Welcome to Extinct Attractions. My name is Cole Geryak, and today there is a 100% chance of a natural disaster.
Disaster movies have always held a fascination in the eyes of moviegoers because of their unique positioning as a film where the main antagonist is simply a force of nature, not something that can be controlled by anyone. One other interesting aspect of disaster films is that they never seem to do well critically, but always seem to rake in money.
Today’s featured disaster film is no exception, with Twister‘s Rotten Tomatoes score sitting at 57%, so not particularly anything special. However, the film did superbly at the box office, becoming the second highest-grossing film of the year, both domestically and worldwide. In fact, the film is still the fourth-highest grossing disaster film of all-time domestically, but the films ahead of it are Titanic, Independence Day and Gravity, none of which are true disaster films like Twister. So the argument could be made that Twister is the most successful disaster movie of all-time domestically.
Additionally, the film was also nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Sound and Best Visual Effects. While it won neither, it did show that the film was technically sound and had some support within the industry outside of just fans.
With Twister being so successful, it was only a matter of time before Universal created an attraction based on the film, with Universal Studios Florida being the lucky park. Twister … Ride It Out was scheduled to open in March of 1998, nearly two years after the film, but then things got too real as a series of actual tornadoes hit Central Florida, killing nearly 100 people. As a sign of respect to these individuals, Universal pushed back the opening of the attraction to May 4, 1998 (which means it would have celebrated its 21st anniversary this past weekend).
For the simplicity of the attraction, I think that the show designers did a really nice job with the queue because it featured a lot of references to the film that didn’t necessarily go over your head because if you simply knew what a tornado was, you would get a chuckle out of them.
Once you got in the building, you came across the first preshow where Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt talked about their experiences filming the movie. For the most part, the preshow is an extended clip show from Twister, with dramatic music playing in the background to help you feel the danger that is coming up. I will admit, I’ve never seen Twister nor had any real desire to watch it, but this preshow actually made me want to go out the film.
The one part of the preshow that was a little odd was Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt being on two different screens, but still interacting with each other. I understand that they probably had pretty busy schedules, but it still felt odd to have two separate screens showing the stars of the movie.
Once you finished the first preshow, it was time to move through the already wrecked area of Wakita, Oklahoma as you progressed to the next preshow area. As you can kind of see in the photos above, the theming of the queue from simply one preshow to the next was pretty elaborate. I would have loved to have had a chance to just walk around the area and take in every little detail that the show designers had thought to include.
After taking in these details, it was time for another preshow with Bill and Helen coming out again. The dramatic music came back with gusto, and the actors began discussing how intense the set was to be on. In fact, Helen Hunt made it seem like they were actually put into unsafe situations, (which I found just a little hard to believe that on this huge film project, they would put their star actors in any type of precarious situation).
With these preshows really putting you in the right mindset, you were completely scared entering the actual special effects attraction. The set for the attraction was really incredible because pretty much every single thing on it moved. Plus, there was fire, water and wind whipping everything around. The attraction itself only lasted about three minutes, but they were a pretty cool three minutes because you really felt like you had been thrown into the middle of a tornado. (At least, that’s the impression I got having never been on the attraction.)
What impressed me the most is actually setting the attraction back up each time. So many things had to be reset and put back together, that it’s pretty amazing the attraction managed to last for years without any truly major issues.
Eventually, Twister…Ride It Out simply couldn’t keep up with the changing world, and the attraction closed on November 2nd, 2015 to make way for Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, a much more fitting choice for the New York area of Universal Studios Florida. While it was sad to see Twister go, it did last 17 years in the park, which is a pretty good haul for a film that many people forget exists.
The last decade was a bad time for special effects walkthrough attractions, what with losing Backdraft in 2010, Twister in 2015 and Armageddon earlier this year. While all these attractions were great, it is not particularly surprising considering that theme park attractions are becoming more and more immersive today, and these simple attractions just cannot keep up.
So now let’s take a look at what’s coming next week.
- Both of these attractions appeared at a park based around movies.
- One of these attractions was based on a series of frightening children’s books.
- One of these attractions was based on a 1990s ABC TV series with non-human protagonists.
Thanks for reading and have a magical day!
Cole Geryak is a college Disney fan making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.