Alex and His Pen: My Florida Adventure
As many of you may know, I went on vacation last week. How much fun was my vacation? Letâ€™s put it this way, I was genuinely depressed when it ended. Then again, I chalk my glumness up to a few things: Missing Thanksgiving, my return to reality, not to mention the terrible, the fact that I never got the Mickey Mouse as Indiana Jones doll I wanted.
Florida was a blast. My brother Nick and I went to Universal Studios and Disneyworld. Iâ€™ll focus on the attractions at Universal because A.) I donâ€™t want to steal Moviefan12â€™s thunder and B.) I have a lot more to say about the Universal rides.Â I rode a lot of the iconic rides at Disneyworld, and theyâ€™re all well-known enough that Iâ€™m sure you already know enough about them.
First, Iâ€™d like to get off my chest my frustration at the fact that the Back to the Future ride and Jaws ride are no longer available. Never mind the fact that I love both of those movies. But Iâ€™m really depressed because I rode those when I was a kid and wanted to revisit them. Also, Back to the Future is hard enough to accept, but I thought Jaws was one of the true staples of Universal! Anyway, onto what was there:
The Simpsons Ride: Youâ€™d think Iâ€™d have a grudge against this ride because it â€˜s the ride that replaced my beloved Back to the Future ride. But need I remind you all Iâ€™ve watched more Simpsons than any other TV show ever. Besides, this ride was a lot of fun. Before we got on, I donâ€™t mind admitting I loved all the Simpsons merchandise in the gift shop â€“ Bartman dolls, glasses shaped like Duff beer cans, Lardland donuts . Like most rides at Universal, it kept us entertained in line with amusing pre-ride videos, but of course it let us watch clips from The Simpsons. One of the pre-ride videos was an imitation of Apu standing at a fake concession stand. And while I waited, I found myself strangely drawn to this video just because I wanted to see if it ever changed. It did, but waiting for that change was surprisingly engaging for me. The story of the ride is that Sideshow Bob is trying to sabotage the new Krustyland roller coaster while the Simpsons are on it. Andâ€¦ letâ€™s just say they ride a little more than the coaster. It was weird seeing these characters in 3D models rather than just animated. But the use of surrounding imagery as opposed to just watching a video made the experience of pretending to be on a ride so much more effective.This ride was a blast, and I recommend it for any Simpsons fan. Also, Iâ€™m glad Nick and I went on it when we did because when we arrived, the wait was15 minutes. By the end of the day, the wait was 45!
E.T. The Ride: Â And here we have the only ride I went on during my first visit when I was young. The only video for this was one of Steven Spielberg explaining the plot of the ride. Nick lambasted Spielberg for sounding monotone. I reminded him heâ€™s a director not an actor. Once that was over, came one of the more unusual Â aspects of the ride. We were given passports. At first, I thought â€œCool! A free souvenir!â€Â – especially since they wanted our first names. (I resisted the urge totell them my first name was Horatio or something else obtuse.) Before the ride began proper, there was a walking tour of the woods â€“ which I actually liked. It was dark and mysterious and created the perfect atmosphere. And now, Iâ€™ll explain why the passports were so unusual. As soon as we reached the ride, they were collected from us. I have no idea why they were required or why they needed our names. My guess is that they were trying to curb line-cutting or something like that. Anyway, on this ride, you were trying to get E.T. back to his home planetâ€¦ by way of bicycle. Yeah, the premise was absurd, but the illusion of flying through space was pretty cool. I especially liked finally seeing E.T.â€™s home world and the designs were pretty impressive. I loved this ride as a kid, and it still holds up today.
Music Themed Roller coaster: Sorry I donâ€™t remember the name of this one. What I mostly remember was that I was fervently checking my watch to make sure we didnâ€™t miss the Terminator 2 attraction (and yes, thatâ€™s on a schedule).Â The gimmick of this ride was that you got to listen to music on it. I ended up picking â€œGimme All Your Lovinâ€™â€ by ZZ Top. Not a huge fan, but it was the best of the available options.Â Also, this is one of the few roller coasters with a 90 degree uprise. I live close to Cedar Pointâ€¦ but far enough away that I canâ€™t exactly go there on a daily basis (though one summer I did buy season passes). So while rollercoasters arenâ€™tÂ a rare occurrence for me, this one was still a very fun diversion.
Terminator 2: 3D Battle Across Time: Now, THIS was a show. It created the illusion that we were touring Cyberdine and it was actually pretty cool seeing how the robotics were intended to be used. Â The â€œtourâ€ was interrupted by John and Sarah Connor â€“ and yes, it really was Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong. They sat us down,Â and we got sort of an interactive movie. The machines were coming alive and the Connors were trying to stop them. There were actually live actors on the floor pantomiming pre-recorded dialogue,but even though Nick and I had front row seats, the action was frantic enough and they lighting was dim enough that we couldnâ€™t tell it wasnâ€™t really who they said they were (or whether or not they were matching the pre-recorded dialogue). And eventually, The Terminator came to the rescue. And yes, it was really Arnold Schwarzeneggerâ€¦ in the movie anyway. Like I said before things moved frantically enough that I couldn’t quite see what stunt man was really sitting on the bike. The Terminator took John to the future to combat bad guys, and this is where the 3D began. And it looked really good. There was some interactivity as they created fog and mist to coincide with the action. While the plot of the ride doesnâ€™t necessarily make sense, this was a spectacular combination of park attraction, live show and 3D movie.
Incidentally, one of the pieces of merchandise for this ride was a leather jacket like the Terminator wore in the second movie. My brother and I hotly debated whether or not I should buy it. On one hand, it looked awesome, and would be the most ridiculous piece of movie merchandise Iâ€™d ever own. On the other hand, it was $154. Suffice to say, I ended up not buying it.
Twister: I really want to avoid a cheap pun, but I canâ€™t think of too many ways to describe this one. This attraction sucked. Much likethe T2 attraction, it wasnâ€™t a ride rather than an attraction. It was basically just a recreation of a storm. Yeah, it was technically impressive, but both Nick and I hated it. My problem was that even if the other attractions werenâ€™t rides, they were at least experiences. This was just watching something happen.Â Oh, and it got us wet. After that, we also some Blues Brothers impersonators perform. They were pretty good, and I commend Universal for having free entertainment like that. We also got our pictures taken with Dr. Brown and Marilyn Monroe impersonators.
And for a bonus, Iâ€™ll talk about two of the attractions from Disney World. Iâ€™d talk more, but like I said, most of you probably know enough about the famous rides.
Stitchâ€™s Great Escape: Nick and I decided to do this because weâ€™re both fans of Lilo and Stitchâ€¦and because the wait was only 10 minutes. Trust me, that was a short wait at Disneyworld. Upon going in, it didnâ€™t take Basil of Baker Street to figure out thatÂ this was a modification of the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter. That was one I vividly remember doing as a kid â€“ largely because it scared the hell out of me back then. And to be honest, this time around, I found it a little more disappointing. Like I said, I loved the movie this was based on. The buildup was entertaining and the animatronic Stitch was actually really well-done. What really irked me was that half the event was in pitch blackness! When itâ€™s a character that scares you, it works because it makes you think the thing can be anywhere. But when itâ€™s a funny, endearing character, I want to see him! Though there was one funny bit where Stitch crawled into Cinderellaâ€™s castle. Oh well, Iâ€™m sure this was fun for some of the younger audience members, but unfortunately it did little for me and Nick. Though looking at the glass as half-full, at least we were in and out very quickly. And it was better than just wandering aimlessly for another 20 minutes.
Buzz Lightyearâ€™s Star Command â€“ It took a surprisingly long time to goad my brother into riding this one. But it was a lot of fun. It was basically, a hybrid of a ride and arcade game. Riders were carried in spaceships and shot at Zurgâ€™s minions. Do I even need to say anything else? This ride was every bit as fun as it sounds. I was kind of annoyed though because Nick got a seriously higher score than I did. Come on, Iâ€™ve beaten Perfect Dark on special agent! Then again, Nick was steering like a mad man…
So, that was my excellent adventure in Florida… at least the Universal Studios portion of it. Here’s hoping the rest of the year isn’t a bogus journey.