I was becoming impatient waiting in the hallroom for my turn to enter the Daily Bugle office. Those of you who do not know, the Bugle office is the workplace of Peter Parker, AKA Spider-man.
Being a Spider-man buff from the early seventies, you can imagine my level of excitement when I finally entered the Bugle office and saw how Stan Lee and his gang wanted to portray the office in the comic books. Well in one word, all bits and pieces of this office are funny with prophecies of Parker's eccentric boss, J Jonah Jameson, written here and there. As I moved onwards, I could not help but chuckle when I saw this certificate of achievement on display, given to a Bugle employee by JJJ, that said, “For outstanding achievement in implementing cost cutting strategies at the expense of worker's safety.”
Finally I arrived at the room where I am supposed to meet Spider-man in person. All I will have to do is get on board this rail-car, fasten my seat belt like the others (in case something really bad happens on the way to meeting Spider-man). Oh yes, I also have to wear a 3-D glass if I must see Spider-man in person.
The car started moving towards a dark passage in New York city. Well its not really New York, its holographic New York bright and illuminated, with sky scrapers by the sides, and then we encountered Spider-man in all his holographic glory, standing right in front of me on the car. He told us something in Japanese (I guess warned us of the upcoming danger).
Our car suddenly jerked hard and out of nowhere came Hobgoblinas a 3d hologram-- flying on his jet-board directly towards me and threw a bomb that rocked our car, throwing it off the track. The comic book adventure suddenly begins to feel too real.
Then one by one, we encountered Hydroman, Electro, Scream and Doctor Octopus each of them attacking us with their powers, while Spider-man intervened at each point to save us. We felt the heat of the bomb, chill of the ice wave and above all, the uncanny feeling that the comic book villains and the hero were all really talking and interacting with us. Doc Ock at one stage picked up the car 400 feet high above the sky scrapers and threw it down to the street from a height that made some of my fellow passengers want to puke. Luckily Spider-man saved the day using his spider web to stop the car from crashing on the ground.
This was an experience of a lifetime for anyone. And around the world, there are only three places where you can
Woody at the Animation Celebration hall
have this experience. These three places are theme parks set up by the Universal Studios, two of them located in Hollywood and Orlando in the USA and the third one in Osaka city in Japan. I had my experience at the Universal Studio Japan (USJ).
Spider-man is one of the 19 rides in the USJ. It uses the highest end and costliest technology of all of them. Animation is projected in 70mm splendour onto the 13 giant screens tightly integrated with the set. Textures from the Computer Graphic shots are wallpapered on set walls adjacent to the projection screens, and lighting setups are matched precisely between the real and virtual worlds. Video projectors synced to the animation cast real shadows on the set when CG characters jump out at you from the screen.
Leaping CG characters appear all the more lifelike due to the fact that they're rendered stereoscopically. Stereoscopic imagery, which superimposes two separate images to produce a sensation of visual depth, requires that riders view the scene through polarized glasses. The first of this set was created back in 1999 in the USA at a budget of 100 million dollars.
Creating the CG sequences involved the full arsenal of Alias/ Wavefront's tools. Alias Power Animator was used for modeling, animation, and rendering. Wavefront Kinemation was used for character animation, Dynamation for dynamic effects, and Composer for compositing. Finally the team employed TDI Explore, a tool suite that included 3Design for modelling, Anim for animation, and Interactive Photorealistic Renderer (IPR) for rendering.
At the USJ, not all other rides use so much high tech close to the Spider-man ride. But you can not ignore any of them. These rides are not roller-coaster rides, but they are unique and they will momentarily help you experience the world of entertainment characters ranging from ET to Woody Woodpecker or the world from Jurassic Park to Back to the Future.
According USJ Communications officers Jotha Takahashi and Satomi Kimura, this theme park was opened in 2001 in Osaka where 35 million people live within 200 km area of the location. “But people who do not live around here also come here,” says Jotha.
Spreading around on 54 hectares of land, a walk inside the theme park itself is an experience. They built an artificial dream-like entertainment city, complete with a lake, 45 restaurants and innumerable gift shops. On the streets, you will come across some walking cartoon characters like Shrek. These characters will interact with you and give you live performances.
“This year we focussed on the characters targeting women and families. These character themes areSesame Street, Snoopy, Shrek, Hallo Kitty and Woody Woodpecker. These characters already have young fans. Now we are popularising them with women and families so that they return to this park again and again,” Jotha points out, “we want to create an emotional connection between the visitors and the USJ.”
Since USJ was launched in collaboration with the Osaka city and a Japanese corporate group led by Sumitomo and off course, the Universal Studios USA it attracted huge audience every yearranging from 11 million to 7 million visitors per year.
The USJ required an investment of 200 billion yen to set up and this theme park has an annual turnover of 70 billion yen, making it a very profitable venture indeed.
Two third of the 19 rides were exported from the USA while Japan developed some of exclusive shows like the Snoopy Studio, Sesame Street 4d movie magic or the Animation Celebration involving Woody Woodpecker. The Spider-man show uses technology better than that in the USA just because the builders set this up here in 2004 while it was released in the USA in 1999.
“The American Universal Studio makes the original designs and Japan implements it,” Jotha says.
It is interesting to note that between 60 to 70 percent visitors are women and most people who come here are aged between the age of 20 and 30. “But people as old as 60 to 70 also visit this place,” Jotha proudly points out.
Visitors do not need separate tickets for the 19 rides. All they have to do is buy the gate ticket either for a day or for two days or for all year round. They can enter any ride whenever it is available. This makes some rides very crowded all the time.
Because of the crowd and schedules of the rides, it is impossible for a visitor to ride all the 19 excitements in one day. This is the reason why there are three hotels just outside the USJ. Visitors from distant places stay in these hotels and spend a few days to have their maximum fun with the fantasy characters.
Rides like Back to the Future and Jurassic Park involve physical action. In the Back to the Future ride, you sit in a time-machine car and chase a thief who stole the original Back-to-the-future car. This chase takes place inside a massive hall room that projects (in I-Max fashion) a fast moving world of present, past and future. The speed feels too real as you shoot past the sky, avoid few accidents and even hit hard against a dinosaur. Jurassic Park involves a roller-coaster type of ride.
In the Terminator ride, you are basically an audience wearing a 3-d glassexposed to the world of the killing robots. At times Skynet's top robot will almost attack you. But physically it will not give you the jerks or the jolts. Similarly the funny Woody Woodpecker experience is yet another 3-d experience without the 3d glass. Instead, the events take place inside a room in front of you, separated by a glass that creates the illusion of 3-d.
The USJ proves that if you can dream, you can make people experience the dream. No wonder why it is among one of the world's top 10 theme parks.
Take a bicycle ride into the world of ET
Face the T-Rex (pic-Internet)
They do have an institute of future tech