First up is Florida: I was lucky enough to have (quite by accident) planned my Florida vacation in such a way that I would be in Orlando on opening day for USF’s Mummy. Upon arriving the crowds seemed quite large. I feared the worst but then I noticed that strangely most of them seemed to be heading towards IOA and not to the studio park as I figured. Apparently there were some school groups that day and they all went to IOA. Whew! I arrived at the studio park and headed straight to Mummy. Outside the entrance was an employee announcing that you could not bring anything in and would have to use a locker. Even fanny packs are not allowed. At first this annoyed me as I put my glasses in my pack while riding and didn’t want to enter the building without them. But she told me that I would be fine wearing my glasses on the ride. So I stashed my pack and entered the line, which then split into three choices. The regular line, a line for the Universal version of Fast pass, and a single rider line. Nicely there were different wait times posted for each of the three choices. The wait time for the regular line was only 45 minutes. I was riding alone so I used the single rider line which was only 5 minutes.
The queue was very nicely done. Full of the flickering light effect of Disney’s Indy ride. In fact, a lot of the queue and station were very Indy like. The queue seemed fairly large, but since the lines are separate and I never waited in the regular line I don’t know exactly how large it is. I reached the top of the stairs, and true to the sign, only waited about 5 minutes. Maybe it’s the double load station, but for a new ride, the operation seemed very efficient and I didn’t spot any hold ups or problems at all.
I sat down and wondered if the person out front had misled me earlier, when the ride op checking the bars said to remove hats and glasses. But no one actually made anyone take off glasses and off we went. The ride slowly passed previous victims of the curse and went through several rooms that I thought were done quite well. There were warriors that popped up from the sides of the track with blinding speed. But the most impressive thing of the entire ride was when a robotic version of the mummy burst open a door, talked, and even moved a few steps towards the car. For a dead guy, he looked amazingly life like and is as good as anything Disney has ever done. He said some cheesy dialog and the doorway ahead of us began to close. But our coaster car ducked under the closing door just in time to escape that room.
Later would come a dead end into a bug room that would start the backwards portion, a fairly swift turntable to get us going forward again (I really loved the speed of the turntable) and a launch through the Mummy’s mouth and into the coaster section which was very much like Disney’s Rock-N-Roller coaster only without the inversions. This would lead into the fake “exit” station and ceiling fire effect and a plunge into “hell” full of red light and smoke. I guess it was supposed to be hell at least, since the Mummy screamed some more cheesy dialog (Death is only the beginning) here. After that was a very short section of coaster track and the return to the station where Brendan Fraser greeted each train on a big screen positioned between the split point for the two loading docks. This would have been a good product placement for a coffee sponsor since he was screaming for his coffee a lot. The ride exited into (what else) a gift shop. But I found most of the merchandise unappealing and didn’t get anything.
I came away with an odd feeling about the ride. I kind of wanted to ride it again, but really only to see the amazing robotic Mummy another time. The rest of the ride didn’t give me the “I have to ride again now” feeling that most new rides do. And the coaster part itself certainly was not what I expected for the size of the building it’s in. So mostly I came away disappointed in a way. I think the ride could have been an excellent slow dark ride or a really kick ass coaster, but trying to do both just seemed to leave both parts of the attraction lacking in some way to me. Time was short, so off to other things I went.
Fast forward a month later to….
…Universal Hollywood and their version:
After being disappointed in a lot of ways with the Florida version, I wasn’t expecting much out of the California one, considering the building is both smaller and shorter. And just like Florida, I would come away with a mixed bag experience.
I rode on the third and final “preview” day for season pass holders. I was hoping any operational problems that might crop up would be ironed out by then and the group of friends I was going with could only go that day anyway so it worked out. Or so I thought. For as it turned out, this third preview day would be filled with downtime. A LOT.
First, the ride was supposed to run from noon to 6pm. We arrived at the Mummy entrance just before noon to find a large line wrapped all the way to the Backdraft attraction and halfway back again towards Jurassic Park. The queue had not opened yet and workers were still welding railings together in it. I thought Tuesday would be less crowded but it looked like I was going to be wrong on that. Noon came and went and the line still did not open. Finally around 12:20 they started letting us in. Because they were working on the line, they directed the crowd to use what I think will be the “fast pass” type entrance. The old E.T. gift shop is now used for lockers, and just like Florida, you cannot bring even a fanny pack on. The lockers are free though. They give you a token. Why they just don’t use electronic lockers here (and Jurassic Park) is a mystery to me.
The first thing you notice about the outside of Mummy Hollywood, is that it’s not themed. At all. It still very much looks like the E.T. ride from the outside. After seeing Florida’s, this was rather disappointing. Like Florida, there are three separate lines and the only hint of theming on the outside is three archways around the 3 doorways leading into the building. Once inside, the theming is pretty good complete with the same flickering light effects from Florida. There is also a round video screen to watch that explains the storyline of the Hollywood version about how the Mummy will rule when the earth is plunged into darkness during an eclipse. It was at this point that the queue line was plunged into an eclipse of it’s own when the ride went down. The lights went out and the queue was put into near darkness. All the audio went down and the video screen went dark as well. I thought maybe some workman had cut a line or something as most of the queue had lost power, and I thought maybe I wouldn’t get a chance to ride after all. But after about 30 minutes power started coming back and 10 more minutes later the ride resumed operation. It was at this point that I learned that the indoor themed portion of the queue is SMALL. I guess it’s to be expected with the smaller building that E.T. was, but it would have been nice if they had spent the money and built a building around the outside portion of the queue and themed it too. 98% of the queue line for this attraction is outside and other then music, unthemed. And for a ride like this, that seems unacceptable. And as I discovered on my second go through, the line even goes farther then E.T. did back all the way around behind the building. It looks really ugly.
The ride itself is a lot different from the Florida counterpart. First, there is no dual loading in the station. I think that this probably does diminish capacity in some way, but at least they load two cars at a time and dispatch both. The first one keeps going while the second one waits a bit after the station before proceeding. Upon entering the dark ride portion the ride looks much the same. There are some differences, which make this portion inferior though. First, and most importantly, while it looks the same there is not a robotic figure in the first treasure room. There is no closing door to duck under. There are some hands coming out of the ceiling though. And there are some guards that burst down (instead of pop up like Florida). But without the impressive robotic figure, it just wasn’t the same. The next room did have a robotic Mummy standing up above the track looking down on you. But it wasn’t impressive at all. It’s at this point the launch kicks in and you are thrown into a similar Rock-N-Roller coaster type experience. Then you are faced with the similar dead end bug room, backwards launch that Florida has. Only this time you travel backwards much longer and through the Rock-N-Roller type section again. Then you end the ride on the turntable where a bunch of read lights and fog burst forth. This is supposed to be a faux fire effect, but it looked nothing like fire to me at all. I am hoping this improves. And I hope there is some sort of door put in place because you can see all this from the load station before you even get on the ride!
That’s it. No Brendan Fraser this time. Just a quick shuttle back to the load station. The exit up the stairs was perhaps the biggest disappointment of all though in the theming department. As soon as you get to the top, the stonework becomes a basic unthemed hallway. Well..it has brown paint. But that’s just sad. It’s like they ran out of money and just stopped theming the exit. Very bad show. Along those same lines, even in the station, there is another hallway (baby swap maybe?) that is unthemed and painted blue I think. Blue? Why?
My verdict…overall the Hollywood version is completely unimpressive. BUT, I did come away with the feeling that the coaster portion was much better. It had some interesting banks and air that I did not experience in Florida. So I like this layout better. But it was a shorter ride, with a short themed queue that is mostly outside and a horrible office building type exit hallway. Because of less space though, the ride does not exit into a gift shop, so that's a plus! :) I also didn't notice the amount of cheesy dialog that Florida had. But the audio on USH's version was hard to hear. Even the queue line sounded more like an echo chamber. So I may have just missed some cheesyness in there somewhere. Either way, I give points to USH's for less cheesy factor. :)
I did like the coaster section enough to want to ride it again though. In fact, unlike Florida, that is exactly what I wanted to do upon exiting the ride. Alas, it was not to be. After getting in line for another ride it went down again. This time the line had been shifted over to the regular side and I ended up way on the backside of the building when it went down. We stood in line quite awhile and finally we could feel the rumbles coming from the other side of the wall again. (Put your hand up to the wall in the back…you can feel the Mummy!). We worked our way to just inside the building and it went down yet again! This time was longer and most people sat on the ground. Finally they cleared the line and said that they would try to get it open again but were doubtful. This was at 4pm. We went and rode other things. (Jurassic Park rocked! It has all the effects working again.) But we gave up hope and headed back up the hill. As it turns out the ride did open again around 5 but they would not let us back down the hill at 5:45 to ride. So, that’s all we got…one ride. (sigh).
So my final verdict is that Florida makes a much better dark ride then coaster, while the opposite can be said about the California version. If it wasn’t for the better coaster section, I would totally hate the Hollywood ride. It could have been so much more. But so much of it was left unthemed or done in a less impressive way that it is very disappointing. But having said that, each car was full of clapping riders returning to the station, so perhaps people are easier pleased then I am. But I just expect more detail. If you are going to bother to theme a ride, then do it all the way. How much money does it even save, not theming an exit for example. Not much out of the total budget I venture. So then why do it that way? It makes no sense. I’m happy that USH finally has a coaster. I just wish they had put more into it. It could have been an excellent ride a la Indy. But as is unfortunately, it only gets a “just okay” out of me. *** Edited 6/26/2004 2:40:29 AM UTC by Coasterbuf***
Also RE: USH version: I just learned that there is in fact, a curtain that is supposed to close after the turntable section preventing view of the ending from the station. This would be an improvement, though I don't think a curtain would be enough to contain the loud sound of steam/fog that burst upon you in that section. It's really quite loud. I would have prefered something more solid here, like a door. Or even two doors. Hopefully I will have a chance to get back soon and see it. I'd really like to get some more rides in on it when it's running a bit more reliably.
Now though, I am more excited about the Cali version if it does indeed have a better coaster section. But in the end, without good theming I am sure I will come away thinking the same thing as you. Something about cheap theming just totally ruins a ride and makes me think about budgets, cost cutting and poor decision making rather than - the actual ride! And it sounds like USH took a lot of cheap turns which really sucks... I wonder why the difference in budget?
Or maybe the NBC thing had a bearing on it. Whatever the case, Hollywood definitely got the short end of the stick in the theming department.
I could accept the unthemed look if they had made the ride seem like a movie set like so many of their other attractions. But that isn't the storyline at all. Maybe that was the plan at the beginning and something got changed? The ending actually would make more sense on this version with someone yelling "CUT!! That's a wrap people" when the turntable stopped. :)
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