Universal Studios, Singapore.
A couple of days ago, I took Fintan, seven and Ainan, ten, to Universal Studios, in Singapore. It was not quite what I expected.
There are two ways to review Universal Studios: I could look at it, from my point of view, or from that of my boys. I think I should do both.
There were a number of things which both sons liked. For instance, the "4D" cinema show about Shrek, in "Far far away". That, was one of the things the boys liked best. I won't give too much away, only to say that it is a much more "alive" cinema show than any I have seen. Basically, what you see on the screen, also happens to you. So, if a character spits, on screen - you get "spat" on by a water jet from the seat in front. This kind of thing, happened throughout and the boys really enjoyed it.
Also of interest was the Donkey Live, show, in which an onscreen cartoon character appears to interact with an audience: very well done. Ainan appreciated the cleverness of that.
In all, however, I would say that the Far far away set was the most carefully thought out. The same cannot be said for all Universal Studios, however.
Many of the rides were not working. This was disappointing considering that the boys had travelled so far. The main ride in the Jurassic Park section - the Rapid Adventures - was shut owing to "technical difficulties". The Sci Fi Town was a joke. The big roller coaster there has been out of action for most of the year. Both the Human and Cylon sections of Battle Star Galactica are out of commission. Other than that, there appeared to be not one idea in the whole of the Sci Fi town. Whoever implemented it, had no creativity at all. The boys were not impressed and neither was I.
The Madagascar section held most promise for the boys, since they are great Madagascar fans - but the main attraction there, The Crate Adventure, was not yet ready for opening. This was beginning to become a tiresome tale, of the Universal Studios experience. Much that the boys wanted to try simply wasn't available.
Interestingly, when we bought the tickets, at FULL price, it was not made clear to us, that so many rides were out of commission. This seems to be a deceptive practice and certainly didn't inspire confidence in the decency of Universal Studios.
Ainan was very impressed, however, with Lights Camera Action - a Spielberg effort. It was basically a sound stage set up to show special effects. The scene - a Category 5 storm - was well done enough to light up the kids' eyes.
Also enjoyable was the Waterworld performance. This involved actors shooting and blowing each other up all over the place, on a large floating set, using boats and jet skis and even a crashing plane. Great stuff for the kids.
The Monster Rock musical in the evening, got a very interesting reaction from all of us. It was just too loud. Both of my sons stuck their fingers in their ears throughout and Ainan was so unimpressed by the antics on stage, that he tried to go to sleep in that position! However, I did enjoy the performance of one particular actor. I don't know his name, since there was no programme for the show - but he looked rather like Orlando Bloom and was constantly reacting in an interesting fashion to all that was happening around him. In some ways, he was being a bit naughty as an actor, though, since he tended to upstage other performers, by his reactions. He was good, however, as a performer.
What was not good, was just how loud the explosives used on stage were, at the end. We were sat in the front row and could feel the sheer HEAT of the fireworks used. The final bang was truly percussive and enough to shock one. I felt rather sorry for the performers who have to hear that explosion three times a day, throughout each and every week. I am sure that they will have one thing to remember Universal Studios by: tinnitus and lifelong hardness of hearing.
It was even worse in Waterworld. Some of the actors had explosions go off a few feet from where they stood. I really wouldn't like to be them.
This brings me to my own point of view. As an adult, watching Universal Studios' offering, I can say this: I was very surprised at the limited range of ideas, on display. Everywhere, there was recourse to two key ideas: make the audience wet (by inundating them, splashing them, spraying them...etc.) and using explosives to make loud bangs, at every opportunity. It was both silly and juvenile to use these two ploys so extensively throughout the park. It was also rather boring and predictable. Only someone very inexperienced in the world - or a child (same thing, I suppose), could be impressed by this. Anyone else, could only see it as rather cliche.
Personally, I had rather expected more creativity to be on display - but that is not what was offered, in general (expect for the Shrek shows). It seems that whoever is responsible for designing Universal Studios exhibits is mired, too much, in Hollywood cliche and unable to break through and offer a truly new experience. Only the Shrek show hinted at what was possible.
At the end, I asked Ainan if he had thought it was worth it to come to Universal Studios.
"Yes.", he said, softly. Then he asked, "How much did it cost?"
I told him. His eyes looked a little surprised.
"Almost worth it," he qualified.
Fintan, however, was not so sure. From about four pm (about three and a half hours after we had arrived), he began asking, repeatedly: "Can we go home?". So, land of enchantment though it might purport to be, Fintan was not entirely enchanted - at least not for long.
From my point of view, I would say that Universal Studios could do so much better. Many of the shows/rides/offerings, showed little creativity, and too many of them were simply closed - leaving it impossible for me to judge or comment on them.
Universal Studios should not charge full prices on its tickets, when rides are out of action. That makes anyone who goes there, feel ripped off. Personally, I think it shortsighted of them, to do this: they profit in the short term, but in the long term, they create bad word of mouth.
My review of Universal Studios cannot be definitive because we were unable to see everything in action - but what we did see, was mixed. Some of it had thought and creativity in its implementation, but much of it did not. So, there is much room for improvement.
Universal Studios Singapore was surprisingly small, for a theme park - but then, that is to be expected given its location. So, if you go, don't expect the expanse of a Disney World...because you simply are not going to get it.
Children who have no experience of theme parks (like my children) will enjoy it, at least for a time. Adults, who have been to theme parks before, might be struck by the lack of originality on show. So, whether you enjoy it or not, will depend on your prior experience. Happy holidaying all.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to: http://scientific-child-prodigy.blogspot.com/2006/10/scientific-child-prodigy-guide.html
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Labels: closed rides, disappointment, Far far away, In the eyes of a child, Jurassic Park, Lights camera action, overcharging, rip off, Shrek, Spielberg, theme parks, Universal Studios Singapore, Waterworld