Eff Universal Studios

http://blogging.la/archives/images/2007/09/unistudios-thumb.jpgLast month, my girlfriend and I (not pictured at right) took a trip to the red-headed stepchild of Southern California theme parks to check out the now-extinct Back to the Future ride. Neither of us had ever been to Universal Studios before and it didn’t seem like the kind of place that was worth the $49 per ticket price tag, but we found a two-days-for-the-price-of-one special online, and both being BTTF fans, we bit our respective bullets and bought the passes.

It’s probably too late to go on a rant about how much the ride blew and how it was probably for the best that Biff and the Doc were taken out behind the wood shed for a little Old Yeller action, but feel free to read on for more snarky theme park editorializing…

Getting to the park was no big deal. Getting in was a different story. We brought our printed-out passes with us to the entrance gate and handed them over to the ticket-taker. We were then asked to place our thumbs on a small black scanner that took a record of our fingerprints before entering.

They say they need our prints so they can make sure no one else uses our return tickets. It doesn’t matter if we don’t want to come back. They’re gonna take ’em anyway.

At the turnstile next to mine, my girlfriend shoots me a dark look. I’m not a particularly paranoid person, and the fact that it’s just an amusement park makes the idea seem all the more innocuous. We get scanned and make our way inside.

In retrospect, I have two problems with this method of security:

1. I didn’t see any sort of privacy policy concerning biometric identification anywhere on the ticket or on Universal’s website which raises the question, Is our information up for grabs?*

2. Universal Studios sucks. It’s the worst excuse for an amusement park I’ve ever had the displeasure of wasting my money on. There are only three “rides”, some questionable live shows**, and and a ton of shops that sell nothing but the same overpriced crap you can buy at Citywalk, which is just outside and is free.

Which brings me to my second question, Why would anyone want to come back? I can understand if people were busting down the door to get in, or if it was a super cool place to go, but I get the sense that when you need to offer “buy one day get the whole year free” specials on a regular basis, you’re getting pretty desperate for visitors. Even California Adventure doesn’t need to pull that kind of crap. Oh, wait I forgot… California Adventure is fun. People actually want to go there.

Photo by jsfanjul. Used under Creative Commons.

*I’ve heard that Walt Disney World also uses this method of park security, and the same concerns apply.
**Except for T2 3-D: Battle Across Time. That show alone is almost worth the price of admission.

11 Replies to “Eff Universal Studios”

  1. The last time I was at UniStu was about 10 years ago. I was with my 8-year-old daughter and the same-aged kid I was mentoring so that made it decidedly more fun/less lame, but still I never had any thoughts of returning… except a year or so later when that T2 show opened. It’s called to me but I’ve resisted its pull so far.

  2. I went for the first/only time about 8 years ago. It was really more about finally seeing that theme park that I had seen on tv growing up. And yes, totally cheesy. Had a longish conversation with Dracula while waiting for the tram to arrive. He was an actor (no really?) and we chatted about the biz.

    I had been to the actual studio for work many times and always enjoyed waving at the tourists when they whizzed by on the tram. If you are driving in a convertible with the top down and you wave? Damn, they think you are famous and it seems they all get whiplash. That’s more fun than that big rubber ape/shark.

  3. I grew up close enough to hear the stunt shows from my front yard. I used to go a lot, but it was almost always free. i can’t make myself pay to go again though. I used to love it, buuuuuut yeah. I’m sure it wouldn’t be great anymore. Maybe if they drop the Waterworld show and bring back the A-Team show??

    Was the Mummy coaster any good”?

  4. i used to work on the universal lot and we’d sneak into the park during our lunch hour to ride jurassic park or the mummy roller coaster. all FUN except having to go back to work and sit at our desks soaking wet.

  5. I would have demanded a refund once they tried to take my fingerprint. What happens to all those prints? If Universal is so concerned, why not just give each patron a wristband. Most everyone is going to skip that second day anyway after leaving the park bored at 3:00 pm.

  6. You said “Citywalk, which is just outside and is free.”
    I say “Ha” and “Ha” again. Sure the metro takes you pretty close but I’d say 99% of the people at Citywalk have just paid $15 for parking at an outside mall where you can pay more money to get into lame bars, then pay outrageous drink prices, then go shopping at overpriced mall stores. Mmmmm, sounds almost as good as paying $49 to go TWICE to a theme park that entertains for negative 20 minutes.

    But back to the situation at hand… I am having lots of awful science-fiction-esque fears of who is going to get my fingerprint just because the NBC Universal guys go all evil and decide to try to take over the government in a conspiratorial effort to rule the world, thus using my fingerprint to their advantage to track and record exactly what I do and where I am.
    Paranoid? Definitely.
    Way too far off from reality? First consider google’s ability to keep tabs on what we look at on the internet… Then check out Chicago…

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