Theme Park Wars: Spider-Man Vs. The Transformers

Usually, theme park wars are between two different theme park companies. In this case, however, the theme park war is within the same company: Universal Parks & Resorts. The contenders are two of its rides: The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man and Transformers: The Ride-3D.

The former ride debuted in Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando back in 1999. It featured a revolutionary ride system that was part dark ride, part simulator that was developed by Universal Creative with vehicles developed by Oceaneering International. That system was so unique and kinetic that it wasn’t a surprise that the Spider-Man ride is still one of the most popular rides in any theme park.

The Scoop On Spider-Man

In The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man, riders donning 3D glasses board a vehicle called the Scoop that is used by the Daily Bugle newspaper company for newsgathering. Peter Parker’s (Spider-Man) boss J. Jonah Jameson assigns riders to board the Scoop to cover a breaking story concerning Doctor Octopus. The mad scientist is using an anti-gravity cannon to steal the Statue of Liberty with the help of other supervillains (Electro, Hobgoblin, Scream and Hydro-Man).

100_9890As these ride stories go, the Scoop and its passengers wind up getting caught in the melee between them and Spider-Man. Along the way, the riders are made to feel as if they’re actually in the pages of an animated comic book with huge screens that project 3D images as the vehicle constantly swerves wildly from scene to scene. Adding to the intensity of the experience are practical effects used that immerses riders into the adventure. The best example of that is where at one point Spider-Man is fighting with the Hobgoblin. First riders witness a large-screen 3D fight by a New York bridge between the two and the Hobgoblin tries to lob pumpkin bombs at the Scoop vehicle. Spider-Man catches one bomb and hurls it away before it can do any harm. But the Hobgoblin manages to throw one that explodes very close to the vehicle. Through the clever use of effects, actual flame erupts from part of a nearby wall which simulates the exploding bomb. The real heat from the blast makes elated riders feel like they’re part of the story.

It’s because of these immersions that the Spider-Man ride has remained so popular for so many years. Recently, the ride received an HD upgrade to make the 3D images sharper and more colorful. Part of that upgrade included slight changes to the characters, especially Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus who more resemble their cinematic counterparts. In addition, iconic comic book creator Stan Lee makes a few cameos in the ride itself as assorted civilians.

Ride The Transformers

The ride format from The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man was a unique hybrid that combined motion simulators, practical effects and 3D images into a wild dark ride. It’s so well thought of and successful, that it was only natural that Universal Studios would repeat the formula for another ride.

Transformers: The Ride-3D originally made its debut in Universal Studios Singapore in 2011 and later in Universal Studios Hollywood and most recently in Universal Studios Orlando. All three incarnations of the ride were instant hits with park goers.  Riders get to feel what it’s like to be in a high-octane Michael Bay special effects spectacular.

SAMSUNG

The ride follows the storyline and characters of the film series, where the good Autobots are allied with the people of Earth against the evil Decepticons. As with the movies, both robotic groups are after their MacGuffin, the AllSpark, a cube-like object that can bring ordinary mechanical and electronic objects to life. One of the Autobots called Evac first has to retrieve the AllSpark from Decepticons who have stolen it. Then after recovering the AllSpark, it’s up to him to protect the object while Decepticons like Megatron and Starscream pursue him throughout a city. Being that riders are inside of Evac, who is the ride used in the attraction, they’re given front-row access to Evac’s efforts to safeguard the AllSpark from evil Decepticons. Good Autobots like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee aid Evac in his journey throughout the chaotic cityscape.

As the Evac vehicle zigzags throughout a city landscape to evade his enemies, the constant pitching, and jerking motions of the ride make the riders feel as if they’re actually being tossed about in the vehicle. Selling this illusion are the 3D effects from  large screens featuring gargantuan Transformers fights and the rough simulator motions from the vehicle. It can be said that being inside the Evac vehicle can be compared to being inside a vehicle that is undergoing a violent accident.

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Transformers Ride Comes To Orlando

trans rideI had the chance to go to Orlando recently and made a stop at Universal Studios Orlando. The theme park’s newest attraction is Transformers: The Ride–3D, which opened on June 20th. This is the third incarnation of the ride, the first two being in the Universal Studios parks in Singapore and Hollywood. Our contributor GEO raved about this ride last year when it opened in Hollywood, so I was very excited to try it.

After standing in line for over an hour in the summer heat and finally riding it, I’ll have to say that Transformers: The Ride–3D was underwhelming.

Don’t get me wrong, the pre-show and the setup are topnotch. But I wasn’t into the ride; something kept nagging me about it for the rest of the morning. Later that day, I went to Islands Of Adventure nearby and once there I realized what was wrong with the Transformers ride. I saw the sign for Islands Of Adventure’s attraction The Amazing Adventures Of Spider-Man and it hit me. The Transformers ride is a near copy of the Spider-Man ride!

For anyone who hasn’t experienced the Spider-Man ride, you get into a vehicle and put on 3D glasses. Then the vehicle zips off and you witness Spider-Man in huge 3D screens fighting his enemies as the car zooms from one spot to another. The entire thing gives the impression that you’re part of the scenes. This was revolutionary back in 1999 when the park first opened, and it still is. It is incredible that none of the rides since then have copied it, until the Transformers did it.

evacI guess I would’ve enjoyed Transformers: The Ride–3D more if it didn’t copy many moments from the Spider-Man ride. One example is when the vehicle you’re on is supposedly freefalling and saved before hitting the ground.

Don’t ask about the story, the ride follows the style of those awful Michael Bay films in that it’s confusing, loud and too much is going onscreen. It had something to do with the evil Decepticon robots led by Megatron trying to get something called the Allspark for who knows what reason. My friends told me this doohickey was featured in the films and is the soul of the Transformers.

There are appearances by the good Autobots like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee who help out your vehicle, who is actually an Autobot called Evac. To be honest, aside from some audio and a few shots of CG hands in the screen in front of me, I could barely tell we were riding inside a robot. Evac didn’t have much of a personality, he wasn’t like Bumblebee for sure.

The ride is largely a tug of war between Evac and Megatron, as the Allspark keeps switching hands. In the meantime, there are lots of explosions, slow motion shots and machinery being crunched and twisted. Probably the best thing about this ride is that it didn’t feature Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf)!

battle

Maybe Transformers: The Ride–3D might’ve left more of an impression if it was more original in its moves or had better special effects. It was obvious that CG was used in the scenes and I wonder how these effects will hold up in the future. I think they’ll probably look dated before long.

Tranformers fans should love the ride, but I liked Transformers: The Ride–3D better when it was a Spider-Man ride.

Annette DeForrester