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Stars walk the yellow carpet at the grand opening of USF's "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" attraction

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Stars walk the yellow carpet at the grand opening of USF's "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" attraction

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If you noticed some yellow & silver confetti drifting by yesterday ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... Well, there was a good reason for that. "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" had its grand opening at Universal Studios Florida yesterday morning.

Photo by Jim Hill

And the Universal Orlando Resort put on quite a show to celebrate the official debut of its newest 3-D ride. Sending scads of minions strolling down a bright yellow carpet ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... not to mention flying in some of the voice talent from the original "Despicable Me" film. To be specific, Elsie Fisher (who voiced Agnes in this 2010 Illumination Entertainment production) ...

Elsie Fisher with her very own "It's so fluffy" unicorn.
Photo by Jim Hill

... and Dana Gaier (who voiced Edit in this Universal Pictures release) . Ms. Gaier seemed particularly impressed with the opening ceremony which the Universal Orlando Resort ad put together. "I always thought that it would be something good. But I never thought that it would be this big, this crazy."

Dana Gaier, the voice of Edith in "Despicable Me."
Photo by Jim Hill

Dana & Elsie were joined at yesterday's grand opening by the actress who voiced their older sister Margo, "iCarly" star Miranda Cosgrove. Who knew -- right from the moment that she first read the "Despicable Me" script that ...

... this was a sweet, very cool idea for a movie. I mean, where you're alone in a booth, recording, you always hope that what you're working on turns out to be good. But to see the way that audiences have embraced Gru and the girls has really been very gratifying for me. I'm just so proud to part of this project. Which isn't just a movie anymore. It's a theme park ride and a sequel and toys ...

"iCarly" star Miranda Cosgrove works the yellow carpet at
yesterday's grand opening of Universal Studios Florida's
new "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" 3-D ride.
Photo by Jim Hill

Speaking of toys, when I asked Miranda if she owned any "Despicable Me" merchandise, Ms. Cosgrove said ...

I was just in the store and bought some of the cookies. I like the CocoNutties the best.

The Super Silly Shop in "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" post-show area
features all sorts of merchandise inspired by this animated feature.
Including full-sized versions of Agnes' "It's so fluffy!" unicorn.
Copyright NBC Universal. All rights reserved

Universal Orlando's PR team also brought out some behind-the-scenes folks associated with the "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" project for yesterday's press event. Among them was animation veteran Chris Bailey, who rode herd on the ride film for this new Universal Studios Florida attraction.

When I asked Bailey about what the toughest part was of working on this 3-D film, Chris said that ...

... what made this movie kind of difficult to work on is, when you get right down to it, it's basically one big long shot. So we had to find ways to break this 3-D ride film into manageable pieces that the animators could then work on without making the seams between the individual sequences all that obvious. But there are scenes where we've got  hundreds of minions running around. Which is why it really was a monster to produce.

Chris Bailey appeals to the members of the press. Photo by Jim Hill

But in the end, the biggest challenge was making sure that we always kept the audience's attention focused on this ride's story. Sure it's great when you can come up with a funny bit of business for one of the minions. Have him wiggling off in one of the corners. But if you're in the audience for "Minion Mayhem" and you're not actively keeping track of Agnes & her present for Gru, then -- as animators -- we've not done our jobs. The emotion of this ride film's storyline is just as important, maybe more so, than its action and its scope.

Copyright NBC Universal. All rights reserved

Mike West, the executive producer of Universal Creative Studio, echoed Chris Bailey's sentiments. Saying that ...

... my favorite part of standing in the "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" theater and watching the audiences experience this new Universal Studios Florida attraction is listening to all of the little girls as they say "Save the present!"

Mike West was far from a blue man at yesterday's grand opening for
USF's new "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" attraction.
Photo by Jim Hill

The other thing that West loved about working on the "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" project was that  ...

... I think that we really succeeded when it comes to translating the world that you saw in the "Despicable Me" movie into a three dimensional space. As you move through the queue and then get into the living room, you'll see stuff that's straight out of the movie. Gru's family tree ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... along with that drawing which Margo, Edith and Agnes drew in crayon of themselves on the wall directly below Gru's family tree.

Photo by Jim Hill

Everywhere you look, there are things which tell you that you are in Gru's world now. Like that picture of Gru as a little boy in his homemade spacesuit ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... But there are also signs that Gru's world has really changed since the girls came into his life. Like how he had to childproof his iron maiden.

Photo by Jim Hill

But overall you get the sense that Gru's life is so much better now that he's Margo, Edith and Agnes' Dad.

Photo by Jim Hill

Which is why it's so great that Guests get to be on hand for this very special day. The one year anniversary of the day that Gru officially adopted the girls.

Mike could have gone on & on about what has already made "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" a favorite with USF visitors. But the parade that kicked off the official opening ceremony for this new UOR attraction was about to get underway ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... and there were dance numbers to be performed ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... and photo ops to stage ...

Photo by Jim Hill

... before the Guests who'd actually made special trips to that theme park yesterday just to experience "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" on its official opening day could then see what this USF attraction was all about.

Copyright NBC Universal. All rights reserved

I'll let Mark Woodbury, the president of Universal Creative get the final word here:

So far, 2012 has been a really great year for us. Which is why we've been calling this "The Year to Be Here." We've had so many great things come online over the past six months. The new hi-def version of  "Spider-Man,"  the refresh of our Resort's long-running Blue Man Group show, our two new miniature golf courses plus the Superstar Parade and our nighttime Cinematic Spectacular. And now Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem.

Mark Woodbury, the president of Universal Creative, chats with the
press at yesterday's event. Photo by Jim Hill

When I asked Woodbury if all of these recent additions to the Universal Orlando Resort were deliberately intended to get visitors to Central Florida to extend the amount of time that they were spending at Universal CityWalk or the two theme parks, Mark admitted that ...

... a lot of what we've been doing lately has been strategic. But our ultimate goal here is build a fun family experience. And by adding new interactive attractions like "Despicable Me" to our already strong line-up ...

Don't miss out on "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" 's
dance party  finale. Copyright NBC Universal.
All rights reserved

... I think that we've been meeting that goal.

And judging by all of the work that's currently being done behind construction fences around USF, it looks like 2013 & 2014 might be "Years to Be Here" as well.

So how many of you JHM readers got to experience "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" during its soft opening phase? If you did, what did you think of this new USF attraction?

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  • So........... in the last picture, there's a construction worker dancing (alone, at that) and it could just be the picture, but he looks like he's riding a horse.  Very Village People like.

  • Jim, I enjoy the photographs as much as the commentary.  Good work.

  • Rode it during previews even before the general public got in on it. I knew USF had a hit on their hands, as I went back on it immediately after getting off!

  • Lets hope the DM sequel has as much creativity and quality associated with it as the original movie.

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