Universal Studios Florida

San Francisco

Disaster!  A Major Motion Picture Ride . . . Starring YOU

(January 17, 2008 - present)

 

History and photos of the Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride . . . Starring YOU earthquake simulator ride in the San Francisco section of Universal Studios Florida.

Universal Studios Florida - San Francisco - Disaster! - 2008 - 01 Universal Studios Florida - San Francisco - Disaster! - 2008 - 02

The temporary closing of Earthquake on November 5, 2007, paved the way for a new experience in the San Francisco section in Universal Studios Florida.  Fewer and fewer of the park guests were familiar with the 1974 film Earthquake, and it was time to breathe new life into the simulated earthquake experience.

Universal Studios Florida - San Francisco - Disaster! - 2012 - 01 Universal Studios Florida - San Francisco - Disaster! - 2012 - 02

Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride . . . Starring YOU (hereby known as simply Disaster! because the rest of the name is too long and pretty lame) opened two months later on January 17, 2008.  The newer version of the attraction still had the earthquake experience and audience participation, but as guests saw, Disaster! was a completely different experience.

WARNING --- SPOILERS!

When walking up to Disaster!, it's clear that we're no longer just talking about earthquakes.  This updated version of the ride focuses on disasters as a whole, but as we'll see, the dominant disaster is still the good, old fashioned earthquake.  The entrance area has a giant monster crushing a tank, while the line queue has movie props such as a crashed jet aircraft and a menacing looking shark.  All of them are from fictional disaster films created here at Disaster! Studios.

The waiting room for Disaster! has photos from a variety of disaster movies including those involving UFOs and aliens.  A studio worker named "Lonnie" greets us and tells us about Disaster! Studios and its legendary director, Frank Kincaid.  Just like in Earthquake, volunteers are selected from the audience, and as soon as they're picked they each stand under a letter of the word "disaster."  After selecting the volunteers we move into the preshow room.

PRESHOWS

Gone are the movie screens and movie props from the previous attraction.  This new version of the preshow is themed to a screening room and has a series of screens between us and the room.  Out walks Frank Kincaid (played by Christopher Walken) and he walks around the room, interacting with the objects and talking to us guests about the movie industry.  Lonnie also moves around the room and cleans up the messes that Frank Kincaid creates.  It's pretty slick the way the high-definition, lifelike projection of Frank Kincaid moves around the room.  This alone is a highlight of the Disaster! experience.

After that it's time for the audience participation part of Disaster!  Like in Earthquake, a few audience members perform some minor stunts and other acting tasks in front of the camera.  Most of it is pretty funny as the people have no idea what they're doing or how it's going to look in the end.  There's even a time when the cameras turn around and film those of us in the audience.  We see some clips of the camera footage, and almost all of it will be used in the final version of the film that we'll see at the end of the ride.

RIDE

After the audience participation segment, we enter a San Francisco subway station and board the subway train.  This time around there are a series of video monitors installed on the ceilings.  As we're rolling to the Embarcadero Station, the video monitors explain what we're doing and how we're supposed to react on camera.  It looks like we're all going to be on camera for this next segment, folks.

Just like Earthquake, we experience a major earthquake.  It's virtually an identical experience as last time, complete with the approaching subway train that gets derailed, the tanker truck falling from the ceiling, and the flash flood at the end.  The main difference is that this time we know that it's all for show as the director is telling us when to scream for the cameras.  Once the earthquake is finished, the stage resets for another shoot and we roll back to the loading station.

While traveling back to the station we get to see a movie trailer for the finished project.  The disaster film is called Mutha Nature.  It stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a park ranger trying to save people from all sorts of chaos.  We see him in action along with all the clips of the audience volunteers, and even some footage of us from the earthquake segment.  There's one last laugh at the end as we see a clip of a mostly forgotten volunteer from the audience.

END OF SPOILERS!

As a whole, Disaster! is an entertaining version of Earthquake.  This newer version of the ride brings in a couple of Hollywood stars, and it better connects with the audience.  Charlton Heston is a distant memory of the original version of the attraction, but fans of the classic version of the ride will still be pleased that the earthquake segment is still there in its fury.

TRIVIA Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride . . . Starring YOU was one of several rides featured in the 2015 comedy-horror film, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!

 

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Universal Studios Florida - San Francisco - Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride . . . Starring YOU:

Disaster! - warning sign:

Disaster! - line queue:

Disaster! - waiting room:

Disaster! - audience participation segment:

Disaster! - loading station: