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Spider-Man ride at Universal Studios has new tricks

The ride’s story line and mechanics are mostly the same, but details like clearer images, new glasses and easier-to-follow action make it feel new. 
The ride’s story line and mechanics are mostly the same, but details like clearer images, new glasses and easier-to-follow action make it feel new. 
Published Mar. 9, 2012

ORLANDO — When Universal Studios first debuted the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man in 1999, the ride's creators could only dream of making it better.

The technology just wasn't there.

Now, 13 years later, advances in science have spun their comic book fantasies into a reality.

Re-opened Thursday after a month-long hiatus, the upgraded ride, located in Universal's Islands of Adventure, combines the best of the old enhanced by the new.

Don't expect a totally new experience — the story line and mechanics are mostly the same. It's the details that make the ride feel like a new adventure.

From seeing the stitches in Spider-Man's suit to feeling like super villainess Scream is inches from your face, riders are introduced to a 3-D world where blurry, headache-inducing images are a thing of the past.

"In 1999, the graphics didn't allow us to take it to that level," said Thierry Coup, senior vice president for the creative studios at Universal.

Using the latest high-definition technology, creators worked for a year to reanimate the ride, said Coup, who is one of ride's original creators and helped develop the new one. Sets, lighting and characters were enhanced, Coup said, producing clearer images and easier to follow action.

The audio system also received a boost, and new "Spider-Vision" glasses with better technology (and a slightly more futuristic look) replace the flimsy ones used in the past.

Like before, the ride starts in line, winding through the newsroom of the Daily Bugle. Donning the new 3-D glasses, riders take a seat in a vehicle called the Scoop, to follow Spider-Man as he battles the Sinister Syndicate, a group of villains who have stolen the Statue of Liberty.

The parts that riders loved before are still there. Upon encountering Hydro-Man, water splashes down from his heaving fist. And when Hobgoblin throws a flaming jack-o'-lantern, pyrotechnic fire heats up the space.

But the ride feels more thrilling, thanks to an enhanced motion profile, which matches the action on the screen closer to the movements of the vehicle, Coup said.

"We were able to re-time the scoop vehicles," Coup said. "Things had been a little more rushed before, now you get a little more time so it feels like it's easier to follow, easier to watch."

The difference is most noticeable in a scene near the end of the ride when passengers appear to plummet from a tall New York City building only to be saved by Spider-Man's web.

While the upgrade is an improvement, it doesn't feel like an experience that would draw people to Orlando. But it's worth a wait in line if you're already at the park.

And if you pay close attention during the ride, you might- see Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, who now makes three cameos in the background.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2442.

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