Universal Studios Hollywood gave us a behind the scene tour of the new Dreamworks Theater – Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest last week, and we were treated to some details of the intese work that went into creating this experience for guests, as well as a look at the details and world building that ties the attraction to the building it resides in and the technology that brings it to life.
We got to meet up with the show director for the attraction, Jon Corfino, who walked us to the attraction and right from the start he explained that one of the first changes that is different from the previous Shrek attraction is the positioning of the queue entrance, which is going to help with flow through the area as well as the bonus of having a well defined entrance to the queue. The area surrounding it will still have some more changes to come, including a new home for Donkey’s show, a food cart, and more meet and greet experiences.
One of the first things you see in the queue is a ticket booth with Pinocchio asleep in the booth, sound was not ready yet but he will be saying some things in his sleep and making some noise. The building is brand new, and is harkening back to old Californian Spanish styled architecture. It is designed to serve the story of it being Dreamworks offices, and it really has a lot of little details to make it have that look.
You round the corner of the queue and start passing posters for Dreamworks animated films as you approach the entrance, and once inside it is meant to look like a lobby for a Dreamworks screening room. It is in this room where you experience the pre-show and you get the first taste of the impressive technology involved.
There is a case for awards on one side of the room, as well as a magical hammer and the returning Magic Mirror (new and improved)! On the wall with the doors there is a screen on located just above them that blends in seamlessly with the wall below it. We did not get to see the pre-show or the actual show due to them preparing diligently to make it ready for technical rehearsals, but we did get a rundown of the attraction.
Upon entering the theater you are instantly taken with the detail work along the walls, and even more-so once you realize that none of it is real. Everything on the walls of the theater, from the screen and all the way to the back row, is the projection mapping. Light bounces, stucco and shadows… even the curtain billowing over the screen is a projection! The walls went blank for a second while they tested some things, and seeing just how bare the walls are gives you an even greater appreciation for the technology involved.
During the show the entire theater gets blasted into the spirit realm, and the immersive experience provided by the wrap around projection mapping and the in theater effects (including water, seat rumble and wind moving in a cyclonic motion) will really transport you there as the building flies apart around you. The attraction is not in 3D, which would make it hard to do this kind of immersive experience due to the need for limiting your focus, and with the multi layered projection system I doubt you will miss the 3D glasses one bit. They also gave us a nice tidbit of information that the absolute best place to sit in the theater to experience everything is the back row.
They have been working on this experience for the last year and 8 months, or roughly since it was announced that Universal was buying Dreamworks and they actually built a full theater off property to make sure everything was going to work just right, all the while they were tearing out the previous Shrek 4D attraction. No part of the old theater remains, allowing them to create something from scratch that is custom designed for an optimum experience.
The Dreamworks Theatre, featuring Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest will open officially on June 15th.