Getting a heart-stopping fright does not have to be confined to Halloween or the post-holiday credit-card bill. Universal Studios Florida delivers the chills year-round with an attraction that incorporates Hollywood firepower, robotics and the very latest in roller-coaster technology.
Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride is based on the pair of witty blockbuster horror films from Stephen Sommers — “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” — starring Brendan Fraser and a regenerating corpse named Imhotep, brought to life by movie magic and actor Arnold Vosloo.
Taking the place of the theme park’s Kongfrontation attraction, a 16-year-old ride that gave guests an up-close-and-personal encounter with Fay Wray’s sweetheart, Revenge of the Mummy has been operating for a little more than a year, but it was in development for four times that long.
Veteran ride designer Scott Trowbridge, who brought the advanced 3-D attraction Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man to life for Universal’s Islands of Adventure, spearheaded the project with a team of 300 artists, designers, engineers and builders.
“We wanted to develop a dark ride experience where we are layering story, special effects and environment and mirroring into a visceral, kick-in-the-pants thrill ride,” says Mr. Trowbridge, who is vice president of design and creative development for Universal Parks and Resorts.
The adventure begins when visitors enter the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and learn that they actually are on a cursed movie set in the midst of filming a Mummy epic. The visitors are loaded into an archaeological mining cart, assisted by Imhotep’s minions and sent on a multimedia-filled journey combining darkness, flesh-eating scarabs, fire, free-falls and, of course, mummies as they are hurled through ancient Egyptian catacombs and netherworlds at speeds up to 45 mph.
To get the right dose of coaster control — or lack of control — Mr. Trowbridge tapped into the wonders of magnetic propulsion, meaning the whole vehicle is launched by a magnetic wave — a technology that in his words “moves stuff really fast.”
The technology allowed developers to liberally pack the vehicle with onboard audio systems, computers and 16 “victims” while shooting them up a steep incline, accelerating at 1.5 Gs, and around curved tracks while occasionally stopping on a dime or exploding into more doom.
The ride provides a new level of coaster action, a necessity considering that theme-park companies are facing tougher competition from outside sources every day.
“The entertainment mark gets higher and higher every year as the sophistication of at-home technology increases from video games to the Internet. It just raises our bar higher,” Mr. Trowbridge says.
With expectations high, designers made sure they grabbed the attention of all the theme park’s guests — especially fans of the movies and the source material. That meant incorporating the real star of the film, a nearly 7-foot-tall mummy, who pops out of a tomb and personally greets visitors at the start of the ride. The massive robot uses an advanced animatronic system to give his motions an incredible degree of fluidity and flexibility.
In fact, the system is so powerful that the robot could bench-press 10,000 pounds.
Mr. Trowbridge’s team also added authentic props to the festivities, including Imhotep’s golden chariot, which sits in the pre-show area, and took advantage of access to the film’s talent, including Mr. Sommers, production designer Allan Cameron, composer Alan Silvestri (who wrote the score for the ride) and Mr. Fraser, who greets guests via video after their harrowing return to reality.
Additionally, amateur Egyptologists will be pleased to know that all of the hieroglyphics used in the presentation are authentic and can be read — if one needs to curse himself.
Overall, Revenge of the Mummy succeeds in bringing four minutes of fright to a captive audience. It’s an achievement Mr. Trowbridge can authenticate on a daily basis just by standing at the ride’s exit.
“We judge success solely by a guest’s reaction,” he says. “I was pleased to discover it was a combination of screams and laughter, which is exactly what we would want from this type of attraction. More than that, it was people wanting to do it again and again.”
Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com)