This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Top Six Photo Connect Experiences at Universal. I personally feel that the Photo Connect Star Card is – hands down – the best value in any of Orlando’s theme parks. For $59.95 you get every on-ride photo, every meet and greet photo, all the special Photo Connect “hot sets” like Sneetch Beach in Seuss Landing and the Daily Bugle front page photo at the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and any picture taken by one of the photographers in front of the parks. I can talk about the Star Card package all day long, so just do yourselves a favor and buy it for your next trip to the parks. Anyhoo, here’s a look at the top six Photo Connect Experiences at the Universal Orlando Resort…
# 1 – Transformers Meet and Greet
Transformers: The Ride-3D, itself, is incredible, but the attached Supply Vault gift store is no slouch, either, offering a ton of unique and exclusive Transformers merchandise (including the chocolate Allspark, EVAC action figure, and pressed pennies). But what might be the biggest “wow” moment overall is meeting the Transformers, themselves. Located directly across from the attraction is a special Photo Connect picture area. Completely themed to the government run N.E.S.T. look that the ride building has, this area allows you to meet and take pictures with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Megatron. Seeing these incredible walk-around characters in person is one thing, but seeing them walk around is another. Jaw dropping. Rumor is that Universal spent over $20,000 for each one of these suits, and you can see every single penny spent.
Be sure to head to the Photo Connect counter after having your picture taken to ask for the special Autobot and Decepticon borders that can be added onto the pictures.
# 2 – MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
Everyone remembers the big E-Ticket rides at Universal like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Revenge of the Mummy, and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. But one of the biggest crowd pleasers is MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack. My personal favorite shooter attraction in Orlando, MEN IN BLACK has one of the best queues in the park and then throws you into an awesome shooter where instead of LCD screens and cardboard cutouts, you’re shooting at elaborately themed physical props. It also can provide one of the best on-ride photos if you know when the picture is being taken (after the first alien attack after you drive into the alley way).
Be sure to ask at the Photo Connect counter after the ride for the lasers to be added in, and – if there are any empty seats in your ride vehicle – ask for the spots to be filled up with aliens and/or MIB agents.
# 3 – Donkey (with Shrek and Fiona)
One of the absolute most underrated gems of Universal Studios Florida is just standing back and watching Donkey interact with guests during his meet and greet located outside Shrek 4-D. Think Turtle Talk with Crush, except Donkey is hilarious. Sometimes you’ll just have Donkey for the photo, while other times both Shrek and/or Fiona will join in. Not only will you enjoy your time with Donkey, but hang around and share a laugh while others have their turn.
# 3 – The E.T. Adventure Gift Shop photos
Several of Universal’s attractions don’t have on-ride photos, but most of them have interesting pictures you can take either in the queue or outside the attraction. E.T. Adventure is the last man standing from the good ol’ days of Universal Studios Florida. It was an opening day attraction and is the only one left form that era. The forest queue is – to this day – one of the best in any theme park. The ride itself is a favorite of mine. The first half recreates the moments from the E.T. film while the second half is like a bizarre acid trip from Steven Spielberg and shows us E.T.’s home planet.
While E.T. Adventure has no on-ride photo, it has two opportunities in the attractions gift shop. There is one photo op set set up where you can get on a bike with E.T. in the front basket. The other set is a closet in which one or two people can sit with E.T. The people working inside the gift shop are pretty strict when it comes to trying to take your own pictures of either of these two sets, but the good news is that both pictures are included with the Star Card package.
# 2 – The Simpsons Couch Gag
The newest Photo Connect experience is already one of the best. Outside of The Simpsons Ride, guests take a seat on the iconic Simpsons couch (which is MUCH harder than it looks) and take their picture in front of a green screen. Given directions on how to “act,” three photos are taken, and afterwards the Photo Connect employees add in the backgrounds. There are six different backgrounds available: the standard Simpsons living room, Kang and Kodos looking at you as part of their “Earth Family” zoo, two sharks circling you (pictured), burglars carrying you away, and a Vegas-style photo that has elephants, magicians, dancers, and more. Because all photos are included with your Star Card package, you can get them all!
# 1 – Spider-Man Comic Book Photo
I love everything about this photo op. The picture is actually taken across the street from the Adventures of Spider-Man ride and, like the Simpsons couch gag photo, it is taken in front of a green screen. Like at the Donkey meet and greet, Spider-Man takes time to talk to each guest, and this can provide a really special moment for kids. But the best part is this picture is put out as a cover of a comic book. Just perfect for Marvel Super Hero Island. Beyond perfect. Be sure to ask at the Photo Connect counter for them to add the webbing in.
One last plug to head over to AmazingPictures.com and get the Star Card package for your next Universal trip (you can also get it while inside either park). If you’re a fan of photos, like my family is, you’ll be blown away by how much is included with this package, not to mention there is a free app for your smart phone (iPhone and Android), which gives you immediate access to your pictures in order for you to send to people or share on social media.
See you next weekend for the latest edition of the Saturday Six. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories and Merch! articles or head on over to the TouringPlans.com Podcast Network and check out Universal NOW! and Pardon the Pixie Dust (especially this episode where we do a live dramatic reading of the Jingle Cruise script).
Special thanks to Jesus Navarro, Amber Burgan, Gavin Christo, Chris Buckner, Josh Germain and Universal NOW!s Brandon Glover for their assistance with this article.