Theme Park Ranger
10:23 AM EDT, June 14, 2012
Expect more sightings of little, yellow, goggled, banana-happy beings as Universal Studios has started showing off its new attraction, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, to guests.
The ride — more properly, a motion simulator — has entered its technical rehearsal phase, which means a limited number of folks get to experience the Mayhem on select (but unannounced) days and times. Its official opening day will be July 2, Universal Orlando announced this week.
The attraction is based on characters from the 2010 animated movie "Despicable Me," starring Steve Carell and Russell Brand. Here are my initial impressions from rides this week.
•The outside of the attraction has been altered to resemble the imposing, dark house of Gru, Carell's character. It's a nice break from the boxy beige soundstage look in that area of the park. Minion Mayhem is across the street from Shrek 4-D, the building that previously housed Jimmy Neutron's NickToon Blast, which closed last summer.
•The first part of the queue is open-air and covered. I was grateful for the giant fans and appreciative of the design touches that hint at the inside of Gru's house: intricate wallpaper, chandelier and a flower-topped suit of armor. Monitors present a humorous minion quiz and a short recap of the movie's plot, in which three orphaned sisters influence the gruff Gru, helping transform him from supervillain to three-time winner of the father of the year award.
This stretch and the building's exterior have minion-recruitment posters, and that reflects the theme of the attraction. It's not a recap of the film. It uses the movie characters to tell a new story.
•The queue extends into two interior rooms that precede the main seating area. Here folks are issued the 3-D "goggles," and they see an instructional video with minions explaining how the glasses are to be worn. (If the number of your eyes doesn't match the number of lenses, alert a team member.) This first room has more of Gru's furnishings, including portraits, unusual seats and a mounted lion's head clamping down on a dog that's got a cat in his mouth.
The second room starts the "minionization" process, introduces the plot point about it being the anniversary of Gru adopting the girls and provides a whiff from a fart gun. (Minion farts may be fruiter-smelling than you expect.)
•The layout of the main room isn't dramatically altered from its Jimmy Neutron days. Four-passenger benches face a giant screen. A single lap bar comes across each grouping.
•As with most simulators, the bench moves and shakes according to the action on screen. Gru's girls — Margo, Edith and Agnes — are in charge of our minion training, and we are put through up-and-down paces, lots of shaking and bumping. It isn't severe — no danger of going upside-down or spinning. It's probably not quite as extreme as the motion on the Simpsons Ride on the other side of the park. The bumping, a simulator staple, can get tiresome.
But the picture is sparkling clear, similar to that now seen in the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride, which received a high-def upgrade this year at IOA.
After several drop sequences, it was fun for the action to shift to anti-gravity mode. (Lift your feet slightly for maximum effect.)
I expected the minions to be a high point, but the girls are very engaging. And even though it's bound to be false peril, I found myself worrying about young Agnes drifting into a dangerous area — and for what bumping effect that might go with that.
•The exit incorporates a dance party with a costumed minion. Guests see themselves on a giant screen grooving to "Boogie Fever." It's pretty easy to escape this room — and into the gift shop — without cutting a rug with a minion.
•Expect Minion Mayhem to have legs. "Despicable Me 2," featuring the voices of Carell, Brand, Al Pacino and Kristen Wiig, is scheduled to open next summer.
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