I must admit I don’t go much for Hollywood-manufactured movies nor mainstream cinema . So Universal Studios and Disneyland were way below my list of places to see when planning my trip to LA last month. “What?!!! You’re not going to Universal and Disney? ” exclaimed my friend, Ochie. Well, if even Lonely Planet puts in a good word for Universal and Disneyland, then it must be the place to be.
First stop was Universal with my college friend, Alex. The last time I was with the guy was his despedida almost 10 years ago. Same looks, albeit a little rounder, but more importantly, the same warmth, humour, and companionship. In other words, still the same old faggot that our group of friends have always loved and accepted so much. He was the perfect Universal companion, with an unlimited yearly pass, he knew the enormous park like it was his backyard. So with a day pass and an all-you-can-eat pass, I was ready to brave the crowd and more importantly, brave the rides!
Mummified at the Mummy Ride. The one and only roller-coaster ride I’ve been in was waaay back in college at the newly-opened Zyklon loop at Star City. It was a fast ride climaxing in a 360 degree loop. Back then, it was the thrill of all thrill rides. There wasn’t much to see as I kept my eyes shut for most of the ride and screaming my head off. I’ve always been afraid of rides. But lining-up for The Mummy Ride, I was bent on conquering my fear once and for all. I figured that if I go through the following stages: (1) get used to them; (2) learn to like them and then (3) eventually truly enjoy them and finally (4) derive happiness from them, I would learn to conquer my fear of air turbulence on plane rides. Rides and air turbulence generate the same “I’m gonna faint and my-heart-is-lurching” feeling. The only difference is I can scream all I want at rides. I wish I could do the same every time the plane lurches or shakes.
There were enough distractions to keep everyone entertained as the line was terribly long, being summer. Finally we were on the ride. Forward..twist…sudden stop… backwards… twist…stop. No need to keep my eyes shut on this ride as it was in total darkness. A few seconds into it, I was ready to declare “never again!”. I was gonna spend the rest of the day passing-out on my eat-all-you-can pass. But then again, never say never. Out of the Mummy Ride and I was lining-up for the rest of the thrills.
Wet. The Jurassic ride should have been named Wild Water Ride. Because I didn’t get to see any of the series, I couldn’t quite understand some of the scenes. At least I could identify some of the dinosaurs. This is one ride that consciosly wets you. If there wasn’t a dinosaur shooting water at you, you’re getting splashed with water somehow somewhere. The final splash is courtesy of an 84-foot almost vertical pludge down a stream. Next stop was Backdraft to dry ourselves.
My favorite part of the Universal Studio tour was passing through the 747 wreckage of “War of the Worlds”, the lake at “Jaws” , the Bates Motel with a Mr. Bates coming-up to the tram and the simulated earthquake at the subway. Too bad there was a shoot going on at “Desperate Housewives'” Wisteria Lane so we just passed by its corner.
The Simpson Ride was my favorite. It’s actually a simulator with a wide screen. It was awesome and I think I screamed more than the mummy ride. The line was awfully long but it was really worth it.
Mamma Mia was on a publicity blitz as it was opening in the theaters. By the end of the day, I already had the last song syndrome. The Universal Studios experience made me think of Hollywood in a different way. For all its commercial excesses and superficiality, it was and still is a movie-making industry. It couldn’t really help itself that it had to manufacture glamour and crass commercialism, it was a business after all. But seeing
how all those special effects were made at the Special Effects show, passing through the movie set of “War of the Worlds”, seeing a flash flood magically appearing on cue, and even posing for a pic at a Hollywood sign backdrop, it made me realize that it was actually good at what it was doing—-making movies to keep people entertained. That was made it magical.