I don’t really know how to start this. I thought for a while that I was becoming my father and in fact, I may well be. We certainly have a lot in common. But, I followed through where he would not have today. To wit: Dad would simply have not paid those prices. He’d have turned around, loaded the family into the car and left. I simply cannot do that. We went to go and be part of it–so that’s what we did.
Peanut has been to Disneyland countless times. Seaworld, too. Knott’s Berry Farm at least once. She’s even been to Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo. But we had never taken her to Universal Studios and so today, we did….
The last time Sue and I were at Universal was about 24 years ago, 1985. And a lot has changed. But I have to confess, I really don’t think it’s worth the money and though visitors flock to it and its newest attractions that were not there when Reagan was in office, the place just isn’t all that much fun.
To begin with, it’s not really for children, but more for immature adults. I say it with love, but there it is. My daughter has no recollection of films like Back to the Future, Psycho, Jaws or even their more “recent” stuff on the backlot tour like Backdraft, etc. She’s heard of King Kong, but she hasn’t seen it and at 8, I don’t want her to. So–teenagers might enjoy it and get into some of the tram-tour. But the only things filming on the backlot today were Desperate Housewives and a Hungry Man commercial. I don’t watch the former, and I don’t eat the latter.
So, there’s some of the same old stuff–the collapsing bridge, which these days is nothing more than uncomfortable. The earthquake set where they simulate an 8.3 earthquake in San Francisco’s BART tunnels, the lake that used to be billed as “The parting of the Red Sea” and was built and used for the big Charlton Heston epic of The 10 Commandments when Moses parts the sea. More recently, it was used by Peter Jackson in King Kong and so, that’s what you see now: a miniature of Skull Island and the ship that all the people arrive on to find Kong.
And in some ways it’s cool to see that stuff, but the tram ride lasts now about 45 minutes and then there are some shows, the animal show was pretty good, and a few rides. The theme is obvious, it’s Hollywood after all, but it costs $67.00 to get in and Peanut was the same price. We got $3.00 off for using our AAA card, so big deal. But it just wasn’t worth it. Sure, Peanut liked some of it, but mostly, she was confused by the references and didn’t really understand what was being talked about.
In the “Backdraft” experience, an attempt to recreate Ron Howard’s fine film of the same name, a good deal of work has gone into making this realistic set with exploding chemicals in a warehouse and it does indeed look realistic. You start in the outer room where a film with Ron Howard, Scott Glenn and Kurt Russell is featured talking about A) the film itself and B) the heroic firefighters in real life. All good and well.
Then, you’re ushered into a room that looks something like a fire station. Here, you are told that you will be taken to the third room which is indeed a warehouse that is set on fire with gas jets and explosions–it’s all very realistic and very hot, on a summer’s day in the San Fernando Valley. Very hot. Well, Peanut was frightened by it. She cried through the whole thing and it stood to reason. But, it didn’t last long. The entire fire sequence was less than five minutes and it was rather anti-climactic.
Here, I must admit that when I was 10, my first experience at Universal was standing in line for the tram and being scared to death of Frankenstein who was prowling around the crowd. Everyone oohed and aahed the make-up, and I cried like a baby. Scared the bejeebers out of me, he did. To this day, Frankenstein remains my most favorite horror story. I’ve taught the book a number of times and I think one of the things that I can do for kids when I teach it is to light up that very real sense of fear that Mary Shelley wanted to convey. But, enough….
Sue and Laurie went into the Terminator 3D Experience and I knew better than to take Peanut. We went into the Curious George water park and proceeded to soak Peanut to the bone–and me only a bit less. We had a lot of fun there and it was her favorite part of the day, I think.
Don’t get me started on Waterworld, the show. It’s as if someone said, “hey, there’s this absolutely wretched movie called Waterworld. Let’s make a live show around it and kill people, blow stuff up and light water on fire.
So they did.
OK-those are the experiences such as they were. And they were interesting and some were fun. But for the most part, I would have been far more comfortable if I’d paid $45.00 per person instead of $67.00.
Fun? Sure. But not Disneyland fun….
Worth that price? No–not at all.