We all know that the difference between a theme park and an amusement park is its theme. But how much attention do you pay to the lengths that theme parks go to in creating a whole new world (pun intended) just for you? Because Universal Studios Singapore (USS) has done such a pristine job in its theming, here are 5 things that you’d probably never consider while you’re being whisked away in this world of fantasy:
1. Setting the stage
Quite literally, your first step into an attraction is a step onto a set-up stage. It is here that stories are set and played out. Ever noticed N.E.S.T. emblems painted on the walls along the queue for Transformers: The Ride? How about pictures of guests posing with a metallic tail that was allegedly severed from a Decepticon in the movie’s first installment? These decorations and props make the wait for your turn less boring than it would otherwise be, perhaps even provide you and your friends with five or so photo opportunities.
But for the guest who willingly suspends his/her disbelief, such a set-up at queue areas takes you right to the heart of the movies’ action. As you wait in line to ride the movies (USS’s slogan), you find yourself being briefed as a N.E.S.T. agent awaiting your mission, a visitor to the Jurassic Park, and the list just goes on! In short, these setups serve a dual purpose of entertaining you while in line, and build anticipation prior to you getting on the ride. (Fans of the Transformers, be warned: it gets pretty intense when Optimus tells you that the fate of the world is in your hands.)
2. The actors
You get on the 3-D ride and find “WOAH”s spilling out of your mouth more times than you care to count. But wait, the story doesn’t just end after the final plunge. Optimus commends you and your fellow comrades in the carriage, “Well done, Freedom Fighters!” And just to affirm you of your mission’s success, he thanks you because “your bravery has saved us all.”
Yet, even if you allow yourself to indulge in heroic fantasies, a part of you still knows that he’s on a screen and can’t be real. USS knows this too – so this is where they make it real for you. As your carriage slowly comes to a halt, you hear clapping before you can pinpoint its source. Actual people cheering – you’re a valiant hero being welcomed home. The crew at USS are told to play their scripted roles; from the time you set foot into an attraction till getting out of the coaster, all to seal the story’s deal.
3. From one world to the next
Robots from space and animals from Madagascar - how do such differing themes fit into a single park? The next time you visit USS, try observing how subtly one themed space transits to the next. First, notice how the flooring changes, then – but not all at once – the lampposts and speakers that blast themed music you can’t help but get your groove along to.
Look out for the different themed retail booths. Weren’t these safari crates village push carts selling Shrek ears just a few seconds ago? Progressive change of environment helps the guest to subconsciously adjust to the next themed area so that he/she isn’t too alarmed when he/she reaches the next main attraction that would otherwise come across as a stark contrast.
4. Themed foods, you say?
Hungry and need a place to eat? From Oasis Spice Café at Ancient Egypt to Goldilocks Far Far Away, café names and food served match the theme of each zone. But this theme-park-junkie-slash-foodie has taken it upon himself to introduce to you a specialty dish that can only be found in USS: the Shiok Burger (‘shiok’ is a colloquial Singlish term for ‘satisfaction’). For every hardcore Singaporean that prides in Singapore being a food paradise, this burger served at Loui’s NY Pizza Parlor will definitely be the first thing you spot on the menu – for it’s name alone! As far as I know, this is the only dish served in USS that does not, in its name, adhere strictly to its café’s designated theme (unless ‘shiok’ is used in New York!)
Give me a break!
One who visits a theme park generally does so as a break from work and the routine. For this reason, big names in the industry tend to seclude their parks in areas that bear little semblance to the city life. At almost every spot in USS, you’ll realize you don’t actually get to see the outside world. The feeling you get isn’t one of entrapment, but one of escapism. No tall glass buildings, no corporate offices; just you in your fantasy world. Yet, on a little island city merely 716 km2 in size, completely blocking your view of the hustle and bustle of city life isn’t exactly feasible.
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