Universal Studios Hollywood
Feature by Willard Manus
After thirty years in Los Angeles, we finally decided to spend a day at UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD. What motivated us was a request from our 14-year-old Scottish grandson Michael, whose lifelong dream it was to visit the famed amusement park.
Michael led the way as we entered the park on a hot September day, along with tens of thousands of other folks. We went straight to the Dreamworks Theatre, where the "Kung Fu Panda Adventure" was the attraction. Michael was much impressed with the cutting-edge technology on display: the first-ever integration of interior projection mapping designed to engulf guests in 180 degrees of immersive adventure. He also got a kick out of the death-defying trip the Panda took while delivering a message to the Emperor, battling enemies all along the way, howling with maniacal glee the entire time.

When the ride ended, Michael looked at me, grinned, and said, "That was good."
He liked even better the roller-coaster ride at "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter," which he took after we entered the re-created village of Hogsmeade with its snow-capped roofs, cobblestone streets, wand-magic locations and fire-making displays. Michael was amused by the quaint shops and pubs as well, but that was nothing to the way he responded to the "Flight of the Hippogriff," Universal Studio's first outdoor roller coaster. He summed up that experience in one word: "Fantastic."

Next up was a visit to another fictional village: Springfield, hometown of America's favorite family, The Simpsons. While waiting on line to reach the mega-attraction, "The Simpson Ride," we watched on surround-screens highlights from various episodes of the TV show, with Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie carrying on in their usual outrageously subversive fashion. Then came the ride itself, a high-speed, 3-D comedy of errors that Michael liked but didn't rave about.
There was another long wait for "Jurassic World--The Ride," Universal's latest attraction (it opened this past summer), but it too was made bearable by the lecture on dinosaurs that was delivered on overhead TV screens. As for the ride, it took us in a gondola down a river and through caverns and jungles where huge, angry dinosaurs kept rearing up and trying to attack us and spit venom at us. Michael didn't seem all that impressed--until our gondola suddenly took a steep and terrifying drop at the end.

"That was more like it," he said afterwards, firmly.
Michael's next choice was "Transformers: The Ride--3D." Based on the iconic Hasbro video game and film franchise, the site of the "Transformers" was fronted by two Auto-bots, huge metallic creatures that stomped and snorted and threatened the waiting crowd with violence. Things became even more spectacular and violent when the ride itself began. Think of it as a flight simulator test gone beserk. It uses dynamic, photo-realistic 3-D media special effects to send you hurtling through a loud, wild, futuristic world of brutally-clashing robots and machines. Some of the effects scared the bejeezez out of Michael, but when the ride was over he said, "I loved it. I wish I could go on it again!"

Then came an even bigger surprise. It was triggered by our visit to "Revenge of the Mummy--The Ride," Universal's oldest, first-ever roller-coaster attraction. Based on the phenomenally popular "Mummy" films, it utilizes animatronics, sophisticated motion picture technology and state-of-the-art ride, audio and robotic engineering to create a ride through an Egyptian underworld of tombs, crypts and mummies. Despite the fact that he was a wee bit afraid of the dark and hated insects and spiders (all part of the ride), Michael declared that this attraction was the best of all, one he'd never forget.

(For tickets and information visit universalstudioshollywood.com)