(opened in Orlando April 23, 2008)
I don’t exactly know if this “counts” or designates a review… but then again, this is my blog. What do you mean it doesn’t “count,” I can write about whatever the hell I want. This whole blog was meant to chronicle my experiences as a fan, but there’s so much more that could include. Should I talk about the Simpsons video games? The Playmates action figures? The comic books? I could be here forever. I wanted to keep the blog exclusive to the show proper, but just as a bonus, I guess, I threw in the ride. This is mostly due to the fact that I was working at the Universal Studios backlot for the past year, and I’ve been on this ride at least a good thirty times over that period. So is it a good ride? Yeah, it’s actually a lot of fun. …oh right, I guess I should write more, huh.
The Back to the Future trilogy are amongst my favorite, favorite films. Ergo, I loved Back to the Future: The Ride, I thought it was just excellent. When I found out it was closing, I was really pissed, until I read the next sentence it was being replaced by a Simpsons ride. Swapping my favorite film for my favorite TV show? I guess that’s a fair enough substitute. For those who don’t know, the ride is a motion simulator; you get in a ride vehicle which faces a gigantic dome where they project a video, and the car dips, jerks and rocks in tandem with the film, so it seems like you’re actually moving. The story of the ride is that it’s the grand opening of a brand new ride at Krustyland, and you and the Simpsons have been chosen to be the first riders. Unfortunately, Sideshow Bob has escaped prison and seeks his revenge on the family, and what better way than test the still under construction roller coaster? In your own coaster car, you’re careening throughout the entire park as it falls apart around you, on a runaway ride that eventually takes you through the town of Springfield itself.
If I was smart, I would have taken plenty of photos of the ride building when I was there, but… nope. But I’m sure there’s plenty of pictures you can find online. The theming for the ride is awesome the entire way through. Entering Krusty’s wide-open mouth, you wait in the queue and are half-entertained by a variety of clips. I say this because half the time we get classic clips from episodes with amusement parks like “Itchy & Scratchy Land,” “Selma’s Choice” and “Lisa the Vegetarian.” The rest we get new animation of Krusty pimping his park of the Simpsons waiting in line. It really is jarring when you watch the sequence of clips back-to-back, just the stark difference between the two in terms of look and quality. The only new clip I care for is the one that ties back into Back to the Future. Dismayed at the closure of his colleague Doc Brown’s Institute of Future Technology (the building that housed the BTTF ride), Professor Frink goes back in time to save it, but only ends up causing the foreclosure to happen in the first place (“You idiot! You’ve ruined everything! Now I’ll have to sell the Institute of Future Technology to that mercenary clown!” “Mercenary clown? That’s me!”) Christopher Lloyd, of course, reprises his role as Doc Brown.
Entering the building, you’re surrounded by other booths “manned” by characters, like Patty & Selma at the lost and found, Willie running a carnival game, and Apu, of course, at the food stand. The pre-show room before the ride also has some neat stuff in it, with photos on the wall of Krusty’s past, from his childhood pie-flinging days, his stint as a stand-up from “The Last Temptation of Krust,” and a picture of him grinning next to a bemused Matt Groening. The pre-show itself is okay, setting up the groundwork for the actual ride where Maggie crawls into the nuclear reactor and Bob hijacks the park, but once you’ve seen it as many times as I have, it gets a bit tedious. Watching it with other people, however, provides a window into what people think is funny. Sometimes they’re not even paying attention, however, but people seem to love when Grampa immediately falls asleep, and Homer talking about Chewbacca and doing a Wookie scream for some reason. My favorite line is Krusty’s absolute disinterest (“Now enjoy the Ferris wheel! Or whatever this is…”)
Then we get to the ride itself, which I can essentially recite from memory at this point. I originally was kind of bummed out that they went with all CG instead of a blend of 2D and 3D (although seeing how well they’ve done it on the show, perhaps this is best). I’ve gotten used to it at this point though, and despite a few tiny bits, it really looks spectacular. And the ride really is a lot of fun, as you’re knocked about every which way, causing as much complete and utter destruction as possible, just as a good simulation should. You even get sent straight to hell at one point, which is sort of like the end of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Are there good jokes? A couple, but I’m not exactly on a theme park ride to laugh. They lampoon various theme parks, like Pirates of the Caribbean from Disney World (“Captain Dinosaur’s Pirate Rip-Off,”) and Sea World (“We’ll save you! Onward, convenient whale!”) It’s a real thrill; once we get out of the park, smash through the Springfield sign and swoop down into the town, as that familiar theme song starts playing, I start getting goose bumps. Even after just slogging through almost a decade of terrible shows, the show still elicits this positive emotional reaction from me. Similar to the movie, through the modern-day mucky trappings of it all, the ride still managed to invest me in the Simpsons universe in a way the show has failed to do for a good long while.
In summation? A great, great ride. And if you’re going to Universal Studios anyway, why wouldn’t you want to go on it? The site at Orlando is actually undergoing some construction; they just installed a bunch of carnival games right in front of the ride. They had such games scattered around the park prior to this, but having them in front of the carnival-themed attraction seems like a no-brainer. They’re also tearing down the adjacent restaurant to replace it with new Simpsons-themed fare. Rumors are floating of a Krusty Burger, or Moe’s, or even both. The whole damn place is under construction; the Transformers ride is set to open this summer, and the Harry Potter expansion is well underway where Jaws once stood. Good thing I just left Orlando before I got to see any of it, just think of how much fun I could have had. Ah well.