This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers the Six Most Underrated Attractions and Shows at Universal. Let’s face, there is no shortage of great and memorable shows and attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort. We all have our favorites. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Transformers: The Ride 3-D are three stunning achievements in the theme park world. The Incredible Hulk and Revenge of the Mummy are two insanely great roller coasters. Men In Black: Alien Attack is hands down one of the most fun interactive shooters in Orlando . Even E.T., the oldest kid on the block, still has one of the most impressive queues ever built and a ride that – in my opinion – crushes Peter Pan’s Flight. But today we’re going to look at the most underrated shows and attractions at Universal. Six things you need to add to your Must Do list on your next trip to the parks. And we’ll start with….
# 6 – Universal’s Horror Make-Up Show (Universal Studios Florida)
If you’ve never tried Universal’s Horror Make-Up Show because you’re “not into horror,” let me alleviate your fears. I was in the exact same boat and put off this show for years until a friend of mine dragged me into it because they loved movie make-up. Turns out it is a fascinating look into make-up (and special effects) of horror films and is absolutely hilarious. There are two hosts of the live show and they spend much more time on “funny” than “scary” and throw in a whole bunch of pop-culture references for the crowd to enjoy.
Another area that sets the Horror Make-Up Show is the pre-show/queue. Guests enter the lobby of the Pantages Theater (a references to Old Hollywood) and all around the room are props and art from various “horror” movies from film history including the classic Universal Monster series of films all the way up to current directors such as Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter. Generally there is also an area set up displaying something from Halloween Horror Nights, as well. Even if you have no interest in seeing the actual show I would highly recommend walking into the lobby and checking out what essentially is a museum to movie effects history.
# 5 – Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride. … Staring YOU!
Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride…. Staring You! went from one of the Six Attractions That Need to be Burned Down to underrated thanks to a refurb in 2008 that added two great elements. The first one is at the start of the attraction where Universal’s musion technology allows guests to see a very clever segment in which Christopher Walken interacts with a Team Member. Musion is part “Pepper’s Ghost” and part 21st century technology combined so that guests can see a projection in front of them in a way that doesn’t take you out of the technology. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey used Musion in the queue allowing fan-favorite characters Dumbledore and the Big Three (Harry, Ron, and Hermoine) to be a part of the story. The segment with Christopher Walken (as film producer Frank Kincaid) is a true “wow” moment.
The second element that takes makes Disaster! a must do is the very end. Throughout the attraction guests volunteer to be filmed doing activities to show the movie making process, very similar to the Studio Backlot Tour at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It all comes together at the end in a great payoff when guests get to watch a trailer for a film by Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. The faux movie is called “Mutha Nature” and the Rock plays a park ranger who has to save lives during various ecological disasters. Footage of the Rock is then mixed with the footage of the guests who had volunteered and the result is always jaw-droppingly funny. It’s that good.
# 4 – Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl (USF)
Every time I walk by Kang & Kodos Twirl ‘n’ Hurl and it has no line I want to scream “What is wrong with you people?!” What a fantastic spinner for both kids and adults. One of the funniest queues ever built (it even has a sign that says typos are not acceptable for anyone texting in line) and a spinner ride that can appeal to teenagers and adults, and yet this is the one attraction that had Express Pass but it was removed because it wasn’t needed. Meanwhile there is a line over at the Magic Kingdom for The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
# 3 – Animal Actors on Location (USF)
I’m a sucker for good animal shows. A couple of my favorites include Flights of Wonder at Animal Kingdom and SeaWorld’s Seymour & Clyde Take Pirate Island, but of all the ones I enjoy, Animal Actors on Location seems to get the least amount of love and attention. What I love about Animal Actors is the wide array of different animals they use: birds, orangatangs, dogs, skunks, pigs and a rooster are among the menagerie of animals used. How do you train a rooster?!
Like Disaster! the show itself gives an interesting look into the movie making process, except this one focuses – of course – on the animals used in films. A great show for everyone in the entire family and another attraction that has some genuine laughs throughout, especially when the animals don’t follow “the script.”
# 2 – The Blues Brothers (USF)
I’ll be upfront. I’m not a fan of the Blues Brothers film. I love Dan Aykryod and John Belushi, but the movie does nothing for me, so for a long time I had zero interest in seeing this live show.
Boy, what a mistake that was.
The Blues Brothers Show has energy and every Team Member I have seen play the characters of Jake and Elwood Blues seem to nail it each time. The songs are for the most part well known (Gimmie Some Lovin’, Jailhouse Rock, Respect and the headliner Soul Man), but it’s how the characters seem to channel their movie counterparts which makes this a must watch show. The show is so good it overcomes several of the things that I’m not a big fan of in theme parks, including 1) live music 2) standing 3) no shade. Don’t be a fool like me and keep putting off this show during your touring of the park. The Blues Brothers play several times throughout the day, and you can fit a performance into your schedule. It will be worth it.
Even better than the regular Blues Brothers show? The holiday show. A great experience (and dedicated readers of the SATURDAY SIX will remember it was one of our favorite parts of Universal’s holiday celebrations) that makes a good show even better. Peanuts specials, Cap’n Crunch, and Blues Brothers shows, is there anything Christmas can’t improve?!
# 1 – Poseidon’s Fury (Islands of Adventure)
The outdoor facade for Poseidon’s Fury single-handedly justifies the existence of the Lost Continent area at Islands of Adventure. Stunningly huge and elaborately detailed, this is an example of what Universal Creative can do when not tied to a specific Intellectual Property. Poseidon’s Fury is a walkthrough experience that contains several of Universal’s most incredible special effects, the best of which is an surreal walk through a tunnel in which jets of water form the walls around you.
Various elements of the show can be corny, no doubt, but the final battle is fun to watch play out in a larger than life setting. There is nothing like Poseidon’s Fury anywhere else in the theme park world and it is just the type of show that could be used over in Diagon Alley for the rumored Ministry of Magic attraction that would go where Fear Factor Live currently stands.
HONORABLE MENTION: Blue Man Group (Universal CityWalk)
The Blue Man Group is one of the rare things in the is world in which videos and descriptions just do not do it justice. You need to experience it in person. Combining music, performance art, and a lot of humor, the three Blue Men put on a show that will continue to impress you throughout. In 2012 the show was revamped in a way that kept all the fantastic bits of the previous incarnation (including a segment that involves marshmallows that will have your jaw on the floor) and added in several new bits that satire technology’s current stranglehold on us all. Highest Possible Recommendation.
So there you have it: the Six Most Underrated Attractions and Shows at Universal. See you next weekend for the latest edition of the Saturday Six, where we are going to look at some of the most iconic photo ops at Universal. If you had fun, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles or, for your listening pleasure, check out Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast.