The Simpsons Ride is a simulator ride featured at the Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood theme parks. The ride is based on the animated television series The Simpsons. It was first announced in 2007 and replaced the Back to the Future: The Ride at both locations. The ride at Universal Studios Florida soft opened on April 23, 2008 in the World Expo area, and the official ceremonies took place on May 15. The ride at Universal Studios Hollywood opened on May 19, 2008 in the Upper Lot area. The Simpsons Ride was collaborated on by the producers of The Simpsons, and uses computer generated 3D animation, which was provided by Blur Studio and Reel FX. 2D animation was provided by Film Roman. The ride uses state of the art technology, including a new projection system and new hydraulics.
The ride itself is six minutes long, but original footage for the ride can be seen in the queue, and there is also a pre-show video. In the ride, patrons are introduced to a cartoon theme park called Krustyland built by Krusty the Clown. Sideshow Bob, however, is loose from prison to get revenge on Krusty and the Simpson family. At least 24 regular characters from the series make an appearance, all voiced by their original actors. Along with the attraction is a gift shop modeled after the Kwik-E-Mart, which opened in late 2007.
To enter the ride's queue area, visitors must walk through a giant Krusty the Clown head which leads them into a pavilion under various circus tents themed to carnival stalls. Various posters in the queue display advertisements for the attractions at the park, while various HD television monitors display clips from the TV show as well as moments from Krusty's past and live animated footage from Krustyland. The queue area ends with a sign instructing guests to wait for a short time before entering "Krusty's Carnival Midway".
In the midway, riders line-up into rows to wait for a confirmation from Krusty. TV screens posted inside the walls on the left and right sides of the room display the residents of Springfield running the midway booths at the park. Soon, Krusty appears on another screen in front of guests and prepares to pick a family to ride his "Thrilltacular: Upsy-Downsy Spins-Aroundsy Teen-Operated Thrillride", the most extreme ride at the park. While Krusty is not looking, Sideshow Bob appears in a Scratchy costume and steps on Homer Simpson's foot causing him to yell "D'oh!" and Krusty picks the Simpson family. Krusty asks them to pick another group to go with them, and Bart chooses the riders. While Krusty leads them into a waiting room, Sideshow Bob bursts out into evil laughter. Riders are then ushered into the pre-flight "Funhouse" room by a team member. Here, Krusty leads the Simpsons into a backstage area where Grampa and Maggie Simpson are told not to ride due to certain safety restrictions. Grampa falls asleep while Maggie crawls into a nuclear reactor room, causing her to grow larger. Meanwhile, Krusty leads the Simpsons into a ride room where he tells them to enjoy the ride, before Sideshow Bob appears, knocks Krusty out and tells the Simpsons Family to enter the ride vehicle. Homer enters, followed by the rest of the family. Sideshow Bob then tells the Simpsons and the riders that they must watch a legally required safety video. Itchy and Scratchy host this video, in which they show riders what can happen to them if they do not follow ride requirements along with a female announcer telling the riders the safety instructions. The screen then displays a list of the safety reminders while riders are ushered into the main ride room.
The ride portion is six minutes long. Riders with heart conditions, motion sickness, claustrophobia or similar conditions are not permitted to ride.
After riders enter a Krusty themed ride car vehicle, Sideshow Bob appears on a TV screen in the ride cabin and lifts the car up onto the ride with the Simpsons in front of them. The coaster begins going down various drops while Bob swings a wrecking ball at riders. Soon, the riders fly off the coaster and into the "Happy Little Elves in Panda Land" attraction with Bart and his sister Lisa, where Bob takes control of an evil panda and chases them through the attraction. The ride then flies off the track again and enters "Captain Dinosaur's Pirate Rip-Off" with Homer and Marge. The riders then travel through that attraction and arrive at "Krusty's Wet and Smoky Stunt Show" where they are taken racing in circles while tied to a killer whale before Bob corners them at the attractions exit. Maggie, still giant-sized, appears and grabs and bangs him into the vehicle, which almost falls into Hell before it is saved by Professor Frink. Bob then steals Maggie's pacifier and tells her that she must destroy Springfield to get it back. Riders then take a ride through Springfield before encountering Maggie again, who mistakes their car for a new pacifier, and sucks on them repeatedly, before spitting them out, catapulting them into the Simpsons' house. The family is sitting on their couch when Kang and Kodos appear and turn their couch into Krusty's "Death Drop" ride. The riders are then dropped down from the sky, encountering various Simpsons characters along the way. They land back at the entrance to Krustyland, where Bob prepares to kill them, before the couch the Simpsons are sitting on drops onto him. The vehicle is then calmly lowered back down to the ground while mist, fire, electricity and smoke effects spray, and Krusty appears on the TV screen above the wall. Krusty is sitting in a control room and pushes an emergency button, causing the vehicle to vibrate, ending the ride. After the gullwing doors on the car lift up, guests exit the ride.
Planning for the The Simpsons Ride started two years prior to its opening. The Simpsons creators James L. Brooks and Matt Groening, as well as executive producer Al Jean, collaborated with the Universal Studios creative team, Universal Creative, to help develop the ride. Music for the ride was composed by Jim Dooley, who worked with composer Hans Zimmer on the feature film The Simpsons Movie. The ride is located at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood in the former Back to the Future: The Ride buildings at both locations. The Back to the Future opened in Florida in 1991 and closed March 30, 2007, while the Hollywood version opened in 1993 and closed on September 3, 2007.
The construction began at Universal Studios Florida in May 2007, and the original concrete on the ground from Back to the Future: The Ride was dismantled and replaced by a red and blue ground holding trees and benches. The building was given a complete overhaul; the cars were changed and the mechanics system was updated. The construction began at Universal Studios Hollywood in mid-September 2007, with the disposal of the building's Back to the Future insignia. Outdoor painting on the building began in January 2008.
The six minute ride uses 80-foot IMAX screens and Sony Projectors. There are 24 ride cars, each seating eight people, and approximately 2000 people can ride it per hour. The projection system features new digital technology which makes the resolution two times better than most digital movie theatres. The video is projected onto two dome screens which are made of 416 panels (each 4 feet by two feet) and is approximately 80 feet tall and 85 feet wide. The projector itself uses a custom-made semi-circular fisheye lens to project undistorted images and plays at a rate of 60 frames per second. In comparison, most feature films project at 24 frames per second. The animation in the ride uses computer generated 3D animation rendered by Blur Studio and Reel FX, rather than the traditional 2-D animation seen on The Simpsons and the queue and pre-show of the ride. The animation reference was provided by Film Roman, the animation studio that animates the series. Each car contains 12 speakers and a Dolby 6.1 surround sound, while the domes contain an additional 90 speakers.
The Simpsons Ride uses new technology that cuts down on its energy consumption. According to Universal Studios, the ride is able to save over 55,000 watts per hour and 662,000 watts per day. The ride includes over 2,500 LED lights, the largest number in theme park history, which allows the ride to cut down on energy on lighting by almost one quarter when compared with incandescent lighting.
The ride features more than 24 regular characters from The Simpsons and features the voices of the regular cast members, as well as Pamela Hayden, Russi Taylor and Kelsey Grammer. Harry Shearer decided not to participate in the ride, so none of his characters have vocal parts and many do not appear in the ride at all. In homage to the Back to the Future ride that it has replaced, The Simpsons Ride's queue video features a brief animated cameo from Doc Brown who is voiced by Christopher Lloyd.
- Nancy Cartwright: Bart Simpson, Maggie Simpson, Nelson Muntz, Ralph Wiggum, and The Happy Little Elves
- Dan Castellaneta: Homer Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Grampa Simpson, Groundskeeper Willie, Squeaky Voiced Teen, Hans Moleman, Barney Gumble, Kodos, Repo man, and Mr. Freidman
- Julie Kavner: Marge Simpson, Patty Bouvier and Selma Bouvier
- Yeardley Smith: Lisa Simpson
- Hank Azaria: Chief Wiggum, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Moe Szyslak, Professor Frink, Cletus Spuckler, Officer Lou, the Sarcarstic Man, Snake Jailbird and Pants-Off Johnson
- Kelsey Grammer: Sideshow Bob
- Pamela Hayden: Milhouse Van Houten
- Russi Taylor: Martin Prince
- Christopher Lloyd: Doc Brown
In October 2007, gift shops modeled after the Kwik-E-Mart were built, replacing the Back To The Future: The Store gift shop at Universal Studios Florida and the Time Depot gift shop at Universal Studios Hollywood. The stores sell Simpsons-related merchandise. Carts were opened near the stores which sell Squishees, (which are The Simpsons' parody of 7-Eleven's Slurpees.)
The Simpsons Ride was well received by fans after it opened. Seth Kubersky of Orlando Weekly described the ride as "a more than worthy successor" to Back to the Future: The Ride. Brady MacDonald of the Los Angeles Times described the ride as "visually stunning" and said it "truly delivers — with loads of in-jokes and satire for serious fanatics and tons of thrills and fun for casual fans." Elise Thompson of the LAist said "the ride is a total blast, with plenty of laughs as well as thrills."
Jay Cridlin of the St. Petersburg Times wrote that "the ride is packed with more original, funny material than you'd expect to see in a sitcom, much less a theme park." However, he admitted that the ride was "a little discombobulating".
The Universal Studios Florida version of the ride hosted its one millionth rider on July 14, 2008, reaching the milestone faster than any other attraction in the resort. The ride was named the best new attraction of 2008 by the website Themeparkinsider.com.