Welcome to Extinct Attractions. Today, we’ll be going on a trip to Universal’s past, with one of the earliest theme park motion simulators.
Last week, Universal Studios Orlando announced that they will be closed until at least April 19th due to concerns from COVID-19, though it seems likely at this point that it will stay closed longer than that. But rather than dwell on that sad news, let’s look back in time at The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera that was bound to make you smile and relive your childhood cartoon memories.
At the time, Hanna-Barbera was not having the best of times financially, so they recruited Don Bluth’s production company to do the animation for the attraction. Don Bluth’s crew was churning out hit after hit at the time, so they were a great choice to bring these 2D characters to life. Interestingly enough, they made the decision to combine 2D character animation with computer-generated backgrounds, with a few different companies combining to put together the backgrounds.
Via Talk Disney
The forces behind The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera worked hard to ensure that the attraction was ready for its opening along with Universal Studios Florida on June 7, 1990. As you might know, the first few months of the park were a mess with attractions like Kongfrontation and Jaws: The Ride experiencing major technical difficulties, sometimes working barely half of the time.
While not as technically advanced as those attractions because of the lack of animatronics, Funtastic World did utilize new simulator technology where close to 15 different vehicles watched the same screen. However, it was lucky enough to avoid nearly all of those technical difficulties, serving as one of the only continuously functioning attractions in the entire park for the first year or so.
Back in the early days of the park, Universal Studios Florida was competing with Disney-MGM Studios (as it was known then), with both of the parks really jumping into the idea of teaching guests how movies were made. You wouldn’t expect that theme to carry over to Funtastic World, but the preshow actually jumped into it, showing both hand-drawn animation and computer-generated animation.
In fact, the people telling you about the different types of animation were none other than Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera themselves. Barbera even sits down in the video and draws Elroy Jetson before introducing computer technology that Dick Dastardly uses to kidnap Elroy, leading to a wild chase through the computer-generated worlds of The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo and The Jetsons.
Via TV Tropes
I’ll be honest, I never really watched any Hanna-Barbera cartoons as a kid, so I didn’t really have a connection to the cartoons in the attraction, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. I thought they did a really nice job giving each of the worlds time to shine, while also moving the story along in a meaningful way. Also, the blending of CG and hand-drawn animation worked really well in my opinion, and the lack of 3D was very refreshing.
It just really lived up to its “funtastic” name. At its core, it was just a pleasure to ride that left guests smiling after having such a great time.
Eventually, it was time to move on, with Hanna-Barbera becoming more and more outdated and Nickelodeon becoming more and more popular. The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera closed October 20, 2002, with Jimmy Neutron Nicktoon Blast taking its place and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem sitting there today. Interestingly enough, they actually used the same ride technology for each of these attractions, so in a way it’s like Funtastic World still lives on.
But in a more real way, the attraction truly lived on in multiple theme parks for a few years after it left Universal, with places like Paramount Parks, Kentucky Kingdom and Dollywood all licensing out the attraction. There isn’t a ton of information out there regarding its time in these parks, but I’m willing to bet they eschewed the simulator technology and just showed it a film instead. I’m not sure if it is still showing in any of these parks today, but from my checking of their sites, I’m pretty sure that The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera is officially closed in every theme parks. Still, it was cool that it managed to survive past its initial run.
Well, that’s it for today, but here’s what’s coming next week.
- These attractions were both walkthroughs at a Universal park.
- One of these attractions was based on an AMC television show.
- The other attraction was based on a 2004 Hugh Jackman film.
Via Boys Life
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.