Theme park attraction to open spring 2008

NBC Universal’s theme park division is looking to make some serious “d’oh,” pacting with News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox TV to launch a major ride tied to “The Simpsons.”

As-yet-untitled attraction will be built at both Universal Studios Hollywood and the Universal Orlando Resort; online reports had said the ride would be limited to Orlando. Both parks are set to open the ride — which will utilize motion simulator technology — in spring 2008.

Deal also includes provisions that will allow characters from “The Simpsons” to be integrated into the larger Universal theme park brand. Actors dressed like “Simpsons” characters will start roaming the grounds of both parks, while stores devoted to selling “Simpsons”-themed souvenirs will pop up.

Ride deal marks the second time in as many months that NBC U and News Corp. have teamed up; companies are preparing to launch a viral video portal this summer.

“Simpsons” creator Matt Groening and exec producer James L. Brooks collaborated with U’s ride design team on the concept, which will let parkgoers travel through a “Simpsons”-ized version of a theme park, as envisioned by Krusty the Clown.

“The ride is designed to duplicate the Simpsons home-viewing experience, only at high speed and with lots of screaming,” Groening said.

“The Simpsons” ride is replacing another Hollywood-themed attraction, the long-running “Back to the Future: The Ride.” Universal Hollywood will shutter the latter ride after Labor Day; Orlando’s version closed at the end of March.

U isn’t providing much info about the specifics of the ride, saying only that “guests will be rocketed along with the Simpson family on a hysterical, almost unimaginable adventure. They’ll experience a side of Springfield previously unexplored as they enjoy the new ride’s interpretation of the thrill rides, dark rides and ‘live’ shows that make up a new fantasy amusement park dreamed up by” Krusty.

U said the ride will feature a number of Simpsons characters, with voices supplied by the thesps heard on the series.

Universal Parks & Resorts chairman-CEO Tom Williams said “The Simpsons” ride is a good “complement to our brand of entertainment.”

Florida Today, which first reported news of the “Simpsons” ride on April 5, said the attraction is part of $120 million in upgrades U plans to its Orlando resort in the coming year.

Universal isn’t saying how much it paid 20th for the right to use “The Simpsons” brand, but a recent SEC filing obtained by Florida Today hints that a big chunk of the company’s capital expenditures in 2007 and 2008 would be reserved for “intellectual property rights” related to new attractions.

In addition to the “Simpsons” ride, insiders said U is expected to announce at least one or two other film/TV-themed attractions this year.

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