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Meet-and-greet at Universal is a terrifying selfie with a raptor

People are lining up, and jumping with fright, as a realistic-looking velociraptor shows up for a picture and snaps at tourists.
Blue is one of the stars of Raptor Encounter, a new attraction at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventures.
Blue is one of the stars of Raptor Encounter, a new attraction at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventures. [ ROBERTO GONZALEZ | Universal Orlando Resorts ]
Published Jun. 11
Updated Jun. 16

Theme parks are big on meet-and-greet options, where you can snap a photo with Mickey Mouse or Spider-Man, but one at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure is terrifying, and people are still lining up.

Raptor Encounter has opened in the theme park’s Jurassic Park section. Guests can line up to find handlers dressed in the similar hat and dinosaur trainer costume that actor Chris Pratt wears in the Jurassic World movies. They will encounter a baby raptor resting on the arm of a handler that makes surprisingly loud cooing sounds.

The big attraction is a large window into what looks like a grassy paddock for the 12-foot-tall animatronic raptors that come when called by an actor who says they have been tamed, but not too well.

Related: We rode Universal's VelociCoaster, the first post-pandemic attraction

There’s a blue line on the ground that guests are told to stand on to keep away from snapping distance, while a giant snarling raptor stands behind them as a photographer takes a picture.

With their intimidating eye contact and ear-piercing screeches that reinforce predatory dominance, each raptor bares 56 razor-sharp, bone-crushing teeth and lunges forward with curved talons that extend up to 12 inches from their 18-inch-long feet. They stand at a towering 12 feet in height and are 15 feet long from tail to snout.

They may be animatronic, but they are intimidating.

At a media day preview, Tommy Wynne, left, and Sharon Wynne get a photo with Blue the animatronic velociraptor at Universal Orlando's Raptor Encounter attraction at the Islands of Adventure theme park.
At a media day preview, Tommy Wynne, left, and Sharon Wynne get a photo with Blue the animatronic velociraptor at Universal Orlando's Raptor Encounter attraction at the Islands of Adventure theme park. [ KEN KINZIE | UNIVERSAL ORLANDO ]

At a recent media preview, they walked us through the encounter and, even though I knew it was fake, I jumped a foot when it lunged forward and snapped its jaws just behind my head.

Guests have been able to meet a “live” raptor in the Jurassic Park section of the theme park since 2015. Then last year in 2020, a new permanent Jurassic World Raptor Encounter attraction opened not far from the new Jurassic World VelociCoaster, which opened on June 10.