“The intent of that room is it is a cavern of light,” said Mike Denninger, corporate senior director of rides and maintenance. “You think of rainbows and light and colors that come off light refracting through ice. That room is a creative interpretation of the natural world.”
Then Puck, now approaching young adulthood on video, jumps off an ice cliff into water, where he is chased by a leopard seal. We end up a little breathless ourselves, just watching the pursuit.
Finally we end up in a real penguin habitat. About 240 penguins — gentoo, rockhopper, Adelie, king — are six to eight feet away, eating, pooping, swimming and staring back at the entranced humans. It would be easy to watch them for hours — if only it were warmer. So we go down a level to where it’s not so cold and we can watch penguins swimming and diving in the aquarium at our eye level.
If you think that Universal’s Islands of Adventure is the more exciting of Universal’s two parks, what with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the updated Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and two heart-stopping roller coasters, then get ready for the comeback of Universal Studios.
The upgrade of the resort’s original park began last year with the opening of the Despicable Me ride and the addition of a daily parade and an evening light-and-water show. It continues this summer with the opening of the Transformers ride and the expansion of the Simpson Ride into a Springfield zone with a second ride. Then next year, Universal Studios gets its own Wizarding World.
• Transformers: The 3-D Transformers ride, already operating at Universal parks in Los Angeles and Singapore, officially opens at Universal Studios on June 20, although it has periodically been open to guests in the week or so for “rehearsals.” The exterior of NEST headquarters and the queue are different from the other parks, but the ride itself is the same.
The plot line: Visitors are recruited to help the Autobots (the good guys) protect the last remaining shard of AllSpark — the crucial source of life and energy for Transformers — from the Decepticons (the bad guys).
The characters and the set are direct from Transformers movies; the actors who voiced the movie characters voiced the same characters on the ride. In the queue, the video in which Gen. Morshower greets the new “recruits” was shot at the same time as one of the Transformers movies. The action plays on enormous screens so that some of the characters stand almost 40 feet high. Riders wear 3-D glasses to enhance the action, and when a giant missile seems to fly right at them, they’re likely to duck. The ride vehicle uses the technology of a flight simulator on a track.
“For the fans it’s great; they get to see every detail,” Thierry Coup, senior VP for Universal’s Creative Studio, said during a walk-through of the ride. “For the people who are not fans, we get to introduce them.” He pointed out a display case containing the AllSpark. Another case holds the tail of the Decepticon Scorponok, which was blown off in the first Transformers movie.
The queue is also where guests meet Evac, an Autobot character created in collaboration with Hasbro just for the ride who transforms into an evacuation vehicle.