by Paul Ruben
When Universal Studios Orlando opened its Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster last summer I was there to savour …er, report on, it. Both, actually, in that order. This new coaster from Maurer Söhne was to be unique. World’s tallest vertical lift. Check. Three first-ever manoeuvres. Check. Comfortable X-car trains. Check. Select your own ride soundtrack. Really?
My ride soundtrack has always been the screams of other riders. The louder the better. It’s music to my ears. But before departure I’m expected to use a personal touchpad mounted on the ride vehicle to make my music selection. Hmm …I’m thinking.
What if I choose Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence? Then maybe I can hear the other riders. Nope, not an option. How ’bout a rendition of Far, Far Away? The farther the better. Not an option either. Looked for a version of Elton John’s Rocket Man (Rockit coaster, get it?), perhaps performed on tenor tuba and calliope. But that was not one of the offerings. Universal missed a trick. OK, then maybe they list my favourite group, Moishe Pippick and the Five Urinators singing I Can’t Get Over a Girl Like You (So Answer the Phone Yourself). Out of luck again.
I finally give in and select some head-banging music that blared at me (at 90 decibels) throughout the ride. It was difficult to ignore. See me smiling in the photo? The music hasn’t started yet; it’s a generational thing.
With cameras mounted throughout the coaster’s layout, these images can be combined with the soundtrack. That way, guests are able to purchase a specially edited take-home version of their experience in the form of a music video and share it with their family and friends. I understand the appeal of this. I now have one, but I would have paid double for a mute button. There’s an untapped retail opportunity.
The Rockit is smooth, fast, and thrilling. Except for the not-so-thrilling multiple mid-course brake runs, that is. They disrupt the pacing of the ride. I understand the need for block brakes throughout the layout of a multi-train coaster. I don’t like block brakes. But I dislike rear-end collisions even more. Block brakes are a necessary evil, but did you ever notice? The world’s top-ranked coasters have all their block brakes at the end of the ride, not in the middle.
I loved Rockit. It’s an entertaining ride, and it stands out within the park. It looks like a ride. Most of Universal Studios’ rides and attractions are within buildings. Rockit incongruously roars out of a building facade, which is almost as eye-catching as the 167ft vertical lift hill, almost as eye-catching as the world’s largest (136ft high) non-inverted loop, almost as eye-catching as the sleek X-Car trains that race by. From the ground you can’t even see that cockamamie touchpad.
If you’re in Orlando for IAAPA Attractions Expo, be sure to ride it for yourself; you know, while you’re checking out Harry Potter next door at Islands of Adventure.