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Universal often does well when it gleefully embraces its own cheesiness, never more so than here.
The "ride" part of this attraction is pretty much the same as the old "Earthquake" version - you board a subway car, get a pretty big jolt, then the set of the subway collapses in water, fire, electricity and falling scenery. All to the good, but like an actual soundstage, the action of this is toio slow in real life to seem real. When they tried to play this ride straight, that made it seem less believable.
Now they've rethemed the attaction to put it so you're at a B-movie studio as extras while they film the earthquake sequence (and you get to see how editing makes footage of this sequence looks more real on film) - clever. This is proceded by ~20 minutes of getting audience volunteers to film little clips that are also subjected to special effects.
And the cheese is in full effect. The live host chews the scenery with abandon, and interacts with a video of a crazy, Roger Corman-esque b-movie director. Who did they get to play this master auteur of the cheap? Just an Oscar winner who will enthusiastically do anything, no matter how stupid, for a laugh: Christopher Walken.
The end result, in the filming and the final cinema product, is frickin' hilarious. Combined with the decent fx of the earthquake ride, it makes this an underrated gem of USF.
The ride is not to be missed. The problem is that you will probably only ride it once because of the extensive pre-show. I rode this when it was earthquake and the pre-show for that was probably about the same length of time. The first part of the show they have now in my opinion is technologically much better with an actor on stage interacting with a virtual Christopher Walken which is a great effect in itself. Then in the next room they take volunteers from the audience and film different scenes to show later. Then the ride. The ride like I said before is not to be missed. It has great water and fire effects and things being demolished all around you. Then on the way back to the loading station they show a short movie with clips included of what they had filmed with the volunteers before. If only there was a way to skip the pre-show and just go on the ride my rating would be much higher. Overall rating 3.5
Disaster was well for the most part…a disaster. Before I start my review I will say this though, I unfortunately never got the chance to experience the original Earthquake attraction that this replaced. Nonetheless, I had heard that these two attractions were similar and after seeing much footage of the iconic, action-packed subway scene, I was eagerly anticipating this attraction. Boy was this a letdown.
First and foremost, Disaster was hyped up pretty well by the park, citing an entirely new experience from the original. Well apparently many believed Universal’s claims, as this had the longest wait of my visit- 30 minutes. I was absolutely shocked by how long the wait was, considering how much of a capacity machine I thought that this would be. Every 10-15 minutes or so a pretty significant amount of people would enter the attraction, but nonetheless the line moved very slowly.
Once entering the attraction, Disaster begins with a pre-show. But this isn’t any ordinary pre-show. No. It’s a 25 minute one! Yes you heard me, a 25 minute pre-show! I know that some enjoy the pre-show and the interactivity that it includes in the experience, but I for one just felt that it was drawn out far too long, and the filming of the scenes to be included in the film was unfortunately very boring to watch. Just as I thought the real attraction would begin, there was another room where yet another presentation would be located. Honestly, my enjoyment of Disaster would be so much higher if the entire pre-show were omitted entirely from the attraction.
Where the ride redeems itself is in the epic subway scene. Upon boarding the subway vehicle, the attraction begins a special effects bonanza complete with blazing fire, rushing torrents of water, and immense destruction to the entire subway. While the scene is incredibly action-packed and enjoyable, honestly I just felt that it ended too soon, especially considering the length of the pre-show. Last but not least, the montage of recorded clips are featured in a “mini-movie”. While the movie is incredibly funny at times thanks to the efforts (or lack there of) of various guests, it honestly wasn’t worth all of the time dedicated during the pre-show to film it.
Disaster is a pretty poor attraction overall in my opinion simply because of the overkill pre-show. Simply put, the thing is just too darn long for my liking. Honestly if that pre-show were omitted entirely or dramatically shorter I would definitely have given this attraction more than one ride since the breathtaking subway scene is very well executed, albeit short. However, I probably would skip this in future visits to Universal and opt to ride other attractions rather than spending all that time in that pre-show. For those who enjoyed Earthquake, definitely give Disaster a try, but for others, be prepared for a very long experience with little action.
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