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U out to redefine Fla. theme park

MIAMI — Universal Studios execs hope to make a dinosaur out of Mickey Mouse.

The studio has already announced a $2.6 billion expansion of Universal Studios Florida, which will compete with neighboring Walt Disney World in Orlando.

A large chunk of that expansion is the much ballyhooed Universal Islands of Adventure multi-theme park, which includes Seuss Landing, Lost Continent, Toon Lagoon, Marvel Super Hero Island and the hot Jurassic Park, replete with lifelike dinosaurs. Director Steven Spielberg is a special creative consultant to the project.

“We are going to redefine theme park entertainment for the new millennium,” said Tom Williams, Universal Studios Inc.’s president and CEO at a press conference Tuesday to unveil the Islands of Adventure in Orlando.

One of the ways in which the studio hopes to redefine that entertainment is by introducing a number of newfangled thrill rides.

These include the Lost Continent’s Dueling Dragons, an inverted coaster — which Universal boasts as the first of its kind — which has cars designed to race toward each other at 60 mph, at times separate by a scant 12 inches.

Toon Lagoon’s Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls ride, based on the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoon, takes riders in a 400,000-gallon lagoon excursion that culminates in a 15-foot drop below water level.

Marvel Super Hero Island’s the Incredible Hulk Coaster send riders ripping from zero to 40 mph in just two seconds; there’s also a 20-foot drop with Dr. Doom’s Fearfall and the Spider Man Adventure, which combines movement and special effects, such as a 400-foot sensory drop into darkness.

The company in 1993 first announced plans to create a Universal destination resort in Florida with hotels, restaurants and a CityWalk Entertainment Complex.

Consultants on the Islands project include Spielberg; Audrey Geisel, wife of Dr. Seuss creator Ted Geisel; Stan Lee, the man behind many of Marvel’s superheroes; and Mort Walker, creator of Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois.

“We had a very specific vision of where we wanted to go,” Williams said. “We’ve spent years working toward the vision — pulling together bold ideas, bold themes and bold people. When it opens in 1999, our new theme park will be beyond the limits — the adventure of a lifetime.”

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