It turns out that building a ride is a lot of work.
The new ride at Universal Orlando is the third Transformers ride. What are some of the key differences between this one and the ones in Singapore and Hollywood?
The attraction is already a “must-see” experience at Universal Studios Singapore and Universal Studios Hollywood – and now, guests can join the Autobots in the fight to save the world in Orlando. The attraction has been a huge success and is now a global phenomenon. One element that’s unique to Universal Orlando is an authentically-sized Optimus Prime who stands guard above the entrance to the attraction, towering at 28 feet tall and nearly nine tons.
How long does it take for a ride like this to come together, from inception to opening day?
At Universal Orlando, this was one of our most ambitious projects ever – it has one of the shortest build times in our history [one year], because we had already successfully created the attraction in Singapore and Hollywood. When we created the attraction in Singapore, [it] took about four years from the first time we shared concepts with Michael Bay to the grand opening date. With a powerful and exciting franchise such as Transformers, we wanted to completely revolutionize the next generation of themed attraction.
What are some of the key differences between designing/building a 3D ride like Transformers versus a traditional roller coaster?
Transformers: The Ride – 3D is one of the most action-packed rides we’ve ever created. We’ve even created a character – EVAC – specifically for this attraction. We used cutting-edge technology to place guests in the middle of an epic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons. The attraction’s photo-realistic 3-D imagery can be seen in 4K high-definition resolution - that’s one of the highest HD resolutions available. The ride features 14 different 3-D screens that use the highly-sophisticated Infitec 3-D projection system, which allows guests to see the larger-than-life Transformers characters in unbelievable detail. We also used the latest 3-D glasses, full 3-D surround sound, and incredibly advanced motion simulator vehicles.
How has the prevalence of 3D technology changed the theme park industry? Do you think it’s for the better?
Universal Parks & Resorts have always been on the leading edge of 3D technology by creating immersive 3D experiences for our guests. We have raised the bar in the 3D world multiple times with our blockbuster attractions, Terminator 2-3D, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and now, Transformers. I believe 3D is here to stay in the theme park world since it is one of the greatest tricks we have available to transport our guests smack in the middle of mind-blowing action, making them the stars in their own adventure.
How many times would you estimate you’ve ridden Transformers leading up to last month’s opening?
Probably 100 times before opening - and I keep riding anytime I get a chance! It is completely rewarding for experiential designers like me to see our guests, first-hand, having the time of their life with their friends and families as they enjoy the attraction experiences we create.
Your job sounds like the best job in the world. Is it?
I do have the best job in the world! I get to create some of the most amazing places and experiences for millions of our guests to enjoy. I have the opportunity to collaborate with some of the most talented people in the world, and I get to ride and play in the incredible theme parks myself. I love it!
How does one become a creative director for a theme park, anyway? Do you have more of an artistic background, or a scientific/engineering background?
My professional background is in filmmaking and visual effects. To become a ride designer, it’s beneficial to have a background in art or entertainment. This type of experience helps you create attractions with powerful storylines and amazing special effects.
If you had to reduce the many steps involved in building a new ride to just a few major points, what would they be?
The creative process begins with a small team that conceptualizes the attraction and builds the storyline. Then, we move into the production phase and begin constructing the attraction. Finally, we test the attraction and fine-tune it so it can be the best experience possible when it officially opens for our guests. Throughout this entire process, we make sure the guest experience is as authentic as possible to the blockbuster films, TV series, and merchandise.
Do you ever insert personal jokes or hidden messages into the design of a new ride? (Don’t worry – we won’t tell.)
We often insert hidden elements in our attractions for our guests to discover. For example, in The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, we placed a few Stan Lee cameos in the ride film. In Transformers, we have a yellow VW Beetle in the last scene of the ride, which is an homage to the original Bumblebee character.
If you could design a ride based on any movie in the world, what movie would you choose, and what kind of ride would it be?
In the theme park business, you’re lucky if you get to work on one attraction based on your favorite movie property. With Universal, it keeps happening over and over again. Just to name a few of my favorites: Spider-Man, King Kong, Despicable Me, the Harry Potter films, and the Transformers films. That’s what Universal theme parks are all about - placing our guests in the heart of pop culture’s most incredible and timeless stories.
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