Twister: Ride It Out is a simulation attraction at Universal Studios Florida and has been a part of our lives since May 4, 1998. Soon, the F5 tornado will be riding out of our lives. The Universal Orlando Resort is through foolin’ around and literally around every corner, change is taking place. Some of this remarkable change has come in the form of new attractions and amenities that have been (or will be) built from the ground up in never before used locations (Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Volcano Bay) and others have arrived at the expense of dearly beloved rides (Jaws was swallowed up by Diagon Alley).
Twister is the next to go, and although there are rumors about a Tonight Show attraction taking its place, RATB is not really in the rumor business. Instead, let me offer a few thoughts about the departure of this simulator.
Its Got That Feel
One of the aspects of Twister that I will miss the most is the “feel” of the attraction. For me, the feel – that intangible something that makes an attraction really special – is every bit as important as the EV (Exhilaration Value). Even though the ride isn’t really that old (1998), there is a certain kind of nostalgia that fills every corner of the place. This is in part due to the setting itself – Wakita, OK. The small town feel with a drive-in movie theater and the very real possibility that someone is sucking on chili dogs outside the tastee freeze makes this one of the places that you just enjoy being in. And in a very real sense, that is the entire point of a theme park destination; to take you to a different place where you can just enjoy being.
This is now the stuff of legend, but Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt provide the commentary for the pre-show and it is flat out bizarre. I can only assume they were directed to make the anticipation for the attraction to feel “heavy”, but they go way over the top on discussing not only what the park guest is about to experience, but also the relentless nature of making the film. Apparently Bill and Helen were fighting about something at the time so they refused to be on the same set together. Thus, in the pre-show there are two monitors where Bill and Helen are offering their lines, pretending to look at each other. Bill is especially in whacked-out mode as he inexplicably leans in such a way that his right shoulder is about a foot lower than his left. I wish I could get a High Definition copy of the pre-show video. It is that amazing.
Rex and I have walked through the small town of Wakita many a time, taking friends along with us on occasion, and we have never been disappointed. Change, even when good, always brings loss. This change will too.
It is time!
In spite of all those things, and to quote the great Rafiki of The Lion King fame, “it is time!” Twister is a fine attraction that provides a rush of adrenaline, especially for first time riders, and is a perfect example of Universal’s once theme park motto – “Ride the Movies!” I personally still enjoy the overall experience, especially the pre-show, and certainly do not believe the attraction is a black spot on the overall quality of Universal entertainment. It definitely still holds its own.
And yet, Universal has paved a certain kind of direction for their theme park resort, one that insists on looking more to the future than simply appreciating the past, and Twister falls in the latter camp. I am curious if the upcoming Terminator Genysis movie will give a little extra life to Terminator 3D attraction, for it to was beginning to feel like one of the experiences that is rooted in a time gone by. Of all the attractions at Universal Studios that should be the first to go in order to make way for the future, Twister is the right call and should be the first on the list.
And so The Beast will say goodbye to my friend Twister, thanking her for the good times and great thrills. As I do, I will wait patiently for what Universal Studios will be offering next, and hope it will be a whirlwind of a good time.
*You can read Rex’s thoughts about Twister’s departure here.