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Universal takes new 'Simpsons' ride for a spin

ORLANDO — The Back to the Future ride at Universal Orlando has morphed into irreverent and twisted Krustyland, as Florida's theme park capital for the first time tries self-parody on for size.

Universal Orlando poured more than $30-million into this eye-popping tribute to The Simpsons that lampoons anything-for-a-buck theme parks. The garishly painted ride opened Tuesday for fine-tuning before its grand opening May 15. The wait for the 2,000-person-an-hour ride quickly swelled to 55 minutes.

Thanks to a 30-minute Simpsons cartoon that explains Krustyland, the wait seems shorter. But before the start of the ride, Krusty taunts: "only a 45-minute wait from here."

The old Back to the Future ride is dispatched fast in typical Simpsons fashion. Doc Brown is killed in a freak accident while getting his mortgage for the place extended. So the bank sells the attraction to a waiting Krusty the Clown, a kids' TV show host fulfilling his "dream of making the big theme park bucks."

Krustyland was built from scratch, an example of how theme parks now refresh their offerings housed in huge sound stages as soon as they get stale. The old eight-passenger ride vehicles were rebuilt, but visitors would not recognize the rest. They walk in though the gaping mouth of a two-story, bug-eyed Krusty for a frantic 3-minute spin on Krusty's All-New, Thrilltacular Upsy-Downsey Spins-Aroundsy Teen-Operated Thrill Ride.

Early reviews are positive. "This is the best simulator ride I've done," said Corey Sweeney, a 37-year-old vacationer from Millsville, Pa.

"I prefer real coasters, but this is way better than the other simulator rides," said Mark McCann, 27, from Salt Lake City.

Parents unfamiliar with the 19-season Simpsons TV show on Fox might rate the ride a PG. No sex jokes or swearing. But there are belches, butt cheeks and kicks in the groin. Scratchy the Cat runs out of his skin after a child nails his tail to the floor.

The laughs come staccato from a cartoon video and visual jokes deployed in every direction.

Krustyland fare includes $1 fried sugar, a Tilt n' Spew ride and a midway game called "Hit It. Win a Smelly Prize."

"It's Simpsons overload," said Michael Lewellen, Universal spokesman.

The simulator part of the ride is an out-of-control spin on a rickety roller coaster. Send-ups include Shamu, jabs at Disney World with Capt. Dinosaur's Pirate Ripoff Ride ("so old it could be extinct") and the Wet and Smoky stunt show.

Like Back to the Future, the action is projected on a dome-shaped screen 80 feet tall. This time, however, the ride is smoother.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or
(727) 893-8252.

What happened to 'Back to the Future'?

Once rated the top thrill attraction in the nation, Back to the Future was closed and gutted about a year ago, declared obsolete at age 17.

"It's gone except for a mention in the preshow," said Mike West, executive producer of the new Simpsons ride.

Universal takes new 'Simpsons' ride for a spin 04/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 1, 2008 11:00am]
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