After months of delays and a brief employee test phase, the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster at Universal Studios opened to park guests on August 15, 2009 at a few minutes before 6 p.m.
Around 30 minutes prior to the new ride’s opening, guests (including myself) began to line up outside construction walls hoping that we would have a chance to ride. After around 50 guests formed a line, Universal employees began asking the crowd to step toward the concert stage in an effort to keep the line under control. They did not disband the group, so all were hopeful that we would indeed get to ride.
At around 5:45 p.m., a brief drizzle prompted Universal employees to go ahead and open the gates, allowing 10-15 guests in at a time, to avoid a stampede. I was within the first 30-40 guests to be let in. After a brief trip to the lockers to put away my wallet, cell phone, and other loose items, it was time to head through the queue and up the nearby stairs for the first time and board the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster.
Before I give you my thoughts on the ride, watch the two videos below. One is an unedited point-of-view (POV) video that I shot while riding. The other is video of the coaster going up the lift hill and around the track, edited together with bits of the POV video. I personally prefer my edited version, as it gives you a better feel for what the ride is all about, but I’ve included the unedited version because I know many of you reading this want to see it as well…
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit including POV and ground-level shots:
Full POV ride on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit:
So how was it? As I tweeted earlier right when I got off the ride, it wasn’t as good as SeaWorld’s new Manta coaster but it was still fun.
The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit is a unique breed of roller coaster. It is definitely not intended to be the fastest or most thrilling. If it tried to be either of those things, it failed. What it does succeed in doing is making a large-scale roller coaster available to the average park guest. As long as you are 52″ or taller, you can handle the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster.
The coaster features no inversions, so those afraid of being turned upside down can set their worries aside. The only big drop comes at the beginning after ascending the 90-degree lift hill (which is the coolest part of the ride, in my opinion). There is also very little “air time” (when your rear-end leaves the seat) as there aren’t any large hills and the restraint holds you in very tightly. In fact, all in all, the ride is fairly tame – perhaps on a thrill level just above Big Thunder Mountain at Disney’s Magic Kingdom one or two notches below Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
But just because Rip Ride Rockit isn’t thrilling doesn’t mean it’s a bad ride. In fact, it was the ride designers’ intentions to create a roller coaster that can be enjoyed by more than thrill-seekers.
Visually, the ride is a lot of fun. Riders twist and turn through and around the buildings of Universal Studios, which gives the ride a unique flair. There are certainly a lot of turns throughout the ride, none particularly tight.
The real gem is the sound system, which allows you to select the song you’d like to listen to while riding. For my first ride, I really wanted to choose “U Can’t Touch This” by M.C. Hammer, but I couldn’t find it in the list (even though I know it’s there somewhere) so I went with “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys, which worked out great. The music really enhanced the fairly easy-going ride and sounded great pumping through the speakers. I didn’t hear anyone else’s music while riding.
Two of the other technological additions to the coaster didn’t excite me as much. I thought the flashing lights on the sides of the coaster cars just looked silly during the day. I haven’t seen them in action at night yet, so perhaps at that time they’ll remind me less of those mall kiosks that let you decorate your cell phone with blinking LEDs. The much-discussed moving load platform was not moving today and each car took anywhere from two to five minutes to load and dispatch. Today was, of course, a technical rehearsal so I’m sure they’ll have all that worked out by the time the ride officially opens – whenever that is.
All in all, for the average guests at Universal Studios looking to enjoy themselves on a fun ride, the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit is sure to entertain and will likely have you coming away smiling and laughing. Thrill-seekers, however, may want to head to Islands of Adventure for the Incredible Hulk coaster or hop on over to SeaWorld and ride Manta instead. Personally, I look forward to heading back and riding it at night. I’m willing to bet it’s a completely different, and better, experience.
Today’s soft opening was not guaranteed nor are any more in the coming days and weeks. The ride may open again tomorrow, but it may not, so if you head to Universal Studios expecting to ride, don’t be disappointed if it’s not running. No official opening date has been set.
Here are a few more photos: