Have Eye-Popping Fun on Shrek 4-D Ride

Review of the Universal Studios Attraction

Shrek 4-D ride at Universal Studios
••• Shrek 4-D at the Universal Studios parks parks is an eye-popping laugh riot. Universal Orlando Resort

Channeling the popular and funny films, Shrek 4-D is a romp into the fairy-tale tweaking kingdom of Duloc and its quipster inhabitants. Using every 3-D and "4-D" trick in the book (and then some with innovative new features), the attraction is a total hoot. With its lovable characters and rapid-fire jokes, you’ll be screaming -- with laughter.

Up-front Info

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 2.5
    Loud noises, moving seats, "gotcha" devices
  • Attraction type: 3-D theatrical presentation with moving seats and other "4-D" sensory enhancements
  • Height restriction: None
  • Locations: Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Studios Japan

See the Ghost of Lord Farquaad -- in 4-D

The same folks that created the enormously popular Shrek movies, DreamWorks and the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow, lent their talents to Universal Studios' winning attraction. The eye-popping computer animation and laugh-a-minute style translates well to the "4-D" theater experience. (See What is a 4-D Movie?)

For the uninitiated, "4-D" refers to a 3-D film (yes, you still have to wear those goofy glasses, called "OgreVision goggles" here) shown in a theater specially equipped to immerse viewers with an added dimension of sensory ticklers. Perfectly synchronized water spritzes, bursts of air, and other enhancements draw guests into the remarkable 3-D landscapes.

Shrek 4-D takes it a step beyond with seats that move both horizontally and vertically. It’s not a motion simulator attraction per se, like Back to the Future or Disney’s Star Tours, but the seats do incorporate a surprising amount of motion, and Shrek 4-D straddles the line between a theatrical presentation and a ride.

A hillarious pre-show establishes the story. The imprisoned Three Little Pigs and Pinocchio along with The Magic Mirror explain how the ghost of Lord Farquaad, supposedly vanquished in the first Shrek film, is causing havoc from the great beyond. The loathsome lord himself appears onscreen and announces his intentions to steal Princess Fiona away during her honeymoon with Shrek, kill her, and make her his ghostly queen in the underworld. He informs us intruders that we are now his prisoners. Farquaad instructs his henchmen to prepare the auditorium, and explains that he will use torture devices (the moving seats) to get us to reveal the Princess’ whereabouts.

It’s never quite made clear how or why the audience would know Fiona’s location. And there is a disconnect between the pre-show and the main feature. Once the show begins, Farquaad never interrogates us for any info; in fact, we are mere third-party observers of the action (albeit, with an incredible vantage point) as it unfolds. The story itself is a tad lame, but the telling of the story is so engaging and funny, it’s easy to forgive all of the lapses.

Tweaker Bell

A big part of the fun is at Disney's expense. The Shrek films ruthlessly skewer sacred fairy tales and take special glee in directing barbed zingers at Disney.

The Shrek theme park attraction adopts the messin'-with-the-Mouse mantle. Given Universal Studios' proximity to the Disney parks in both California and Florida, it's even more outrageous to catch the sly references. For example, the presentation begins with the adorable Tinker Bell flying across the screen, dispensing her pixie dust...and getting eaten by a frog. And you have to love the poster in the queue that advertises the "Enchanted Tick Room" located in "Parasiteland."

The Shrek sensibility fits the Universal attraction mold: loud, wild, and in-your-face. Where Disney excels at establishing or rekindling warm, fuzzy childhood memories, Universal is the rebellious adolescent that wants to blow everything up. For all of the theme park conventions it blows up, however, Shrek 4-D doesn't stray too far from the tried and true.

I don't think I'm giving too much away to reveal that the green ogre gets his princess in the end, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Except for Tinker Bell. Apparently pixie dust and wishing upon a star are no match for a frog.