It’s seems like forever ago since Jurassic Park’s gates closed as Universal geared up to rebrand everything under the current J World mantra. There were mixed feelings, being not only was this a very beloved ride which thousands flocked to during the final hours of its operation, it was the first Jurassic Park ride to be created, overseen by Spielberg himself with a grand opening that is seldom seen anymore. Original actors from the first film including Jeff Goldblum (Hotel Artemis and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and Steven Spielberg (Ready Player One and The BFG) himself oversaw a star studded ceremony kicked off by an Olympian felt lighting of the chalice in front of the gates themselves as their own tiki torches roared to life. The event itself was even covered by Entertainment Weekly and aired on prime time Television (an artifact unto itself in this era of streaming services). With so much history from the film itself tied into the ride many had mixed feelings to say the least when the decision was made to close the ride for good and usher in something new and shiny but most felt was a mere shadow of the original that came before it.
All this said, imagine mine, and others shock when the ride secretly just opened without any real ceremony, and much of the original ride we all thought would never see the light of day again…was actually preserved after all!
Jurassic World: The Ride has indeed opened its gates. Originally when I heard about the ride, I thought I would be going through a checklist of things to compare one original ride to one completely different ride experience. The bare bones of the ride itself was known to be intact. The track in which the boats travel, the layout of the lagoons and the main compound building leading up to the inevitable drop, all of it would still be intact, but it was the elements around it that I thought were going to fall prey to rebranding. The animatronics were indeed artifacts of their time when the ride first opened a little over 20 years ago don’t get me wrong. Though I never witnessed a broken Ultrasaurus with its sideways neck just resting limp and well…kinda sad, I did hear horror stories about it. The Parasaurolophus which normally busted out and sprayed guests was also well, more often removed and just left as this curious puddle of water. And the falling explorer car…I think more rare are stories of when that ride effect did work then when it was just left as a static prop resting and rusting in a puddle of water. The ride was long overdue an overhaul. But alas, many of these animatronics did actually survive! Now not everything has survived, and there are very notable changes beyond a fresh coat of paint. So instead of my original plan, the format will more so delve into what survived, and went extinct, and what is actually new about Jurassic World the Ride!
EXTINCT: The Gate! It’s the first thing you see when you enter the Rides line que, the iconic Jurassic Park logo and gates with its warm colors and bright adventure red logo is now replaced with the more drab and muted blues and greys of the new films.
EXTINCT: John Hammond. The Line Cue for the most part is unchanged. Still an outdoor line cue fitted with canopy tent roofs and tropical foliage, what is missing or “updated” is the line cue video. This was a change everyone saw a mile away, but didn’t lessen the blow when the classical footage of deceased actor Sir Richard Attenborough (Miracle on 34th Street and The Great Escape) reprising his role as Hammond went extinct. As some of the last surviving footage of Sir Richard playing John it seems a small crime to see it go extinct. In fact much of the line cue’s old footage are indeed artifacts of the original films. Eagle eyed fans might spy a cameo of Steven Spielberg himself walking behind Hammond as he initially greets guests. Even the set pieces themselves are from the film as the ride and the Film were both being produced side by side! The Discovery Center is indeed the same one used in the films, as is the computer command center, the hatchery, even the scene with the sick Triceratops with the film used explorer are all from the original film, additional footage shot after production wrapped on the film to pull double duty for the ride at Universal. What replaces it is complete new footage re themed around Jurassic World and Chris Pratts (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and The Lego Movie) character. And though its fun to see Star-Lord while in the line, for those who remember the original line cue with Hammond welcoming us into Jurassic Park with open arms, this is an extinction hard felt.
EXTINCT: Ultrasaur Lagoon is sadly gone. As are the Ultrasaurs themselves. Though they could be wonky sometimes, there was still something special about seeing those gates open up into a mist covered lagoon and seeing a giant robotic dinosaur rise from the smoke. Being lifesized as a real Sauropod Dinosaur, one of the largest animals to have every walked the earth, this robotic was one of the largest animatronics in all of Universal perhaps being only rivaled by Kong. And just like Kong, the Ultrasaurus too fell prey to CG Screen replacements.
EXTINCT: Psittacosaurus was a bit of an Easter egg dinosaur hidden among the foliage to your left. Resembling a cross between a parrot and a dinosaur, it was only ever featured in Jurassic Park the Ride. The charm of this is often overlooked being it was meant to be unannounced, enhancing the experience of being at a real zoo where, if you weren’t distracted by the lion, children would also catch other wildlife roaming free in the enclosures be they snakes or exotic birds, imagine the Peacocks at the LA Zoo if you will. This element of secondary fauna is what was accomplished with the Psittacos, testament of Spielberg’s attention to detail not only for film but for the Rides he ushered in to help build a fully immersive experience. So, if you weren’t gawking at the giant Ultrasaurus or wondering if the waterfall you were about to cross though would be your fist proper soak, Psittaco was indeed an adorable easter egg to catch.
NEW: Mosasaur Lagoon is the new lagoon to greet you as you first enter Jurassic World. As mentioned this is the first screen effect to invade the ride. Thankfully, it is one of the better CGI screen effects to be included not just in Jurassic World, but arguably all of Universal shy of their Dreamworks Theatre. The resolution is crisp, the lighting matching that of an actual aquarium, the only point where the effect is broken is when you navigate towards that familiar waterfall and enter what’s probably the best preserved area of the original Jurassic Park Ride.
SURVIVED: Stegosaur Springs is alive and well! In fact we see more then just the classical Stegosaur animatronic from the original Jurassic Park Ride, we see the return of the baby steggie as well! The baby stegosaurus was one of many animatronics to have shut down and have been removed towards the end of Jurassic Park’s tenure at Universal. Another of these animatronics to have survived is also the Parasaurolophus! Which is a real shocker being that particular animatronic nearly always shut down in the middle of the ride season. With all three of these animatronics alive and well, this particular area is indeed the most preserved of the entire original Jurassic Park ride.
EXTINCT: The Compies! The two little dinos fighting over a bag of Jurassic Popcorn was a very simple gag, but still entertaining. Specifically as the butt of the joke set up by the ride narration who would proudly state all the animals in Jurassic Park we kept on strict diets. Cue that classic popcorn scene.
SURVIVED: The Raptor pen! This was one I as dreading the most personally being this pen was modeled to look nearly identical to the holding pen in the original film. Shy is a slight paintjob and some more Jurassic World graphics tacked on, it’s alive and well.
NEW: Pterosaur attack, sort of. This is more of a static prop then really a new addition to the ride. To the left across from the Raptor pen is a surprisingly gory scene complete with scratch marks on the wall and nearly a whole spray can of fake blood. This sounds terrifying I’m sure, but instead comes off as a bit of ham, what adds to the ham is static rubber looking Pterosaurs just sort of lying there. No real placement either, just kind of chopped up and laying there in static poses. Huh…
EXTINCT: The Mickey Spitter. More commonly known as the Raft Spitter, the attacked raft bobbing in the water as a Dilophosaurus munches on what was likely some poor tourists poncho. The reason I label this as the Mickey Spitter though is floating right next to the Spitter is a very recognizable hat from another recognizable themepark, Disneyland. This was likely apart of on ongoing feud between Universal Studios and Disney that stretched through the early 90’s to the 2010’s to outdo each other in the theme park game. This obvious jab at Disney is sadly extinct as well.
EXTINCT: The falling Explorer. This was pulled directly from the film, and is one of the first audio hints that the dreaded T Rex is free and stalking in the park. The scene, when it worked, was indeed a sight to behold. The Explorer would fall from the top of the Rex paddock and fall on a track down unto the guests, splashing down as people would scream with delight. The original version also had sparks that would ignite as the car came crashing down and it would tilt out towards guests threatening to crush everyone on the raft. Sadly this effects rarely if ever worked, and instead was more of a visual aid either resting up on top of the paddock area or resting in the water below. Having rarely worked, it’s no surprise it went extinct. Those with the strongest ties to the original films do still miss its presence if only for nostalgia.
NEW: Indominus Rex enclosure. This is a static scene that replaces the falling explorer gag. It is indeed a cool prop, and accomplishes what the Explorer did in hinting what riders can expect up ahead, an encounter with the Indominus Rex .
NEW: Claire and screens. Not so much interactive screen technology seen in the previous Mosasaur scene or even rides like Fast and Furious and so on, these are just TV screens placed there just so you can see Claire appear and shout the word “Assets”. It does feel a bit out of place, and sort of just added as scene filler being there are whole areas of the ride with little to nothing going on from this point onwards.
EXTINCT: Spitter Alley. Originally where Tyrannosaur Kingdom is now for Jurassic World, there used to be a length of the ride right after the falling explorer that ran you through a gauntlet of abandoned construction equipment, hydro pumps, crane lifts and angry attacking Dilophosaurs. There were two, one on each side of the alley to give riders equal chances of getting hit with water streams. Sadly neither of them are there anymore, nor is much of anything else really. What we are left with is kind of an empty stretch of the ride whose intricate sets are now covered up with, well promotional art strangely enough. This leaves us with an awkward pacing through the ride which begins roughly from the Raptor pen and stretched through till we enter the compound itself and being our climb upwards.
NEW: Chris Pratt screens! Again, not really screen tech like that of the Mososaur Lagoon, but rather just tv screens placed overhead with Pratt saying things ala Claire. I don’t know if there will be upgrades to the ride, but the intricate scenery of the control facility and the staff eerily absent with flashing caution lights are again all gone now just leaving us in complete darkness. This leaves us with a good chunk of the ride with nothing happening. Original Ride goers will remember around this area is where a raptor ambush takes place, and they’re half right to expect the jump scare coming upon them.
EXTINCT: Raptor 1! The original Jurassic Park ride had two raptors that would attack initially, again from each side of the track for each set of riders to experience the deadly predators. The first would happen to the left of the track, the first Raptor which was a fully bodied animatronic that would spring up with strobe lights and leap towards the raft. This animatronic sadly suffered a lot of down time due to maintenance and was completely absent towards the end of Jurassic Park’s ride season. Sadly this Raptor wasn’t one of the original animatronics to make a return.
SURVIVED: The Ceiling Raptor is alive and well! The first animatronic you experience since the Parasaurolophus mind you! This leaves the Ride with a huge length of empty space but it is nice to see an old friend as the Raptor is given a new sparking electric wire gag, urging audiences to take notice. The Raptor also gets a new paint job different from the original Lost World themed colors to Jurassic World colors. If it feels like I’m dwelling on this a bit it’s because it’s the first animatronic since the Parasaurolophus!
NEW: The Spitter, kinda. After your drop into the compound proper, ride goers will be shocked to see the interior redone from an abandoned compound with flashing hazmat lighting to an indoor jungle per say. One of the first animatronics to greet you in this new setting is the old Spitter animatronic as it pops up from behind a log and does what it does best, spits!
NEW: The Indominous Rex! The first real new animatronic in the ride refurb finally rears its head! The Rex’s initial encounter is just a head, but it’s a great looking head. It comes from the same place and is the same gag as an older animatronic, but for J World fans it is finally a good payoff since the initial encounter with the Mosasaurus. But as mentioned, with the presence of the Rex means the extinction of another animatronic.
EXTINCT: The first Rex head! The initial gag of the T-Rex dropping down upon riders after they survived the first drop is sadly gone. This is heartbreaking as it was also a great looking animatronic to its own right, even for being 20 plus years old.
NEW: Spitter number two…sort of. So once again we encounter the second spitter having survived the ride refurb and being repurposed inside the jungle compound. With both spitters inside the compound, Jurassic World takes a page out of Florida’s Jurassic Park Ride. Their sister park back east also has both their raptors and spitters inside the compound, though the inside jungle theme is absent.
NEW: Blue the Raptor! The poster child of the new films the new Blue animatronic finally rears her head almost directly next to the Spitter. Blue looks around and barks at the direction of another animatronic.
NEW: Indominous Rex part two! For those hoping to see a full bodied I-Rex, its sadly wont come to pass. Instead we see a bit more of the Rex from the head down. Hidden behind a rock alcove the Rex rears up and roars as the park brings up its final guest.
SURVIVED: THE T-REX! That’s right, the original Rex from the first ride has survived to roar towards audiences as they take the final plunge. The Rex is largely unchanged save for a bit of a new paintjob and more lighting to give audiences a better look at her. The Rex lights up nearly as soon as the I Rex reveal, alluding to a potential clash between the two. Though it warms my heart to see her back and in action for the ride, the early lighting kinda makes her look like she’s floating for a bit. But given the choice between no Rex and all the Rex I’ll gladly welcome the floating Rex with open arms.
The Rest of the ride from here is pretty straight forward in terms of the tell tale drop, the photo op flash and the load out area. Sadly, this does leave us with one last extinction.
EXTINCT: The final Spitter. Survivors of the old Jurassic Park Ride will fondly, or not so fondly remember one last spitter that would appear form behind the bushed if by some miracle you didn’t get soaked form the drop down. I should note I have had some surprisingly dry rides proudly stating how dry I was only to be hit but this guy full force. The final spitter was a fun cherry on top of the ride which sadly is no more. Nor is the Dennis Nedry easter egg.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The Ride is fun because for the most part, it’s very much the old JP Ride. So far there have been two camps, those noting how much the ride hasn’t changed, and welcomed the return of the old animatronics that survived. And those noting the ride hasn’t changed, and wanted more original ride content. I’m obviously on the side of the fence that’s happy old Jurassic Park the Ride elements survived the rebranding, but both sides are kinda asking the same question as to why there was any rebranding at all?
There’s a fine line that’s been reached between so much that’s been preserved and so little that’s been changed it is a valid question of why Universal even bothered. With the Blue Raptor Encounter doing well, Jurassic Words presence was more then adequate at Universal. Going through a whole Jurassic World rebranding of the original ride (with so little changed shy of paint and signage) seems, well, unnecessary. The new ride elements are nice, the two I Rex animatronics and the Mosasaur Lagoon encounter are the most standout, but also account for nearly 90% of the new animatronic/screen additions to the ride. Not only that, the rides pacing is as mentioned a bit of a problem with nothing happening for a good portion of the ride while Jurassic Park’s pacing seemed spot on, giving audiences dinosaur encounter after dinosaur encounter throughout the majority of the ride. Not that anyone is asking, but one change I would do to fix pacing would be to just move the Mosasaur encounter from its initial spot in the beginning, and put it in predator cove so you have something at least happening for the time you sit there from the Raptor pen till you encounter your first raptor at the very end of the compound climb. The ride is still going through technical trials even as the gates opened to the general public. So there is the possibility of updates at the very least to break up that long quiet stretch of ride. At the moment people who were afraid the Jurassic Park ride in Florida might also go through the same changes can rest at ease, as Universal announced on their instagram that for now Jurassic world is exclusive to Hollywood. And after seeing the “improvements” so to speak, perhaps it should stay that way. For the most part the ride is most effective as the perfect cool down for a hot summer vacation season, and I’d say for those who still have a soft spot in their heart for Jurassic Park, the new ride is worth experiencing if only to revisit the old friends we thought we would never see again. The mother and baby Steg, the Parasaurolophus, the original Raptor Pen, the falling Raptor, the Spitters, and that gorgeous full bodied T Rex at the finale. So wear your Jurassic Park shirts in proud memory and visit some old friends. Perhaps down the road we will see Cretaceous Camp updates, which hey at least we would get the original warmer JP colors back.
This article is by Joshua Ballze.