Earlier this week, Universal Orlando officially opened up its latest attraction, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem; which is based upon the Despicable Me animated film and its upcoming sequel. Minion Mayhem isn't exactly a ride; it's more like a simulator theater experience that is shaped by the same technology behind the recently revamped ride, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal's Islands of Adventure.
CraveOnline was recently invited to Universal Orlando for a look at Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and given a chance to speak with Michael West, the executive producer of this ride who has previously worked on The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, The Simpsons Ride and Transformers: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood and Singapore.
"Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem is all about turning guests into minions," said West. "We feature Gru and the great characters from the film Despicable Me including Margo, Edith and Agnes. We worked very closely with Chris Meledandri and the group at Illumination Entertainment to make sure it was sure it was a very authentic experience. We have the same terrific voice talent that did the film, in Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher. We use their voices obviously to make the characters on our show as authentic as possible. And we wanted to make sure that it was a different story. It's got the same great love, comedy, characters, story and lines; but ours is a completely different story than the first film or that will be in the second film."
"So right now, this is the only place in the world that you can see another story about the minions and Gru," continued West. "The big thing is that we wanted to make sure guests were a part of it. You actually get turned into a minion when you come to see Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem because you have to help Gru with his next big supervillain plan."
The outside of the attraction resembles Gru's house from the first film; which is adorned with several propaganda posters encouraging people to become Gru's latest minions. While waiting in line, videos are played that quiz fans on how minions should react in a given situation while recapping how Gru came to adopt his three daughters. But the real joy starts when you get inside and see a replica of Gru's living room; which is filled with hilarious sight gags like the lion's head trophy.
"It's always a challenge when you go from a two dimensional environment of an animated film into a three dimensional environment of an attraction," related West. "Obviously, we start by creating Gru's house on the outside, so when you approach, it's right there in front of you. When you enter, you go into the foyer and then into Gru's living room. The look of the film is very vertical, so we followed that same kind of design and the look of the first movie. The very first room you go into is 30 feet tall. So it's a very tall space, but the same wallpaper, we've got the marble columns, some of those iconic moments that you see in saw in the film like Gru's Rhino chair, the Iron Maiden and the big canon that he had in there."
"We created three new paintings," noted West."The Bank of Evil Painting, we've created a great portrait of Gru and the girls and one of just Gru and the minions which we call 'Sea of Minions.' And a really cool painting of Dr. Nefario that was actually from the image that comes up on Gru's cell phone when he talks to Nefario in the film. We really want to create that sense that you're in Gru's world now as soon as you enter that space. Turning it into a three dimensional reality is really what makes it come to life."
The story of the ride takes place about one year after Gru adopted the girls and they appear to be more involved with the family business as they volunteer to help Gru train the audience-turned-minions and test their ability to "not die." In the beginning, Margo, Edith and Agnes lead the new minions through the minion training course before things get out of hand and Gru has to get personally involved. By the end of the ride, viewers will learn just what despicable plan Gru is currently working on and how he really feels about his young charges.
While Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem isn't quite as impressive as the revamped Spider-Man ride, the technology behind it remains very immersive. The interaction of the 3D elements and the simulator chairs makes it easy to forget that you're experiencing the story alongside a theater full of people.
"We're using the Infitec 3D Video system; which is an amazing 3D technology with the most immersive experience you can imagine in a video portion of a ride," explained West. "The screen in the new attraction is 70% bigger than the old one. Of course, the old one was film and this is the new high definition 4k resolution video. We have brand new minion goggles that have never been used before. But the clarity and what you see on the screen is beyond any 3D experience anybody has ever had before... other than The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Transformers."
At the very end of the ride, the attendees are led into a minion dance off which extends the experience by a few extra minutes if they choose to stay. A few minions appear in person while their animated counterparts also interact with the guests on the video screens.
If you're a fan of the Despicable Me movie, there's a lot to love about this attraction. The only problem is that by the end, you may wish that the simulator had lasted a little longer.