Transformers: The Ride, & EVAC Toy Review
Since I last ventured through the archway of Universal Studios Hollywood in 1997, alot has changed. While I and many have mourned the death of Back to the Future: The Ride (which was replaced by The Simpsons Ride in 2008), there was one new property that had many Transformers fans (like myself) excited.
After the increasing success of the live-action Transformers films, Paramount Pictures & Universal Studios combined forces to allow Universal Theme Park guests to ride into the world of the film’s battle between the Autobots, and Decepticons.
Transformers: The Ride originally debuted at Universal’s Singapore location in 2011, but its first Stateside appearance was at Universal Studios Hollywood in May of 2012.
During the course of the ride, the guests in line learn that Megatron is attempting to retrieve a shard of The Allspark (an ancient relic that can create life). It is up to you to help protect this important Cybertronian artifact. Of course, you won’t be going alone. Along with 11 other guests, you’ll find yourself inside the Autobot, EVAC. EVAC is getting his first taste of battle in the excursion you’re about to take.
The Ride‘s scenario is very similar to some rides where your guide is about to go off into a place/zone/mission for the first time. What could possibly go wrong? All together now: EVERYTHING!! This seems to be a recurring theme in regards to simulator rides. Whether it be Star Tours at Disneyland, the former Back to the Future: The Ride, or even the current The Simpsons Ride. One has to almost wonder: can you use a ride simulator for any other ride-based scenarios?
Still, the attraction does build on simulator technology that moves you through a world with giant screens, and physical props. The ride is moreso an upgraded version of the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction at Universal Studios Florida. Just like in that ride, Transformers features interaction between characters on large screens, your ride vehicle, and the physical ride environment around you.
The screens aren’t crystal-clear (and you’ll need to use the ‘wonderful’ technology of 3D to experience it), but the experience may soon cause you to stop thinking you’re in a ride the size of a studio soundstage. What helps is that the 3D glasses actually are wired into the experience. They help keep the image on the screen looking 3-dimensional, even as you shift your focus all over the place.
What I appreciated, was that Transformers: The Ride utilized the same effects company that worked on all three films, Industrial Light & Magic. Utilizing the same computer information they used for the films, ILM is able to give us the same level of quality, and use alot of the city information they gleaned when building their digital Chicago, in Dark of the Moon (I think I even saw my workplace building in part of the ride!).
Detail has been placed in the queue lines inside the building, with everything from Scorponok’s severed tail section (last seen in 2007’s Transformers), Hieroglyphics with Cybertronian writing, and even the Allspark shard that is the focus of the ride’s storyline. Flat-screen televisions keep us entertained with reports of Decepticon activities, along with information about EVAC, and a computerized voice that helps provide some comic relief.
I will include a warning if you decide to go on this ride. If you thought it was an ordeal trying to keep track of moving Transformers on a static movie screen, you may not be up to the challenge of moving camera visuals in 3D, with a jolting ride vehicle. One of my friends who went on the ride, didn’t think he could handle a return trip.
If you can handle Transformers: The Ride, you may find yourself waiting over 45-60 minutes on average, if you take the regular queue. Luckily, the ride has a separate entrance that can accommodate single-riders. If you don’t mind being separated from your relatives or friends, this line might be just the ticket. My friends and I took this route first thing in the morning, and it took only 7 minutes to board our ride vehicle. Our attempt later in the day at the height of the crowds, pushed that single-rider wait time to around 20 minutes.
In regards to the themeing for the ride on the lower lot of Universal Studios, the structures are unfortunately constrained by limited space for tourists, and the studio’s soundstages that tower nearby. As such, there isn’t a whole lot of room to do super-detailed themeing, like in Florida, or Singapore.
In the tight confines of the lower lot, there are several other Transformers-related items to experience:
-Character Meet-and-Greets: During the course of the day, visitors can line up and have their pictures taken with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Megatron. These characters even tower over Mom and Dad, and depending on what you’re doing, will respond accordingly. At one point, Optimus made note of a little boy drinking from an Optimus Prime cup: “I hope my head serves you well,” responded Prime. One of my friends wore his Autobot logo shirt, and Prime seemed pleased that my friend had decided to side with the Autobots.
–The Recharging Station: A “slightly” Transformers-themed eatery to the left of the Ride’s entrance. While it serves all basic manner of counter-fare for Theme Park guests, it also offers a specially-themed Energon drink. For those of you not in-the-know, Energon is the substance that keeps Transformers going (and is often the subject of many battles between Autobots & Decepticons). The Energon drink provided, is little more than creme soda, with a color-changing ice cube inserted inside. Universal offers the drink in both liquid and frozen forms, and also encourages guests to get theirs in a Souvenir Glass.
–The Supply Vault: The place to go for all your Transformers merchandise needs. You can purchase all manner of merchandise here, including a 1:1-scale replica of The Allspark (for only $225!), and even special NEST gear (FYI, NEST is the special Human unit assigned to work with the Autobots in Bay’s films). Of course, don’t just assume that the vault only caters to the movie’s fans. There’s plenty of other Transformers material related to other iterations, such as the early years of the toy line/series (aka Generation 1). There’s also a special action figure that can only be purchased at the Supply Vault. For more info on it, just keep reading.
EVAC Toy Review
Almost every Theme Park these days is going to have exclusive merchandise, and when it comes to Transformers: The Ride, Universal Studios and Hasbro teamed up to bring us an exclusive figure of the Autobot/ride vehicle: EVAC.
EVAC has actually been produced in two different versions. If you’ve cruised the toy aisles at Target or Walmart, you may have seen the smaller, Legion-Class version of EVAC. However, if you want the Deluxe Class version that is more in-scale to your larger Transformers, you’ll need to stop by the Supply Vault at Universal Studios.
If you check out this figure after going on the Ride, you’re likely to notice a number of differences. Unlike the Ride Vehicle that looks like an open-air, 12-seat cockpit with a couple big wheels on the back, the EVAC figure seems to have been assembled along the lines of an actual vehicle. The best I can figure, is the toy designers created EVAC by mashing together components from different vehicles (something about the front part of his vehicle mode just screams Mitsubishi to me). As well, his interior seating has been scaled down from 12 to 4, with a sealed canopy overhead.
AS EVAC serves as our ride vehicle for the entirety of the ride, we never get a shot of him transformed into robot mode during our mission. The only traces of his robot mode, are on the large-screen monitors stationed throughout the ride queue. The one thing I’ve never been able to figure out regarding some of the figure coloring decisions, is not painting a character’s eyes the proper color. Unlike the blue lights from the packaging and in the queue videos, EVAC’s figure eyes are yellow.
If you purchased any of the Transformers toys based on the movie vehicles, please be advised that EVAC’s transformation modes are of the same difficulty level (the package lists it as Intermediate Level 2). This means that if you are buying this for a little one, you better be prepared to have them come to you requesting to change EVAC back to a robot, or car. EVAC is by no means the most complex Transformer out there, but he has enough moving pieces to make you question some of your moves if you don’t have the instructions handy. Though compared to my attempts to transform my 2007 Camaro Concept Bumblebee, EVAC at least feels like all the transformation work you do isn’t going to snap something off.
Like most exclusive merchandise, be prepared to pay a Premium price. Whereas a toy EVAC’s size should run about $15-20, you’ll end up paying $25 at the Supply Vault. Given that the ride has been at the park for over a year, it’s a pretty good bet that if you come looking for EVAC, you’ll have plenty of figures to pick through.
An interesting production side-note, is that EVAC sports a small hole on top of his vehicle mode. When I attended Botcon 2011 (a yearly Transformers convention), we were shown early prototype images of EVAC.
This hole was apparently intended for a roof-mounted weapon, that one can also assume would have been used as a gun/weapon for EVAC in robot mode. Since those prototype images, this addition was scrapped, and the only weapons EVAC has, are his arm-mounted firearms in Robot mode, and small guns mounted in the front ports of his vehicle mode.