Don't Have a Cow, Man. Ride The Simpsons Ride

Like the TV Show, the Universal Studios Attraction is a Riot

Entrance to the Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios

Masrur Odinaev / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

With its rapid-fire gags, a penchant for (cartoon) violence, and boundary-pushing humor, The Simpsons TV show is a good fit at the loud, in-your-face, we-love-to-blow-stuff-up Universal Studios parks. The Simpsons Ride gives guests the chance to accompany Bart, Homer, and the rest of the iconic clan as they experience Krustyland, a theme park that has been built on the cheap by Krusty the Clown.

Of course, calamity ensues. And, since this is the Simpsons, hilarity ensues as well.

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 3.5
    Motion simulator thrills include (simulated) coaster drops and crashes.
  • Attraction type: Motion simulator
  • Height restriction: 40 inches
  • Location: Universal Studios Florida in Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood in California

Could You Handle The Simpsons Ride?

As a motion simulator, The Simpsons Ride at Universal Orlando syncs the action of its eight-passenger vehicles with wild animated footage. Although scenes include maneuvers such as free-falling from nosebleed heights and mid-air collisions, the vehicles never actually move more than a few inches in any direction.

If you can handle Star Tours at the Disney parks, you would be able to handle The Simpsons. If you want to see what the concept of a motion simulator is about with a more toned-down attraction, try Universal's Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride first.

What to Expect

The attraction is housed inside a garish Krustyland building, with retro amusement park lights, eye-popping colors, and a giant head of Krusty the Clown. Guests enter the ride by walking along Krusty's "red carpet" tongue and into his mouth.

The signature Simpsons humor is everywhere. The front of the attraction is made to resemble an amusement park midway with carnival games such as Ring Toss. "SMALL RINGS, GIANT BOTTLES-IT'S IMPOSSIBLE!" screams a sign on the booth. Throughout the queue (and lines for The Simpsons Ride can get quite long), there are giant video screens playing a 30-minute loop that includes new Krustyland footage interspersed with excerpts from park-centric show footage from The Simpsons.

As guests shuffle through the long maze of a line, there are plenty of chuckles to be had. For example, one scene depicts dolls from around the world singing, a la Disney's "It's a Small World," the heartwarming refrains of "A Duff for you; A Duff for me..." from the shows "Selma's Choice" episode. Disney, SeaWorld, and other theme parks get tweaked throughout the queue and on the ride itself. The Pirates of the Caribbean would shiver their timbers if they caught the signs for Captain Dinosaur's Pirate Rip-Off.

It’s Thrilltacular

At both Universal parks, The Simpsons Ride is presented in the same buildings that used to house the Back to the Future attractions. As with that groundbreaking motion simulator ride, guests make their way through labyrinthine corridors and up to one of the multiple levels on either side of the building. Before boarding, they are held in a pre-show area filled with laugh-out-loud Simpsons displays that include Apu and Groundskeeper Willy.

A hilarious video sets the stage as the guests are chosen to join the Simpsons family for the debut ride aboard Krusty's Thrilltacular, Upsy-Downsy, Teen-Operated Roller Coaster. However, a vengeful Sideshow Bob (the voice of Kelsey Grammer) is shown lurking in the shadows to sabotage the new park.

Groups of eight passengers are shuttled to individual ride rooms where they watch a (literally) gut-busting, pre-ride safety video featuring Itchy and Scratchy. Instead of Back to the Future's DeLorean time machines, guests for The Simpsons Ride board an oversized roller coaster car. At the start of the ride, the cars move ten feet up and join a phalanx of other vehicles in front of an enveloping, 80-foot Omnimax domed screen.

Unlike Back to the Future's filmed footage, which used miniature sets and other old-school Hollywood trickery to create its time-shifting environments, The Simpsons Ride uses computer-generated imagery. This has its pluses and minuses. On the positive side, the footage looks sleek. (Although compared to the ultra-crisp, bright, high-definition media of attractions such as Universal's Spider-Man Ride, the imagery looks a bit grainy and dark.) As the vehicles move in sync with the action on the screen, the motion simulator sensations are convincing. The initial zoom up a roller coaster lift, for example, is quite well done.​​

Why CGI?

But, there's something disconcerting about seeing our old two-dimensional TV pals rendered in CGI. The crude animation is part of The Simpsons oeuvre. It sounds like the Simpsons (the original cast provides all of the voices), but it doesn't quite look like the Simpsons or have their usual fluidity. That detracts a bit from the ride experience.

Still, in true Simpsons form, there are some wildly funny (and self-incriminating) lines. In the face of impending doom, for example, Homer reassures his family that “theme parks wouldn't kill you as long as there's a dime left in your pocket.” Except for the CGI misstep, The Simpsons Ride is in tune with creator Matt Groening's distinctive (read: warped) Simpsons sensibility. It is also among the best rides at Universal Orlando and at Universal Studios Hollywood.

In light of the Walt Disney Company’s 2019 acquisition of 21st Century Fox, The Mouse now owns The Simpsons franchise. That puts the two theme park giants in an odd situation. Universal is promoting characters that fall under the umbrella of its chief rival, and Disney is sitting on the sidelines and watching its competitor use its intellectual property. It is similar to the Marvel Superhero land and attractions at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. Long after Universal negotiated its long-term deal to feature the comics property, Disney ended up controlling the Marvel franchise.

Fans of The Simpsons show—and there are legions of them—will love taking a ride with them. And more casual fans will likely adore the attraction as well. In any event, everyone would agree that the attraction is considerably more fun than Captain Dinosaur's Pirate Rip-Off.

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