Though Transformers: The Ride 3D has been roughly 4 years in the making, for fans of the decades-old franchise it has literally been a lifetime of waiting to have a chance to step into the world that pits Autobots against Decepticons. As of this Memorial Day Weekend, Universal Studios Hollywood has officially opened exactly such an attraction, a ride that not only excites longtime “Transformers” fans, but is accessible, enjoyable, and understandable by those new to the series.
Friday’s grand opening spectacle was appropriately big, rolling out vehicle and walking versions of famous robots-in-disguise Optimus Prime and Bumblebee to protect the All-Spark from the evil Megatron. The opening ceremony’s plot mirrored that of new ride itself, as Universal places guests into the N.E.S.T. (Networked Elements: Supporters and Transformers) facility, becoming recruits in aiding the Autobots in ensuring Earth’s safety.
While “Transformers” was a huge hit on TV in the ’80s, the new ride follows the look and feel of the more recent series of big-budget Hollywood movies directed by Michael Bay. But while those films have been largely panned by critics and Transformers fans alike, only the best elements of the popular property are used to create the unbelievably immersive attraction that is Tranformers: The Ride 3D.
For those wishing to remain relatively spoiler-free before experiencing the attraction in person, included below is a “highlights” video, summarizing the new attraction’s elaborate queue environments set inside the N.E.S.T. facility, followed by a few quick hits from the ride itself.
Video: Highlights of Transformers: The Ride 3D queue and ride at Universal Studios Hollywood
Now for those wishing to get a fuller sense of what the fun and informative pre-show videos are like in the queue and how the entire ride unfolds, the video below shows it all off in its entirety, mixing live on-ride video with high-res HD clips supplied by Universal Studios Hollywood.
The video below also features binaural audio, so it’s highly recommended to wear headphones while watching it, particularly during the ride portion, for the best experience.
With that said, since Transformers: The Ride 3D is indeed a ride based largely on 3D visuals, no video of the attraction can ever replace the sensation and excitement of seeing it in person. And the ride is impressive enough to warrant a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood just to see it.
Video: Full Transformers: The Ride 3D ride & queue experience at Universal Studios Hollywood
Transformers: The Ride 3D is located in the lower lot area of Universal Studios Hollywood, next to Revenge of the Mummy. It replaced the old Backdraft attraction, which few will surely miss. Though the exterior of the Transformers ride building looks more like a giant billboard for a Transformers film, the inside immediately transports guests away from the theme park and into the N.E.S.T. facility.
The story begins as General Morshower, Autobot Ratchet, and others inform guests what N.E.S.T. is and why they are being recruited. It’s the beginning of one of the best queue environments to be created in a theme park in quite a while, fully surrounding visitors with elements from the Transformers universe and never letting go of the notion that everything happening around them is real. Moreover, the pre-show videos are entertaining, perhaps even more so than Michael Bay’s films, treating each of the Transformers characters with respect, allowing them to have their moments in the spotlight talking directly to guests.
After summarizing the importance of the N.E.S.T. facility and the All-Spark, which is what gives life to the Transformers, the next queue room prominently features that very element on display. It’s an important moment as that prop plays a huge role in the attraction itself and guests’ attention are never strayed away from the artifact shown off behind glass in the middle of the circular room, with no videos or announcements present.
Recruitment continues in the next queue room where Ironhide introduces guests to many of the Transformers characters, particularly focusing on Decepticons and why they are individually dangerous. Though not all guests will pay attention, those who do will receive a greater understanding of the experience that’s to follow, as most of the characters mentioned here appear in the ride. Even visitors who have never seen a “Transformers” film will at least here get acquainted with the various characters and their abilities.
Tying in with the film series, on display in the queue is baddie Scorponok’s tail, severed during a battle. With so much of the Transformers universe existing only via computer graphics, it’s a nice touch for guests to be able to get up close with a physical prop hinting at the Decepticon dangers to come.
This room also features one of my personal favorite lines from the queue, when Ironhide rhetorically poses the question of how humans could possibly take on towering alien robots, answering by simply stating, “You do not - ever. You will fail.” It is truly up to the Autobots to keep Earth safe from Megatron and his gang of extraterrestrial terrorists. Humans are just along for the ride.
And with that, the very next queue room quickly changes the tone, with swirling red and blue lights illuminating the area as General Morshower barks orders to protect the All-Spark from an impending Decepticon attack. It is here that the new Autobot character Evac is introduced, a robot tasked with safely removing the All-Spark from the N.E.S.T. facility as a last resort.
Naturally, this is exactly what happens on the ride, with guests actually loading in to Evac as a ride vehicle, fulfilling every fan’s dream of actually riding in a Transformer.
N.E.S.T. soldiers in fatigues quickly order guests to grab pairs of 3D glasses and board the ride. It’s an ingenious way to encourage visitors to load onto the ride quickly and enables Universal Studios to literally yell at guests who aren’t moving fast enough, all in the name of remaining in character.
Once aboard the ride vehicle, comparisons are immediately made by anyone who has ever ridden the incredibly popular and groundbreaking The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida. Transformers: The Ride 3D is based on the same concept of a “flight simulator on a track” ride system that moves from giant projection screen to giant projection screen, immersing guests in large 3D-projected environments, with each screen seamlessly blended with real set pieces. But that’s where the comparisons end.
Where most of the action of the Spider-Man attraction takes place in front of guests, the giant wrap-around screens of Transformers: The Ride 3D truly draw guests into the on-screen action, with high-resolution 3D images completely taking over the field of vision. Anyone impressed by the Spider-Man ride will be utterly blown away by Transformers: The Ride 3D, as scene after scene of non-stop action places guests at the heels of 40-foot-tall Transfomers battling just feet away. The ride’s introduction of Optimus Prime as he rides toward guests as a truck, transforms, slides to a stop, and stands up into full head-to-toe view, requiring guests to literally tilt their heads way up to see his face is a truly iconic moment.
In addition to Optimus Prime, familiar characters featured throughout the ride include Megatron, Starscream, Ravage, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Devastator, and many more. And Evac acts as a narrator of sorts, not only escorting guests on the adventure to protect the All-Spark but also verbally identifying Transformers by name as they appear, helping everyone understand who the giant metal robots are and whose side they’re on.
Not only is the use of 3D impressive in its size and ability to draw guests “into” the screen, but select moments reach outward as well, with characters landing on Evac’s hood, reaching out toward guests’ faces, and even firing a warhead that results in a scream-inducing explosion producing real heat.
And Transformers: The Ride 3D is no short experience, continuously entertaining guests with action scenes for nearly five solid minutes. By the end, which features the attraction’s only “real” Transformer seen outside of the screen, guests feel like they’ve truly been through a battle like no other.
Naturally, when it’s all over, guests find their way immediately across from the ride’s exit in a gift shop. Since the original Transformers TV show was created as a way to sell toys, there’s no shortage of excellent merchandise for fans to pick up from the park, including several ride-exclusive T-shirts.
Transformers: The Ride 3D may at its simplest description be nothing more than a giant simulator attraction, but the on-screen 3D imagery is so incredibly crisp, clear, and realistic, not to mention enormous, that the ride’s relative lack of practical, physical props is not ever noticed while riding. Instead, Universal Studios Hollywood has opened a stellar attraction that now features the most impressive use of 3D in any theme park environment around, even topping the fan favorite Spider-Man ride that it draws its inspiration from.
Though watching the videos above are a good way to get a sense of what Transformers: The Ride 3D is like, I can’t recommend enough that Transformers fans or those who simply want to experience a jaw-droppingly immersive experience immediately roll out to Universal Studios Hollywood to see it in person.
Check back here soon for exclusive interviews with the ride’s voice actors and creators as we go behind-the-scenes, taking a look at what went into the creation of Transformers: The Ride 3D.
More photos from Transformers: The Ride 3D: