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New hi-def graphics and 3D sound make IOA's Spider-Man ride even more amazing

New hi-def graphics and 3D sound make IOA's Spider-Man ride even more amazing

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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.

Copyright Universal Orlando. All rights reserved

"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 someday."

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 from Universal 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 like."

Copyright Universal Orlando. All rights reserved

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 feel."

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 scene.

Copyright Universal Orlando. All rights reserved

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' skin."

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.

Copyright Universal Orlando. All rights reserved

"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 storyline."

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 promotes.

"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 chuckled.

Copyright Universal Orlando. All rights reserved

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.

Copyright Universal Orlando. All rights reserved

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 dazzled.

"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."

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