“Since the dawn of time, there have been theme parks.” Or at least, that’s what Krusty the Clown tells guests in line for The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood. As the simulator attraction celebrates its 15th anniversary this week, let’s take a trip down Springfield memory lane. Just watch your—”D’oh!”—step.
Julie Kavner, Marge Simpson herself, reflects
The Simpsons Ride brings the gleefully chaotic world of the long-running animated series to life before guests’ eyes. The show’s voice cast reprised their iconic roles in the attraction, including Julie Kavner, the voice of Marge Simpson, who we got to speak with about the ride’s anniversary.
“It’s very cool that the ride has already been around for 15 years,” Kavner told us. “I’m glad fans enjoy stepping into Springfield.”
For park guests, riding the attraction is a very different experience from watching “The Simpsons” at home. The voice actors’ process, though, remained the same.
“There was no difference recording for the ride than for an episode of the show,” Kavner said. “We all recorded episodes together in one room, and we did the ride script the same way.” (Note: Post-Covid, the actors record individually).
Their communal technique is evident in the characters’ frenetic chemistry throughout the ride. As the ride’s narrative depicts the ultimate “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” trope of many theme park attractions, everyone’s favorite animated family is woefully in the middle of the mayhem.
Seeing as The Simpsons Ride takes place in the fictional Krustyland, we asked Kavner what Marge’s ideal day in a theme park might look like.
“Marge would want to make sure the kids had a good time, Bart didn’t destroy anything, and there was something for Maggie to enjoy,” she said. Sadly, the family’s day in Krustyland is just about the opposite of all of those things.
The 2008 Grand Opening of The Simpsons Ride
The Simpsons Ride officially opened May 15, 2008, at Universal Studios Florida and May 19, 2008, at Universal Studios Hollywood. Earlier that year, the ride was our cover story in only the second-ever issue of Attractions Magazine, and was one of the first major projects our reporters covered throughout its construction and opening stages.
Mayor Buddy Dyer was in attendance at the attraction’s grand opening in Orlando. The ceremony included Universal Orlando President Bill Davis cutting the ribbon, a live orchestra playing “The Simpsons” theme music, and many guests wearing Marge Simpson wigs.
During the grand opening festivities, our reporters spoke with Mike West, who at the time was an executive producer of Universal Creative.
As the team developed the ride, West said they prioritized “taking obviously the great, classic sense of humor that the Simpsons bring to a story and their characters, but also, from Universal’s standpoint, turning it into a thrilling attraction. After all, it’s an attraction. It’s a thrill ride. We want to make sure guests are getting that part of it. Melding those two together was our biggest challenge.”
The Simpsons’ Commentary on Theme Park Culture
The Simpsons Ride is one of the funniest theme park attractions on both coasts. Writers infused the script with comedy on par with any classic episode of “The Simpsons,” an approach they applied to the ride itself, but also to specialty media created for the queue and multiple pre-shows. This is perhaps one of the few Universal rides where having too short of a wait makes for a lesser experience because you don’t get to enjoy the care and wit the writers poured into it from start to finish.
Many of these jokes expertly lean into the fact that you’re in a theme park rather than on your couch. The gags come from pointed observations about theme park culture, many of which guests have no doubt observed for themselves throughout their visit to Universal.
Before you board, Krusty welcomes you to his “all-new, thrilltacular, upsy-downsy, spins-aroundsy, teen-operated thrill ride.” Later, when Lisa fears her life amidst the ride’s commotion, Homer assures her, “Don’t worry, sweetie. They won’t kill you in an amusement park as long as you have a dime left in your pocket.” Perhaps the funniest moment of all is when you inexplicably fly past a billboard that reads, “Send money to Universal Studios.”
Great Scott! A Nod to the Past
In both Orlando and Hollywood, The Simpsons Ride replaced Back to the Future: The Ride. During the queue video, Universal hilariously made the transition canon within the lore of Krustyland.
Christopher Lloyd himself reprised his role as a Simpsons-ified Doc Brown for the bit, which involves Doc having to sell the Institute of Future Technology (the fictional setting of Back to the Future: The Ride) to Krusty. The clown tears down the Institute and builds Krustyland in its place.
In 2022, Lloyd returned as Doc Brown in yet another Universal experience when Orlando’s CityWalk opened Universal’s Great Movie Escape, which features Doc in an escape room.
Years after The Simpsons Ride opened, Universal expanded the franchise’s real estate from coast to coast.
In 2013, Universal Studios Florida introduced “Springfield, U.S.A.: Home of the Simpsons” to the promenade outside The Simpsons Ride. The area features Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl, a spinner flat ride. In true cheeky “Simpsons” fashion, the aliens’ voiceover mocks riders: “Fools, you are our captives! And you waited in a long, boring line!”
Nearby, Universal added midway games and new themed eateries like Krusty Burger, Duff Brewery, and Moe’s Tavern.
In 2015, Universal Studios Hollywood opened a Springfield of its own. The west coast’s version opted for many of the same food selections, but not the Twirl ‘n’ Hurl.
The Legacy of The Simpsons Ride
The Simpsons Ride was one of the final attractions of Universal’s pre-Potter era, before the parks’ creative teams completely changed the game with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure in 2010. The Simpsons Ride itself debuted before Potter arrived, but both Springfield areas opened after Universal had Potter experience under its belt. As such, Universal’s “Simpsons” portfolio is, in a way, a composite of two eras in Universal history.
Today we can observe The Simpsons Ride as the product of talented mid-2000s artists sharpening their skills and about to deliver on their greatest challenge yet (The Wizarding World), and Springfield as the product of early 2010s artists who learned a great deal about placemaking and 360-degree storytelling from that recent, chasm-shifting project. Despite being very different in tone, Springfield exudes with influence of The Wizarding World, as does every successive attraction or land in Universal parks, and many at competing resorts.
In the middle of it all, The Simpsons Ride’s wit is timeless. After a decade and a half, the attraction still brings something fresh among its fellow Universal adventures, and yet also feels completely at home alongside them. As Kodos taunts us, “Foolish earthlings! Don’t you know all rides must end near the gift shop?” And thus our anniversary celebration of this delightful attraction ends, as well. Happy 15th anniversary, The Simpsons Ride!