There's an old saying that you don't fix what ain't broke.
And in the case of "The Amazing Adventures of
Spider-Man," this Islands of Adventure attraction had received
consistently high marks with Universal
Orlando Guests since it first opened back in May of 1999. With some folks
calling this ambitious 3D / simulator hybrid the best theme park ride that had
ever been built.
Which should have made Thierry Coup, the Vice President of
Development at Universal Creative, happy. After all, he was part of the team
which had originally produced "The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man"
back in the mid-to-late 1990s.
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"We spent three long years working on this attraction.
And while we were extremely happy with the way that the public and the themed
entertainment industry embraced 'Spider-Man,' there were things that we had
wanted to do with this attraction back in 1999 that just weren't possible back
then," Thierry explained. "Computer graphics weren't where we needed
them to be. Likewise the software that we used to program the Scoops. Which is
why I always hoped that we'd get a chance to revisit this attraction
Now jump ahead to the Spring of 2011. And while "The
Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man" remained hugely popular with IOA Guests,
Coup and his crew noticed that there was now kind of a constant refrain coming
Studios Orlando visitors.
"We always make a point of listening to our Guests. And
while they still obviously enjoyed the experience of riding 'Spider-Man,' these people were also
pretty vocal when it came to making us aware of the advances that had been made
in computer animation since 1999," Thierry said. "Which is why we
decided that it was now finally time to revisit 'Spider-Man.' See what a hi-def
version of this attraction with improved animation, sound and effects might be
Of course, there are real dangers involved when you begin to
tinker with an already much-loved product. Witness 1985's New Coke debacle. Or
-- for that matter -- George Lucas' decision to rework the Cantina scene in
"Star Wars IV: A New Hope" so now it was Greedo that shot first.
Which was why -- with the hope that they'd then be able to avoid upset the
theme park and/or Marvel fan community -- Thierry, working with Eric Parr (i.e.
the Senior Director of Creative Design at Universal Creative), took almost a
surgical approach when it came to upgrading and improving this IOA attraction.
"We were very selective about the changes that we
made," Thierry explained. "Take -- for example -- the attraction's
story. We didn't change that. You still see the Sinister Six. We use the exact
same vocal track as we used with the Opening Day version of this attraction.
But we now back that up with a new musical soundtrack that has more of a rock
More to the point, Coup & Parr used Spidey's downtime to
upgrade the Scoop (i.e. the ride vehicle that Guests climb aboard before they
move through this Marvel Comics-themed attraction)'s onboard audio system.
Changing it from an 8-channel to a 16-channel system, so that IOA visitors can
now experience three dimensional sound as they move from show scene to show
And speaking of 3D: Thanks to that new Infitec three
dimensional projection system that Universal Creative had installed (not to
mention those brand-new "Spider-Vision" goggles that the Guests are
now issued in this attraction's pre-boarding area. Which feature lenses with
dichroic filters, which then bring "The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man's"
ride film into focus with amazing color and clarity), Spidey and the Sinister
Six have never looked better.
"A lot of that comes from the animation in our new ride
film," Thierry enthused. "The facial controls that animators use
nowadays while they're working with CG figures are so much more sophisticated.
You can actually see the muscles moving under these Marvel characters'
And over the past 13 years, there have also be huge advances
in the technology that's used to create the software which then controls
super-sophisticated attractions like "The Amazing Adventures of
Spider-Man." And Coup & Parr took full advantage of that as they went
about reprogramming those Scoops.
"So now -- more than ever -- the Scoops really move in
concert with the action that's up there on the screen. More to the point, we've been able to speed
up their entrances & exits in each show scenes by just a few seconds. Which
means that Guests are now getting even more time with their favorite Marvel
characters," Thierry continued. "Those few extra seconds of
storytelling -- not to mention our new hi-def graphics -- now make it that far
easier for our Guests to follow this attraction's action-packed
The end result is that "The Amazing Adventures of
Spider-Man" is now the sort of attraction that IOA visitors can ride
multiple times and always see new things. Which is a concept that Coup actively
"I tell people to ride the attraction and then try not
to look at the characters. Look off into the corners of the screen to see if
you can catch all of the extra details that we've hidden there. The shadows of
rats running along the sewer pipes. Moss blowing in the breeze. Not to mention Stan Lee," Thierry
Speaking of which ... In the grand tradition of those Hidden
Mickeys that you find scattered throughout the Disney theme parks,
Coup & Parr have stashed a few Stans in "The Amazing Adventures of
Spider-Man." If you're looking close as you're riding along in your Scoop,
you'll spot the co-creator of Spider-Man out on the street with his date as the
Sinister Six begin to trash NYC's theater district.
Lee can also be seen later in this attraction racing through
the streets right after Doc Ock has sent your Scoop high up into the air,
careening among the skyscrapers. And finally Stan-the-Man appears in
"Amazing Adventures" finale, where Spider-Man hands these arch-fiends
over to New York's Finest while -- in the background -- the now-intact Statue
of Liberty is seen being helicoptered back over on Liberty Island.
There's all this -- plus the attraction's completely
overhauled queue area. Newly propped and freshly painted, the newsroom of the
Daily Bugle now features a photo opportunity. Where IOA visitors can quickly
sit down at one of the news desks and then have their picture taken. So that
they can then pretend to be just like Peter Parker and be a stressed &
oppressed employee of over-bearing newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson.
The end result (which officially opened to the public
earlier this month back on March 8th) has gotten rave reviews from the public.
Those who have never ridden "The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man"
are -- of course -- dazzled by this hybrid attraction's mix of simulator &
3D technology. While those who have ridden this IOA ride before now come away
"In a lot of ways, ' The Amazing Adventures of
Spider-Man ' is now a brand-new ride. Though -- to be truthful -- a lot of the
stuff that this ride does now is what we originally wanted to do back in
1999," Coup concluded. "We just had to wait for technology to catch
up with what we wanted Spider-Man to do."
I used to work at Disney, and did work for Universal on Islands of Adventure. So in one sense my views on rides can be called well-informed, in another sense, I may be prejudiced. But I think Spider-Man is the greatest theme park dark ride ever created. News of the changes whets my appetite to see it again.
Jim, love your stuff. Really do. But "i.e." means "in other words" or "that is;" you kinda use it A LOT - and unnecessarily. Go through and replace all of your "i.e." with "that is" and you'll see how awkward it suddenly looks. You use a metric but-tonne of parenthetical phrases anyway; no need to clutter 'em up with all the Latin acronyms.
This was already such a spectacular ride. I'm super impressed that they've completely refreshed it after only 14 years. Now if only Disney would follow that example....
Great post and check out my new site if you get a chance! disneycental.blogspot.com
I am very impressed with Universal. They really took great care to update what they could but keep the ride as it is loved. They really took the guest suggestions to heart and purposefully did not disappoint them. It's nice to see a company do something with the right people in mind. If only Disney would do that...
Check out site disneyavenue.blogspot.com hope its as good as Jim's one day!!!
Hey Jeep - chill! While you were busy editing her grammar, you must have skipped right over the byline and missed the fact that Jim didn't write this article! It's carried on his website, but clearly noted that the author of the article is Leslie Navarro. Next time you want to play grammar instructor, you should consider sending a private email, rather that posting in public.
BTW Leslie, thanks for a great article. I like your easy-to-read writing style!
Jeep, I understand your "ie:" , but if you read the byline this one wasn't written by Jim. :)
Come on Sue and Roman give Jeep a break. "Leslie Navarro" is obviously a pseudonym used by Mr. Hill. Go back and read some of Leslie's recent articles and see how many times phrases like "mind you" and "given that" along with the parenthetical "i.e."s are used. Then go read articles written by Jim and you will see the same patterns emerge. Coincidence? I think not. He even admitted to writing these articles in the comments of the Halloween in Vegas ad (I mean article) from Oct. 2011 in response to two readers whose posts have been removed. I would hope that they generate some income for him. He certainly does deserve it. And these types of articles also appeal to those who vacation somewhere other than a Disney park. Completely understandable on an entertainment website.
If I'm wrong, then Leslie must have studied at the Jim Hill Academy of Journalism.
Odd, but enjoyable writing style aside, his articles are wonderfully entertaining and I keep coming back year after year for more.
Back on topic, I agree with DocEagle that Spider-Man is the greatest dark ride ever. I always recommend it over anything else and can't wait to see the upgrades.