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Universal Studios opens ‘Jurassic World — the Ride’

UNIVERSAL CITY — Some new dinosaurs are lurking at Universal Studios Hollywood, with the park’s latest reinvention project transforming “Jurassic Park” into “Jurassic World” in hopes of attracting a new generation of dino-film lovers — while paying homage to the cinematic classic that started it all.

“Jurassic World — The Ride” opened July 12, but on July 22 film stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard joined Universal executives and “Jurassic World” writer-director Colin Trevorrow to celebrate the reimagined attraction.

Pratt and Howard appear in the watery ride, reprising their respective roles as dino-wrangler Owen Grady and Jurassic World park manager Claire Dearing, warning guests to “remain calm” despite begin ferried through a crumbling zoo of rampaging dinosaurs.

Trevorrow had a hands-on role in designing the attraction that replaced the original “Jurassic Park” ride, which operated from 1996 until closing last year for the renovation. That ride was based on the Steven Spielberg classic that debuted in 1993, setting new standards of cinematic imagery as it brought Michael Crichton’s novel to life.

Speaking to a throng of media and invited guests at the unveiling, Trevorrow heaped praise on Spielberg and Crichton, calling himself not just a filmmaker, but a film fan. He reminisced about taking the Universal Studios backlot tram tour as a child and being terrified by the shark from “Jaws,” another Spielberg creation. Trevorrow said as an adult he shared the same experience with his daughter, who was equally terrified by the Great White until he assured her the shark wasn’t real.

“One of the best things about fandom is sharing the things we love with our kids,” he said. “There is a whole new generation out there dreaming about seeing dinosaurs with their own eyes. And now, parents who grew up on the first ride get to share this one with their own children. And that’ll create new memories. And so even if they do get a little bit scared, at least they’ll remember they went through it with you.”

The “Jaws” shark is still terrorizing tram riders at the park, even as Universal Studios Hollywood continues to reinvent itself. The park in recent years has created a series of what it calls immersive lands, designed to sink visitors into the worlds of famous films and television shows — “The Simpsons,” “Despicable Me” and, perhaps most popularly, “Harry Potter.”

The “Jurassic World” attraction is another move in that direction, featuring not only the revamped ride but a dinosaur encounter area, where guests can interact with the deadly velociraptor “Blue” from the films, get up close with a baby raptor and cozy up to a gentle triceratops named Juliet.

There are tropical themed cocktails on the menu at the Isla Nu-bar — a play on the film series’ Central American island locale, Isla Nublar; a cafe featuring Costa Rican cuisine; and a kids’ Dino Play area where the little ones can dig up dinosaur fossils.

Karen Irwin, the park’s president and chief operating officer, called it the “next step in the ongoing evolution of Universal Studios Hollywood to create the most innovative, compelling experiences possible.”

But even Irwin and NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer had to pause and pay homage to the original “Jurassic Park” films and ride, not wanting the reimagined attraction to overshadow the legacy of the classic.

“For over two decades, the ‘Jurassic’ franchise has been the crown jewel of Universal Pictures,” Meyer said. “It’s part of our legacy and our future.”

For generational fans of what might be called “Classic Jurassic,” the revamped ride shouldn’t disappoint. The attraction heavily features new-era dinos, including the hybrid Indominus Rex and an aquatic Mosasaurus that cracks through its aquarium enclosure, providing the first drenching of poncho-wearing riders.

But before guests are sent plummeting down the boat ride’s final eight-story drop, the menacing Tyrannosaurus Rex — brought so vividly to ground-shaking life by Spielberg two decades ago — emerges with a deafening roar, proving that it’s hard to top the original.

The new attraction has been well received by guests, who went on Universal’s Facebook page to comment. 

“Loved the ride,” said Lewis McIntyre. “Got on it seven times and it was just as exciting each time. A great update of the original.”

Rob Tucker also was impressed.

“Such a fun ride,” he said. “My daughter and I really enjoyed it. Now I just need to ride it at night.”

Independent Wire Services