Jenni Doggett puts the pedal to the metal for the opening of Fast & Furious at Universal Studios Hollywood and looks at other launches
You don’t have to be a petrolhead to get excited about the new Fast & Furious ride at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Featuring the world’s longest 360-degree screen – 122 metres in length – even the most pedestrian pedestrian can experience full-throttle LA car chases without so much as a provisional licence. There are no age restrictions and so the ride is suitable for the whole family.
Universal Studios filmed thrilling original content featuring the likes of Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez to project in HD/3D on to the screens accompanied by state-of-the-art 3D audio.
The special effects creatives at Universal have combined hydraulic motion with pioneering immersive-capture techniques to transport visitors into a hyper-real world of high-speed action.
And clients can keep up to speed for the rest of their visit to the park with a VIP Experience that also offers unlimited Front of Line access, from $329 per person.
An expert guide leads a behind-the-scenes tour covering the world’s largest prop warehouse, Alfred Hitchcock’s bungalow and photo opportunities on the original sets for Psycho, Back to the Future and Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane, among others. The superstar treatment extends to a gourmet lunch cooked by the same chef who caters for celebrities on set.
Without wasting time in lines there is plenty more that can be packed into the day. VIP guests are invited to disembark the tour trolley and walk through several television sets being used for shows such as Parenthood, The Mindy Project and Chelsea Lately.
The Revenge of the Mummy indoor rollercoaster accelerates dramatically into pitch darkness and conjures creepy-crawlies with cleverly placed jets of air. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and the award-winning Simpsons experiences are breathtakingly creative and witty.
And from next spring, muggles will be able to feel the magic as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens at the Hollywood park. Like its counterpart in Orlando, Hogwarts Castle will be at the heart of the experience, along with its signature ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
More than five years in the making, it fuses groundbreaking robotics and elaborate filmed action sequences to take guests on a spiralling adventure through Quidditch, dragons and the Whomping Willow.
Also within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is enchanting family ride Flight of the Hippogriff, which will be Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor coaster.
California generally attracts couples and families with older children who want to explore the diversity of the state, and Universal Studios Hollywood really suits this more adult demographic.
Universal isn’t the only park operator with movie-related launches this year. Disney is bringing chills and thrills to its visitors via smash-hit Frozen.
In Florida, a new Frozen attraction, Frozen Ever After, will come to Epcot’s Norway pavilion next year, combining hit songs and characters from the film with new technology to take guests to visit Arendelle for a Winter in Summer celebration. Guests will also be able to visit Elsa’s Ice Palace and North Mountain.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a new Frozen-themed salon provides Anna and Elsa-inspired makeovers for three to 12-year-olds, and performances at a Frozen Sing-Along Celebration at the Hyperion Theater.
Disneyland Paris’s Frozen Sing-along summer events continue until September 13, while guests aged seven to 12 who prefer sci-fi can sign up for a Jedi Training Academy to learn how to use the force.
The new Fast & Furious ride gives the illusion of speed, but for guests who want their velocity to be more than virtual, next summer will see the opening of Mako at SeaWorld in Orlando.
This 61-metre-high hypercoaster will reach speeds of up to 73mph along almost one mile of track, making it Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest rollercoaster.
Its tight turns and speed are inspired by Mako sharks, which are among the fastest in the ocean, known for their ability to make extreme jumps and change course quickly while pursuing their prey.
A new, shark-themed area will surround the ride, created to make guests feel like they’re underwater, and will include shark encounters and educational experiences.
Another speedy launch comes to Busch Gardens Tampa next summer too, in the form of Cobra’s Curse, a spin coaster featuring a vertical lift that brings riders face to face with an 80-foot snake icon.
And for those who don’t want to jet off to the States, Efteling, in Holland, opened a goldmine-themed dive coaster this summer. Baron 1898 plunges riders through a 37-metre freefall into a mineshaft to search for gold, reaching speeds of 56mph.
Virgin Holidays offers four nights’ room-only at The Grafton in Los Angeles, plus flights from Heathrow, departing September 3, from £915 (£439 for a child). Universal Studios Hollywood ticket prices start from £57 (£52 for under-10s). vhols4agents.co.uk
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