In Universal Orlando vacation news, Islands of Adventure’s popular Spider-Man ride returned to action with a high-definition look yesterday.
The change is one of the multimillion-dollar moves coming to Universal Orlando, which has seen record-breaking attendance since its Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010.
“I think Potter raised the standards for everyone in the theme-park business in Central Florida — Disney, SeaWorld … and for Universal,” said Robert Niles, editor of the Theme Park Insider website. “Not only do people judge Disney’s and SeaWorld’s offerings versus Harry Potter in deciding where they want to spend their money, they are also judging everything else at Universal versus Harry Potter.”
The texture of Spidey’s suit; the expression and skin complexion of Doctor Octopus’ face; and the veins of Hobgoblin’s pumpkins were new details seen in the attraction during a media preview Wednesday. Fireflies, sewer rats, a marquee for “The Clone Saga” and more traffic are new elements of the
“It’s great to do what we dreamed about back in 1999,” said Thierry Coup, senior vice president of the Creative Studio for Universal. He worked on the original version as well as sister attraction Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. “The technology didn’t allow us to do what we did today.”
Universal has touted the increased level of new detail. There is new content in every scene, said Universal Creative President Mark Woodbury, but the original plot remains.
Although the ride vehicles have not changed, Coup said their movements have been reprogrammed, notably in the climactic scene where passengers drop from high above the street only to be rescued by the web slinger.
“Things felt a little rushed before, now you have a little more time, so it’s easier to follow, it’s easier to watch,” he said. “You know where you are.”
Included is a computer-generated version of Stan Lee, co-creator of the Spider-Man character, which first appeared in comic books in 1962. Lee makes multiple appearances in the ride.
Lee, 89, said he has seen a rough cut of the attraction’s new film. He visited Orlando late last year and rode the old version.
“Even without me, it was the most spectacular ride that I had ever been on,” he said this week. “You feel like you’re a part of the story, you’re part of a little adventure, and you get sucked into it somehow.”
Lee, who has made numerous cameo appearances in films featuring Marvel characters, did not pose for the revamp. Artists used existing photos to create his character.
In addition to the new high-def look, Universal added a 3-D projection system and revamped the attraction’s soundtrack, sound system, lighting and sets seen before and during the ride.
“That combination of things makes it stand up as an entirely new attraction,” Woodbury said. He would not say how much money Universal spent on the Spider-Man renovation.
The ride has been closed since early February.
Spider-Man now uses the same projection system as the Transformers attraction that opened at Universal’s park in Singapore last year and is scheduled to debut in its California park in May. It also will be used in the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction set to open in Orlando this summer. Also planned for Universal Studios are a new daily parade and a nighttime show saluting 100 years of Universal Pictures.
Universal Orlando announced an expansion of Wizarding World this year but has not revealed a time frame or location.
The modern technology behind the Forbidden Journey ride, housed in the replica of Hogwarts castle, was not a factor in the Spider-Man update, Woodbury said.
“They were sort of mutually exclusive ideas,” he said. “This was just a great opportunity to create something totally different in the 3-D world that we had a lot of faith in technologically and execution wise.”
Any attraction with projection technology older than 10 years probably needs to be revisited, Niles said. Theme-park guests notice the difference, he said.
“It’s like getting used to Blu-ray, then going back and watching something on VHS,” he said.