Men in Black: Alien Attack

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Men in Black: Alien Attack
Mib logo.jpg
Universalmeninblack.jpg
Universal Studios Florida
Area World Expo
Coordinates 28°28′51″N 81°28′03″W / 28.480933°N 81.467492°W / 28.480933; -81.467492Coordinates: 28°28′51″N 81°28′03″W / 28.480933°N 81.467492°W / 28.480933; -81.467492
Status Operating
Cost US$70 million
Opening date April 14, 2000 (2000-04-14)[1]
Replaced The Swamp Thing Set (1990 - 1994);
Back to the Future Part III Locomotive Display (1994 - 1998)
Overview
Class Interactive
Provider Universal Creative
Theme Men in Black
Capacity 2200 riders per hour
Area 70,000 sq ft (6,500 m2)
Duration 4:20
Ride system
Type Track-based
Manufacturer MTS Systems Corporation
Length 1,090 ft (330 m)
Vehicles 44 vehicles. Riders are arranged 3 across in 2 rows for a total of 6 riders per vehicle.
Height restriction 42 in (107 cm)
Other statistics
Animatronics

127 animatronics by:

  • Advanced Animatronics
  • AVG
  • ASI
Targets 7 per animatronic (average)
Single rider line available

Men in Black: Alien Attack is an interactive dark ride located at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando, Florida. As the name suggests, the ride is themed to the 1997 film, Men in Black (MIB). The ride opened in 2000 after a three-year development process. The ride has generally been well received, winning an Outstanding Achievement award from the Themed Entertainment Association.

Riders enter a MIB training facility disguised as a pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair. After navigating through a themed queue and pre-show, riders board a spinning dark ride system. Once dispatched riders are tasked to kill aliens using the supplied laser guns, and subsequently accumulate points. At the time of its opening, the ride was the biggest dark ride ever built at a Universal park, spanning 70,000 square feet (6,500 m2) and featuring over 125 animatronic aliens.

History[edit]

After the release of the first Men in Black (MIB) film in 1997, Universal Creative, the research and development division of Universal Parks & Resorts, set about developing a MIB-themed shooting dark ride for Universal Studios Florida.[2] After the ride system was finalised in mid-1998, construction began on the ride's large show building.[3][4] By late 1998, sources speculated that a Men in Black-themed attraction would be built.[4] Planning documents filed with Orlando City Hall in March 1999, described an alien-themed laser tag ride, supporting previous rumors.[5] After an official announcement of the $70 million attraction in October 1999,[6][7] Men in Black: Alien Attack officially opened to the public on April 14, 2000.[1] The attraction opened in the World Expo area of the park,[8] replacing the Back to the Future Part III Locomotive Display which were relocated two years prior.[9] In 2001, Men in Black: Alien Attack was awarded a Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement by the Themed Entertainment Association.[10]

Experience[edit]

Entrance to Men in Black: Alien Attack at Universal Studios Florida features a general queue line, a Universal Express queue, and a single rider queue

Exterior queue[edit]

Guests approach the building under the guise of visiting an exhibit called The Universe & You - Are We Alone? which has been transplanted from the 1964 New York World Expo.[8] The exterior queue is flanked by posters advertising extraterrestrial activity and microphones giving "updates" on the fair.

Pre-show[edit]

Guests are then ushered into the building and into the retro-modern exhibit.[7] The 1960s narration, however, is cut short by a MIB agent terminating the false program and issuing the "recruits" into Men in Black Headquarters. One of the walls of the exhibit splits, opening up into an elevator, which travels deep into the Earth.[2] Guests who have an Express Pass and use it for this ride takes another entrance which, instead of riding the elevator, walk up a long hallway and meets the guests with no Express Passes after they have walked through the hallway. Single riders follow a third queue.

Interior queue[edit]

Upon exiting the elevator, guests enter a hallway within the secret MIB Headquarters. Traveling down the hall, they pass the film's famous "worm guys" on break, several interactive doors to various labs, and through the alien scanners. At the end of the hallway, guests overlook the immigration and controls room, with a large video screen broadcasting the training information and alien twins, Bob and Bhnxaxx operating controls.[2] They then move into the weapons room, and finally into the training facility, where a training vehicle awaits. Guests who use an Express Pass skip some rooms and meet the normal riders when they see the alien twins in the control rooms, then follow the normal riders but in a different path.

Ride[edit]

Pitted against another team of players (riding on a separate vehicle), the recruits board their training vehicles equipped with laser guns, called S4 Alienators ("Jumbo Judy") and proceed into the training room, blasting at cardboard cutouts and crudely drawn images of aliens amid flashing red lights. Soon, however, MIB Director Zed (played by Rip Torn) informs the trainees that an alien prison ship has crash landed in the middle of New York City. The guns are then "set to full power" as the trainees are instantly launched into the heart of New York, attempting to score as many points as they can by shooting the aliens in their vulnerable areas (the eyes and shoulders). Aliens vary from large, plain-in-sight creatures to small ones hiding in windows and bushes. Certain aliens will fire back causing the cart to spin out of control.[2]

Main sign at the front of the attraction

After a brief romp through the city, the two head-to-head vehicles face each other and pass on either side of a large green scanner. The scanner reveals that the opposing car is really full of aliens in disguise, thus prompting a shoot-out between the two paired vehicles. Both cars race to shoot the other's "fusion exhaust port," a glowing red light atop their vehicle. A hit causes the opposing vehicle to wildly spin out of control, offering more time to collect points while they spin.[11][12]

The battle between the cars comes to an end when Jay appears on a giant television screen in Times Square, alerting the riders to "get their game faces on" because a "really big bug" has been found. Turning the corner, riders come face-to-face with Edgar, a gigantic cockroach-like alien seen in the first film. The animatronic bug in the ride stands 30 feet (9.1 m) tall, measures 50 feet (15 m) wide, has 8-foot-long (2.4 m) teeth, and 20-foot-long (6.1 m) claws.[7] The bug is immune to the weak guns' laser fire, so Zed orders the riders to press the much-dreaded red button (which activates the Subatomic Thermonuclear Disruptor).[7] There is a small window of time when the button is effective, and every rider that presses the button during this window is granted a 100,000 point bonus (average first time riders will score about 40,000 to 60,000 points, without the bonus, while experienced riders with good aim will already be anywhere between 500,000 to 900,000 points). Both cars enter into the bugs mouth and spin out of control amid fog and strobe flashes.[7]

During the wind down, Agent J will comment on the scores, comparing the two vehicles' average (one commentary might read: "Y'all over here got a C, you passed. Y'all got an F, only cause I can't give you a G."). The two vehicles separate to view the final scene; if your cart achieves a low score, an alien "Coach" will appear, saying "Basically, you zigged when you shoulda zagged! You gotta learn when to run and gun and when to lock and load baby. Try again!" and Agent J saying "Better luck next time, slick!" or "Not bad, slick... but not good enough" before the riders are "neuralized." The vehicle with the best score pulls up to an alien "Tailor" finishing a black suit and telling the riders "your suit will be ready next Wednesday", however Agent J will say "That was pretty hot, wasn't it? Too bad you're not gonna remember any of it" and neuralizes the riders anyway.[13] These various combinations allow for 35 different endings.[7]

With the rider's memories "erased," the vehicles re-enter a retro-themed atrium with the "Universe & You" logo on the wall in front of them, and the big question answered: "Are We Alone? Of Course We Are!" Riders then exit into the Men In Black Gift Shop.

Production[edit]

Some of the ride's vehicles

The production of Men in Black: Alien Attack was completed by Universal Creative. Vice president of attraction development Philip Hettema headed up the project, with Dave Cobb as the creative director. Other Universal employees included Jimmy Pickering (production designer), Craig Hanna & John Murdy (show designers for story and concept), Desiree Soto (character art director), and Joel Kagan (ride management director).[7] Will Smith and Rip Torn reprised their roles as Agent J and Z, respectively.[1] Andy Garfield composed the music in the attraction Men in Black: Alien Attack. The lyrics for the song "The Universe and You" were written by the attraction's Creative Director David Cobb and the attraction's Document Control Coordinator Timothy Bernardi.

Ride system[edit]

At the time of Men in Black: Alien Attack's development, Universal Creative were installing two new dark ride systems at the neighbouring Islands of Adventure theme park. The first system was designed for The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and was manufactured by Oceaneering International.[14] It featured track-mounted motion bases with six degrees of freedom that were able to tour physical sets and allow riders to view 3D projections.[15] The second system was developed by MTS Systems Corporation for The Cat in the Hat. This system was simpler, offering track-mounted spinning platforms, with no additional degrees of freedom.[16] The MIB design team initially intended to utilise the Spider-Man ride system; however, when shooting tests were performed on the ride, the vast motion of the vehicles made it impossible for riders to achieve a reasonable score. As a result, The Cat in the Hat system was selected for the MIB attraction.[7][17]

The Men in Black: Alien Attack dark ride system was manufactured by MTS, with Rod Millen Special Vehicles theming the upper half of the ride vehicles.[7] The system consists of two tracks, allowing riders of two vehicles to be pitted against each other.[3] Each vehicle has two onboard computers which control the motion, lighting, audio and game play, with all vehicles communicating wirelessly to a central controller.[7] The vehicles each seat six riders in two rows of three.[3] The ride system consists of a total of 44 vehicles, allowing for 2,200 riders per hour.[7] Riders must be 42 inches (110 cm) or taller to ride.[8] The infrared guns mounted on the vehicles were developed by Universal in conjunction with toy and laser tag manufacturers.[18][19] A patent for the ride system was filed on July 8, 1998, and was granted on April 24, 2001. The patent credits Craig Hanna, Jennifer Sauer, and Philip Hettema as the inventors, with Universal Studios as the assignee.[3]

Theming design[edit]

Overlooking the immigration office in the queue

The initial storyline developed for the attraction would have saw riders enter a replica of the Orlando International Airport, before being ushered onto people movers taking them to the underground to the MIB training facility. However, executives were unsure of the concept and instead wanted at least one recognisable item from the 1997 film to be on the outside facade. Responding to the concern, designers chose the film's flying saucer-shaped towers, adding elements of a building from the 1964 World's Fair, Dodgers Stadium, and the St. Louis Arch to form the facade.[7][17] Other elements of the storyline also did not make the final cut. The immigration office from the film is featured in the attraction's queue; however, it was intended that it would feature numerous animatronics. However, due to the large animatronics budget for the ride itself, this idea was scrapped. In homage, ride employees for the first few months of the ride's operation would take their breaks in the room, to give the effect of a working office.[17]

At the time of the ride's opening, Universal officials described Men in Black: Alien Attack as both the biggest attraction at Universal Studios Florida, and as their most ambitious use of animatronics ever. The 70,000 square feet (6,500 m2) show building featured 127 animatronics as interactive targets. Eighty of the animatronics were designed in-house by Universal, with the remaining ones being adapted from the film. The animatronics were manufactured by Advanced Animatronics, AVG, and ASI. An average of seven sensors cover each animatronic. Other special effects inside the show building include lighting and 13 fog machines—the latter using 7,000 US gallons (26,000 L) of liquid nitrogen daily.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Men in Black return as a Universal Studios ride". Williamson Daily News. Associated Press. April 11, 2000. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Barker, Tim (June 26, 2000). "Alien Attraction: Men In Black Riders Armed, Dangerous". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d US patent 6220965, Hanna, Craig R.; Sauer, Jennifer K. & Hettema, Philip D., "Amusement system", issued April 24, 2001, assigned to Universal City Studios, Inc. 
  4. ^ a b Lancaster, Cory (October 24, 1998). "Shh . . . Those Men In Black May Be Back - At Universal". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  5. ^ Lancaster, Cory (March 15, 1999). "Building Plans Reveal Some Details Of Rumored Men In Black Attraction". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  6. ^ Fox, Jim (October 9, 1999). "Florida theme park expansion heats up". Toronto Star. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m O'Brien, Tim (March 6, 2000). "$70 Million Interactive Ride Set For Universal". Amusement Business 112 (10): 1, 18. 
  8. ^ a b c "Men in Black Alien Attack". Universal Studios Florida. Retrieved September 7, 2013. 
  9. ^ Bevil, Dewayne (August 22, 2013). "Universal Studios: Springfield, home of Simpsons, now officially open". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Thea Recipients". Themed Entertainment Association. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Universal Thrill Ride Takes Aim At Aliens". Orlando Sentinel. September 21, 2000. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Universal opens ride". Eugene Register-Guard. April 16, 2000. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Will Smith, Rip Torn And Universal Studios Florida Guests Protect Earth From Scum Of The Universe When Men In Black Alien Attack Ride Debuts April 2000" (Press release). PR Newswire. February 23, 2000. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Transformers The Ride". Park World Magazine. December 23, 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2013. 
  15. ^ "The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (Islands of Adventure)". Parkz. Retrieved September 7, 2013. 
  16. ^ "The Cat In The Hat (Islands of Adventure)". Parkz. Retrieved September 7, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c Hill, Jim (May 20, 2003). "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you ...". Jim Hill Media. Retrieved September 7, 2013. 
  18. ^ "New ride opens at Universal Studios". The Daily Courier. Associated Press. April 16, 2000. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Men In Black Ride Like Stepping Into Video Game". Orlando Sentinel. March 8, 2001. Retrieved September 8, 2013. 

External links[edit]