount thrills. I’m more of a Disney person ((I think Imagineering is one of the coolest jobs)), and hadn’t been to Universal in a while (we went to both parks, so when I say Universal I’m referring to both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios).
I know Universal has more thrilling rides, such as Hulk and Dueling Dragons, but overall I still think Disney’s rides are of better quality. Basically it comes down to story. Disney is the master of story, and they use their rides as another outlet to tell stories, not just to sell thrills. Disney also uses the medium amusement parks provide to its potential. Specifically, I noticed this difference when it came to the 3-D shows ((I will ignore the scientific fallacies both parks employ when they call an attraction 4-D because it squirts water at you. Everything is 4-D.)).
Basically, Disney treats the 3-D screenings as if you, the audience member, are actually in a theater and the characters are real and on screen. Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, the show is all about you. It’s Tough to Be a Bug, the bugs are doing a performance in a theater for you. They’ve created rules about the environment and they stick to it. Yes, Muppet Vision breaks this a bit, as does PhilharMagic, but overall their shows bring you into the world, and I think that makes them more successful and more desirable to watch again.
The 3-D shows at Universal are Terminator and Shrek (Spider-Man is in a whole other league and I’ll give Universal credit for doing an amazing job with that). This was the first time I saw Shrek, mainly because I was angry last time that they got rid of the Hitchcock show. It was enjoyable, but I don’t feel like I am taken into the world of Shrek. Instead I feel like they made a good short film (that you can see here and here) and then figured out how they could make the seats react to what happens on screen. You can even buy it on DVD. Try putting Bugs or Muppets on DVD.
Terminator is a little better. It starts out good, with actors going in and out of the screen and you’re in the world that is on screen. But then they go into a five minute short film (here, here, and here) that’s interesting, but not need-to-wait-30-minutes interesting.