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Universal Studios Orlando - November 2023


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With Volcano Bay and Islands of Aventure out of the way its time to take a look at Universal Studios Florida


(For all the pics)

Again, I spread out my entries over about 3 days. I made it there one evening when it was an absolute downpour. This meant the crowds were light, and outdoor rides were closed, so a good excuse to knock out indoor stuff with minimal wait to start with.


Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts

Wow, this one really impressed me. Universal have copped some flak for doing a lot of screen based attractions, but this one did the 'ride' part well too, and the theming was fully immersive right from start to finish.


In short You are on a tour of the bank vaults but are caught in a battle between Harry and Voldemort.

After making your way through some well themed bank corridors, you catch a lift down to the underground vaults, which used a cool vibrating floor to give the sense of the lift shuddering and siezing up on the way down.


Eventually you end up in a grimy underground tunnel system with stalectites hanging from the ceiling, where you find the load area.The ride is a roller coaster system, but the cars can rotate to any position, and there are some pretty nifty special track sections used throughout. 



Right at the start of the ride, the evil Belatrix attacks you, and the whole track tilts like a Vekoma Tilt coaster, but only to about 45 degrees.


From here you are released down a first drop, theres a brief s bend (a very minimal amount of coaster!). The next couple of scenes are in front of screens, with the ride vehicles actually rotating quite powerfully in time with the on screen action. I recommend back seat on this ride since both the tilt track and the rotations feel more intense up there.

Another section has the train actually stop on a section of track with a full motion base underneath it (must have to be as strong as anything!), and again the ride vehicles jostle a fair bit.

The final showdown takes place in front of a wraparound screen, with you being hooked up behind a dragon to escape the vaults. There's a small launch and turn (another brief bit of coastering) and you are back at the station.

I think it did all the dark ride and screen based bits perfectly, and the motions are really good, I just think the coaster bits at the start and end could have been just a teensy bit more fleshed out . Obviously doesn't have to be as substantial as revenge of the mummy, but it should be more than 1 turn!


Hogwarts Express

Did this in both directions on my first night. It's a train ride connecting both parks, but it does have limited capacity (only 2 trains, operating like a shuttle), so during the day I saw waits of 40 mins or more, at which point its quicker to walk between the parks.

The stations at each end are well themed, particularly the whole Kings Cross complex at the USO end.


There's a neat feature where guests appear to pass into a solid brick wall to access platform 9&3/4, done by having a well positioned mirror and a wall you walk around. In practice, it means you watch the people ahead of you walk through the wall, but when its your turn, all you end up seeing is a black painted opening in the wall on the other side of the mirror. Cool that they at least managed to fake the effect though!


Onboard the train, you are locked into a well themed carriage, with a screen showing the outside world (no real windows, since the track has to travel through all the back of house areas between both parks...the commitment to immersion is impressive!)


There's a different film depending on which direction you are travelling. Personally I thought the USO>IOA direction one was better and more dramatic.


Diagon Alley

Should touch on this, much of the same ideas seen in the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter....A pub selling british food, quirky shopfronts with animatroinic displays, a bit of a 1910s look to everything. Just substitute the village for laneways of London.



It all does look superb, with plenty of details, and all buildings having this slight wonkiness to it.




And they did nail the whole instagram moment, with the dragon wrapped around the rooftop that regularly spits fire.


I did stop in at Florean Fortescues ice cream parlour. Wouldn't have minded trying a few flavours, but at about $8 usd a serve, I limited myself to the pleasant tasting "butterbeer ice cream", which tasted caramelly. 


Fast & Furious Supercharged

Much like Kong, this is just a clone of immersive tunnel part of the Studio Tour in Hollywood. The queue line is well themed, through some car workshops, but the preshows were kind of lost on me. Apparently we are going to a party on a bus, but now some bad guys are closing in on us? The lady presenting the preshow was taking the piss a bit, repeating "Family" every time it was said on the video.





Guess you'd have to watch the films to really get it?

The buses you ride depart from a back alley themed loading dock, and go around a corner into a warehouse, where a large transparent screen shows crowds of people partying. A CIA agent turns up and shuts the party down (?), some words are said, and then all of a sudden you roll out of the party and are in the middle of a high speed car chase with various guys in cars and helicopters shooting at you. (Achieve by having two long screens either side of the bus, with a motion base underneath) They get around the fact a bus is slow by having two allies turn up with supercharged tow trucks that you are attached to with cables, allowing you to escape at high speed. The visuals here are good, racing through an arid LA themed environment with freeways and oil refineries. Of course, one of them is blown up, with you feeling the splash of fuel onto you.

It's still worth a ride for that simulator sequence, just dont expect to understand anything else prior unless you have seen the films.


Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

Better than expected. It's a simulator with a large curved screen like Sky Voyager, but you sit on a more conventional motion base in front of it rather than the whole multi level, leg dangling arrangement seen on an actual flying theatre.


The queue is quite attractive, themed like NBC studios, and the preshows are done as if you are going on set for a real tv production.


The ride is imagined like a zany challenge on the show where the audience races against Jimmy Fallon. Its zany and unrealistic though, as in you end up going to the moon, underwater, through subway tunnels (and of course familiar sights like Times Square, Statue of Liberty and so on). Good motion and animation, but the park already had 2 standalone simulators anyway....

Villain Con - Minion Blast

Shooting dark ride, but instead of riding in cars with guns attached to the seat with a cord (Like JL), you are given a handheld laser tag type gun, and you stand on a moving conveyor belt that travels through scenes. For those of you who get intrusive thoughts about jumping on the baggage carousel at the airport, your dream just came true here!


The queue theming is a lot of fun, imagined like a trade show for villains, with various booths selling products geared towards villains, like weapons, underground lairs, dangerous animals and getaway vehicles. 




You are then invited to take on the "Vicious 6" , and board the 'ride'

One of the coolest things i saw was you grab a gun off a rack that works like a dry cleaning carousel, synced to the boarding speed of the conveyor, so as you pass, a gun is right there ready for you to grab.


Each scene has a bit of theming, and one large screen, so you are shooting at animated targets on screen...Kinda felt like every Triotech thing ever, though a bit hard because theres 20 other people shooting, so you really have to concentrate to note lose sight of your icon amongst everyone elses. Was OK.



Always a solid attraction, but perhaps feels less unique in Orlando with Spiderman next door.



Still one of my favourite dark rides, with very well integrated 3D screens and set designs.


For those of you unfamiliar, you are on a mission to protect the Allspark and chaperone it out of the city, but are intercepted by Decepticons. The ride vehicle spends brief periods parked in front of 3D screens, with the areas in betweeen done as real life sets and walls. The screens are positioned to work into the environment, for example you might be looking down a corridor, and the screen at the end appears to carry the perspective off into the distance.A few of the screens are full 180 degree curved screens too, and these are used for sequences where you are being chased, or flying.

Some really ways to tie this all together, for example at one point you are racing along a street and pass under a bridge, your vehicle spins out and is thrown into reverse, and you transition into the next scene, but in the transition space they have built a recreation of the bridge you just saw on screen, and before you know it, you are now in front of a different screen.

The Bourne Stuntacular 


More screens, this one is actually a pretty innovative use of them though.

Imagine a stunt show, where the entire backdrop is a screen, and its all indoors.

In a normal stunt show you would have people running or driving around in a set area, eg like what happens on HSD.

But here, the screen is used for beautiful panoramic shots and moving backgrounds, and they bring physical things in front of it.


For example at one point there is a car chase, the cars are sitting static on the stage, but the background is moving behind them, giving the illusion they are racing along at high speed.

One of the most impressive things is where they somehow get a whole facade of an apartment building about 3 stories high to slide in from one side of the stage, a guy jumps off the balcony, and grabs onto a cable hanging from a helicopter. As the helicopter starts moving, that whole apartment building moves away into the distance.

Pretty full on, I'd like to see shows like this at other Universal parks.

Springfield USA



Around the simpsons ride, they have built a whole food court with places from the show like Krustyburger, Moe's, The Frying Dutchman, Luigis Pizza and so on.





Tried a couple of items but found them both to be a bit of a miss.


The Flaming Moe is pretty much just fanta with some dry ice in it to make it bubble. I was hoping for some sort of faux cough syrup flavour as in the show, but this is what we get.


They also had the Ribwich at Krustyburger. Though it wasn't really like a mcrib, but rather a few big chunks of marinated pork on a bun.F Flith.


Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem


I'll just copypaste my previous review of the Hollywood one.

"I was expecting to be meh about this one because Facebook ruined minions (apparently adding a picture of a minion to a meme makes it relatable) But it was actually funny! Basically you are shrunk to minion size and sent on a training course, so it feels like you are in a computer game level, with minions falling over a d being knocked over by obstacles."

I think that's all the new stuff since last time I was there, so onto the rerides.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

All the music has changed since last time. I did Darude: Sandstorm, which really worked well in terms of reaching a crescendo before the first drop. The ride still shakes and bangs around waaaay too much, so it was 1 and done for me.



ET Adventure

Hehe this one is fun. The queue is themed like a forest, and you ride on flying bicycles back to ETs planet, which is dying. ET uses his healing touch to bring it back to life, so most of the ride is pretty trippy, with alien flowers blooming aroud you, fountains spouting and so on.


Revenge of the Mummy

Still holds up well, with some good fire effects, animatronics, and a forceful indoor coaster sequence.

Has a great gag where you believe the ride has come to an end, but this is followed by even more coaster!



MIB Alien Attack

Justice League style dark ride, with you shooting at aliens.

This one has some extra spice, with two tracks. at one point you are shooting at the other vehicle, which makes them spin out of control, making it harder for them to get points.



Final Thoughts. 

I think the Diagon Alley area, and Bourne Stuntacular are excellent, as is the port of Transformer but in some way it feels like the park has had a bit less love compared to the calibre of attractions they have opened next door at IOA.

Do they really need to have added so many simulators?




Edited by Gazza
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12 hours ago, Gazza said:

Do they really need to have added so many simulators?

This was the taste left in my mouth after our visit to USC. Felt like everything was a sim. Its interesting though how US/Disney have kind of flipped though with the new line up of attractions with US putting in more coasters and Disney more simulators/self tracked installs.

After reading your post though it seems we missed a couple of attractions, ET, Mummy (was closed at the time I think), Villan Con, Bourne. We conciously skipped Supercharged being it was a yawn fest at USC.

RRR was rough for us too, closed for the morning but opened in the afternoon. I selected Kick Start My Heart - Motley Crue, I think that made up for the roughness ;)

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I always though US was "okay". Bear in mind I last went in 2012, before... well, nearly everything in your review. BTTF closing and being replaced by Simpsons was nearly unnoticeable, but Mummy was fantastic. One of my favourites in Florida. RRR is good if you get the right seat - sometimes it was very very shaky with no music. MiB was an alright time-sink. Would like to go again, as it sounds like they've practically redone the park since, but when we went it was a half-day thing, with IoA next door helping fill the remaining time.

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