Friday, August 6, 2010

Universal Studios Japan : Is the new " Space Fantasy " roller-coaster a super Space Mountain ?

I can't believe i've never heard - until today - about this new Universal Studios Japan attraction! Anyway, better too late than never as we say, so all my thanks to Matthew who sent me today a kind email about it. "Space Fantasy" as the ride is called apparently looks a lot like Space Mountain - guests are sent across the universe - but there is some technical improvements and also a typical Japanese story line.

First, Space Fantasy is not a simple roller-coaster as it is a "spinning" roller coaster! Designed if i'm right by MACK each part of the train - in which guests sit back to back - is spinning during the ride, but not during all the ride.

Described by Universal Studios as "a new ride to experience the Universe" guests are "departing from the Earth with the mission to save the Sun", nothing less! According to the press release aboard the "solar shuttles" "You will have a close-up view of the stars and exploring through the asteroids, and experiencing the changing speed which varies along with the story. At the climax of the ride, you will encounter and go into the Sun!" So, it's a space themed roller coaster and just like at DL Space Moutain the ride is full of galaxy projection effects or even huge meteorites like at DLP.

Screamscape who was the first to talk about it some months ago had a better description of the ride: “Once the guests departs from Earth, they will see the big beautiful planet Earth in all its glory, and once slowly moving further away from Earth into deep space, passes by Nebulas, and a Milky way like Star field that looks like a Water Fall, called, the Star Fall. Once they pass thru the Star Fall, they will go around the ring of Saturn, and through the shooting star showers, and other small planets, until nearing the Mercury, pass by Mercury, the guests close in to the SUN.”

There is also some characters that guests discover during the queue-pre-show of the ride - including a talking communications satellite named “G-Bot”, and a Solar Princess born in a supernova called Kosumia: “Kosumia knowing that the sun is losing energy, was holding a crisis. To save the sun, (she) realize that he (the sun) needed the human energy we have, that puts toward the sun appeal to guests.” So, on a certain point of view it's a Space Mountain with a Japanese story-line, but that's not the problem.

The other technical innovation - which is also great - happen during the ride (and also during the queue) and is interactive. Designed by GestureTek this revolutionary 3D camera tracking and multi-touch systems takes visitors into the future of entertainment as "the ride is equipped with 3D cameras and projection systems. This lets visitors control the content on the screens around them by simple hand gestures, enabling them to collect “Stardust Clouds” from the LED displays in a 98-foot, in-ride tunnel"!

More about this amazing in-ride innovation from GestureTek press release: "Using 3D cameras that scan the surrounding environment and detect movement, GestureTek created an innovative and exciting way for guests to interact in free space with dynamic multi-media imagery in the pre-ride area. On the actual ride, GestureTek's touch-free multi-touch interface adds a collaborative element to the rider experience, so that guests can interact together with on-screen elements while working towards a common goal."

In the Pre-ride area "Space Entities Engage with Passers-By, Reacting to Users' Movements and Gestures. Visitors line up next to 85 feet of motion-driven 'Harmony Walls' designed to provide a unique and engaging interactive experience. Using an array of 22 integrated 3D depth cameras, 13 projection systems, a custom-designed tracker and 16 rack-mounted quad-core computers, GestureTek created an intelligent, vision-equipped environment where the heads of up to 66 guests and 132 hands can be tracked. The system's tracking capabilities track an entire audience and their specific gestures, providing visitors with the ultimate interactive experience."

"GestureTek managed the creation of fun custom content featuring animated intergalactic ‘sun fairies’ that tumble, fly, lead visitors and scatter in reaction to visitors' movements and gestures. "Our 3D tracking system can be configured to respond to a broad range of one-handed or two-handed gestures, including swipes, circular motions, pokes, waves and more," said Francis MacDougall, GestureTek's Chief Technology Offer. "The Space Fantasy attraction primarily utilizes intuitive pointing gestures, to guarantee easy and immediate user interaction, with no learning curve."

During the ride: "Riders Collect ‘Star Dust’ To Save the Sun". As part of the ride, GestureTek's multi-touch software and custom-designed camera array powers an interactive experience where, for the first time ever, riders can control content on the screens around them, simply by gesturing with their arms. The premise of the Space Fantasy ride is the impending death of the sun. As guests travel by cart up a 98 foot in-ride climbing tunnel lined with Barco LED display tiles, they can collect energy from the ‘Stardust Clouds’, that will be used to re-energize the sun."

"The tunnel ride is the first ‘in-ride’ device-free interaction that we have seen," said MacDougall. "GestureTek is one of a very few organizations possessing the in-depth knowledge of cameras, infrared and multi-touch required to isolate multiple hand movements while ride cars are in motion."

With this new spinning-interactive-roller coaster it seems that Universal have a new big E-Ticket ride. With the new Harry Potter ride at Orlando it is the second major ride opened by Universal in three months. And both of them are innovative and spectacular... Not so far ago innovative attractions were always coming from Imagineering but apparently Universal is now leading. I'm pretty sure that Disney Imagineers have some great and innovative projects for the future, but if not, it's really time to wake up at WDI!

Okay, let's have a look at the real thing with the four videos below. The two first videos are from Universal and the two last one are private on-ride videos but all are interesting. On the second one you'll see at the beginning the "Space Fantasy Plaza" with, part of the decor, many little planets all around. HKDL fans will instantly understand where Universal has "stolen" the idea - as these little planets are an important part of Tim Delaney's HKDL Tomorrowland design!

Anyway, have a look at the videos and enjoy the ride!

Pictures and videos: copyright Universal Studios Japan

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Anonymous said...

I am fortunate to have ridden Space Fantasy and it is quite amazing. The special effects are far superior to those which appear in Space Mountain. It was also nice to see such a high quality attraction with a fun story designed specifically designed for the Japanese guest.

Dan Alexander said...

Wow, this looks fantastic! The characters created for this attraction are very appealing. I want a toy of one of those little aliens just from watching the videos. Great post, Alain, as usual!

Anonymous said...

Any idea if the ride's soundtrack/score is available to purchase? Can you get it on a CD anywhere? Can you download it for free?

Marco Antonio Garcia said...

The technology is fantastic, but the story line is ridiculous (very Japanese).
Why do people have to go to Nebulas in order to get to the sun?