With theme park attendance tied closely to fresh attractions, Universal Orlando Resort is adding a new ride based on the hit toon “Despicable Me” and will overhaul its “Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man” with new 3D tech next year.
Plans follow U’s successful opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter last year. Meanwhile, rival Disney has revamped its aging Star Tours simulator, opening today in Florida, and bows a “Little Mermaid” attraction in June, when a “Green Lantern” roller coaster also opens at Six Flags Great Adventure.
Addition of “Despicable Me” isn’t surprising after the pic broke out as a hit for U last summer. Since then, producer Illumination Entertainment has also released Easter hit “Hop,” and the rest of its slate is expected to continue providing Universal’s parks with properties it can turn into rides, integrate as costumed characters to greet guests and sell as merchandise.
“Despicable Me” marks the first time U’s parks have turned one of the studio’s toons into an attraction.
When inking Illumination’s pact with Universal in 2008, one of the first meetings shingle founder Chris Meledandri had was with U’s theme park execs in Orlando, including Mark Woodbury, prexy of Universal Creative, who also oversaw the Potter park.
“We began to talk about a fantasy that I could make movies that could support (the parks), and it sounded great and a wonderful thing to aspire to,” Meledandri told Variety . “In a few short years it’s actually happen ing. To be part of this process is invigorating as well as inspiring.”
Meledandri added that while Illumination is “very selective of where our characters go,” the theme park ride “is an enormous opportunity to really present these characters in a completely new light.”
Once built, the “Despicable Me” ride will replace Universal Studios Florida’s “Jimmy Neutron” attraction. Pre-ride sequence and motion simulator will feature new animated sequences, closely overseen by pic’s co-helmer Pierre Coffin to replicate “the personalities of the characters and the heart of the movie and tone of the comedy” as the ride turns guests into a army of yellow Minions, said Meledandri because “every time we contemplate bringing our characters off of the bigscreen we view it as an opportunity to create content that has to be on the same level of the film, if not higher . ”
Riders will then get to interact with the film’s Minions in a dance party before leading into a themed retail outlet with “Despicable” merchandise.
“What happens here has real similarities in our creative process,” said Meledandri while at Universal Studios Florida to announce the new ride. “They may use different tools, but at the core of what’s happening here is we have a marriage of artistry, imagination and technology to create experiences for audiences that we hope they never forget.”
Separately, a new version of U’s “Spider-Man” attraction bowed in 1999, when Islands of Adventure opened its doors, and broke new ground with its combo of motion simulation and animated 3D footage. New version will enhance and reanimate the 3D scenes with new footage in 4K high-definition, which will make the onscreen action seem sharper and clearer and “seem brand-new,” according to Thierry Coup, senior VP of the Universal Creative Studio.
News comes as nearby rival Walt Disney World is opening its revamp of the “Star Wars”-themed Star Tours — The Adventure Continues ride at midnight in Hollywood Studios. The 3D ride also opens at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland on June 3, the same date that sibling California Adventure will debut its Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure ride.
Meanwhile, a new standup roller coaster based on DC Comics’ Green Lantern character bows at New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure May 25, ahead of Warner Bros.’ launch of the superhero on the bigscreen June 17.