When it opened in 1999, Spider-Man was technologically avant garde, a stunning combination of motion programming, 3-D animation and live action that would later provide the foundation that Forbidden Journey was built on. The primary creator of both rides was Thierry Coup, who is now a VP at Universal.
Last month, after a brief closure, Spider-Man reopened with updated technology. The ride track, the cars and the story line remain basically the same. But it has been re-animated with Infitec 3-D projection, 4K high-definition imaging and new audio that leapfrogged it ahead more than a decade.
It is indeed amazing.
I rode Spider-Man on Wednesday, got off and got right back in line to ride it again. On the right day, I might argue that the updated Spider-Man is better than Forbidden Journey (which I also rode Wednesday) – even without the advantage of the robotic arm motion that the Harry Potter ride boasts.
The high-definition imaging has been updated – the Spider-Man who crouches on the front of your vehicle is a more buff Spider-Man. The villain Hobgoblin has a darker look.
The re-animation added deeper, richer detail, although the scenery changes so quickly that it’s hard to pin down the new detail (Universal says you can see the stitching on Spider-Man’s glove and people in the windows of buildings if you look closely enough).
Everything is just a bit more in your face – the flaming pumpkin that Hobgoblin hurls at the car, the web that catches the car as it plummets straight down, the bricks that crash into the car after Dr. Octopus bursts through a wall – they will make you flinch, if not duck. Even the material used in the 3-D glasses is upgraded. And if you pay attention, you’ll spot Spider-Man’s co-creator, Stan Lee, in a couple of cameo appearances.
Who would have thought that a ride that was great to begin with could get so much better? Thierry Coup did.