Get Ready to Race through New York against Jimmy Fallon in 2017

Simulator Ride to Open at Universal Studios Florida

Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon at Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

November 2015

Put your wand down Harry Potter. Stop the web-slinging Spider-Man. Tone down the transforming, Optimus Prime. There's a new hero coming to Universal Orlando: Jimmy Fallon.

No kidding. (Actually, there's likely to be plenty of kidding.) The Florida resort and The Tonight Show host have announced that they will be teaming up to bring Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon to Universal Studios Florida. Set to open in 2017, the attraction promises to take guests on a crazy adventure around New York City alongside Fallon.

The folks at Universal have yet to reveal many details about the new ride. Here's what we do know: Audiences will begin the journey by visiting a mock-up of Studio 6B, the Manhattan location of The Tonight Show. Like the silly celebrity races that Fallon often presents on the program, he will challenge audience members to compete against him for a special taping. The race will take place on the city's streets, rushing past famous landmarks, falling down into the subway, and soaring up to skyscrapers.

In a funny segment from his show, Fallon talks about the new attraction and says that it will be like the Harry Potter rides and will include 3-D technology. He hints that there will be sensory elements that will probably make it a 4-D attraction  (or even "8-D!"). Fallon says that his announcer/sidekick Higgins will be along for the ride as well as the show's house band, The Roots.

Here's My Take on What to Expect

It's almost certain that this will be a media-based, motion simulator attraction presented in 3-D. It's unlikely that it will be a dark ride, but will probably be a theater-based simulator attraction. It has not been confirmed, but there are strong rumors indicating that the ride system will be similar to the one used for Disney's Soarin'.

I'd imagine that the pre-show, which will re-create The Tonight Show set and feature Fallon, Higgins, and The Roots, will use the Pepper's Ghost Illusion. It will likely incorporate real, practical set pieces and high-definition, high-frame-rate video that will make Fallon and the other characters from his show seem almost real. Race through New York could also use in-person actors, who may act as stagehands or production crewmembers, to interact with the virtual Fallon and reinforce the illusion.

If my hunch is correct, the new attraction will recall Universal's Ghostbusters show that used to occupy the space which Race through New York will use. That attraction featured live performers who battled "ghosts" using a massive Pepper's Ghost illusion. Ghostbusters was replaced by Twister…Ride It Out, which will close on November 2, 2015, to make way for the Fallon attraction. Located in the New York City section of the park, the Midwest-based Twister was never a logical fit; Race through New York, however, will be right at home. 

Will the Ride Be any Good?

The affable and funny TV star may seem like an unlikely character to feature in an E-Ticket attraction. But Fallon is undeniably popular and funny. Most of Universal's rides are serious, kick-ass adventures. While Race through New York will probably feature Universal's trademark in-your-face, high-thrill ethos, it will surely include some lighthearted moments as well. An attraction filled with laughs could be a welcome addition at the resort.

From a marketing and synergy perspective, basing a ride on a top-rated NBC TV show (NBC-Universal/Comcast owns the television network and the parks) makes sense. Fallon will surely plug his namesake ride on the program. This isn't the first time he's been involved with the parks. Fallon's pre-recorded shtick appears on the Studio Tour trams at Universal Studios Hollywood.

With recent hits such as Transformers: The Ride 3D and Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, Universal has been on an incredible roll. Nothing is certain, but given its track record, I'm willing to bet that the parks' creative forces will develop another winner.

What about shelf life? Given the volatility of TV's late-night programs, who knows how long Fallon will reign as its king -- or is that clown prince? Might a fickle audience make Race through New York a stale relic in short order? Maybe, but Universal has shown that it can be nimble and will change out attractions when necessary. Trading on nostalgia, the Disney parks feature more timeless characters and attractions and keep most of their rides chugging along for a long time. Almost none of Universal Studios Florida's original rides remain, however.

Also, if Universal is building a Soarin'-type theater, it would be able to maintain the ride system hardware, but change the show software with relative ease. Look what the park has done with the motion simulator theater just a block away from where Race through New York will be located. When Universal Studios Florida first opened, it hosted The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. It later changed to Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast and more recently morphed into the (wonderful) Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction. The theater itself has remained more or less intact through all of the changes.

The Fallon ride is part of an incredible burst of new goodies from Universal Orlando. In 2016, Skull Island: Reign of Kong will open at Islands of Adventure. It will also open its fourth hotel, Sapphire Falls. 2017 will be a doozy. In addition to Race through New York, Universal Studios Florida will welcome the super-duper Fast & Furious: Supercharged, and the resort will open its first on-property water park, Volcano Bay.

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