Within an hour of the new Transformers ride opening at Universal Studios on Thursday, hundreds of people stood in the sweltering Florida heat to experience the intense, 3-D thrill ride.
Transformers: The Ride-3D is Universal Orlando's latest, hyper-real offering to park visitors. For those who like dazzling special effects, gut-wrenching drops and battling robots, the ride will not be a disappointment.
The new attraction opened following an elaborate ceremony featuring pyrotechnics, a specially created "Transformers" song by the band Cheap Trick and a flyover by a formation of private jets — an experience that one blogger described as having "rocked our faces off!"
Hundreds of fans cheered the film's "stars" — imposing, robotic looking creatures named Bumblebee and Optimus Prime — as they walked the red carpet past the new attraction.
Steven Spielberg, the executive producer of the "Transformers" films, also walked the red carpet but declined to give media interviews.
The ride is an interactive, "larger than life battle" between the action film franchise's main characters — the Autobots and Decepticons. It uses flight simulator technology, along with movie screens, wind, heat and smoke to make the riders feel immersed in the experience. Riders don 3-D glasses before entering the car.
The experience seems longer than most theme park rides, stopping at various simulated battles with spiky gears and tires and shards of glass swirling around the riders. At several points, the car takes simulated plunges several stories down skyscraper exteriors in an urban landscape. Theme park enthusiasts will recognize a similarity between the Transformers ride and Universal's The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man experience; both rides use a track and platform to move fans around to different "scenes."
"You really feel that you're a part of it," said Tom Williams, chairman and CEO of Universal Parks and Resorts. "You're not a bystander off to one side. You're in the middle of the action."
To be sure, it is a lot of action — possibly too much for small children or sensitive adults. There is a height requirement — 40 inches to ride with an accompanying adult and 48 inches if the child wants to ride solo.
Universal has similar rides at its parks at Universal Studios Hollywood in California and Universal Studios Singapore. But Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative, said that the Orlando ride has been "tweaked" and is even more realistic than the earlier versions.
"Each time we do it, it evolves a little bit," said Woodbury. "It breaks a lot of new ground in the level of the immersion, it's hyper-realistic, in terms of what the environment looks like and the characters look like."
Universal executives said they worked with Michael Bay, the director of the "Transformers" movies, to develop the ride. The film and characters grew out of a line of Hasbro toys first released in the early 1980s.
The fourth installment of the "Transformers" movie is due in theaters June 2014 and will star Mark Walhberg.
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