Last year it was the movie... this year it is the ride...
The longest running sitcom in television history, The Simpsons, is growing its empire this summer with the opening of "The Simpsons Ride" at both Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Florida. This highly anticipated new attraction is now open to the public at both the California and Orlando theme parks.
So what should you expect from "The Simpsons - The Ride?" Avid fan or not, you're in for a treat. From the queue to the actual ride, the experience is all about the Springfield family that so many of us have grown to love.
Entering the ride, you come to find that "America's Most Beloved Entertainer", Krusty the Clown has created his very own theme park-Krustyland! Described as a "theme-park-within-a theme-park", here you'll find yourself walking through the mouth of a larger-than-life Krusty the Clown head to enter the park.
Why a theme park inside a theme park? "In Krusty's own words: Twice the cost, same cheap fun." Once Krusty saw how much other theme parks raked in, he decided to create one himself!
The Simpsons Ride may be the main attraction of this fantasy theme park, but there are other bargain basement attractions advertised like Krusty's Wet & Smokey Stunt Show, Happy Little Elves in Panda Land, and Captain Dinosaur's Pirate Rip Off.
Waiting in line you'll be entertained by clips from classic Simpsons episodes, see humorous posters with satires and eventually join your favorite Simpson's characters, Bart, Lisa, Homer, Marge and Maggie for an immersive simulator ride.
"...is a fun-tastic, upsy-downsy, spins-aroundsy, thrill ride for all ages! (PAUSE) That oughta bring in the chumps. What? The tape is still rolling?!! Then turn it off! That's it, you're fired! But before you go, cut that last part so I don't look like a total jerk. Think you can do that idiot?"
Moving on to the indoor Carnival Midway queue you'll find lively games and booths that come alive. I don't want to spoil everything, but you'll find a worthless information booth manned by the clueless Hans Moleman and banter coming from Apu's Snack Stand among other treats.
The non-stop entertainment makes the time spent in line pass quickly.
Indoors Krusty also informs you, the waiting guest, that Sideshow Bob, one of his former employees tried to frame him, but was foiled by The Simpsons, and now he is trying to kill them.
"Six months ago Sideshow Bob escaped from Spingfield penitentiary and is rumored to be in the area."
There's no need to be alarmed though because Krusty assures you that his Kracker Jack security team has everything under control.
Krusty then proceeds to pick the first randomly selected family to ride his new thrill ride. Of course, the spotlight just happens to fall on The Simpsons who are then asked to select another group to join them, which has Homer pointing at you.
Quickly ushered into a Funhouse pre-show room, Itchy & Scratchy give a standard safety spiel, before you board the eight-passenger "Krusty's Roller Coaster-Themed Ride Vehicles".
Once on board, beware, as the ride is hi-jacked by a sinister someone and then all the thrills begin.
The ride starts with a thrilling wooden coaster sequence that feels as if you're riding a real roller coaster.
If you want to find out all of the details you're just going to have to ride it yourself. Let's just say that someone who shall remain nameless eventually comes to The Simpsons rescue and thankfully so, since you too are on the same ride to disaster.
Be sure to keep your ears open for classic Simpsons' humor like Homer's hilarious quote, "They never kill anyone in an amusement park with a dime left in their pocket"... which is so very true. You'll also see the ride mock well-known attractions at Universal's competitors - Disneyland and SeaWorld.
In total, there are 24 recognizable Springfield characters in the ride - all voices by their original actors.
The ride system itself is a motion simulator with a 2-D film projected onto a giant 80-foot diameter dome screen. The Simpsons Ride has a 192-person capacity with 24 Krustified ride vehicles modeled after classic roller coaster cars. Each extra roomy ride vehicle seats 8 people -- or 3 "Comic Book Guys".
If the ride seems familiar, it's because Universal opted to use the same ride system from the venerable Back To The Future - The Ride, of course with some major enhancements, like 6.1 channel digital sound and impressive, high-resolution digital projection.
To put you in the middle of the action, the ride vehicle elevates nine feet on a scissor-lift motion based platform. Each vehicle was painstakingly programmed to synchronize with the action on the screen and capture every nuance of movement: forwards, backwards, up and down, and tilting in all directions.
While the creative options for the ride may have been somewhat limited by the existing ride system, Universal's creative team still managed to pull of something impressive. The story is clever and carries over the jokes and fun of the television show into the ride format. Honestly, it feels as if you're actually stepping into The Simpsons world.
If you're a fan of The Simpsons then the ride should be on your "must do" list this summer and if you're not a die-hard fan you're still in for a blast.
Photos by Eric Gieszl. Copyright © 2008 Ultimate Rollercoaster.
The Simpsons Ride artwork courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywood. All rights reserved.