We have BIG news this week. Universal held "technical rehearsals" (Disney calls them "soft openings") of their brand new mega attraction, Transformers: The Ride 3D. We'll share our review and photos here. We also check on Disneyland's preparations for the big summer crowds and Disney California Adventure's final push to get ready for the June 15th opening of two new lands. Then we stop by Knott's Berry Farm for some happy news regarding employee management and to bring you back a new batch of photos from the park. Here we go folks!

We had heard for days that Universal's new Transformers: The Ride 3D might open for "Technical Rehearsals" as early as yesterday (April 19th). The day before that, we were contacted by Universal representatives and invited to come down the next morning and see for ourselves. Sure enough, the ride opened with the park at 10am and we rode repeatedly for a couple of hours (as the ride had a very short line). Just last week, we were invited to N.E.S.T. headquarters to walk the track of this new mega-attraction. While the ride officially opens on May 25th 2012, we now expect it to be open daily (though any new ride in technical rehearsals is subject to down time and closure without notice).

No lines at opening on the first day of Tech rehearsals (once word leaks out, you can expect these lines to become massive).

So what did we think of this attraction? Well, quite frankly, we were blown away by it. The 3D is on par or better than what you see on Star Tours, but on this attraction, the simulator seats 12 and moves on a track with a full range of motion (up, down, dodge, shake, spin), with crisp audio, and an action packed story line which will have you exhausted at the end. Yes, it's as amazing as it sounds.

(Note - we posted part of this review last week after In The Parks had been published live - we've updated the review and republished below with additional information and thoughts after having ridden the attraction on the 19th)

What is Transformers: The Ride 3D?

Official Web Site: Transformers The Ride 3D at Universal Studios Hollywood
Ride Length: about Four minutes long
Height Restrictions
Front of Line: Gate A (Universal's front of line program) and Single Rider line
Track Length: 2000 ft
Top Speed: Simulated speeds up to 60mph

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The ride vehicles

Vehicle onboard sound: 5,000 watts of sound, 14 channel audio
Practical Effects:
Strobe, Water, Heat, Fog
HD3D Screens : 14 total, maximum height: 60', front, rear and compound curve screens
Projectors: 34

Let's take a tour:

The boxy (sound stage like) show building is masked only by a larger than life mural of transformers in battle. You can't miss it as you descend the Starway from the upper lot. Upon entering the attraction show building, you'll find yourself in N.E.S.T. headquarters (Nonbiological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty). Here, we are divided up into three groupings; Regular queue, Gate-A (front of the line), and Single Rider. Form there, the lines separate and begin to set up the storyline for the adventure ahead.

Not only is the queue well themed, it is also quite large and completely temperature controlled (which will be a blessing this summer).

While in the queue, you'll learn that it is a time of extreme danger. The Decepticons are on the attack in pursuit of the "All Spark" that would give them ultimate power. As you might expect from a theme park attraction, you are recruited to help fight the Decepticons and soon find yourself aboard your very own Transformer vehicle to join the fight.

The All Spark

Click for larger, downloadable image.

grab your protective glasses and get in the EVAC

Grabbing a pair of 3D glasses we hop on board and are off for 4 minutes of high-tech wizardry and fun.

If there are smaller ones in your party that cannot or choose not to ride, there is a waiting area just to the left of the loading platform.

This window looks out onto the returning vehicles.

Each vehicle is a roaming flight simulator that darts, spins and careens through practical sets that are perfectly blended with High Definition 3D projections to create an impressive illusion of reality. The attraction fuses rear-projection HD3D screens, practical sets, heat, water and smoke, and flight simulator technology.

All of the photos you see below from the actual ride portion of the attraction were taken while on a guided walking tour we took last week. You are not actually permitted to take photos while on the ride. Some of these shots are with work lights on, and others in show mode.

From the moment you step into the queue, until the ride is done, you'll be part of the action. The tension ratchets up from one room to the next in the queue, until you are ready to hop aboard an EVAC and fight the bad guys for yourself. The brilliance of the story is that you really don't need to know it at all. The bad guys are have taken something that could destroy the world and you need to get it back. If you pay attention, you can learn even more, which makes the ride very repeatable (in fact, you'll be compelled to get right back in line if you experience the same emotions about the attraction as we did.)

With Spiderman and Harry Potter in Florida, and now Transformers in Los Angeles, Universal has amassed an impressive collection of dark-rides that rival the best of Disney. We were blown away by the technology of this new attraction. As of the writing of this article (prior to the opening of Radiator Springs Racers at Disney) we feel that Transformers is poised to battle Disney for best new attraction in the Southern California market and one of the top attractions overall in Southern California, if not the world.

When Can You Ride?
Technical rehearsals began yesterday and could possibly continue until the official opening date of May 25th. If you go to the park expecting to ride, keep a good attitude. It can close for any reason at any time.

Our prediction?
Buy an annual pass, because you are going to want to visit this attraction several times this summer. Universal seems to have a solid hit on their hands and may have built a ride that at one time would only have been possible by Disney. Kudos to Universal Creative, we can't wait to see what they have cooked up for their next big project, Harry Potter.

While the big news was centered down in the lower lot this week, there was still plenty to see around the park. Here are a few things of interest from the week.

Flame Broiler opened at Cityfood in CityWalk recently. SO GOOD. Go have a try.

Transformers has taken its spot on the wait time board. For much of its opening day, it had 10 to 15 minute waits. But don't count on that to continue now that the word is out.

The playground project near the Jurassic park queue is taking shape. Kids will soon be able to play and climb in and around a triceratops skeleton.

Work continues on the Mummy Lockers building here. It should be ready to go in time for the official opening of Transformers which is located nearby.

Falls Lake's backdrop has been painted green and a strange new piece of set dressing has appeared off to the side.

What could that be behind the tram?


Attention future Gumball Rally stars, this year's event is nearly sold out. Time to get your team registered!

The MiceChat Gumball Rally is a race to find out who can ride the most attractions at Disneyland in a single day. It's a fantastic event for Disney fans of any age and a great way to spend a day in the park with friends and family. Whether you win or lose, you are always a winner when the race takes place on your favorite rides at your favorite place on earth.

When: May 19th, 2012
Where: Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California
COST: $29.99 per person
How Do I sign up?: MiceChat Events Store Gumball Rally Sign Up
How Does the Rally Work?: Rally Information Page

But that's just a little piece of the puzzle. We'll also offer a pre-Rally pasta party on May 18th and a MiceChat Mega Meet on Sunday the 20th (save the date). T-Shirts are available for this year's event as well. If you've never heard of the Gumball Rally before, please visit the Rally Information Page HERE for more information and FAQ. A discussion thread has been created in the forums as well: MiceChat Gumball Rally Discussion.

Tickets for this year's event will likely sell out in the next few days, so don't delay, get your teams together and sign up today! RALLY SIGN UP HERE

It's was a lovely week at Disneyland as continuing Matterhorn and smaller projects are beginning to wrap up.

There isn't too much of a visible difference (that we can see on the outside) at Carnation Cafe this week.

As the scaffolds recede, the new paint job and details continue to impress on the revamped Matterhorn. At this point, the bridges and by-ways along the base of the mountain are getting the most noticeable attention, with a complete rebuilding of the stone bridge on the east side of the mountain.

Buena Vista Street will be a striking first act to Disney California Adventure when it debuts on June 15th. Whether or not you are a fan of the Red Car Trolley wires, you have to concede that the level of detail that is already visible in this area is exactly what this park needed - and what the fans were screaming for since day one. They are hard at work now, and are about to lay down the roads in the entrance plaza. Meanwhile the wrought iron, lighting fixtures, and final touch ups are being added to the buildings of Buena Vista Circle and the Carthay Circle Theater.

Hard to believe that a giant tile mural and a train facade were once the residents of this area.

The streets are just about to be poured

This is one of our favorite details so far. So ornate and elegant, but easy to miss if you don't look up.

The Carthay Circle went back under scaffold this week.

Wires or no, it's hard for us not to be excited by what we have seen thus far (and we haven't even seen the insides of the buildings yet!)

A fond farewell was bid to Electronica in the Hollywood Pictures area of Hollywood Land last Sunday. The set pieces that were installed two years ago should be completely removed by the time you read this article. But, if you are left in a quandary, you need not worry. Signs assure party-goers that the new Mad-T-Party is on its way.

The irony here is that the temporary construction screens that were installed for the Monsters refurbishment actually enhanced the digital projection effects for ElecTRONica.

The other issue is that the relatively new fountain structure that doubled as the base for the DJ station has taken a real beating while it's been covered. They will have to do some quick maintenance in time for the park's relaunch.


It's been months without the Soarin' sign being replaced.
That's a long time for a simple sign insert replacement.

The exterior stairway at the Hyperion theatre is getting a much needed paint job. Thank you Project Sparkle. But we still hope that this ugly staircase will be replace and enclosed in Phase 2 of DCA's rebuild. Come on Disney, you can do it!

Poor little Gypsy's remaining antenna was removed (perhaps just until they can replace both).

Cars Land is nearly complete and ready to go. A new billboard was installed, then quickly covered at the main entrance of the land along the parade route. Stanley has been uncovered again in front of the courthouse too. Let's see what we can see what else is new this week.

The entry sign is ready for its big unveiling

Happy construction workers make happy attractions.

a lonely covered car sits on the track.

All sorts of things continue to improve at Knott's Berry Farm, from the front gate to the inner workings of the park. We've got to give a lot of credit to General Manager Raffi Kaprelyan and his team for getting this park back on track so quickly.

Don't forget the car show on Sunday!

At the front gate, things start off on the right foot with some lavish hanging baskets that were recently installed. They really soften the hard-scape of the entry area.

Changes are afoot in Camp Snoopy. The Balloon Races have returned, sparkly and new. They have also begun refurbishment on the Camp Snoopy restrooms.


Windseeker has been down unexpectedly for a few weeks now and we are not exactly sure why.

We are happy to report that the water wheel at the top of the first lift hill on the Timber Mountain Log Ride is working again. This large, spinning wheel adds a kinetic energy to the ride that is most welcome. Nice to see things like this getting fixed after so long.

While strolling through the park this week we noticed, at least five different groups of new-hire employees being led through tours of the park. They were being given a Knott's version of what Disney would call "Traditions training". THIS IS SO GOOD TO SEE!!!

They are giving their staff a full on primer of Knott's and the heritage of the park which is something that every employee of the park should know. This is yet another great move by the park lately and should pay off in happier guests, lower employee turnover and a greater sense of identity for Knott's.

But what visit to Knott's would be complete without a stroll through the Wild West and a taste of the pop music that fills the area? Here is what we heard while in the area this week, along with some HDR glamor shots of the area. Do the pictures match the music?

Remember, this is the last weekend for Bubblefest. If you didn't win tickets from us a few weeks ago, we suggest you get on over there. It's a great time, especially for the young ones.

Leading the excitement this year is Deni Yang and the Mega Bubblefest Laser Show, featuring a high-tech combination of art and science using bubbles, lights, special effects and lasers. This is a $7 up-charge.

The show is colorful

There is a special area for kids to interact with the show on the floor of the theatre.

The LED Lighting affects and bubble creations are eye-popping.

Bubbles within bubbles

Smoke filled bubbles

gazillions of bubbles

It puts a smile on your face

It's like being surrounded by magic

But it all ends this Sunday, April 22nd. You've been warned. Don't get there after the last bubble has popped.

And don't forget to take in the latest from the MiceTube. A brand new Communicore weekly has been published for your entertainment.

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As well as Sarah's latest Micechatter video

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We'd like to extend a huge thanks to today's contributors: CaptPhoebus, Fishbulb and Dustysage. (If you've got breaking news or photos to share, we'd love to hear from you too!
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Wherever you go and whatever you do this weekend, we hope you have a wonderful time. We'll see you In The Parks . . .