On June 15th, the all-new DreamWorks Theatre officially opens at Universal Studios Hollywood with “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest.” Inspired by the global blockbuster franchise that features the charming and funny panda Po, the attraction will take guests on a thrilling journey that fuses captivating storytelling with state-of-the art visual effects for an immersive experience.
Created and produced by DreamWorks Animation and Universal Creative, the story of the new attraction follows Po on a wild and perilous mission to deliver the rare and precious Liquid of Limitless Power to the Palace, while facing raging rapids, river pirates, magic and Kung Fu. On May 17th, Collider (along with a handful of other media outlets) was invited to Universal Studios Hollywood to tour the facility housing the new attraction, and Universal Creative Senior Director/Executive Producer Jon Corfino filled us in on all of the cutting edge technology being utilized to bring everything to life.
Check out 10 highlights from what we learned about “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest” and the DreamWorks Theatre.
With the new Kung Fu Panda attraction, there is virtually nothing left of the Shrek 4D theater that was previously in its place. Geographically, it’s the same, but it’s been completely rebuilt, from the inside out, in about a year and a half’s time. They kept most of the exterior shell, but inside, the floor is at a new level, the seats are at a different geometry, and the screen is in a different place, all of which improve the sight lines.
- The architectural conceit is a Mediterranean revival approach that falls in line with the Animation Studio Store, much like how studios were quite often defined, architecturally, on the backlot. Since it’s where DreamWorks lives at Universal, it’s a studio garden/patio environment, and there’s a lot of attention to detail throughout, with custom tile work. The ticket booth has an animated but asleep Pinocchio, who’s been seen in DreamWorks films, that mutters one-liners when people walk by.
- Around and inside the theater, you’ll see representation of many of the DreamWorks characters, with little reminders everywhere. There will also be cases to showcase all of the awards that DreamWorks has won, except for their Academy Awards, since you’re not allowed to have fake Oscars on display. Outside of the theater, there will be costumed characters that guests can take photos with.
Guests will first enter the lobby of the theater for the pre-show. All of a sudden, the LED panels will come to life, and you’ll get to see Po and Shrek, arguing over whose show it’s going to be. Po says that it will be his show, and you’ll learn that something special has to be delivered to the Emperor, so Po must go on a mission that brings him to the spirit realm. You’ll also be introduced to Kang, who will steal the hammer, sending Po on his mission. There will be no live actors in the attraction.
- The pre-show is about 2 ½ minutes and the film inside is about 6 minutes, for a combined experience time of about 10 minutes, and the theater has about 240 seats.
- The seats reinforce the movement and motion, and the theater has wind and water effects. There is no age or height requirement for the attraction. The rear seats can actually be the best, so that you can let the entire experience watch over you.
- The entire show is a transformative and immersive experience that is in 2D. If they had done it in 3D, the audience would have lost the peripheral aspect of the experience. With the 2D, it’s a much more photo-real immersion.
It all starts with a fooling of the eye, where the architecture comes to life. With the lights on, the theater just has a grey interior. All of the architectural detail is mapped and integrated throughout. There are seven Christie 4K Boxer Cinema projectors and 360 degree surround sound audio for the show, and they went through a lot of mock up testing to create the interior of the theater.
- The film itself does not include all of the original voice talent, but they did work with some of the most senior people at DreamWorks, who know the characters very well. DreamWorks worked on the animation for the primary media, and the soundtrack was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, with a huge orchestra that incorporated Chinese instruments.
- Right now, there are no plans to put another film in the DreamWorks Theater, but it has been discussed. It gives them possible opportunities, for the future.
Get more information about Universal Studios, and this and all attractions at UniversalStudiosHollywood.com.