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An indoor 3-D film with moving theater seating set in between the franchises first two films, Shrek 4-D follows the adventures of Shrek, Donkey and Dragon as they attempt to rescue Fiona after she's kidnapped by Lord Farquaad. The pre-show holding area is themed as Lord Farquaad's dungeon and has the Three Little Pigs and the Gingerbread Man warning riders about the pains and tortures in store for everyone, until the diminutive despot appears to monologue about his evil plan to reclaim his lost bride. The plan is post-humous since Lord Farquaad ostensibly died in the movie, and it’s his ghost making the plans, but never mind.
Guests then move into the main theater, don their 3-D glasses, and recline in seats equipped with “tactile transducers” and “pneumatic air propulsion and water spray nodules capable of both vertical and horizontal motion.” In English, that means the seats move, bump and vibrate along with the action, like the D-BOX seats now found in local cinemas. The film's 3-D effects aren't bad, and the 3-D glasses you'll wear do a good job even if you're putting them over prescription glasses, but it relies on older polarized 3-D projection instead of the newer dichroic system used by Despicable Me. As far as the phrase "4-D" goes, physicists may object that the Earth's fourth dimension is time, but as far as theme parks go, the fourth dimension is water. Expect to get a mild spritz or three during the show. Guests are also subjected leg licklers and smells relevant to the on-screen action (oh boy).
Technicalities aside, Shrek 4-D is a mixed bag. It’s frantic, laugh-out-loud funny, and iconoclastic. Concerning the last, the film takes a good poke at Disney, with Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, and Tinker Bell (among others) all sucked into the mayhem. But the video quality is dated by today’s ultra-HD standards, the storyline is incoherently disconnected from the preshow, and the franchise’s relevance has faded since the lackluster fourth film. On the upside, in contrast to Disney’s It’s Tough to Be a Bug!, Shrek 4-D doesn’t generally freak out kids under age 7.
Universal claims it can move about 2,400 guests per hour through Shrek 4-D, but the show’s location at the front of the park and directly across from Despicable Me Minion Mayhem translates to heavy traffic in the morning. If you see lines longer than 20 minutes, try visiting during mealtimes or in the last 2 hours the park is open. There’s not much in the film or preshow to scare small children. Stationary seating is available upon request. Be aware that Shrek 4-D shuts down one of its two theaters in the fall to hold a haunted house for Halloween Horror Nights, greatly increasing wait times during an otherwise slow season.
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