We Rode Universal's New Jurassic World Ride. Here's What's Gone And What's Great
Everything grows old, the uncaring hand of time coming for us all. Even pop-culture-based theme park attractions are not spared this fate (we'll never forget you Back To The Future/E.T./Miami Vice Action Spectacular!!). Thus, Jurassic World has replaced the original Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios Hollywood.
There's a lot about the new experience for Jurassic fans to love, but parts of what was removed have left a dino-shaped hole in our hearts.
One Jurassic Park superfan we spoke with was certain they will bring back the classic score, but they're sticking with the new movies' music for now. Dear superfan, we applaud your undying, unsubstantiated hopefulness.
The biggest addition to the ride is seen early on. The car-boat first sails you into a covered area featuring a large WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH display.
Then you enter a virtual aquarium.
Inside the "aquarium," high-def screens on either side let you watch a mosasaurus eat a shark, with the giant creature sending water over the top of its tank to splash unsuspecting guests.
We took multiple trips on the new ride and can report that the wet factor is hit or miss.
When we had a full raft, we got a light misting. When we rode in a largely empty tour boat, we got so soaked we had to give some serious thought to what type of chemicals go into theme park water and did we just accidentally drink them.
The ride's final ascent is another huge update.
Gone are the raptors lurking in the shadows on the way up, replaced by Chris Pratt's handsomeness warning you to keep your hands inside the vehicle and avoid any sudden movements thanks to escaped dinosaurs on the loose.
That's also when you get your first peek at the Indominus Rex, the new super dinosaur the Jurassic World movies gave us.
You're deposited into the redone final stretch, which used to have a control center vibe but is now a tropical area overtaken by dinos.
But you never get to see the Indominus Rex in all his glory — you see his head peeking out one more time, but then the ride's classic swinging T. Rex shows up and you take the same plunge you had on the OG ride.
With how much the Indominus has been part of the marketing for the new ride, there's less Indominating than expected.
Another missing aspect: the playfulness.
The original ride featured lots of little jokes, ominously funny bits like a crashed ride vehicle that you pass. Maybe it's just because the new movies haven't established that kind of cultural currency, but there's less of that fun than the old ride.
Of course, there's also less of the worn parts of the old ride — the animatronics that didn't seem to want to animatron anymore, the permanently crashed Jeep that no longer plummeted down next to you.
Some of that's been replaced by better effects and some genuinely extra scary moments, with the ride playing with darkness and taking more time to up the stakes.
The ride's state of the art effects are breathtaking, and there's more attention to making you feel the terror of what it might be like inside a theme park gone wrong, rather than movie fan service.
The promotion around the update has used the phrase "it just got real," and you can see that premise driving most of what's new this time around.
We also recommend checking it out both during the day and at night. Some of the effects shift based on the time of day, and with many parts of the ride featuring natural light, you'll get a different experience.
We're also excited to see what they have up their sleeves for Halloween Horror Nights, which has traditionally featured some tweaks to the ride for the season.
Beyond the ride itself, they've upgraded lovable velociraptor Blue for the nearby Raptor Encounter photo meet-and-greets.
Just like on the ride, both the realism and the fright levels have been upped — while getting my photo taken, one of the staff members had to tell me to lean in because I was subconsciously leaning away from the scary dinosaur.
They've also added two more impressive dinos for you to meet: a triceratops that lumbers around the area around the ride, as well as an AWWWWWWWW baby velociraptor that you can come up and pet.
The cuteness is off the charts, as long as it doesn't leave you fingerless.
Even the part before you get on the ride has been revamped.
There are new videos while you're waiting in line, with Owen, Claire, and Dr. Henry Wu — aka Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and BD Wong for the non-Jurassic-World-heads out there — introducing you to the new park. We are also wordplay nerds and continue to quietly chuckle whenever we see the new "Isla Nu-Bar."
If you want to see every single movement of the new ride, you can watch a full video here:
And if you refuse to let go (cough, never let go) watch the full original Jurassic Park ride here, or read our interview with a Jurassic Park superfan about his last ride on the original.
Or if you just want to see executives speak and Chris Pratt going full Jurassic World Owen when confronted by a raptor, with Bryce Dallas Howard hiding behind him, followed by fireworks, watch highlights from the grand opening ceremony here: