SATURDAY SIX: 6 Reasons We Love Universal’s MEN IN BLACK: ALIEN ATTACK

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at MEN IN BLACK: ALIEN ATTACK at Universal Studios Florida! Recently celebrating its 20th anniversary, it is time we take a deep dive into one of the most interactive – and downright fun – rides in Florida.

Men In Black: Alien Attack under construction in October, 1999. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Based on the smash hit film Men In Black starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, in MIB: Alien Attack guests can compete against each other as they are being trained to be MIB agents. The goal: shoot aliens that have escaped from a prison ship that has crash landed in New York. While other theme park “shooters” have guests aiming their guns at cardboard cutouts or 3-D screens, MIB: Alien Attack uses a more traditional theme park approach with the use of audio-animatronics. However, that’s just one of the many reasons we love this attraction, and we’ll kick off the countdown with…

# 6 – Nods to 1964 Worlds Fair

The façade of Men In Black: Alien Attack (MIB) brings guests right back to the 1964 World’s Fair. The elements were used in the film Men in Black, but they also resonate with theme park fans thanks to the ’64 World’s Fair being home to Disney’s Carousel of Progress, it’s a small world, and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. One of the more recognizable features is the large observatory towers, which you can see from all over the park.

Men In Black: Alien Attack façade. (photo by Brandon Glover)
New York World’s Fair observatory towers. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

I love the movie Men in Black and have been on the ride countless times over the last twenty years and I never noticed this. (photo by @davecobb)

Another view of the “broken off” tower post.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here is the moment from the film Men In Black when the villain Edgar reveals one of the observatory towers to be a spaceship.

Men in Black.

The Unisphere globe is another feature of the 1964 World’s Fair that many will recognize. However, it’s not something that Universal could recreate in the park and stay in “story.”

The Unisphere from the New York World’s Fair, with the observatory towers in the background. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Because after being shot down, Edgar crashes his spaceship into the Unisphere, destroying it.

Unisphere destroyed in the movie.

It’s important to remember that there was a time in which Universal took playful shots at Disney in their theme park attractions. You can read about some of them in our SATURDAY SIX on “Hidden Mickeys” at Universal, but these jabs included attraction posters riffing on Dumbo and the Enchanted Tiki Room at Shrek 4D, The Simpsons Ride sending up Pirates of the Caribbean,  and even referencing Walt Disney’s famous quote “it all started with a mouse” at the Jurassic Park River Adventure. So, with that in mind, let’s go back to the 1964 World’s Fair. The expo was well known for a ton of great Disney inspired artwork, and MIB: Alien Attack pays homage that with various posters echoing that style. The retro style artwork was created by  Ray Kampf (and you can see more of his amazing work at Fauxtopia.com)

How evocative of old school Disney is this?! I love it. Universal, let’s talk about making prints so we can hang these up at home! (artwork by Ray Kampf)

The overall façade is very photogenic because of its great design and iconic features, and you can also get some fun shots…

MIB: Alien Attack. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The area also looks gorgeous at night.

(photo by Mike Sperduto)
(photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 5 –  Queue

The conceit of Universal Studios Florida is bringing guests “into the movies,” and MIB: Alien Attack has recreated some of the most memorable moments from the film.

Turns out bugs at work are very much like theme park bloggers at work. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Pick a gun, any gun. (photo by Travis Terrell)
Guests walk by the Men in Black immigration room. (photo by Travis Terrell)

# 4 – Immigration Room Tour

One of the best kept “secrets” at Universal is the amount of free “tours” that guests can take giving an even more personal look at various attractions, including Revenge of the Mummy, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Men In Black: Alien Attack. These tours are all dependent on the availability of Team Members on any given day, so nothing is guaranteed, but always remember it doesn’t hurt to ask. MIB actually has the coolest tour of all because guests get to actually spend time in the Immigration Room! There are a whole bunch of great places to get great photos, and you’ll be able to see a bunch of amazing details that you might miss when just walking through the normal queue. This is like being able to go into the room which has the floating Avatar in the Flight of Passage queue or being able to be in the room of the dinner table scene in the Haunted Mansion. It’s a dream come true for many theme park fans!

Bob and Bhnxaxx hard at work. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Immigration Room. (photo by Brandon Glover)
DisTwitter Icon @DrunkAtDisney taking a patented “Drunky” in the immigration room.
Members of team Parkscope take a group photo.
Unique seating in the immigration room. (photo by Brandon Glover)
The original Odd Couple, Ol’ Pal Drunky and Taylor Strickland of Orlando Informer.

The various work stations in the immigration room have a bunch of great Easter Eggs to look for, and one also has the ability for guests to “sign in.”

Immigration Room sign in desk.

# 3 – The Details

With the theme parks closed and all of us currently sheltering in place, no one was able to celebrate 20th anniversary of MIB: Alien Attack properly, but we did get something really cool. Dave Cobb was the creative director of the attraction, and he conducted a lengthy Q&A livestream that gave some wonderful details about the attraction.  It is a must watch for any fan of the ride, or anyone who loves behind-the-scenes stuff like The Imagineering Story on Disney+.

One of the things discussed in Q&A was that a Men In Black-themed restaurant that was going to originally open with the attraction. I had never heard of this before and it blew my mind! I did some research and found an early scale model of MIB: Alien Attraction. In the picture you’ll see the “M” where the gift shop would be, and an artistic “I” and “B” for the connecting restaurant.

Early prototype of what would become MIB: Alien Attack at Universal Studios Florida.

More things I learned in the Q & A: Someone did the math wrong on the huge arch outside the attraction, so the two sides didn’t meet correctly near the top. To fix this, Universal just bent it to attach it together. Dave mentioned it was the one thing he would go back and fix.

The team originally wanted to use the Amazing Adventures of Spider-man ride vehicle for the attraction. Creative even did a ride through using the Spidey vehicle and put up mock targets. Unfortunately, they couldn’t hit anything, so they ended up using the Cat In The Hat ride vehicle from Seuss Landing as the model instead.

I love getting the “little details” in Universal attractions, and one thing that drove me crazy for years was trying to get a picture of the “Steven Spielberg” alien. Of the two competing ride vehicles, only one gets close to it and the moment goes by super quick. I was finally able to get a picture a year or so ago. Well, during the Q&A it was mentioned that this addition was asked for by Spielberg himself after experiencing the ride.

Another fun detail to catch in the ride is Frank the Pug.

You have to keep your head on a swivel, as there are a lot of great details throughout the MIB: Alien Attack building. I personally enjoy the artistic posters explaining the ride vehicle and how the game works.

In the child swap room, the TV will explain many of the aliens you blast during the attraction.

Readers of the DAVID AND DEREK series here on the SATURDAY SIX will want to go out of their way to see the fun Goofus & Gallant-like animated short made for MIB: Alien Attack.

Speaking of Easter Eggs, even the DOOFUS & DO-RIGHT cartoon has one. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice one of the passengers in Doofus’ car has a beard and an aloha shirt. This is a caricature of Dave Cobb (who is then stunned when Doofus takes a flash photo during the attraction, a theme park cardinal sin)

 

# 2 – Multiple Endings

One of the things that is gaining steam in the theme park world is providing multiple experiences on attractions to encourage guests to ride again and see something new. This can be seen in Star Tours – The Adventure Continues with randomized planets, Skull Island: Reign of Kong with different bus drivers, and Rip Ride Rockit’s ability to let guests choose their own song for the ride. However, Men in Black: Alien Attack has been doing this for 2o years! At the end of the ride, the scores in each vehicle are averaged and the guests are given one of three rankings: Bug Bait, Cosmically Average, or Galactic Defender.  For the first two rankings – Bug Bait and Cosmically Average – the vehicle rides by an alien encouraging the team to get better in the future. To see this ending: CLICK HERE

Basically, you zigged when you shoulda zagged! You gotta learn when to run and gun and when to lock and load baby. Try again!

The ending most guests see.

For ride vehicles that average a very high score, the team pulls up to a different alien. This alien is tailor of sorts, and tells the riders “your suit will be ready next Wednesday.” To see this ending: CLICK HERE

Alien tailor making “your” MIB suit. The voice of the tailor was Dave Cobb, creative director of the ride.

# 1 – On-ride Photo Op

I’m usually not a big fan of on-ride photos at Disney or Universal, but MIB’s photo is so good that it is reason enough to get the My Universal Photos package. Not only do you generally get a great shot of your group enjoying the attraction, but if you see a Team Member after the ride there is a variety of additions they can add to the photos, including lasers.

This picture is the FIRST EVER photo appearance of Your Humble Author in a SATURDAY SIX article…

Another interesting feature of the MIB photo experience is that you can get the photos cropped, so that only members of your party are included.

Or you can just have an alien – or Frank the Pug – covering the other guests in the ride vehicle.

The amount of additions available are what we call next level bonkers.

Heck, get a solo shot.

Once you ride the attraction enough, you know when the photo is being taken on the ride, which can give you the opportunity to have some fun.

Or even pay tribute to the greatest show in theme park history.

Members of Inside Universal reminding everyone to Be Excellent To Each Other.

With a ride that brings so much joy to guests of all ages, I reached out to Dave Cobb if he could spare thoughts about working on the project. He graciously sent the following note:

“The Universal Creative team behind MIB was one of the best project teams I’ve ever worked with, and to see the amazing joy that the fans have for the attraction these twenty years later is truly humbling. The fact that it’s endured in a park where almost everything else has changed is a testament to the passion and hard work that the entire team put into this groundbreaking, challenging attraction — and a testament to you, the fans, for your unwavering enthusiasm and love, for which I’m forever grateful. Agent D out!” – Dave Cobb, Creative Director MIB: Alien Attack

Honorable Mention – Merch

As someone who has been covering the Disney Outlet Stores every month for seven years, I feel I am uniquely qualified to comment on the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to theme park merchandise. MIB: Alien Attack has one of the most underrated items ever made for an attraction with this alien plush that is designed like a target you shoot in the ride.

My unabashed love for the Uni-Mini collection rivals my Disney Tsum Tsum obsession, and one of my favorite Uni-Minis is Frank the Pug from MIB: Alien Attack.

In fact, if you love Frank the Pug merchandise, the gift shop at the end of MIB: Alien Attack is going to make your day.

MIB: Alien Attack boxers make me dream of the day of a Universal Orlando Resort Outlet Store…

The only thing missing is a MIB themed candy bar…

 

DOUBLE SECRET HONORABLE MENTION – Men in Black elsewhere in USF

Keep your eye out for Frank the Pug in Animal Actors on Location, along with some very rare meet and greet opportunities in the park.

It’s much more common to see various MIB agents out and about for pictures, usually with a bonkers gun that needs to be seen to be believed.

(photo by Brandon Glover)

So there you have it: Six Reasons We Love Universal’s MEN IN BLACK: ALIEN ATTACK! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles covering the latest from the Disney Outlet Stores. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Signage Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: An in-depth look at theme park photography

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

Elle: Hey, Jay! Zed called. The high consulate from Solaxiant 9 wants floor seats for the next Fringe festival.

Jay: Alright, let’s put in a call to Seth Kubersky. He’s from that planet.

Elle: Kubersky? You’re kidding.

Jay: Nope.

Elle: Not much of a disguise.

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