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Universal Studios Florida – World Expo: The Simpsons

 

Rating: * * * * +
Type: Simulator thrill ride
Time: 4.5 minute ride, with 10 minutes of preshows
Our Take: A wild and witty spin through Springfield

Welcome to Krustyland, the Krustiest Place on Earth! Krusty the Clown is opening his theme park’s “All-New Thrilltacular Upsy-Downsy Spins-Aroundsy Teen-Operated Thrill Ride,” and you can join the Simpson family as the first suckers — um, lucky winners — to try it. Krusty’s criminal nemesis, Sideshow Bob, has been spotted in the vicinity, but not to worry: as Homer says “they won’t kill you in a theme park as long as you’ve got a dime in your pocket.”

Over the last 20 years, Matt Groening’s The Simpsons has grown from crudely animated interstitials on FOX’s Tracy Ullman Show to the world’s most popular animated family. Thankfully, their translation to the theme-park world hasn’t come at the expense of their satirical edge. From the queue video (featuring classic clips of “Itchy and Scratchy Land” and “Duff Gardens,” along with sharp new skits) to the cliche-skewering signage (Ride “Captain Dinosaur’s Pirate Ripoff”), this attraction pulls no punches in biting the corporate hand that feeds it.

Once inside the carnival-colorful building, you’ll wait among midway booths staffed by Apu (“$100 Tacos for $100”), Patty and Selma (“Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers”), and other characters. You’ll be separated into groups of eight and directed to a “funhouse” holding room, where you’ll see a gruesomely hilarious safety warning before boarding the ride.

The Simpsons Ride retains much of the basic flight-simulator infrastructure of Back to the Future: The Ride (BTTF), the attraction it replaced. The vehicles face a mammoth, curved movie screen that completely fills your line of vision and represents the true genius of this ride concept. Other simulator-based rides (like the Despicable Me ride here at USF) use a movie screen that serves as a window to the outside of your spaceship or other vehicle. With this concept, however, you are outside and the environment wraps around you. The illusion is startling, not to mention sometimes terrifying. (Look up as the ride starts for a vertigo-inducing effect.)

In reality, the movement of the simulator’s stilts is surprisingly modest. You never actually move more than two feet in any direction. But try telling that to your brain. The kinetic signals sent by your body combine with the visual signals received from the screen to convince you that you are zooming along at supersonic speeds, making white-knuckle turns at dizzying angles.

The new ride improves on its predecessor with high-resolution digital projectors and new tactile and olfactory effects. Though still very turbulent, Simpsons is noticeably less jarring than BTTF, which had a reputation as a neck-wrecker. Best of all, the writing and voice acting (with nearly the entire original cast except Harry Shearer’s Burns and Smithers) are worthy of an episode from the TV show’s best seasons. Die-hard fans of the ground-breaking BTTF can take solace in a Doc Brown cameo in the queue, and the knowledge that USF is still home to Orlando’s best simulator-based ride.

The best seats in the house: The best way to experience this attraction is from the front row of the middle car in the middle level of the dome. Ask the attendant at the point where the line splits for Level 2, then ask the next attendant for Room 6. You may need to wait longer, but it’s worth it: you’ll experience less distortion of the image, and reduce any tendency toward motion sickness. Sit in the front row of the car for comfort, especially if you are tall.

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Universal Orlando 2011

 

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