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Behind the Ride: 4 Mind-Blowing Facts about The Simpsons Ride

The Experience: a trip through Springfield

The Trick: motion simulation and a loving recreation of the fictional town

Throughout the ride, Sideshow Bob is the danger. Apparently impervious to cartoon violence, the nefarious clown prince of Springfield chases you through all parts of town. The ride’s setting of a nuclear reactor quickly switches to the entirety of Krustyland. Sideshow Bob proudly boasts that, “There’s no place you’ll be safe from me.” And he’s not exaggerating.

The motion simulation begins on the tracks of a roller coaster, and it’s here that the money joke of The Simpsons Ride is announced.  To assuage Lisa’s fears, Homer counters, “Sweetie, they won’t kill you in an amusement park as long as you have a dime left in your pocket.” This statement is especially fitting for Universal Studios in the post-Potter era, and I say that as a grown man who just spent over $100 on “magic” wands during my last visit.

The glory of the ride structure is that it transports guests through several key areas during the five-minute attraction (not counting pre-show). As written by actual content providers from The Simpsons, the experience evolves into a glorious send-up of theme parks combined with the thrills usually associated with Universal attractions. At one point, guests find themselves flying through a kiddie ride, a Pirates of the Caribbean knockoff, and something akin to Shamu Stadium.

Throughout each new setting, Sideshow Bob finds new toys he can use to attack the riders, whose only crime is that the Simpsons chose them as ride partners. You wind up attacked by giant robotic pandas, chased by a stampeding ball, feeling flaming wreckage, plummeting off a watery cliff, and several similarly traumatic events. In every way, The Simpsons Ride is as imaginative as the average episode of The Simpsons.

The signature moment of the attraction occurs when the “roller coaster cart” flies untethered through the air, eventually enjoying a bird’s eye view of all of Springfield. At this point, several of your favorite characters appear such as Otto, Kang and Kodos, and Ralph Wiggum. The final part of the ride simulates an amusement park staple, the death drop. In this manner, The Simpsons Ride finishes a startling combination of multiple amusement rides in a short period. It’s the power of having an undefined user experience and a blank slate for the legendary writing team of The Simpsons.

The Experience: a video story told continuously

The Trick: a giant TV you’ll never see at Best Buy

The Simpsons Ride is less an attraction and more a new episode of The Simpsons available for consumption only at Universal’s Orlando and Hollywood theme parks. In order to bring Springfield to life or make any motion simulator work, the monitor in front of the ride cart must seem fully immersive. The audio cues also much match the onscreen action in a way that convinces the rider that they’re experiencing the activities in real-time. To achieve this with The Simpsons Ride, Universal purchased modified Imax Dome screens and Sony projectors to tell the story.

As is the case with many of the motion simulators at Universal, the action takes place in front of the ride cart. Four different projectors operate at once, and they’re high-end Sony 4K units. That means that even several years after its introduction, The Simpsons Ride offers equal or better graphics than the television in your home, and they do it on a screen that is 80 feet tall and 85 feet wide. The images flash at 60 frames per second, which is what you’d expect from a videogame. Putting it a different way, The Simpsons Ride plays at 60 frames per second while The Simpsons Movie only plays at 24 frames per second. Also, it’s something that’s only been seen once on the television show. The Simpsons Ride is in 3D, just like in Treehouse of Horror VI. “It's like something out of that twilighty show about that zone.”

As for the audio, it’s the best you’ll see at the park outside of Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. Every ride cart includes a dozen speakers broadcasting in Dolby 6.1 surround sound. The giant IMAX domes feature another 90 speakers. After you’ve enjoyed The Simpson Ride, you’ll never hear Homer shout, “D’oh!” as clearly again.

Finally, if The Simpsons Ride ride cart feels a bit familiar, it should. The attraction rests in the same place as the former Back to the Future ride. Rather than ignore its history, park planners celebrate it in a couple of ways. The ride carts include the same gull-wing doors, and Professor Frink has a story arc where he tries to go back in time to save Doc Brown. If you pay attention, you may even spot Doc Brown himself...

Simply stated, The Simpsons Ride offers the most fun of anything at Universal Studios Florida or Hollywood, and I say that as a Harry Potter fan. If you’ve never ridden it, watch this pre-ride video and this one of the attraction itself.

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There is 1 comment.

Favorite ride at Universal. And the ride story feels like a Simpsons episode. Great humor & amazing ride.

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