updated 5/19/2011 4:16:11 PM ET 2011-05-19T20:16:11

Universal Orlando says Spidey will soon go high-def, and lots of "minions" will be up to no good in a new attraction themed on the animated movie "Despicable Me."

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The theme park announced plans Thursday to reanimate the iconic Spider-Man ride in digital high-definition. Universal also said it will close its Jimmy Neutron-themed ride this summer and replace it with a 3-D attraction based on "Despicable Me," which features minions as not-so-smart sidekicks to the villain Gru.

Both revamped attractions will open at the park sometime in 2012, but specific dates have not been announced.

Story: 11 new rides for thrill seekers

"The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man," whose combination of 3-D animation, roving motion vehicles and special effects has made it a crowd favorite for more than a decade, will be updated with the highest-quality HD resolution available, special effects and new details in the film, which is projected onto a towering screen. The cars hurtle riders along ravaged city streets as Spider-Man battles his archenemies, protecting innocent citizens from the likes of Doc Ock and Electro.

"A big part of it is bringing it to a point where the imaging, the characters, the animation, the clarity, the details will be at a point where it's larger than life," said Thierry Coup, senior vice president of Universal Creative. "You'll feel even more like you're in that world."

Story: Crazy for coasters: For some, track goes on forever

Springing from the pages of Marvel Comics, Spider-Man has carried three successful feature films with Tobey Maguire as the superhero and his alter ego, Peter Parker. A Broadway version, though, has stumbled a few times on the way to the stage. "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" has been fraught with problems, including a bloated price tag and serious injuries to a performer who fell during an aerial stunt. A retooled version of the show was rolled out last week in New York.

Universal hasn't yet announced closing and reopening dates for the Spider-Man ride, which debuted in 1999 in the Islands of Adventure park.

In the Universal Studios park, the "Despicable Me" ride will replace the Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast simulator, which has been running only part-time since April and closes permanently Aug. 18. Like the new Spider-Man experience, it will utilize a sophisticated Infitec 3-D projection system.

The animated film "Despicable Me," which came out last year with Steve Carell voicing Gru, grossed more than $540 million worldwide. Like the movie, the Universal ride will feature Gru, his three adopted daughters and, of course, the minions. Universal says riders will be transformed into minions before embarking on the 3-D adventure and get to participate in a minion "dance party" at the end of the ride.

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"In the same way comedy and sweetness and emotion were critical parts of the film, they will also become very essential parts of the experience in the ride," said Chris Meledandri, who produced the film and is involved in creating the ride. "That tonality that people loved in the movie is absolutely going to be consistent in the ride as well."

Park officials said "Despicable Me" is the first Universal animated film to be become the basis for a theme park ride.

"We're not recreating scenes from the first movie," Meledandri said. "We're moving our story forward."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explainer: 11 new rides for thrill seekers

  • Image: Octotron, Belmont Park
    Minh Tra  /  Courtesy Belmont Park

    Gas at $4 per gallon. Airplanes ripping open mid-flight. Donald Trump for president.

    Let’s face it, this summer is looking scary enough without this or that thrill ride raising the bar on near-death experiences. Instead, theme and amusement parks are rolling out new (and newly renovated attractions) that emphasis unique elements and psychological thrills over sheer speed and stupefying G-forces.

    “Parks have wised up,” said Robert Niles, editor of “They're not trying to appeal to record-setting coaster connoisseurs; they're just trying to build something fun that a lot of people will want to ride.” For those who prefer to enjoy their adrenaline rushes while staying conscious, the following rides are worth a spin.

  • Cheetah Hunt, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

    Image: Cheetah Hunt, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
    Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

    Opening on May 27, Busch Gardens’ newest coaster celebrates the world’s fastest animal with speeds of up to 60 mph, three pounce-like launches and a route that flies over a simulated Serengeti complete with hills, ravines and waterfalls. It debuts alongside Cheetah Run, a glass-paneled enclosure where the real deal will run sprints several times a day. The combination “takes the thrill away from ‘Let’s see how many times we can go upside down’ to ‘Let’s see how many different elements we can add to a ride,’” said Erik Yates, editor of

  • Octotron, Belmont Park

    Image: Octotron, Belmont Park
    Minh Tra  /  Courtesy Belmont Park

    As the newest addition to San Diego’s beachfront amusement park, this ride never leaves the ground yet still manages to provide a good gut-churning experience. Like the mutant love child of a Tilt-A-Whirl and a tea-cup ride, it features individual cars that circle around a ground-hugging undulating track. However, instead of spinning in flat circles, each two-person car spins forward and backwards with riders controlling just how much head-over-heels (or heels-over-head) motion they can stand. “We must’ve spun upside down like 50 times,” said Robb Alvey, owner/creator of “I’ve never felt so sick in my life.”

  • Untamed, Canobie Lake Park

    Image: Untamed, Canobie Lake Park
    Canobie Lake Park

    No one’s likely to confuse Salem, N.H., with Orlando, Fla., or Anaheim, Calif., but this amusement park just north of Boston is clearly on the hunt for thrill-seekers with Untamed, its new grizzly-themed steel coaster. As just the fourth Euro-Fighter coaster in the country, it features that design’s vertical lift hill and a beyond-vertical first drop at a dizzying 97 degrees. After that, riders are whipped through a wilderness-themed layout, although it will likely be a big green blur given ride elements that include a vertical loop, zero-G roll and a vertical U-turn maneuver known as an Immelmann. The ride is set to open in early June.

  • Texas Giant, Six Flags Over Texas

    Image: Texas Giant, Six Flags Over Texas
    Six Flags Over Texas

    How does a 21-year-old wooden coaster make the grade as a Class of 2011 screamer? By undergoing a $10 million refurbishment that combines its existing wood structure with an all-new steel track. Considered a hybrid, it combines the wild ride of wood with the speed (65 mph), steep drops (up to 79 degrees) and intense banked turns (95 degrees) of steel. “The original was really powerful, but it was also rough as hell,” said Alvey. “You needed a chiropractor on the exit ramp.” By contrast, the new version “takes everything you think you know about wood coasters and flips it upside down. It’s completely bizarre.”

  • Green Lantern: First Flight, Six Flags Magic Mountain

    Image: Green Lantern: First Flight, Six Flags Magic Mountain
    Six Flags Magic Mountain

    It shares its name with another new ride in New Jersey and a big-screen summer movie starring Ryan Reynolds, but this coaster promises to be the most exciting of the bunch. As a four-dimensional coaster, it combines a vertically oriented zigzag track with suspended eight-person trains that rock back and forth and flip 360 degrees. The result is a two-minute ride along 825 feet of track, which means it’s more about the spins than the speeds. “It’s not just taller, faster or barfier,” said Niles. “It’s a completely unique experience.” The ride is set to open in mid-June.

  • Superman: Escape from Krypton, Six Flags Magic Mountain

    Image: Superman: Escape from Krypton, Six Flags Magic Mountain
    Mathew Imaging  /  Six Flags Magic Mountain

    How do you refresh a 14-year-old coaster? If it’s Superman, which launched riders straight up an L-shaped, 415-foot-high track, it’s simple: Re-engineer the front-facing cars so riders now go up facing backwards. It’s as fast as ever — riders rocket from zero to 100 mph in seven seconds and experience 6.5 seconds of weightlessness — but now you actually see the ground as it recedes and rushes back at you. It’s especially intense when two cars are launched on the side-by-side tracks. “It’s always fun to look over and see someone else freaking out just as much as you are,” said Yates.

  • Dare Devil Dive, Six Flags over Georgia

    Image: Dare Devil Dive, Six Flags over Georgia
    Six Flags over Georgia

    The key word is “dive.” After climbing 100 feet up a vertical tower, this Euro-Fighter-style coaster pauses for a moment…and then plunges back down at a beyond-vertical pitch of 95 degrees. Hitting a top speed of 52 mph, it then twists and turns its way through three inversions and over a zero-gravity hill before depositing its dazed riders back at the station. “It’s a complete rush of confusion,” said Yates. “Am I going up? Am I going down? Am I going to die?” (Opening May 28.)

  • Gotham City Gauntlet, Six Flags New England

    Image: Gotham City Gauntlet, Six Flags New England
    Six Flags New England

    Old coasters don’t die; they just get moved and/or rethemed. That’s the story behind the Gauntlet, which previously operated as Road Runner Express from 2000 to 2009 at the now-closed Kentucky Kingdom theme park. Topping out at 49 feet, the ride lives up to its scary subtitle — Escape from Arkham Asylum — by putting riders through 17 hairpin turns in around 90 seconds. “It’s more psychological than physical,” said Alvey. “You’re thinking, ‘'Oh my god, is this car going to stay on the track?’”

  • Soarin’ Eagle and Steeplechase, Scream Zone

    Image: Soarin' Eagle, Scream Zone
    Frank Franklin II  /  AP

    The transformation of Coney Island from freak-show funhouse to family-friendly destination continues with the debut of Scream Zone, which features not one but two new coasters. Originally built for Denver’s Elitch Gardens, Soarin’ Eagle is a flying coaster in which riders ride prone and parallel to the track. (Think Superman or, well, a soaring eagle.) “It’s not going to make anyone rearrange their Top 10 coaster list,” said Alvey, “but it’s going to be a good, solid ride.”

    If Soarin’ Eagle provides a glimpse of Coney Island’s future, Steeplechase offers a nod to its past. It takes its name from Steeplechase Park, which opened on the beach in 1897, and from that park’s popular Steeplechase course in which riders raced separately controlled wooden horses around a steel track. On the new version, riders still straddle their saddles, but the trusty steeds are connected in two-across, 12-person trains. In other words, the only way to win the “race” is to be first in line.

  • WindSeeker

    Image: WindSeeker
    Courtesy Cedar Point

    Remember wave swingers, the old kiddie rides in which people sat in swings and got spun around a central pole or tower? Well these rides are like that, only on steroids. At least six parks are opening such rides this summer, with Cedar Point, Kings Island, Knott’s Berry Farm and Canada’s Wonderland all offering 301-foot versions that spin riders in two-person swings that hit speeds of 30 m.p.h. and flare out at up to 45 degrees. “Being that high up is pretty alluring to me,” said Niles. “but I can see where it’d scare the living daylights out of a lot of other people.”


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