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"High in the Sky Seuss Trolley" begins previews at Islands of Adventure

"High in the Sky Seuss Trolley" begins previews at Islands of Adventure

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I'd hear rumors of the existence of "7 a.m." But I hadn't actually seen it myself in many years. I'm a guy who likes his sleep, and it takes an awful lot to get me to sacrifice it . But the opportunity to experience a theme park ride over seven years in the making was such an occasion. So shortly after dawn I headed out to Universal's Islands of Adventure for a preview of the new "High in the Sky Seuss Trolley" Train Ride.

Photo by Seth Kubersky

What kind of ride takes 7 years of engineering and testing to open? Not a cutting edge E-Ticket, but a modest yet endearing family ride. Since IOA opened in May of 1999, guests in Seuss Landing have seen the tracks snaking overhead, and the intermittent signs reading "Coming Soon." But aside from the occasional lone car rolling along, the tracks of the former "Sylvester McMonkey McBean's Very Unusual Driving Machines" have laid dormant since opening day. Rumors why ranged from problems with the contractors to difficulty with aerial evacuations. Now the originals I-beam style tracks have been retrofitted for a powered coaster, the show scenes have been renovated, and new narration tracks recorded. The result -- while perhaps not befitting a 7-year wait -- should please anyone with realistic expectations.

Photo by Seth Kubersky

You enter the Trolley Train Ride through the "Sneeches In" tunnel next to the Snookers & Snookers Sweet Candy Cookers shop. The first thing you'll notice is the brightly painted queue line, with storybook panels telling the Sneech story on the walls, and a ramp spiraling up around a multi-story Seussian contraption. The second thing you'll notice (if you're there on a rainy day like I was) is the sheets of water pouring into the queue. It seems the charming circus tent-like roofs over the queue have no gutters, and they funnel rainwater over guests, speakers, the d├ęcor, etc. I hope they can address this. If only so they don't have to constantly repaint and repair water damage.

Photo by Seth Kubersky

At the top of the ramp you'll be directed to either the purple or aqua train track. 20-passenger trains (5 cars, 2 rows per car, 2 seats per row) with individual lap bars take you above the island on a journey that lasts just under 3 minutes. The 2 different tracks are actually one; they cross at the end so if you get on the aqua side you disembark on the purple track. The 2 tracks take different paths around the island, and each side has 2 different narrations, so there is some built-in re-ride value. One track takes you through the interior of the Circus McGurkus restaurant ...

Photo by Seth Kubersky

... and a Sneech "Star On/Star Off" machine, while you listen to a girl narrate a tour of the island, or a play-along narration about different sounds. On the other side, you start with a brief train-wash, then tour the area accompanied by a recitation of the alphabet, or snippets of Seuss stories. Both tracks finale with exterior and interior show scenes featuring Mr. McBean and some weiner-roasting Sneeches.

The show scenes, which are very brief and simple, may disappoint some. They feature simple figure with very limited animation and no high-tech effects.

Photo by Seth Kubersky

The "Star On/Star Off Machine" is not the elaborate spectacle depicted in the "Sneetches" book, as one might hope. But the scenes are colorful and sculpted in a style keeping with the rest of the island. The final outdoor show scene, a miniature residential street with a humorous clothesline, is particularly well-detailed. The real attraction though is not the show scenes, but the views of the island and park. It's wonderful to get a different perspective on the themeing of Seuss Landing, many details of which could never be properly seen before now. You get fantastic views of the characters inside Circus McGurkus atop the Caro-seuss-el ...

Photo by Seth Kubersky

... and lying on Sneech Beech. Better yet, you can take a look across the lagoon and see the Hulk roaring through its loops.

Photo by Seth Kubersky

The "High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride" might be the Peoplemover/Tomorrowland Transit Authority of IOA. It's a pleasant if unambitious journey that gives you some time off your feet, a nice view of the park, and maybe a smile. I can see it having the re-ride and retro-nostalgia value to make it a cult hit. But if there's anything that will hold it back from reaching the classic status of the beloved TTA, it's capacity and duration. In short, it's too short.

I suspect the original plan may have been a single ride path, but in the current incarnation you only experience half the track each time you ride. Combine that with trains that, while they are by no means fast, do move along at brisk pace, and you have a ride that clocks in at just under 3 minutes. In previews, the small number of trains (4 total, one of which ran empty) and easily-distracted rookie staff made for some moderate wait times despite the miniscule crowd. If they could cut the speed of the trains, and put more trains on the track, they could increase capacity and give a better show. TTA's fans appreciate that it's a ride you can enjoy over and over with virtually no wait. But I predict "High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride" will have lines queued up all summer long.

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  • Sound like my daughter might like it. I need to go to IOA anyway, the coasters are a callin my name. Nice story and nice pictures too. Thanks.
  • More trains on the track don't necessary mean increased capacity. It has to go along with faster dispatches.
  • Capacity is KEY as the author notes...  people will say "CUTE!" if the wait is only a couple minutes... people will say "WHY?" if the wait is longer than 20.  Monsters Inc. at DCA produced the latter effect in my for the same reason.  The whole fun of C-Tickets is that they charm without the wait of an E-Ticket.  IOA can and should fix the capacity issue pronto...
  • PingBack from http://gutters.phatsitez.com/2006/06/19/high-in-the-sky-seuss-trolley-begins-previews-at-islands-of/
  • We, too, were wondering about that empty track that just seemed to go nowhere. We followed it trying to find the actual ride and heard from one of the employees that it was for a ride under construction. Looking forward to going back this year so that we can now ride it. Sounds like slowing it down would greatly help. Maybe in the next few months they'll get it all worked out.
  • I've always wondered if those tracks above Seuss Landing were actually intended to be a ride. Well, I'm a big fan of the TTA, so I'm looking forward to trying this out next month.
  • To elaborate on what AlexK said above, lengthening the track and adding more trains DOESN'T add capacity.  It extends the experience but doesn't improve throughput.

    Hourly Capacity = Passengers Per Train  X  Dispatches per Hour  X  Number of Tracks

    You can create a 20-mile track with a 2-hour ride time, but if you're still loading, for example, 20 people per train at 90-second intervals on two tracks, your capacity would remain 1,600.
  • For those who don't remember, SMcMcBVUDM was originally supposed to be a trip in "private" Seuss-car mobiles, on the overhead tracks, sort of Autopia meets Tomorrowland Transit Authority--
    And although you can see the safety concerns, and would've scared the heck out of an Astro Orbiter-phobe like me  :)  , have to admit, I'd always been a little curious...
    The Trolley idea is safer, but, well, just isn't the same, somehow.
    (And I still nominate SMcMMcB as the best Seuss character name in all of his books.)
  • I thought one of the biggest concerns was evacuting people, should the ride break down.

    From what it looks like, they would still need a cherry picker to get people out of there, should it break down.

    We went to IOA the year it opened. And there was a sign up from day 1 announcing the SMcMcBVUDM ride. And we waited. And waited.

    Just like the flying unicorn... i just dont think IOA execs are really thinking about the needs of this park. Im glad those barren tracks finally have something on them. Wheres the new coaster though?
  • Theres a new coaster going in ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE?
    Im always hungry for info on new rides and attractions.
    Disney, Universal... its all the same to me.
    Im there every year, and I love to see the new stuff
  • Just to clarify my comment on ride speed/capacity:

    As AlexK and doceagle said, you can't simply add trains to increase capacity, if your dispatches per hour are maxed out.  Let's say 90 seconds is how long it takes to load the guests and dispatch the train.  (Right now it's more like 2 minutes, but I'm sure will improve as the staff gets experienced).  At the current ride speed (about 3 minutes), one train is half-way along the track as the other train is departing.

    If you were to half the speed of the cars, while doubling the number of trains, you would double the length of the ride experience while keeping capacity the same.  (That assumes you have enough track to maintain minimum safe distance between cars.)  

    Of course, it would be silly for Universal to spend the money on more custom-made trains if it wouldn't increase capacity.  You can only increase capacity if you cut your dispatch time, and have enough trains to be able to continuously dispatch.  Currently, if they were to improve their dispatch time from 90 seconds (something I'm sure they'll be able to do with practice), it would actually not improve hourly capacity, because there would be no available train to take advantage of the increased capacity.  However, having a third train per track, combined with a slightly slower ride speed and modest dispatch time improvements, could boost capacity and give a better show at a fraction of the overall project cost.

    To be honest, the current capacity numbers, in theory, aren't bad at all.  1600 is a very respectable THRC for a C-Ticket.  I'm curious to see what the queue looks like once the team is up to speed.

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