Specific Type: Steel, twister
They said that our roller coasters would be replaced. Back when Universal Studios unveiled its Orlando, Florida theme park in 1990, it set out to usher in an entirely new era of theme park entertainment that even Disney couldn’t compete with. Its 3-D attractions and sensory “4-D” experiences like Earthquake, King Kong and Back to the Future aimed to immerse guests in experiences so realistic they didn’t need any outdated roller coaster tracks to speed them towards euphoria. The experts said that Universal and other parks like it would be the death of the modern roller coaster. They went on hour-long shows telling about how theme parks would soon begin ripping their roller coasters down and installing buildings fitted with big screens and 3-D goggles.
They were wrong.
Throughout the nineties, Universal invested in one multi-million-dollar attraction after another, from Terminator 2: 3D in 1996 to Twister: Ride it Out in 1998. But something was missing, and the park knew it. Ever since the beginning, almost, the master engineers at Universal had been drawing up plans for an entirely new theme park equal to the size of Universal Studios Florida–– a new half to the complex that would become known as the Universal Orlando Resort. Islands of Adventure would take advantage of all the sensory technology Universal had on their hands, but it would combine that technology with bona-fide thrill-rides, from the 199-foot-tall freefall towers in the Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall set to the 3,700-foot long Incredible Hulk steel coaster.
At last, Universal had discovered the key to the ultimate theme park experience: some special effects with some traditional coaster thrills –– sometimes more effects than thrills, sometimes more thrills than effects.
1999, the year that Islands of Adventure opened, Universal began introducing the foreign roller-coaster concept into the original park. It was a baby step to say the least, at twenty-seven feet in height and a top speed of just over twenty miles an hour. But Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster was almost a bold step out of the Universal Studios box; the rectangular, white-colored building that had been cloned a dozen times to house almost every experience up until that point, save for Jaws. Woody was a more thrills, less effects type of themed coaster experience. Five years later, however, a more-effects-type coaster was on the way –– the next big step towards dominating the Olympics of the theme park world known as Orlando.
Hard-core Universal junkies may have been both heartbroken and depressed at the news that the park was going to gut its original King Kong building, but Universal had something much more appealing up its sleeves to the more demanding generation of thrill-seekers that had taken over since the days of A Day In The Park With Barney. The coaster track shipments showed up on the scene again and Revenge of the Mummy was installed within the confines of the rectangular building. The track was only 2,200 feet long and its height never even released due to its minisculity, but the experience was quickly lauded as a world favorite due to the millions of dollars pumped into perhaps the most heavily-themed ride experience of the new millennium.
Now, it was time for Universal’s Floridian paradise to take the next giant leap towards the stars. In the back rooms, creative designers were sketching and scribbling away, planning out “Project Rumble”: a coaster experience that would top all of its others in more ways than one. With the same budget of any 3-D experience limited to the four small walls of a studio building, the creative team thought outside the box –– way outside the box, in fact; so far outside the box that the relatively flat skyline would be forever transformed by a structure known as a “lift hill” in the world outside Universal Studios Florida that would not only rival, but destroy all others in the entire Orlando region. This 167-foot tall structure would raise the park’s bar in so many more ways than just one.
Universal contracted the trusted German engineers at Maurer Söhne known not only for their innovative coasters, but also bridges and towering buildings of all formations. They worked together on the layout for a coaster utilizing the company’s latest design: the “X-Car” coaster, with its simplistic two-car trains, unique hip restraints, and the ability to navigate tracks with vertical and horizontal extremities like never seen before. The challenge to fit a giant coaster layout into an already fully-developed property was nothing for a company known for their compact twisters and wild-mouse-style models for years. Designers weaved the track between the Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast and Sharp Aquos Theatre buildings, next to Universal’s sound stage area, and extended it as far out as the CityWalk midway that divides Universal Studios Florida from Islands of Adventure. The layout's inspiration, perhaps, could be attributed to Hollywood Dream: the Ride, a 144-foot-tall coaster that squeezed its way into a similar environment at Universal Studios Japan in 2007.
Finally, the ride was announced on March 19, 2008 as Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit, hyped up for its high-tech touches along with the ride itself. Aside from a vertical lift hill, 65-mile-per-hour speeds, and an array of banked curves and twists, Universal invested in touches as small as video screens surrounding the queue line to entertain a digital age of waiting riders, customized audio for each rider’s own unique experience, an onboard digital video system allowing riders to upload a record of their experience to the web, LED lighting for the structure with a wide array of color possibilities, and video effects taking place during the actual ride.
Once riders board the trains, the pick one of thirty songs from five different genres, including country, hip hop, and disco. Then it’s up the vertical lift, passing through five rings before cresting the lift. Next, the selected music starts up and the train speeds down the drop into the non-inverted loop, the first of its kind in the world. Then riders soar up into the first block section, which provide a quick breather from the amazing element the riders just experienced. Riders then drop, zoom through a wall, and spiral around into an overbanked turn. This leads into the next block zone, which is directly under the first one. Riders then drop and s-curve to the left of the non-inverted loop, over the bottom of the first drop, under the lift, and up into the third block zone. After dropping into a trench, the ride gives you even more s-curves and soars high in an inclined helix. This leads into the fourth and final block zone. After dropping into a small bunny hill, the ride flies upwards one last time into the final brake run.
In September 2010, the ride was shut down for a couple months when Maurer Sohne contacted Universal and asked them to fix a coupling bar that was not assembled correctly. The problem was resolved and Rockit reopened in late October of that year.
In just ten years since the first coaster tracks saw happily screaming riders traveling overhead at Universal Studios Florida, the park has discovered its own unique formula for cutting-edge ride experiences. Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit demonstrates that it isn’t just about the sensory effects or even the ride technology anymore. It’s the complete package of an impressive stand-alone ride with all the latest technology piled on top to deliver the type of experience that will keep vacationers and thrill-seekers coming back, year after year, for more.
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