Like many of you, I was sceptical when news broke that Universal Studios Hollywood was re-theming one of its most iconic rides. Jurassic Park: The Ride, which opened in 1996, was becoming Jurassic World: The Ride. And, not being a particular fan of the new movies, this seemed like a bummer. However, I’m happy to report that the new ride is awesome and shines a light on what’s good about the newer films.
Universal invited Gizmodo to attend the free grand opening of Jurassic World: The Ride this week where stars like Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, along with Jurassic World and Jurassic World 3 director Colin Trevorrow, joined other executives and producers to officially open the ride to the world. (In reality, the ride has been open for a few weeks but, now it’s officially official.)
The highlight of the event, however, wasn’t the stars showing up and taking photos with all the large dino-puppets Universal trotted out for the occasion. No, it was speed walking to the line queue afterward to see if this ride update could hold a candle to the original.
Basically the entire ride, besides the boat track you go along, has been upgraded. Before, the whole thing looked like a ride that was awe-inspiring in the mid-‘90s -- lots of foliage, a few blinking lights, and some once-impressive, but now kind of cheesy animatronic, dinosaurs.
Now there are updated and larger animatronic dinosaurs, new sets, high definition digital screens, a new story and more. It feels like you are taking a tour of the “real” Jurassic World, starting with the underwater Mosasaurus, followed by the herbivores (like a baby Triceratops) and, eventually, the carnivores, such as the Velociraptors, Tyrannosaurus rex, and Indominus rex.
One thing the Jurassic World movies did right was to introduce interesting, dynamic new dinosaurs and the ride shows them in the best light possible. The Mosasaurus section of the ride is absolutely gorgeous with a few twists and turns that can be quite shocking. The integration of the Indominus rex into the experience gives the other dinosaurs a bit more purpose here too. The T. rex and raptors are now on your side instead of against you, and the common enemy gives the time spend riding a more heroic feeling as you narrowly escape certain death at the end and dive down the awesome drop.
Once it ended and I dried off (and trust us, there are more chances for you to get wet on this new iteration of the ride), I had almost had a new appreciation for the recent films. Like maybe they aren’t as mediocre as I remember them being. And frankly, that in itself is a total win for the ride. It cuts out much of the nonsense and just boils Jurassic World down to its bare bones.
The immersion also extends out of the water too. Pratt and Howard both filmed new content for video monitors as part of the ride story. Also, playing on screens above the queue, is an elaborate and long “Jurassic World Network” video that features all kinds of interviews with park employees and experts” like Pratt’s Owen Grady, Howard’s Claire Dearing as well as B.D. Wong’s Dr. Henry Wu, all of which was filmed and written specifically for the park. You could sit there and watch it for hours. And some will, as they wait to ride the ride.
Universal also added some new restaurants, stores, and dino-themed activities to the Jurassic section of the park, giving the area a more very modern, vibrant feeling. The main problem with Jurassic World: The Ride though is that it’s in Universal Studios Hollywood, a park which still has a ton of flaws. You still have to go down several huge escalators to get to it.
It’s at the far end of Universal Citywalk, which is a nightmare to traverse. There are barely enough rides in the park to fill an entire day. And, with this now being the newest ride in the park, it’s likely to be very popular and have some very long waits.
However this, on the back of the Harry Potter expansion, are positive steps forward for Universal. The ride is not unlike Jurassic World in the movie, in that way. It’s improving. And ultimately, that’s why Jurassic World: The Ride succeeds. It’s an upgrade to a classic we’re ok with.
Jurassic World: The Ride is now open at Universal Studios Hollywood. Tickets for the park range from around $140 - $400 based on residency, add-ons and more.