Given that one of, if not the main reasons for keeping this blog is to provide me with a visual and verbal record and reminder of the trip, it’s probably worth totting up quickly where we have been so far, along with some of the highlights.
I’ve already talked a little bit about Monday and Universal. Obviously, Rip Ride Rockit, Simpsons, Jaws and ET were the highlights of this day. The latter two are largely animatronic based, so are showing their age. Let’s face it, Bruce the Shark never looked that good in the first place. But I loved those two rides – I even enjoyed wandering around the simulation of Amity Island and remembering the 5 times I went to see ‘Jaws’ in 1975, as soon as it came out. Even now there is something quite visceral about the image of the shark leaping (or lumbering rather) out of the water next to the boat….as a woman two rows back from us on the boat found out at the climax of the show. For the rest of us, well, it was just assessing the very real damp patches on our bottoms….
Tuesday was Disney Hollywood Studios, and this was where things really began to kick in. After the ‘Opening Parade’ – lots of hands in the air, whooping and being very excited…..
….came the Tower of Terror.
The premise behind this is very simple. You are entering the haunted Hollywood Tower Hotel where, around 70 years ago a hapless group of 5 guests entered the elevator, only to be vaporised and sent crashing to the bottom of the shaft by a random blast of lightning. There.
The actual ‘hotel’ is, as you can see from the pix, a ridiculously detailed and elaborate construct for what is a very basic ride idea. You walk through the haunted gardens and house to enter the ‘elevator’ which, after some atmospherics involving ghostly figures, the twilight zone and lots of darkness, then proceeds to drop you 5 storeys followed by a sequence of bounces, jerks, lifts and drops. Every time the lift dropped, my backside lifted about a foot off the seat – and every now and then the operators open the doors in front of you so you can see just how high you are up the building. You can see these doors on the photo just below the ‘Holly’ in ‘Hollywood’.
Wonderful fun – I laughed as much as shrieked throughout it, although I was rather concerned the second time we went on, as I ended up sitting next to what the rides describe as someone with ‘abnormal bodily dimensions’. Not what you would want on top of you after a particularly long plummet !
Next up the Aerosmith Rock n’ Roller Coaster.
This was where I had my roller-coaster epiphany – unlikely, I accept, but true. Again, the premise is simple. You ‘meet’ the band Aerosmith – an ingenious piece of holographic projection, although I wasn’t fooled for a second as none of them were off their heads on drink or drugs and all seemed incredibly polite. They invite you to see their gig, but to do so you have to get across town in double quick time. The roller coaster cars come as stretch limos (well, sort of) and the whole thing takes place indoors. You strap in, trundle up to the stop light where Steven Tyler shrieks 5-4-3-2-1-GO !!! and you accelerate from 0 – 2000 mph in about 2 seconds. After the first massive rush of panic / adrenaline it all seems over far too fast. Great fun again, and sitting outside listening to the music after the ride I decided I loved Steven Tyler…..
After this, it was all pretty much downhill. Terminator 2 (3D) complete with polarised spex was a mixture of live action and 3D projection. Very, very impressive technically, but 3D will always look slightly ‘wrong’ to me with enough slight visual distortion to render it unreal. But I am being picky – the show, as with everything we have seen so far, was presented with an attention to detail and a commitment to customer satisfaction which you’d be hard-pressed to find in the UK (well, the ‘Dracula Experience’ at Whitby comes close…..ha ha). They’ve also got the business of queue management absolutely nailed. Any waiting around for show or ride to start is accompanied by some sort of introduction – live or video – to set the scene and keep you from getting too restive. And everything runs to time – like clockwork.
So – Tuesday ended well. Some great rides and good shows and not a smoked turkey leg in sight so far. Only minor sun damage and minimal financial outlay on useless souvenirs (Universal Studios baseball cap for me is all). It could only get……wetter ?