Universal Studios Florida
Twister . . Ride It Out
(May 4, 1998 - present)
Photos of the Twister . . . Ride It Out simulated tornado experience in the New York area of Universal Studios Florida.
On November 8, 1996, Ghostbusters Spooktacular closed its doors for good, ending the Ghostbusters-themed show that had been operating since Universal Studios Florida opened on June 7, 1990.
The replacement for Ghostbusters Spooktacular was Twister . . . Ride It Out, an attraction based on the 1996 hit movie, Twister.
Twister . . . Ride It Out officially opened on May 4, 1998. The attraction was originally supposed to open in March of that year, but the central Florida area was hit hard with deadly tornadoes on February 22-23, 1998. That central Florida tornado outbreak killed 42 people and injured 260 more, making it the deadliest tornado outbreak in Florida's history. Out of respect to the local community, Universal delayed the opening of Twister . . . Ride It Out until May of that year.
The exterior of Twister . . . Ride It Out has fun theming with small bits of destruction around the building, giving a small indication of what happens in the show. Originally, the line queue was outside the building and wound itself around movie props and the different vehicles from Twister, including Dusty's famous "Barn Burner" van. These props were removed and the outside line queue was significantly shrunk to make way for the Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt roller coaster and its supports.
Upon entering Twister's line queue today we stay underneath a covered area next to the show building. There are a few props here and there relating to farm country and a storm-damaged billboard advertising Channel 4's weather coverage. Overhead monitors play outdated footage of real tornadoes captured on home videos.
WARNING --- SPOILERS!
Entering the building in large groups we find ourselves in the first preshow room. There's nothing too special in this room except for the large video screens hanging from the ceiling.
Suddenly, the screens come to life and we see clips of the introduction scene in Twister where the F5 tornado hits Jo's family when she was just a child. When the screaming stops we see clips of tornado destruction. Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt appear on camera and share a little bit of information about the Twister movie experience and tornadoes in general. Then they tell us to gather our belongings and prepare to experience Twister.
The second preshow room is themed to the destroyed version of Aunt Meg's house near the end of the movie. Sound effects make it sound like the house is still creaking and settling after the tornado nearly tore it off its foundation. Once again television monitors come to life, and Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt narrate more of the movie making experience. This part is mainly a behind-the-scenes look at Twister.
The moment the second preshow is finished the television goes to static and a severe weather siren begins blaring. Fans start operating and blowing wind through the house. Workers are quickly ushering us into a storm shelter as the televisions resume working and telling us about the tornado warning. This combination of effects can be pretty convincing to a lot of visitors.
We gather in one of three rows in the storm shelter. Looking "outside," it's clear that we're at the drive-in theater like in the movie. The concession stand is on the left, there's a movie screen in the background, and a red pickup truck is at a gas pump over on the right. The show begins as a sudden flash of lightning splits a tree in half. The wind begins blowing and we see a massive tornado approaching in the distance from off to the left.
The tornado destroys the movie screen and then appears right in front of us. A combination of smoke and a series of fans actually creates a massive, swirling vortex of air about fifteen feet in front of us. Strong gusts of wind are blowing through the storm shelter as the tornado begins destroying the area. One of the DOROTHY data-gathering devices flies past us, and then later a cow also flies past the shelter. The tornado shifts and at one point the shelter's roof lifts high, threatening to break.
Chaos is still abundant as the pickup truck slides towards the tornado and strikes one of the gas pumps. We watch in horror as gasoline sprays out of the pump and flows straight to the tornado. Suddenly there are sparks and the gasoline ignites. The fire quickly streaks to the tornado and the twister itself ignites in a tremendous fireball. Once it ignites the shelter's roof drops and so does the floor, giving the audience one last scare.
Twister . . . Ride It Out ends with Bill Paxton thanking us for surviving the encounter. The show's exit is through the Aftermath store.
END OF SPOILERS!
As a whole, Twister . . . Ride It Out is a fantastic experience and a whole lot of fun. This show, in my humble opinion, is significantly better than both versions of the Ghostbusters shows that preceded it. The folks at Universal did a great job with Twister. As a plus, most of the movie's awesome soundtrack is heard throughout this experience.
One of the things that makes Twister so different from the other rides at Universal is that the experience itself is intense and can be very frightening to visitors, especially the younger crowds. From the storm sirens to the lightning to the wind to the tornado itself, this is a loud and intense show that stays in your face the moment the second preshow ends all the way to the end of the show. Be warned, this show is not for everybody.
I'd love to see an updated version of this show with better effects. Don't get me wrong. Twister . . . Ride It Out is still a great experience, but after fifteen years it's starting to show its age and lose its punch with visitors.
|TRIVIA||Twister . . . Ride It Out was one of several rides featured in the 2015 comedy-horror film, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!|
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