Universal Studios began "technical rehearsals" for its latest attraction, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, this weekend. Theme-park guests tried out the motion simulator for limited hours on Saturday and Sunday. Wait times extended beyond the hour mark.
Universal Orlando has not announced an opening date for the attraction, but there has been an uptick in Universal's advertising on television, radio and billboards, indicating that it was coming "soon" or "this summer."
Technical rehearsal is a period of testing to work out kinks in the ride's operation. Universal generally doesn't announce when these times are, and there's no guarantee that Minion Mayhem will operate daily now.
UPDATE: Here's the official Universal stance: "We are excited to share that our Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride has begun technical rehearsal. We are inviting small groups of guests to experience the ride as a work in progress, while we put finishing touches on the experience. For now, there will be no published operating schedule and we won't announce operating hours in advance."
The storyline of the ride, which uses characters from the 2010 animated film "Despicable Me,"has park guests being recruited to be minions -- yellow, pint-sized, goggled workers of Gru, voiced by actor Steve Carell. Training is done by Gru's three daughters.
Inside, guests with 3-D glasses sit on four-passenger benches that move along with on-screen action that portray minion training. There's a lot of up and down movement -- not unlike a roller coaster -- and a lot of "bumping" action and surprises. One segment represents an anti-gravity room (I suggest lifting feet here for maximum effect). A short water-spritzing element give Minion Mayhem the dreaded 4-D effect.
The visuals resemble the action in sister attraction the Simpsons Ride with the clarity of neighboring Islands of Adventure's Amazing Adventures ofSpider-Man ride, which received a high-tech upgrade this year. The interior layout of the Despicable Me building did not change dramatically -- it previously housed Jimmy Neutron's NickToon Blast near the front of the theme park.
Guests exit the ride through a dance party with a costumed minion character. Folks see themselves projected onto a large screen, dancing to "Boogie Fever" before continuing on to the gift shop.
The ride's entrance resembles Gru's house from the movie. The exterior queue features a chandelier and other furnishings. Waiting guests watch monitors with a minion quiz and a brief summary of the film, in which three orphaned sisters help transform a man from supervillain to world's best dad.
Once inside the air-conditioned part of queue, more of the house is revealed, with portraits, unusual furniture and wall hangings. A video humorously explains how and when to use the 3-D glasses, which are similar to the ones now used on the Spider-Man ride. A second room prepares folks to be "minionized" and stars Gru, girls and minions. There's also an appearance of the "fart gun" there.
Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is one of several new Universal Studios attractions, including its first daily parade, "Universal's Superstar Parade," and a new nighttime lagoon show, "Universal's Cinematic Spectacular."