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Robb & Elissa in Asia - 2016!


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How was Hair Raiser this time around? When I rode it last year it was by far the roughest B&M I have ever been on, it was like Mean Streak bad, and we were in the front row. I don't know if I got a bad train or something but it was running 1 train so I wouldn't have been able to find out (and wasn't about risk getting my a** kicked again anyway).

 

I'm wondering the same thing. I visited a few months back and found it to be super shaky and one of the roughest B&M's I have been on. I rode in the front the first time and it shook the hell out of me. I figured I just had a bad ride or something so I rode in the back the next time and it was the same. I was done after two rides as it gave me a terrible headache. Still loved the park, though.

 

Funny you both had that same experience in the front. The grouper also put me in the front on both rides, since it was assigned seating, and I also had a rough experience, not mean streak bad or enough to completely ruin the ride but enough to be noticeable and make me decide to skip another re-ride later in the day, whereas a friend of mine who'd been maybe 3-4 months before hadn't noticed anything.

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How was Hair Raiser this time around?

Not smooth.

 

That's too bad. It was good in 2012.

 

I think back then a lot had to do with the train being full or nearly empty (more or less weight means more or less friction between the wheels and track). I rode it 2 weeks before you guys did and to me it was the biggest piece of crap B&M ever made. It was even worse than Dragon Kahn back in '08.

During my 2 rides (1 front seat and 1back seat) there was only 1 other guy on the train and it felt that it was riding on cobblestones. It got me a headache for the rest of the day.

I don't know why it's even worse now, but maybe it has something to do with the foundation it's build on ot could it be purely maintenance issues?

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How was Hair Raiser this time around?

Not smooth.

 

That's too bad. It was good in 2012.

 

I think back then a lot had to do with the train being full or nearly empty (more or less weight means more or less friction between the wheels and track). I rode it 2 weeks before you guys did and to me it was the biggest piece of crap B&M ever made. It was even worse than Dragon Kahn back in '08.

During my 2 rides (1 front seat and 1back seat) there was only 1 other guy on the train and it felt that it was riding on cobblestones. It got me a headache for the rest of the day.

I don't know why it's even worse now, but maybe it has something to do with the foundation it's build on ot could it be purely maintenance issues?

 

For some reason, B&M Floorless coasters are super temperamental, and the amount/weight of passengers in the train has a huge effect. At SFMM, when Scream's train is empty, the ride is awful and feels like you're riding on square wheels. But when the train is full or nearly full, it's actually pretty good. The 3 other Floorless coasters I've ridden (Hydra, Bizarro, Batman) seem to have had the same effect, especially Hydra.

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Our next stop was Universal Studios Japan. Quite simply - this is the BEST Universal Studios park in the world... but a HUGE margin! Take everything you know about Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure, combine them into one amazing park, add even better attractions, a better guest experience, again by a HUGE margin, a better Citywalk, better clientele, really just better everything, and you have Universal Studios Japan! It's one of those parks where after you visit, it makes it very difficult to go back to your home park and not ask questions like "How is it that they get Flying Dinosaur and we get Kong?!??!"

 

Anyway, onto the photos....

 

We arrived into the Universal Osaka area just in time for Christmas day! We spent Christmas day hanging out in Osaka and spending some time in Citywalk....

 

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Merry Christmas lunch at Universal Citywalk! Delicious Japanese BBQ!

 

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They have a ride called "cupcake dream" at USJ! You know, because Japan!

 

Santa Pikachu says Merry Christmas!

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You know you are back in Japan when you find hundreds of capsule machines filled with the most random stuff!

 

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Having a traditional Japanese Christmas dinner at Hard Rock Cafe in Citywalk!

 

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Merry Christmas from the best Universal park on the planet!

 

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Arrived at USJ to get an early ride on Flying Dinosaur! OMG! This ride is GREAT!!! Quite possibly the best Universal coaster!

 

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Jaws > Harry Potter. Sorry, just not a Potter fan. I'm happy this ride still exists at USJ.

 

Here's a look at what Japanese Jaws is like!

 

Dear Universal Orlando, USJ changed their strict locker policy by increasing staff & adding lockers on platforms. Huge improvement. Take note

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Basically what you are seeing is that in the queues, Universal staff and the video screens instruct guests of the very strict "no loose items" policies. And in the queue, they hand out baskets to put all your loose items into. So that way when you get to the platform, all you have to do is put the basket into the area on the other side of the platform. NO METAL DETECTORS or lockers are required! This is not hard to do, Universal Orlando, but it will require effort from your operations team and your staff.

 

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No more "put everything in lockers before you ride" USJ Staff informs & helps riders use lockers on ride platforms now. GREAT! While it is not a "painless" system, it is by far nowhere near as painful as the horrible system in Orlando.

 

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Two of my favorite Universal properties in one shot! Both films represented better here at USJ than they are in the US parks!

 

Why can't we have random awesome stuff like this in America:

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Or this...

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This is amazing! You buy a Christmas churro and spin the wheel for a chance to win a special Churro Tree!!! You can't even buy the Churro tree, you have to win it!

 

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Yes, you are seeing that correctly! That is "Turkey Leg Flavored Popcorn!"

 

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Shrek & Sesame Street 4-D play in the "looping theater" but spoiler alert, it doesn't go upside down!

 

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Merry Christmas from Universal Studios Japan! Having an amazing day so far! Such a wonderful park! The "greatest hits" of all Universal parks in one place!

 

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USJ's layout and look was modeled after Universal Orlando but the park has many improvements making it the best Universal park in the world!

 

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Minions themed pork bun! Yesss! We get to bite their horrible faces off!!!

 

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I love how Hollywood Dream floats over the entrance to the park!

 

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OMG! The onride photo for Flying Dinosaur was great! Had to get ours!

 

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OM NOM NOM! Dinosaur wants CocaCola!

 

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Now, now, that is not a penis. Get your mind out of the gutter. It's just some yummy Japanese octopus!

 

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OMG! The Minions showed up and everyone went berserk! Minus one point for the Japanese!

 

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Of all the "new for 2016" Universal attractions, Flying Dinosaur is by far the stand-out clear winner!

 

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Because everyone needs Jaws on their butt...

 

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Dear Back to the Future fans, I'm sad to report the ride has finally closed at USJ and will become a Minions themed ride...

 

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But never fear... Jaws is still here!!!

 

This machine is making Minions themed waffles that you easily can bite off their heads!

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Some things just don't quite translate in Japan! Found this as part of the theming in the USJ Hotel! lol

 

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They also still have Backdraft at USJ and it's still as good as you remember it!

 

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Both Hollywood Dream & Backdrop are super fun! I actually prefer the backwards version!

 

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So much of this park looks just like Universal Orlando, but it is improved in every way! Best Universal park ever!

 

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Jaws still draws decent sized crowds here. The Japanese seem to LOVE it! Hope it sticks around a long time!

 

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These giant poofy winter hats are all the rage here at USJ!

 

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That's the current line for Jaws! Apparently this ride still has lots of fans in Japan!

 

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It's 54 degrees out and people are still riding the crap out of Jurassic Park River Adventure!

 

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Flying Dinosaur queue may be 180 minutes, but not for us! Express Pass FTW!

 

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Seriously Orlando, take a page from USJ's attractions loose items process and improve your guest experience!

 

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The park has been filled with Christmas cosplay girls today and we think that's AWESOME!!!

 

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Yay! It's the Happiness Wagon! I don't know why this makes me happy, but it does!

 

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Snoopy Studios is one of several kids areas they have at USJ!

 

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I can't be the only person who prefers Jaws over Harry Potter, right?

 

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So much awesome Jaws merchandise!

 

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Love the artwork on these Jaws postcards!

 

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Here's why Japan is awesome. This is a few thousand people politely & patiently waiting for a show at USJ. Would be a cluster in the US!

 

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Is this photo from Universal Orlando or Japan? You almost cannot tell!

 

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Poor Hello Kitty...

 

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The Sesame Street area is another great place for kids to play.

 

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Things that look familiar, but aren't.

 

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Jaws Skippers > Harry Potter

 

So if you have noticed, I have not yet mentioned Wizarding World of Harry Potter in this report. I will openly admit, I don't like Harry Potter. While I can appreciate that others do, and I have honestly given it a try, it's just not for me. I'm not a fan of "unicorns & fairies" style fantasy, if anything I prefer a good sci-fi story or movie instead. But that being said, there are plenty of people who are into the property and while I personally think that Harry Potter has helped ruin the parks in the US, the same is fortunately not the case for the Japan park. You see, that put Potterland in it's very own section that is an off-shoot of the main park, almost as though they built a separate "Harry Potter Park" within Universal. You can spend the entire day wandering around USJ and not once have to ever see or step foot into the Harry Potter area. And that is exactly what I did and I had an AWESOME day! I will also say that I did not encounter any annoyance, frustration, or operational issues...UNTIL I went into the Harry Potter area. Ugh, I just do not like it. These areas are small, over-crowded, I'm not a fan of the rides, and I just don't "get" what people see in this property. Hate me if you want for not liking it, but it's just not my thing. And note that I'm not "hating" on it, I just prefer to avoid it most of the time. But enough people had asked me to check it out, especially to see if the locker situation had changed at all from last year, which sadly it had not. I spent as little time as I could in this area as I wanted to get out and enjoy the rest of my evening.

 

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Yup, it's Forbidden Journey. Same as all the other versions except in 3-D. Not like that it makes it any better of a ride or anything.

 

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It's unfortunate with all the improvements USJ made with lockers on other rides that Potterland lockers are still a mess. This right here makes me not even want to visit the attraction.

 

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Sorry, I'm just not a Harry Potter fan and I can't appreciate this as much as other people do, but the area looks nice, I guess...

 

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Entrance to Diagon Alley or a toilet? Oh wait, it's the same...

 

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Hey look, it's a foreshadowing of things to come...

 

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Had a really great day at USJ until I went into Potterland! Reminds of me how Orlando's parks used to be! Now let's get back to enjoying the rest of the park...

 

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So familiar yet not at all...

 

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Sad about the unscheduled Space Fantasy closure today. Easily a top 5 Universal ride. I've been on it but bummed for others with us who haven't. Next time...

 

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The skyline around the lake.

 

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Another shot of USJ from the other side of the lake. The skyline of this park is awesome!

 

Now THAT is a Christmas tree!!!

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The Christmas tree at USJ is seriously impressive!

 

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USJ puts on a really nice projection & live Christmas carols show to accompany the Christmas tree lighting! Really impressive show!

 

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Awesome shot of Hollywood Dream/Backdrop thanks to Hanno!

 

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Are you sick of seeing USJ skyline pics? No? Good. Here's one from Hanno!

 

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Just a few people hanging out with Christmas Jaws tonight! Photo: Hanno

 

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It looks like just like Orlando, but man, do I wish this park was in Orlando! Photo: Hanno

 

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Flying Dinosaur was really REALLY good! Universal's US parks need more rides like this and less media-based simulators! Photo: Hanno

 

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And this brings an absolutely FANTASTIC to Universal Japan to a close! Easily one of the world's best theme parks!

 

Thank you to USJ for an amazing day!

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Click HERE for the next section of the report from our trip!

Edited by robbalvey
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Great visit, Robb! I miss it, every time you go over there, lol!

 

Sad to read a no-ride on Space fantasy.

Great indoor coaster... & Inside Disco Ball!

(That's all I'll say about it.)

 

The Holiday Lighting all over the park looks wonderful!

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Looks cool, but I really feel like "immersion" and theming is what separates Disney and Universal from the "Six Flags"-style parks of the world. It just doesn't look like it's there on these roller coasters (although admittedly you didn't show us the queue lines).

 

Don't get me wrong - I'd still visit if I were in the neighborhood, but I don't see anything that rivals USO. Cool trip, though!

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Looks cool, but I really feel like "immersion" and theming is what separates Disney and Universal from the "Six Flags"-style parks of the world. It just doesn't look like it's there on these roller coasters (although admittedly you didn't show us the queue lines).

 

Don't get me wrong - I'd still visit if I were in the neighborhood, but I don't see anything that rivals USO. Cool trip, though!

I'm not even sure what you're saying in your response. If you're saying that Universal Japan looks like Six Flags, you're insane and totally mistaken. If you're saying that Universal Japan doesn't look anywhere near as good as Universal Orlando, you're insane and totally mistaken.

 

Universal Japan is significantly better than Orlando in every way. Operations, clientele, selection of rides, guest service, food and drink options, merchandise, entertainment, and an overall guest experience.

 

Maybe if you were a bit more clear with your words I could understand what your thought was, but really I have no idea and I'm just guessing at this point.

Edited by robbalvey
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Aww, this made me really miss the way the Orlando parks used to be. For anyone who hasn't been since 5+ years ago, they basically took 100% of their efforts and budget in maintenance, service, food quality, employee talent, etc and just dumped it into the Potter sections, yet managed to make all of those things worse at the same time.

 

For the guy that compared USJ to Six Flags...I think I'd be more likely to compare the non-Potter areas of USO to Six Flags...in the way that they build a new dark ride or whatever then leave it and expect it to stand on it's own while it rots away and the paint peels off.

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Just out of curiosity for future trips, what rides were given time slots for the express 7? Did you get those on the day? I remember it being a coupon book when I last went but we were told by some people that lived in Japan and visited a little while ago that since Harry Potter came along, express passes can be gone before even opening because it let's you get around the timed entry to the area and since Japanese can reserve ahead of time on the site it, we should ask someone to do it for us if we did go out.

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Just out of curiosity for future trips, what rides were given time slots for the express 7?

The two Potter rides, Flying Dinosaur, and Backdrop. Everything else we could use when we wanted to. Note that Backdrop and Flying Dinosuar were on two different books that we purchased. As of right now, you cannot purchase one book with both of them.

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Aww, this made me really miss the way the Orlando parks used to be. For anyone who hasn't been since 5+ years ago, they basically took 100% of their efforts and budget in maintenance, service, food quality, employee talent, etc and just dumped it into the Potter sections, yet managed to make all of those things worse at the same time.

This is exactly how I feel as well. I mean, the reality is that I'll still take Universal Orlando over like 90% of the rest of the parks in the US, but I miss the higher level of quality the parks used to offer. And you still get that at Universal Japan.

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Thanks for this report, Universal Japan really is amazing! Didn't the staff use metal detectors at The Flying Dinosaur anymore? Last summer, every guest was checked by a staff member with a hand-held metal detector. It didn't bother me though, operations in this park are just incredible. Wish every park had operations like this one.

 

The Flying Dinosaur is my favorite flying coaster, but I didn't ride Tatsu yet. Which one do you think is better?

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Thanks for this report, Universal Japan really is amazing! Didn't the staff use metal detectors at The Flying Dinosaur anymore?

Not that we saw during our visit and we rode it three times that day: morning, noon, and evening.

Edited by robbalvey
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Sorry about that little mess I had to clean up. Let me just make something clear - This is a report about our trip to Asia, NOT a soapbox for Universal Orlando fanboys to jump on and start making claims about the operations at that park, which has NOTHING to do with our report. If you'd like to discuss operations at Universal Orlando, we have a Universal Orlando Discussion Thread which is a perfect place for that.

 

Thank you!

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I like Universal Japan a lot. It's too bad that Space Fantasy was closed; it's a great ride, even if it doesn't make much sense (unless you speak Japanese, I guess).

 

And yay for Japanese Jaws!

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Looks cool, but I really feel like "immersion" and theming is what separates Disney and Universal from the "Six Flags"-style parks of the world. It just doesn't look like it's there on these roller coasters (although admittedly you didn't show us the queue lines).

 

Don't get me wrong - I'd still visit if I were in the neighborhood, but I don't see anything that rivals USO. Cool trip, though!

I'm not even sure what you're saying in your response. If you're saying that Universal Japan looks like Six Flags, you're insane and totally mistaken. If you're saying that Universal Japan doesn't look anywhere near as good as Universal Orlando, you're insane and totally mistaken.

 

Universal Japan is significantly better than Orlando in every way. Operations, clientele, selection of rides, guest service, food and drink options, merchandise, entertainment, and an overall guest experience.

 

Maybe if you were a bit more clear with your words I could understand what your thought was, but really I have no idea and I'm just guessing at this point.

 

I apologize for the miscommunication - I originally had a longer post, but it was coming across as adversarial, so I gutted it, and lost my point in the process. I really need to quit violating my "no posting after midnight" rule. In fact, I've rewritten this post several times as well, trying to figure out how to articulate what I wanted to say.

 

Six Flags parks seem to like slapping a DC Comics character on a roller coaster and call that "theming." The coaster is still front and center, not the cohesive theme or the overall experience of the attraction. It's the same thing I disliked about IoA enough that we didn't even go to the park the first time I went as an adult in 2007 (I regret that now as I would like to have seen it pre-Potterland). It's the same aesthetic that I hate about Rip Ride Rockit, and frankly, I was so underwhelmed by that ride that I will probably never ride it again. There's no story, no adventure. Just "stand in this queue line, strap in to this roller coaster, and hold on!" Ditto for California Screamin' in Anaheim, albeit with a much better roller coaster. *Please understand, I LOVE roller coasters, but Disney and Universal have consistently raised the bar for themed experiences.

 

By contrast, consider the Revenge of the Mummy. Theming throughout, especially the "brain burn" scene. It actually took me by surprise on my first ride. It takes a pretty unremarkable roller coaster and elevates it to a much more exciting experience. Space Mountain, Rock N Roller Coaster, et al have a story that's set up throughout the area around the attraction, through the queue line, and continues through the attraction itself. For crying out loud, people are throwing a fit about the Tower of Terror in DCA closing, and it's nothing more than a drop tower! A drop tower with top shelf theming.

 

The appeal of Potterland, to me, is extending that theming to an entire section of park. A consistent and pervasive theme can be really effective (Silver Dollar City in Branson is a great example of this), and while the traffic flow is definitely an issue, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley provide a unique chance to really immerse yourself in that theme. The Potter rides could never live up to their hype (I was particularly underwhelmed by Escape From Gringott's - a bad roller coaster mixed with a watered down version of Spider-Man), but the theming means that the rides don't have to stand alone. It's my favorite aspect of Animal Kingdom or Epcot's World Showcase- the feeling of actually being transported to another place. Disney is continuing the trend, with fully immersive Avatar, Star Wars, and Toy Story lands in the works. I do agree with you that the storage situation could be avoided, but they'd have to be more creative than plastic bins in order to maintain the theme.

 

So I guess the short version of my post is this: how is the theming of the park? IoA has flashes of brilliance; USO is limited in this aspect. I want to visit Tokyo DisneySea at least once in my life because it seems to be the mecca of impeccable theming and themed experiences.

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So I guess the short version of my post is this: how is the theming of the park? IoA has flashes of brilliance; USO is limited in this aspect. I want to visit Tokyo DisneySea at least once in my life because it seems to be the mecca of impeccable theming and themed experiences.

Well, the park IS sort of a mix between Universal and IOA and with that is the styles of theming you know between those two parks. I will say though that I feel USJ pulls it off much better.

 

While, sure, rides like Flying Dinosaur and Hollywood Dream are not themed that much once you leave the station or really at all in comparison to a "themed attraction" like Mummy or Spider-Man, but Flying Dinosaur does at least fit in with the whole "flying" theme, and the train is very nicely themed.

 

Potterland aside as I'm not a huge fan of the property or the land, I do feel that USJ has a better selection of themed attractions and does a better job with theming the rides they have. For example, I still think Space Fantasy is one of the best themed indoor coasters you'll find. Mummy and Tron I would also put in that category. I have always been impressed with Jaws and am very happy that attraction lives on in that park. And attractions like Spider-Man, Jurassic Park River Adventure, the indoor Snoopy area, and even Backdraft are all very well done and well themed.

 

I would say the only two attractions that fall into your "Six Flags" description at USJ would be Flying Dinosaur and Hollywood Dream. But I personally like both of those rides better than let's say Hulk and Rip Ride Rockit. So maybe it's jut a matter of personal preference.

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I wish Flying coasters became a trend in the west, since the newer ones in Asia to me looks vastly superior to the other ones. Here in Europe we haven't gotten a flying coaster since Air/Galactica which was almost 15 years ago, and it doesn't seem as good as the others. Instead we soon have 5 dive coasters that I'd be more than happy to trade for the two cusom flyers in Japan.

 

Side note, do you think Flying Dinosaur is better than Sky Scrapper? Ride wise, that is (I'm more of a ride guy than a theming guy, but maybe that's because I've never been to Universal or similar...)

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