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Clive's June 2021 Trip Report

Jocamom

Newcomer
Feb 25, 2016
47
Can't wait to read the rest of your report. We were there for the weekend too and also did the meet up. We ended up just skipping Hagrid's. The line when we checked during the meet up was long and we just didn't want to stress about getting a virtual queue spot.
 
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Clive

aka Fallow
Staff member
Moderator
May 26, 2010
4,078
Continuing on to the Studios...

  • Production Central. Realizing I have little to no interest in many of the attractions in this area. While I think the park gate area is aesthetically pleasing, the plain soundstages meets cartoon flat pastiche is really not a great opening statement for the park. Not sure there's much of an easy solution here, but the least they can do is finally evict Shrek 4D - which is criminally lasted longer than many of the park's better legacy attractions - and replace it with something a little more exciting. I know everyone says it, but putting Pets here would not be a bad idea. Didn't bother with Minions since we have it in Hollywood, and to be honest the lack of 3D has stifled my enthusiasm for what is/was one of the park's better simulators.
  • Rockit. The ride isn't as rough as it's been in the past for me, though I have noticed there's more of a lag as the train crests the vertical lift hill into the first drop. Is this an intentional change? I don't dislike it, just caught me off guard the first few times! They absolutely need to update the official song catalogue and maybe even ditch the flash animations... They've always been grating but feel more dated and out of touch by the day. (It's also a bit weird to me that the subtitles claim the characters are ending the safety briefing with "Awesome!" when they're clearly saying... something else?) Also, requisite "the ride is ugly and I know the general public likes it but I think it detracts from the park's overall visual identity and could've built something far more aesthetically pleasing," etc.
  • Blue Man Group. Felt weird to see this spot vacant after seeing what turned out to be one of the last shows last February. They used the box office and courtyard area for the OI meetup check-in, but with that obviously not an all-the-time endeavor, I wonder how they can best utilize this space going forward. It sure would be a pity for the soundstage to remain vacant all year and only be utilized as an HHN venue. I wonder if there are any plans to repaint the remaining and prominent "BLUE MAN GROUP" on the Rockit-facing side?
  • Race Through New York. The ride remains fairly entertaining and probably the park's second best simulator behind Minions, but as I pointed out in my previous trip report, it seems like it's already struggling to attract a consistent audience. I want to be clear, the parks were packed - large lines for all of the major attractions with express queues backed up for the top headliners. Despite this, Fallon almost always had a 5-minute standby wait available and only very rarely pivoted to its virtual queue, which still had substantial availability throughout the day. Upon entering, I was never given a color card, even in the heat of the day - I was immediately directed to a simulator bay, which was never full. I'm guessing there's been no entertainment as a COVID precaution, but I also wonder if there will be a need for it going forward given the lack of time spent on the upper floor.
  • Revenge of the Mummy. The new projection upgrades looked great, though the tune-ups to the Scarab room betrays the fidelity of the imagery in that scene - you can noticeably see the fuzziness and lack of clarity. The turntable's CGI is a massive improvement, though it's still lit far too brightly. I was also really impressed with the launch imagery, which looked pristine. Props to Universal's maintenance, as I noticed that two effects that broke down on Saturday - the falling wall in the treasure room and the rotating scarab walls - were both working properly by Sunday morning. Pyro also went off on every ride in the treasure room despite quick, back-to-back dispatches. I was curious what's been going on with the Warrior Mummies, however - only the first and third on either side actually flung up, with the middle mummies staying down (but their upper halves are still noticeably visible, lying there.) The weapons for the mummies that did work were also chopped off - they were clearly holding *something,* but the sharp edge looked deliberately sliced off. Any idea what happened?
  • Blues Brothers. Love that this show is still kicking - the performers are super talented, and they drew a sizable crowd.
  • Finnegan's. Didn't have a full meal here but stepped in several times to grab drinks. Loved the live music, and as Twitter has reported, barstools are back.
  • Fast & Furious. Still hilariously awful, and what a pity given the obvious effort put into the queue and facade. Could only bring myself to ride this once, and even that felt like I was trolling myself. As painful as it is, this is right there with Shrek in being one of the priority attractions Universal needs to substantially address or replace entirely. Also, if they're committing to the changed dialogue for the Roman arrest scene, they need to do some CGI patchwork on the FBI agent's mouth - it's still embarrassingly obvious it's a hasty ADR job.
  • Diagon Alley. Still one of the best theme park environments anywhere. I didn't spend much time in the shops or restaurants but was still discovering new details. For example, while I had previously noted the animated snake perched in the side window of the Menagerie, I did not realize that the creature speaks parseltongue and eventually English if you actually lurk outside the store in the dead end alley. The snake is even an actual animatronic, as its mouth moved in sync with the words. Great, great stuff. You could tell that there were some staffing/efficiency issues with the food & beverage locations, as all of the venues - especially Fortescue's - had queues spilling out into the main drag, and none of them moved with any frequency.
  • Escape from Gringotts. Still no preshows - not sure what they're waiting on, as other preshows were happening across the resort, but I did appreciate the opportunity to generally get on the ride faster. Remember, this thing basically has 3 preshows between the office, antechamber, and elevator, so moving right through those areas cut down on the time investment this ride typically requires. Unfortunately, Gringotts easily had the worst ops throughout the entire resort. I'm not sure what was going on, but the staff seemed demoralized and brutally inefficient on all days I was there. The Express queue typically stretched past the preshows and into the first hall past the goblins. Both lines moved like glaciers, and I witnessed many mine carts being launched with entirely empty rows. I don't know what the deal is, and I realize this is a stressful time for TMs - but something wasn't right here, and I hope they can address it quickly. You got none of the applause this ride usually commands at the end because everyone was clearly just happy to be off the ride.
  • Hogwarts Express. Not much to say here other than they're fully loading all cabins now - every available seat. We did get a cabin at one point that was having issues with air conditioning/flow, however, which was a bit of an unpleasant experience.
  • Men in Black. One of the best experiences in either park. This ride doesn't get enough love, period. Endlessly repeatable, packed with great visual gags, fun to play, and buoyed by legitimately funny writing. Got quite a few laps in between daytime Express visits and the OI meetup nights and did notice it was breaking down with a semi-concerning frequency - we had to get sort of evac'd when one ride vehicle refused to move on the Green track. (We had already completed the circuit and were just waiting to deboard - they ended up physically pushing our RV so we could clear an obstruction.) There were also several RV's whose fusion exhaust port targets were not functioning, which was a pity given that it's so central to the ride experience and a big part of what goes into any high score. Hopefully those little things are addressed and the ride stays with as long as possible. I will grieve the day it finally goes.
  • Simpsons/Springfield. Completely skipped The Simpsons Ride as I find it sweaty and suffocating in non-COVID times. Did get to do Kang & Kodos, which is just a delightful little flat. The Springfield area remains incredibly popular with lines spilling outside Fastfood Boulevard even doing non-peak lunch hours - I'm sure Universal will be sad to eventually lose the license.
 

Clive

aka Fallow
Staff member
Moderator
May 26, 2010
4,078
  • E.T. Adventure. I've grown to treasure this ride more and more over the years in spite of its jankiness and other blemishes. Sadly, Botanicus was unacceptably MIA, though his score cue and sparkly sound effects did trigger. The adjusted liability lighting was a bit of a buzzkill as it completely exposes the ugly mechanics of the RVs at load - it feels like you've stumbled into an industrial operation as you reach the edge of the forest. I hope they can eventually come up with some sort of workaround there - Mansion seems to handle it better with its dim load. The ride itself still looks pretty bad, if I'm being brutally honest. The fog was missing on the entry into the Green Planet, which was strange since so many other fog effects were functional throughout the rest of the resort. The only two animatronics that move with anything resembling their intended range of fluidity or motion were the Botanicus outside E.T.'s ship and (my favorite) "Welcome Home" mushroom parasite. The rest looked like corpses that were being jolted to temporary, unpleasant life, with many figures not moving at all. I really hope Universal soon restores the interplanetary passport system and then gives the ride a thorough sprucing, with particular attention paid to the animatronic figures. They really need it. Fortunately, the ride still implausibly draws a crowd - it had large waits whenever I passed by despite both stations loading.
  • KidZone. Didn't really go back past E.T., even with Dreamworks Destination, which is clearly not intended for me. We all know this area needs to go. It's just a matter of time... right?
  • Horror Make-up Show. We caught a stellar showing with two performers I had never seen before, but they were pitch perfect. Tons of great improv and playing with the material in ways I hadn't seen before. The volunteer ringer was actually pretty convincing, so props to them for being just the right level of inconspicuous. I know each "movie of the week" overstays its welcome in this show, but I do wish we'd move away from plugging The Mummy remake.
  • Bourne. Okay, I was looking forward to this... And I realize this may be controversial, but... It was just okay. We watched the trilogy (which I'm a fan of) prior to the trip to get hyped, and I do think they did a good job with capturing some of the energy and spirit of the franchise... but it's just not really a property that translates super well to the theme park format. The stunts themselves were fine, but the show seemed more interested in messing with its (admittedly neat high tech) toys than delivering a compelling or propulsive theme park show. The best part about Waterworld, IMO, is its pacing - things are constantly moving forward, and you never have to wait long for the next big stunt. Here, there's so much setup between each "wow" moment that it loses momentum. It doesn't help that the show can't exactly decide what it is - is it a straight forward stunt show taking inspiration from the Bourne franchise that breaks the fourth wall? Or are we in the Treadstone universe and are participating in this experimental surveillance tech? The preshow says one thing, but the stunt coordinator introducing the show says another, so I'm not sure who to believe. Terminator was definitely a more cohesive overall experience, whereas Bourne feels like more of an excuse to play with the latest shiny gadgets. They're cool gadgets, to be sure, but they work better when they're in service of something that's more than the sum of its parts.
Overall impressions -

  • COVID protocols are basically gone. There are still the pointless little "3 ft" blue striped markers everywhere, but no one pays attention to them, and queuing was back to normal in practically every venue. I'd say maybe 5-10% of guests were wearing masks at any given moment. I also definitely noticed many young children that could not possibly be vaccinated yet not wearing masks, so... take that for what you will. There was no effort at enforcement, not that I'm really blaming any TMs for just sort of letting the situation play out at this point.
  • With the introduction of Velocicoaster, Islands of Adventure is truly feeling like one of the best parks in the United States if not the world. It would be even better if 1) the Hagrid experience wasn't a complete chronic mess and 2) there were more shows to build out and break up your day. Sinbad wasn't good, so I don't mourn its loss, but something needs to be done with that space. This issue will be helped some when Poseidon's Fury inevitably reopens, even though I have substantial issues with the state of that production. We all know it, but something also needs to happen with the Toon Lagoon theater and that bare stretch between islands. My newcomer to the parks remarked that it felt like a state fair. I think if you got two decent shows in those venues, you'd have a killer, full-day park.
  • Studios needs help and it's not clear it's going to get it before Epic Universe, which is a shame. There are just too many simulator-like attractions that rely on the same basic set of gags between The Simpsons Ride, Despicable Me, Shrek 4D, Fallon, Fast & Furious, Transformers, and Gringotts. Of those, Transformers and Gringotts are obviously more substantial and satisfying experiences, and I'd argue Despicable Me is a cut above the rest. It's not so much screen fatigue but simulator fatigue, as, again, each attraction relies on similar motion techniques and design principles (Despicable Me, Simpsons, and Fallon all involve riding virtual roller coasters, for example). As a repeat visitor, I just don't ride the experiences I'm not interested in - but anecdotally, I could tell newcomers were feeling the repetition, and many began to ask what each indoor experience consisted of and if it was similar to other attractions they've done. Furious is an obvious blight on the park but will probably not be going anywhere for a few more years... so finally killing Shrek is probably the most viable means of shaking things up and reducing the simulator count. Still, I worry that mechanical demands will lead to Men in Black or ET going under the knife first, and I shudder to think on what the park might look like in either of those scenarios.
  • Overall, a great trip. As someone who is fully vaccinated, I'll admit not having to think about masks was a nice change of pace yet still took some getting used to. A majority of the parks are in great shape and were doing their best to scale up with the quickly rising crowds. There's definitely some growing pains as they continue to bring staff back on, but hopefully the resort is ready for the inevitable crush that'll be coming with Horror Nights. We'll be there first week of October and can't wait.
 

NeonErmine

Member
Jan 22, 2020
720
  • Forbidden Journey. Ride was looking good, especially the dragon, which had more motion than its Hollywood counterpart as of late 2019. I do think Hollywood ultimately got the better Dementor finale, but it was interesting to see some apparent lighting adjustments in Orlando's space - I noticed you could see far more of the "extra dementors" lurking motionless in the immediate background. Has anyone else noticed this?
It's pretty interesting why! I believe the original concept was that you were going to get swarmed by a bunch of dementors, but it was deemed too scary and now there's only one that comes at you. They kept all the extra figures there anyways though.
 
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Nick

Staff member
Moderator
Sep 22, 2011
24,884
Orlando
Fast & Furious. Still hilariously awful, and what a pity given the obvious effort put into the queue and facade. Could only bring myself to ride this once, and even that felt like I was trolling myself. As painful as it is, this is right there with Shrek in being one of the priority attractions Universal needs to substantially address or replace entirely. Also, if they're committing to the changed dialogue for the Roman arrest scene, they need to do some CGI patchwork on the FBI agent's mouth - it's still embarrassingly obvious it's a hasty ADR job.
I'll admit I rarely ride this attraction, but I have sort of realized, especially with what people are saying about F9, is that this attraction is sort of a close reflection of the lunacy the franchise itself has turned into more than anything. The animation is crap which is really amazing it could be so bad and it's just sort of like riding a ride only to get punk'd in the end. But like I said, it's sad that the attraction reflects the product you get from the actual movies now in many ways.

Bourne. Okay, I was looking forward to this... And I realize this may be controversial, but... It was just okay. We watched the trilogy (which I'm a fan of) prior to the trip to get hyped, and I do think they did a good job with capturing some of the energy and spirit of the franchise... but it's just not really a property that translates super well to the theme park format. The stunts themselves were fine, but the show seemed more interested in messing with its (admittedly neat high tech) toys than delivering a compelling or propulsive theme park show. The best part about Waterworld, IMO, is its pacing - things are constantly moving forward, and you never have to wait long for the next big stunt. Here, there's so much setup between each "wow" moment that it loses momentum. It doesn't help that the show can't exactly decide what it is - is it a straight forward stunt show taking inspiration from the Bourne franchise that breaks the fourth wall? Or are we in the Treadstone universe and are participating in this experimental surveillance tech? The preshow says one thing, but the stunt coordinator introducing the show says another, so I'm not sure who to believe. Terminator was definitely a more cohesive overall experience, whereas Bourne feels like more of an excuse to play with the latest shiny gadgets. They're cool gadgets, to be sure, but they work better when they're in service of something that's more than the sum of its parts.
I agree wholeheartedly about Bourne. It's not bad, it's just okay. I've been saying this since I saw the TM preview last year months before the show officially debuted. Like you said, the show feels like it's more about playing with it's high-tech toys, which are obviously impressive, but the stunts are very lackluster imo and the finale is extremely weak when you compare it to it's direct predecessor.

I believe I said in my original review of the show last March that I think Indy is still the best pure STUNT show in Orlando, however Bourne is the better overall show.
 
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Skold

V.I.P.
Feb 17, 2016
621
... Rockit. The ride isn't as rough as it's been in the past for me, though I have noticed there's more of a lag as the train crests the vertical lift hill into the first drop. Is this an intentional change? I don't dislike it, just caught me off guard the first few times! They absolutely need to update the official song catalogue and maybe even ditch the flash animations... They've always been grating but feel more dated and out of touch by the day. (It's also a bit weird to me that the subtitles claim the characters are ending the safety briefing with "Awesome!" when they're clearly saying... something else?) Also, requisite "the ride is ugly and I know the general public likes it but I think it detracts from the park's overall visual identity and could've built something far more aesthetically pleasing," etc...
That part always cracks me up. "Hasta!" :lmao:
 

ThemeParks4Life

Veteran Member
Nov 15, 2012
4,350
Central Florida
Love this report!

but it was interesting to see some apparent lighting adjustments in Orlando's space - I noticed you could see far more of the "extra dementors" lurking motionless in the immediate background. Has anyone else noticed this?
I noticed this at the beginning of May!

I saw a lot of upset families when passing the attraction, and the whole "get a virtual queue slot for a chance to wait 75 minutes for the actual attraction" is a rough look. I don't know what the solution is, but it feels like the attraction is hanging on by a thread - employees look stressed, riders are only relieved they got on at all, and the whole thing is more stressful and time-consuming than it should be.
Agreed. Getting stuck in the queue when the ride goes down isn't a fun experience, and after having it happen to me again last month, I'm probably done with it for the summer now that VelociCoaster is open and operates significantly faster. You can probably ride VC twice in the time it takes to experience Hagrid once.
 

Clive

aka Fallow
Staff member
Moderator
May 26, 2010
4,078
I'll admit I rarely ride this attraction, but I have sort of realized, especially with what people are saying about F9, is that this attraction is sort of a close reflection of the lunacy the franchise itself has turned into more than anything. The animation is crap which is really amazing it could be so bad and it's just sort of like riding a ride only to get punk'd in the end. But like I said, it's sad that the attraction reflects the product you get from the actual movies now in many ways.

I agree wholeheartedly about Bourne. It's not bad, it's just okay. I've been saying this since I saw the TM preview last year months before the show officially debuted. Like you said, the show feels like it's more about playing with it's high-tech toys, which are obviously impressive, but the stunts are very lackluster imo and the finale is extremely weak when you compare it to it's direct predecessor.

I believe I said in my original review of the show last March that I think Indy is still the best pure STUNT show in Orlando, however Bourne is the better overall show.
For all their silliness, the films still deliver jaw-dropping (albeit sometimes hilarious) stunts and thrills. This really needed to be some sort of high-tech coaster that could emulate or physically pull off some of the wild maneuvers the family regularly experiences. I'll say it certainly helps that the franchise itself is constantly winking at the audience, but boy, the attraction is such an empirical stinker that it's still hard not to be disappointed anyway. It's telling that the film talent were apparently so frustrated with the quality of the script.

I think this forum (much as I love you all) oversold me on Bourne, and I should have taken into account the complete lack of buzz in the year since its debut. I think I would appreciate the stunts themselves if there wasn't so much setup time between each one. I realize it's a necessity given how the venue is set up, but it begs the question: Was a stunt show of this type the right choice for this building?

That part always cracks me up. "Hasta!" :lmao:
Okay, that's what I thought they were saying, but I didn't want to assume? It's cringe-inducing to begin with, but no one's buying that they're saying "awesome," Universal. I would much prefer an updated, basic safety video with a less grating vocal performance (not sure we even need the characters). The downstairs can stick to music video clips.

I noticed this at the beginning of May!

Agreed. Getting stuck in the queue when the ride goes down isn't a fun experience, and after having it happen to me again last month, I'm probably done with it for the summer now that VelociCoaster is open and operates significantly faster. You can probably ride VC twice in the time it takes to experience Hagrid once.
Okay, I'm glad I'm not crazy re: Dementors. It's definitely lit brighter in here than it was on my past trip, as I used to only rarely be able to spot a turned-off figure or two. Now, I can see most or all of them, even when my eyes haven't adjusted.

I will say I did not notice a single occasion where Hagrid went down for anything other than weather. (It might have happened - but I didn't catch it, and I was keeping an eye on the queue.) So while its reliability appears to be up, it's still struggling to keep a healthy number of trains on the tracks, resulting in poor throughput and lines that move at a glacial pace. The only reason I was able to do it twice was thanks to the OI meetup, and even then it was stuck at reduced capacity and was commanding 65 minute waits. Not sure what I'll do when we return for Horror Nights, as I'm not sure I'll be able to get up at the crack of dawn and park myself at the turnstiles an hour before the park opens.

I'd say they should just bite the bullet and shut it down for a few weeks to really get at the drop tracks and hopefully resolve the long-term issues, but we're now in the heat of the summer, and then Horror Nights is right around the corner. There really isn't ever a good time to do it, but it needs help, fast.
 
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Nick

Staff member
Moderator
Sep 22, 2011
24,884
Orlando
It's telling that the film talent were apparently so frustrated with the quality of the script.
Isn't Vin Diesel an EP on the films and has enormous amounts of sway? He couldn't pull that same sway if he was upset at the attraction script?
 

Clive

aka Fallow
Staff member
Moderator
May 26, 2010
4,078
Isn't Vin Diesel an EP on the films and has enormous amounts of sway? He couldn't pull that same sway if he was upset at the attraction script?
He does, but I think there's only so much you can do when previs/animation/physical development are already charging full steam ahead. By the time Diesel and the other talent actually saw the scripts and storyboards, there probably wasn't a whole lot they could do to change it beyond improv-ing mildly better lines - which is, to my understanding, what happened.