Over the weekend Universal Orlando unofficially unveiled its newest ride, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. Technically the attraction is still in “technical rehearsal” until its newly-announced opening date set for July 2. As such guests visiting the theme park already have a chance to catch a little boogie fever during this soft opening phase.
Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem is the latest in a series of motion simulator rides in this front-of-the-park location at Universal Studios Orlando. Before the new attraction there was Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast, which featured a variety of Nickelodeon animated shows including Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer. Before that was the park’s original motion simulator that included then-popular Hanna-Barbara characters from Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons, and The Flintstones, among others. But the cartoon montages have now been replaced with Minion Mayhem, focusing solely on characters from the hit film “Despicable Me.”
The ride’s soundstage has a new facade modeled after main character Gru’s house from the film and the queue has been re-themed to take guests through a few of his living areas leading up to being recruited, transformed, and trained as his Minions. But Gru isn’t a heartless super villain, enlisting the aid of his three adopted girls Margo, Agnes, and Edith as part of the adventure. Ultimately guests don 3D glasses and enter an upgraded motion simulator theater featuring a giant new high-definition projection system.
The video below wanders around and through the new queue, highlighting some of Gru’s many unique decorations, takes a peek at the ride’s comedy-filled pre-show videos, and winds up in the post-show disco-infused dance party. But a trip to Universal Studios Florida is required to experience the 3D ride itself, as no recording is allowed during its presentation.
Video - Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem at Universal Orlando
Update (6/28/12): With the grand opening of Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem just a few days away, Minions have already begun causing - wait for it - mayhem across Universal Orlando:
Update (7/2/12) - Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem is now officially open and Universal supplied us with a clip from the ride to better illustrate the experience:
From the moment guests approach Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, it’s clear this attraction has undergone a significant upgrade over the previous incarnations in this location. The facade of Gru’s house and propaganda-style posters adorning the attraction’s soundstage are detailed and clever.
Though guests technically step “inside” Gru’s house when entering the ride’s queue, the majority of the queue is actually outside, under cover. It’s a bit of a mixed message to see Gru’s house interior while still standing outside.
For those who haven’t actually seen “Despicable Me,” the story and all its characters are sufficiently introduced in overhead videos, combined with amusing Minion-themed trivia. Having not seen the film myself (yet), I was never confused as to who was who and what their purpose was in the attraction, granted I already knew quite a bit about it. Based on comments from guests around me laughing out loud at film clips on the overhead monitors and echoing lines (“IT’S SO FLUFFY!”), it’s clear the film is a memorable one and I do intend to watch it before this ride officially opens to see if I get an even greater appreciation for its material. (Yes, I visited the attraction without seeing the film first on purpose, specifically to see if I’d “get it” - and I did.)
Two indoor areas precede the main show itself, the first furthering the theme of Gru’s living areas and the second a grim holding area on the way into Gru’s lab. The former is decorated with Gru’s prized possessions and family artwork, all amusing to look at but precariously mounted extremely high above guests in the extraordinarily large room. A series of jokes about how to (and how not to) wear 3D “Minion goggles” offer quite a few laughs before the real pre-show video begins.
Inside the next room, future Minions are greeted by Gru and his family as they explain - from behind glass overhead - how everyone in the room will soon become short and yellow with an unknown number of eyes. It’s also pointed out here that it’s the one year anniversary since Gru adopted his kids, a point that plays into the attraction itself.
Once situated in rows of motion simulator benches, the 3D ride unfolds focusing on new Minion “training,” which basically equates to getting bounced around and abused in every way imaginable. There are virtual falls, punches, swats, and, like any good theme park 3D movie, squirts of water. But unlike the ride’s predecessors, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem is never jerky, rough, or uncomfortable. And the on-screen visuals are crisp and fluid, matching the bench movements perfectly. Programming and content are a noticeable improvement this time around. It’s an enjoyable experience, though nostalgia still leaves me longing for the days of Hanna-Barbara.
In the end, guests return to human form, much to Gru’s dismay and are sent on their way through a quick dance party of sorts, where Minions are high up on screen grooving to “Boogie Fever” with cameras also capturing guests as they leave the ride, allowing them to ham it up for everyone to see.
And naturally, there’s a gift shop with lots of “silly stuff.” Exclusives include action figures of the ride’s characters as well as build-your-own-Minions. And yes, there are plenty of SO FLUFFY plush unicorns.
With the official grand opening date a few weeks away, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem continues technical rehearsals, which means it may or may not be open daily, hourly, or even minutely. The ride temporarily shut down twice while I waited in the queue, normal for a soft opening as Universal tests and perfects it. But with billboards popping up around Orlando, TV ads airing, and Minions making promotional appearances around the country, the hype for Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem has already begun, searching for new Minions to help complete Gru’s dastardly deeds.
More photos from Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem: