Wow, it's been over a month, and we never finished our report of Universal Studios. I think we got most of the important (read: Harry Potter) stuff reported, except for the Three Broomsticks and the projection show. So the question is, how much do I want to talk about the other stuff?
There was a special effects show. It was neat. They showed us how they do special effects in movies. But they didn't really give away everything, like they didn't tell us that the stunt fighters weren't actually hitting each other. Or did they? They did go into foley art, so they would have had to mention it, right? But it wasn't like in "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?" where they showed us exactly where the performers were actually aiming. They had a guy do a fire walk, which was super amazing and made me wonder what a live-action Fire Force would be like. Man, though, it takes a lot of courage to do that. And it was fun and stuff.
After that, we texted our sister who works as a tour guide at Universal Studios. We had a Christmas gift for her (our family does a rotation every year), and we wanted to deliver it. She let it slip that they wanted her to do a tram tour soon, so we insisted on going on her tram. She was a pretty great tour guide, so we enjoyed it. The finale of the tour was a Fast and the Furious simulator thing that was hilarious in its ridiculousness. First they had a pre-show that actually was pretty cool, because they used that same Hatsune Miku-esque technology to make it seem like the stars of the movies were actually there in the room with us. The Rock winked at everybody, too. That dude is charismatic, I tell you what. We like him even though we didn't like Moana (the movie, not the character; we don't have an opinion on the character yet).
Then they all had to drive away, and we had to join them, so the tram raced through the streets of LA at speeds upwards of five miles an hour. Maybe. I don't know. It was the most leisurely high-speed car chase I'd ever experienced, anyway. But there were screens on either side of us with 3D movies to help us imagine we were racing through the streets of LA. It was kind of neat, though, because we actually recognized some of the places we raced past. And they had machine guns firing at us and there was some truck with a hook or something? that was swinging around and picking people up. It was silly, but it was kind of fun, I think. I might have been more inclined to like it if I wasn't thinking, "Ugh, why does everything have to be a simulator?" And then they congratulated us for successfully sitting there while they threw movies at our eyeballs.
After the tram tour we had lunch at the Three Broomsticks. Which is to say, Gaston and Alice bought lunch at the Three Broomsticks, while we took our kindergartner palates to Springfield to get some good ol' cheese pizza...which we then brought back to the Three Broomsticks to consume. It really is a much nicer atmosphere than Springfield, and I love the British architecture and almost wish I could live there, and also almost wish that I could just eat the food there, but who are we kidding, I have absolutely no interest in that food. But what I did have interest in is the Hog's Head bar that was a part of the Three Broomsticks (more of that wizard map-folding, we suppose (you know, where you take a map and fold it and then two places are suddenly much closer together)), and its animatronic hog heads. Or was there only one? I feel like there were plural, but it was so long ago. Anyway, it was cool, even if the fact that the Hog's Head and the Three Broomsticks are separate establishments is part of a major plot point in the series.
Because we dashed off so quickly to get our pizza, we had disappeared by the time Gaston turned around to ask if we wanted some butter beer, and so we missed our opportunity to try it. So when we finished lunch, we decided to rectify the situation, but oh my goodness, the lines at the butter beer kegs. So we waited for a while, and then paid $7.50 each for frozen butter beer, which Gaston informs us is the only tolerable form of the drink. And indeed, the drink was not tasty. It tasted more like chemicals than the ridiculously sugary drink we had been led to believe it was. (We know two people who tried it in Florida, and they both loved it. Neither of them has tried the LA version for comparison, and one of them is a confirmed diet soda junkie. We don't drink diet soda, because it's gross.)
And so we were inspired to create our own butter based drink. But as busy and apathetic as we are, that research has yet to get off the ground, although we did do some research on butterscotch (which is to say, we read the Wikipedia article). We were further inspired to create our own wizarding paraphernalia when we went to Ollivander's to see the wand-choosing ceremony. It's kind of a bummer, actually, because they take a whole big group of people in, but only one of them gets measured for a wand. And of course, the person chosen is usually a child who's too young to legally use a wand anyway. Boo.
But when we went, there weren't any small children in the group, so the wand-chooser guy (I don't think he was Ollivander, more like an apprentice) chose the girl who had a birthday sticker and Hogwarts robes on. He would pull out wands for her to try, and ask her to try a spell, which would inevitably go horribly awry, but then he would find juuuust the right wand, and there was, like, wind and light and stuff like when Harry got his wand in the movie. ...Or, I assume it was like in the movie, because it seemed oddly specific, but I tend to forget what happened in the movies, so.
But what made the show really great, in my mind, is the guy's commitment to the role. As we were leaving, we heard him ask the birthday girl and her party where they were from. When they said San Francisco, he had a blank look for a few seconds, then said, "America, yes?" It was pretty awesome.
Naturally, the exit for this brief show led straight into Ollivander's wand shop so we could all browse for our own wands. This is the part that made me sad, because on the one hand, it would be awesome to have a wand, but on the other hand, I want to be my own person. Obviously the best wands are the replicas of the ones in the movies, because those were the ones made for unique special people, but even those are just copies that everyone and their grandmother are going to buy. So the two of us and Alice all decided that champion Boy Scout Gaston could make us all our own individual wands. Alice even pointed out that they already had a lathe in their garage.
After window shopping some more, we wandered around the rest of the theme park. We went to the Despicable Me area and went on the Minions ride. It was another simulator, so... The premise is that Gru or whatever his name is has developed a ray that will turn humans into minions. I personally do not find this transformation to be appealing in any way, but I was curious to see what the ride was about, so I went through with it anyway. Basically, it just means that after they zap you, the camera angle changes. And then the girls lead you through a training obstacle course where, naturally, things start to go wrong, but by sitting there and letting them throw movies at our eyeballs, we saved the day again! And they even told us there would be a dance party to celebrate. We were like, "Yeah, uh-huh, sure." But then there really was! The ride exits into a big room with music playing and minions dancing, and a camera so you could see yourself on the wall with them! (Of course, at the end of the ride, a switch accidentally gets hit and you get de-transformed.) So we definitely appreciate the real dance party, even if I really don't think the minions are very cute.
Then we went to see the animal show. Our desire to see the show was enhanced when we walked through Whoville and saw not only the Grinch doing meet-and-greets, but his dog Max! It was the cutest thing ever! It was a real dog, and there was a trainer there telling him to put his paw on people's shoulders for the pictures, and after they took the picture, the dog got a treat. It was so adorable, I wanted to cry.
...And Page just got on the keyboard and nearly gave me a heart attack by selecting all and then pulling up another internet window. I was so afraid she was going to delete almost an hour's worth of typing. So I'm going to stop now and not give her a chance to do it again.
Today I'm thankful for getting to try butter beer, meet and greets with Max from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, having a really great regional conference today, getting to do the Universal Studios tram tour with our sister, and the super cute daruma plushie we got in the January Yume Twins box.