Welcome to THE BIG 5, a definitive top five list of various Orlando related, uh, stuff. THE BIG 5 is wide ranging, and will run the gamut from the top five topiaries at Disney’s Flower and Garden Festival, to the top five signature drinks at the theme parks, to the top five reasons we’re looking forward to Disney Springs , and everything in between.
To view all of THE BIG 5 posts so far, click here.
This week’s list is the Top Five Queues at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.
#5 – E.T. Adventure
The last man standing, E.T. Adventure is the sole attraction still in the parks that was an opening-day attraction for Universal Studios Florida in 1990. Despite a ride ending that seems conceived by Stephen Spielberg after eating some special alien-herb brownies, the E.T. attraction is beloved by many for several reasons, including its incredible queue replicating a large California forest.
The indoor forest is one of the most impressive queues at any theme park, with the perfect blend of darkness, forest “smells” and the sounds of nature throughout. While walking through the forest, guests learn that the police are after E.T., while Botanicus (from E.T.’s home planet “The Green Planet”) is trying to get E.T. home. This is also one of the very few attractions at Universal that has a “tie in” of sorts to Disney, as the famous Speak & Spell from Disney Hollywood Studio’s Toy Story Midway Mania is also in the E.T. queue spelling out “H-E-L-P E-T.”
#4 – The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
Fans of the web head will love the queue of this attraction, as it allows guests to walk through the famous Daily Bugle, ripped straight from the Spider-Man universe.
You get to see several areas of what would be a working newspaper office, all while being informed of the current situation in the city leading up to your role in the attraction itself. One of the best parts of this queue is all the jokes throughout the building on signs including Midnight Deadline: You must turn in either: Your final story copy or Your resignation. It’s your choice” and a safety poster that reads “We want your heart and minds in the newspaper, not literally.”
The Spider-Man queue is also the only place at Universal Orlando where you have the opportunity for a photo in the middle of the queue. Follow the instructions of the team members inside the Bugle office and you can get shots like these:
#3 – The Simpsons Ride
A queue so good it makes you forget that its replacing a classic ride in Back to the Future. One of the things I love the most are the gigantic attraction posters that parody the ones you’ll see walking into the Magic Kingdom. One poster is for “Captain Dinosaur’s Pirate Rip-Off. A ride so old it should be extinct” is a clever jab at the Pirates of Caribbean attraction.
Besides the sight gags throughout, there are TV monitors along the queue playing a combination of clips from Simpsons episodes that dealt with theme parks and brand new animation made exclusively for this attraction. So you’ll get to see all the classic moments from when The Simpsons went to places like Duff Gardens, as well as hilarious new scenes such as Homer Simpson trying to sneak food into the parks. There is even a segment that explains the backstory on how BTTF became The Simpsons Ride, with Doc Brown signing over the rights of the Institute of Future Technology over to Krusty the Clown.
#2 – Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
The 2012 entry into the Universal Studios family of attractions shows exactly how far Universal Creative has come in delivering a fantastic queue experience. It begins outside the ride, as guests are treated to a wonderful reproduction of Gru’s house. The outdoor queue has hilarious videos featuring the minions as they prepare the guest for the “job” of becoming a minion when they enter the ride. The indoor queue takes us inside Gru’s house, where we get to see full on reproductions of some of the insane decorations he had, such as the mounted Lion eating a dog eating a cat taxidermy and the chair built out of a rhinoceros.
From the start of the queue, to your final step into the Super Silly Store gift shop, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem provides absolutely everything a theme park attraction should shoot for. It’s family friendly, funny, thrilling, full of heart, and appeals equally to those who love the film and those who have never heard of it.
#1 – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
The gold standard in queues. How many attractions in the history of theme parks have had a queue so immersive, so detailed, and so incredible that guests want to spend more time in it? So much that Universal has a Hogwarts tour-only line in which people go through the queue but not get on the attraction. (This option is explained in full in OI’s Complete guide to Forbidden Journey.) The Hogwarts castle queue is almost a destination in itself for fans of the Harry Potter stories as it brings to life so many memorable and iconic locations and items.
Guests will pass by a statue of the Architect of Hogwarts, the Mirror of Erised, Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, the Sorting Hat, and so much more. Thanks to Universal’s “Musion” technology, guests are treated to seeing all new performances by the actors playing Dumbledore, Harry Potter, Hermoine Granger and Ron Weasley. Not to be outdone, Universal Creative figured out a way to make the famous “moving portraits” look believable in the real world and used them to tell the entire backstory of the ride. To quote Stan Lee, “Face front true believers, this one truly has it all!”
Honorable Mention – MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack
A true gem in the parks, the queue for MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack perfectly combines the retro feel of a 1960s era World Fair and the Sci Fi world of today. Guests are “recruited” into the MIB program and walk through the MIB headquarters, seeing everything that made Will Smith’s jaw drop in the first MIB film.
You’ll overlook the main control area (with all the desks and the huge screen), see the weapons room, and even pass several of the famous characters from the film. Like the movies, the queue and attraction has a good sense of humor about itself, including some very well done retro-inspired posters outside the building.
That’s it for this edition of the BIG 5! We’ll see you again real soon.
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