Legends reveal the beginnings of Universal’s Spider-Man Ride

November 17, 2021, 11:12 PM At the IAAPA Expo in Orlando on Wednesday afternoon, three theme park legends shared their stories of creating one of the industry’s most influential attractions.

Scott Trowbridge, Phil Hettema and Thierry Coup have all worked for Disney and Universal and other employers during their careers. “Just like Spider-Man,” joked host Bob Rogers. But it was during their time at Universal Creative that these three collaborated on the development of The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Universal Orlando’s award-winning game.

The ride we know today began as part of a DC Comics field at a planned Cartoon World theme park. But when Warner Bros. Withdrew, Universal rushed to find a replacement and ultimately struck a deal with Marvel, which was emerging from bankruptcy.

“I always say that some of these concepts, which are in a drawer somewhere at Universal, are some of the best work I’ve ever seen. But they will never see the light of day,” said Hettema, who was vice-president. Senior President of Attraction Development for Universal at the time.

Still, the move to Marvel allowed the Universal team to work with more sympathetic characters, the panel agreed.

“But there’s something different about the characters in Marvel, and there’s something particularly different about Spider-Man that I think works very well for us, is that he’s a kid, no. ? ” said Trowbridge, now director of the Star Wars portfolio of Walt Disney Imagineering, who was the head of the creative studio and producer of the Spider-Man show. “He was not born on Krypton. He is not the son of a billionaire. He is not imbued with these powers that come to him from a God above. He is a child who has had good luck or bad luck, depending on your perspective.

“He’s a kid who’s like us. Isn’t he? And so he gave us this kind of adorable character, that we can relate to, that could be us who I think really gave us the ‘opportunity to play with that. We might be in awe of the DC Comics characters, but I think with Spider-Man – that’s true for Marvel characters in general – he’s someone with who we can be friends with and who we can hang out with. I think that has helped us a lot. “

But before fans could do it, this $ 100 million attraction spent years developing, featuring a one-of-a-kind blend of a motion-based amusement ride system with 3D media projected on the back. and practical sets. As you would expect for such a unique attraction, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man faced a number of technical hurdles on its way to opening day.

Urged on by Rogers, Trowbridge told the story of an audio glitch that continued to silence the ride’s soundtrack in one place on the racetrack. The glitch frustrated the design team, who went through a process of elimination to try and find the culprit.

“Eventually we figured out that what was going on was in another part of the building, there is a scene where the character Doc Ock shoots the audience at the audience with a liquid nitrogen effect coming from a cone,” Trowbridge said. . “What we had help finding was that the liquid nitrogen was so cold as it passed through this metallic cone that it was removing the ions from the metal and projecting them like an ion beam onto the computer in the vehicle in a different scene.

“We could never have understood that,” he said to the laughter of the crowd. “It certainly wasn’t something like, ‘Let’s make sure we don’t build unintentional ion cannons.'”

Other technical challenges actually helped improve the design of the ride. Thierry Coup, senior vice president of creation at Universal, who was the attraction’s production designer at the time, spoke about a budget estimate for the construction of sets that led the team to choose instead. trompe-l’oeil-style printed backgrounds for certain scenes. This allowed the Spider-Man team to use the same digital textures on the backgrounds they used in filmed media, creating a better visual transition between screens and practical settings.

But it was the decision to switch from eight-person vehicles to the now familiar 12-person SCOOP that made the biggest positive difference. And not just for greater driving ability. The change forced the team to cut three scenes from the ride to make room for larger vehicles, which helped improve the pace throughout, Coup said.

“From the start, it was about telling stories. It was about rhythm. And that’s what makes Spider-Man one of the most successful rides to date. is perfect, ”Coup said.

“You get in the vehicle and I want to analyze it, but after the first scene I can’t think of anything but the story. The rhythm is really like a symphony. it is about using the rhythm as a philosophy to deliver emotion and history. “

“There is no formula” for pacing, Coup said. “It’s trial and error. It’s something you feel. It’s instinctive.”

On any project, a team needs a champion to move the project forward, Hettema said.

“Every audience comes to experience with some context. Whether it’s what they did that morning, or what they know about this IP, or what they think about it. They come with a set of expectations, ”Hettema said.

“On every project, my rule of thumb is that I have to meet those expectations – to tick the boxes. There are certain things that they expect from Spidey. And then after I meet those expectations, I have to surprise the audience. with something else he didn’t do don’t expect. If you can do it on every project then you are still moving forward. ”

For his last question, Rogers asked the panel what his biggest mistake was and how he got away with it. And that led to perhaps the craziest moment in all of IAAPA Legends panel history, when Coup responded.

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