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2 Universal Orlando rides get makeovers

Atlanta Journal Constitution

Original Article »

May 23, 2011

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."

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.

"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."

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.

"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."


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