Archive | Attractions

In-depth photo tours, reviews and updates on Themed Attractions.

Starbot Cafe: Human Refueling Center

Starbot Cafe is the latest F&B outlet at Universal Studios Singapore. Located at the Sci-Fi City zone, the cafe sits in nicely in the middle of two major blockbuster attractions: Battlestar Galactica: Human vs Cylon and Transformers: The Ride. It does not appear to be solely themed to Transformers (although the crew here wear NEST uniforms), but instead designed to be part of this bustling futuristic zone. Which is why this place is also commonly referred as the Transformers Cafe!

Starbot Cafe - Overview

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Transformers: The Ride

UPDATE: Transformers: The Ride has officially opened!


Transformers: The Ride started its technical rehearsals today at Universal Studios Singapore. I am pleased to say that it is an amazing ride, and you can read all about it right here! Where else, huh? 🙂

This extended entry features a photo tour of the pre-show elements, a detailed description of the ride elements and some technical bits, followed by my review of the ride.

Update!
LATEST: Differences between Hollywood and Singapore versions (see below)
– Recent changes to the ride added (under Technical Info)
– Preshow videos added!
– New section on safety instructions
– More videos added
– New section on preshow
– More photos – panoramics added!
– Correction: Transformers character names fixed
– Ride Transcript and On-ride Audio Recording now available. Check below!

Differences between Hollywood and Singapore versions

This entry is written with information from the ride at Universal Studios Singapore. Here is a comparison with the ride at Universal Studios Hollywood.

– Entrance to ride building is completely different. Hollywood version has a giant billboard of Optimus and Megatron in an explosive duel, and guests enter the building from the front (or extra switchbacks from the side). In Singapore, the actual ride building is obscured and guests enter the queue via a gate at Sci-Fi City.

– Queue layout is entirely different but similar rooms exist. Such as the Allspark Containment Chamber (which is larger in Hollywood).

– Crew members are dressed as military personnel, with combat fatigues in Hollywood. In Singapore, they are dressed as NEST personnel, but appear more like support staff wearing office dress.

– Hollywood version uses the new Infitec 3D glasses (also used in the recently updated “The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man” at Universal’s Islands of Adventure). The Singapore version uses the – unfortunately older and cheaper – polarized 3D glasses.

– First scene in Hollywood has working bullet ricochet effect (the effect is out-of-sync and incomplete in Singapore).

– Finale scene in Hollywood has a burst of fog before the ride vehicle passes under Megatron.

– Unloading platform in Hollywood looks more “damaged”, with more areas, such as ceiling vents, being “ripped apart and destroyed” during the exciting parts of the ride.

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Halloween Horror Nights Singapore

From tonight, malevolent forces have taken over Universal Studios Singapore. The army of fear has bathed the park with terror and mayhem, transforming four iconic themed zones into immense domains of horror.

What a crazy night it has been. Here is my detailed review and trip report for the first Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Singapore.

NEW! Review and trip report on Halloween Horror Nights 2 (HHN2) 2012 now available!

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Maritime Experiential Museum & Aquarium

Museum Entrance

Addendum

March 2012: This Museum is no longer known as Maritime Experiential Museum and Aquarium (MEMA), and has been rebranded as The Maritime Experiential Museum. The Aquarium aspect of this attraction appears to be removed from all marketing materials, possibly to strengthen the adjacent Marine Life Park.


Set sail on a journey back in time and discover Asia’s maritime history at Resorts World Sentosa’s latest attraction – the Maritime Experiential Museum & Aquarium (MEMA).

The Museum is at the waterfront section of RWS. It is within a gigantic, inverted ship hull – which some of my friends commented that it looks like some worm (?). From afar it does not exactly look intriguing, but the Museum seems to have quite a bit of promise, especially when it was designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates (the best people in Museum design!) AND… the actual Jewel of Muscat from Oman is there!

Thanks to RWS – I attended a preview this morning, and what else can I do? Do a trip report and share lots of photos!

Embark on a maritime adventure, by clicking here!

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Overview: Halloween attractions in Singapore 2011

It is going to be an fright-filled October with three large-scale Halloween attractions in Singapore! Night Safari and Sentosa are back with their popular Halloween Horrors and Spooktacular events. Resorts World Sentosa has finally done their Universal Studios park justice by bringing the famous Halloween Horror Nights from the American Universal Studios theme parks!

So, do you have a strong heart? If you do not, it is time to gather all your brave friends and enjoy screaming together in this season of scares! I’ve compiled information about these three events and will keep this entry updated when I have new information.


UPDATE: 2012 Overview now available

This entry provides information for attractions and events in 2011. Check out the new guide for 2012 here!

NOTE: The information here is archived for reference only. Please do not use the dates, hours and prices here for 2012 events.

2011 Halloween attractions information - Click to expand

UPDATE: 22/10/2011

I’ve just returned from Universal Studios Singapore and my Halloween Horror Nights trip report + photos can be found here!

UPDATE: 19/10/2011

If you’ve been to Universal Studios Singapore (or not) and wonder how the park would look for Halloween, here’s my photo trip post covering the Halloween Horror Nights overlay.

UPDATE: 04/10/2011

Added information about:
– The Museum of Horrors II

UPDATE: 26/09/2011

Added information about:
– The 13 Cells – Journey of Vengeance
– FrightFest@Singapore Flyer

Prepare for your deepest fears this October! Read on!

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The Grand Opening of Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore - Grand Opening 2011 - Parade 17

28th May 2011 was not an ordinary day marking the start of the June school holidays in Singapore. It was the Grand Opening day of Universal Studios Singapore (USS), ending the Soft Opening phase for the park.

Being a pioneer Annual Passholder at USS, I am curious to know what is in store for the park’s future – especially when my Pass is near expiry now and essentially, I had a year’s access to a park that has been in “beta testing” for the longest time. You might recall a rather critical entry which I wrote on the park’s actual anniversary.


2014 Remaster – Happy USS 3rd Anniversary!


In Celebration of Universal Studios Singapore’s 3rd Anniversary, this entry has received the Remaster Enhancement treatment. I have revisited the digital negatives and re-processed the photographs taken back in 2011. Apart from improved colour, clarity and consistency with my current visual aesthetic, there are also some photos that are published for the very first time. This is an opportunity to relive the magic of the Grand Opening Celebration. Enjoy!


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Madagascar: A Crate Adventure

Madagascar: A Crate Adventure

Madagascar: A Crate Adventure (MCA) is an attraction based on the successful Madagascar film franchise. It is a gentle river boat ride designed for children. The official ride description explains: Join our four heroes – Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria – on a river boat adventure as you arrive at the shores of Madagascar. Defeat the foosas at the rim of the bubbly volcano cauldron with the aid of the technically-savvy but psychotic penguins.

While this ride is supposed to be one of the park’s “E-ticket”* attraction, this attraction can be best described as a C or D-ticket ride when compared to other attractions at an international level.

*Informal designation for a theme park’s potentially popular or “Grade-A” attraction.

The attraction was supposed to be operating a year ago but was met with unfortunate delays – rumoured to be caused by some accidents and design issues with certain technical aspects of the attraction. The attraction went through a major overhaul and some elements, such as a second level and a drop at the finale, were scrapped in the final version of the attraction.

A year later, The Crate Adventure is finally ready to be open.

Ride Testing

As an Annual Passholder, I was invited to the Passholders’ Preview event on 13th May 2011. The turn out for this event was tremendous – easily a few thousand passholders attended the event, spawning a need for a long line of excited guests queuing to enter the Madagascar zone, which will only be open from 8pm that night, in order to enter the MCA ride queue.

Queue zones at Night!

Crates!

The queue area of MCA has a large capacity: The stand-by line is a series of 5 zigzag, switch-back queue zones. Universal Express line is truly express (as compared to other ride queues in the park which follows most part of the normal queue but with many shortcuts), leading directly to the loading platform in seconds. There are no interactive or narrative elements in the queue, apart from some video screens giving some back story about the attraction. The queue however, is very lushly decorated with flora and fauna, draped with colourful flower lamps and crates scattered all over.

Loading queue zone

Fortunately, the ride has a very decent capacity**, so the queue moves briskly. The loading platform also has an efficient and clear system to direct guests to the boats clearly and with ease – only possible with the courteous and energetic MCA crew!

**Maximum of 20 guests per boat, each ride takes about 10 minutes with load/unload which means each boat can serve 120 guests, in ideal conditions. Now we need to figure out what’s the maximum number of boats the ride could use at any time, but I’ve seen at least 5 pairs of boats running (10 boats, so 1200 guests per hour in a best case scenario?)

Loading Gates

Adorable crate-like boats are used in this attraction. Each boat has 5 rows of seats, with a maximum capacity of four adults per row, with soft bamboo-shaped lap bars for each row. Unlike usual gentle river rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World, MCA does not use any track or guide rail system, there is nothing in the water – giving the ride a slightly different “afloat in the water” feel. The boat is moved entirely by the currents, with hidden wheel bumpers beneath each boat to allow itself to maneuver along the ride’s water channel.

The Ride
While I do not wish to spoil the ride for readers, the story of MCA is heavily adapted from the first Madagascar film. The ride starts from the scene where the Madagascar animals wake up to find themselves trapped in crates on a ship. Almost immediately, the penguins take over the ship and after a brief chaotic scene with crates falling overboard, the animals find themselves stranded on an island, settling down comfortably soon after. Or not it wasn’t so comfortable, once they discover the natives!


Inside the Ride

Inside the Ride

Inside the Ride

Inside the Ride

Inside the Ride

My thoughts on the ride
Visually, the attraction looks impressive and I can see that there is certainly a great deal of hard work and effort behind it. The ride is very well decorated with a wealth of detailed props and thematic lighting.

In terms of music, the main themes and yes, the famous “I Like to Move It” song are used throughout the ride. It is all very fitting to the ride scenes, although the sync between scenes could be better – the music does not loop or flow smoothly at some scenes. Also lacking is new arrangement of music in the queue area – it gets tiring hearing the “Whacked Out Conspiracy” theme over and over! (Actually this is a problem with the park in general, there is barely any original music in the park, but recycled tunes from the films.)

Now, onto the animatronics: There is a lack of consistency among the animated robotic characters/props. There are some figures with a great degree of movement and some that really just “moves up and down”. As they are all placed in the same scene and at the same distance from guests, it does feel like they were actually supposed to animated and was probably not working properly. Possibly to mask the lack of (or limitations) of the animatronics’ animation, spotlights are turned on only when the characters are about to move/speak and then switched off when they are done. This may cause some parts of the scenes to be missed entirely. It also gave me the impression that the park made a lot of compromises due to budget constraints, as they had to rebuild many segments of the ride.

The MCA storyline is chopped into bite-sized pieces and simplified, which I feel was to better suit the main target audience of the attraction, children. To keep the ride family friendly, there aren’t any exciting ride elements, such as dramatic directional change, lifts and drops. The boat just gentle floats along the river for 7.5 minutes. Therefore it is very common to see bored adults streaming out from the ride’s finale. There isn’t exactly an energetic “YAY!” moment at the unloading platform when the crew member tried to stir up a round of applause (a common practice performed at all rides in the park)

The theme park-techy aspect here: I am a little concerned about the loading/unloading platform. There is only one of such platforms and if something is were to happen there, it would disrupt the flow of the entire ride and choke up the loading/unloading process, causing guests to be stuck. Given how there is no track or any sort of barrier gate system in the river, there is no way to stop the ride other than stopping the water current. I saw a situation where the conveyor belt used to hold (and release) the boats safely at the platform has malfunctioned and caused all the boats behind to stall. Since there’s no way to stop the river from flowing (quickly enough) the boats would just pile up together, as seen below – unfortunately just when the crew members were adding extra boats to cope with the long lines. Hopefully the ride engineers can resolve this issue in time for the ride’s grand opening on the 16th.

Madagascar Bumper Boats

So in general, how good is this ride? What can it be compared against? Putting things into perspective (children’s ride, family orientated attraction) and that I have downplayed my expectations when it comes to what the park offers… I would say that MCA is better than the Winnie the Pooh and It’s a Small World attractions in Hong Kong Disneyland. Some have said to me that overall, MCA can be compared to the Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! at Disney California Adventure. The mentioned rides opened many years ago, however. This is 2011. I would expect something similar, or better than Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage from Tokyo DisneySea (which was opened in 2001 and had a narrative revamp in 2006).

The debate is moot however, when I heard and saw families laughing throughout the ride and thoroughly enjoying themselves. They hurriedly got off at unload and queued for the ride again. The ride has found success with its actual target audience. And also importantly, this is something that grandparents and their grandchildren can finally enjoy in the park together. So as long as it can amuse and entertain the right target audiences, Madagascar: A Crate Adventure, can still be a star attraction in Universal Studios Singapore.

My thoughts on the event
Compared to the Annual Passholders’ event for Battlestar Galactica, the MCA event was a lot better. Ticketing booths were used as opposed to makeshift tables. The Madagascar area was thoroughly cleared and remained exclusive for Annual Passholders for the night.

There was also a little fanfare when the ride opened – drinks were served to all guests (not just Superstar Annual Passholders!) and the staff handed out colourful plastic garlands as they welcomed guests into the attraction queue. I believe there was also a Meet-and-Greet with Madagascar characters. Everyone went home with a little gift bag: a Lanyard card and a memo pad. It’s a nice gesture. In contrast, the Battlestar Galactica event was what theme park enthusiasts call “ERT”. Exclusive Ride Time. It was really bare-bones and there was nothing special going on except the roller-coasters operating at night. They have really turned around this time and got a lot more staff to help out with the event, be it interacting with guests or other small but important duties.

The Globe

It seems like a good sign that RWS has heard, or is starting hear what their guests have to say. The park appears to have rebounded from the “soft opening slump” and is finally looking more refined. The globe has been repaired and there are a lot of minor improvements everywhere. Plus, the park is finally going to celebrate its grand opening on 28th May 2011. Keep up the good work!

Bonus Section
Here you will find links to various media related to MCA:

– Flickr Photo album, with full collection of photos:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nikolux/sets/72157626587155531/

– Full ride-through video (Spoiler Warning!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRpAdZa15fo

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