Universal Studios Hollywood will be opening a new DreamWorks Theatre this summer. It will pay homage to the DreamWorks animated film legacy. The venue will include a multi-sensory adventure inspired by Kung Fu Panda, created in partnership with Universal Creative and DreamWorks’ Artists. We went on a tour of the venue under construction with Universal Studio’s Creative Director, Jon Corfino.
While the hall is geographically where Shrek-4D used to be, Corfino emphasized the work done. “It’s been completely been rebuilt from the inside out,” And reassures us, “No more of those seats that go ch,ch,ch.” Therefore, the floor, seats, and screen are all completely new and in new locations. Universal Studios built the theatre in a Mediterranean Revival style, similar to DreamWorks studios when it first opened. “This is where Dreamworks lives here at Universal,” Corfino explained. “You’re behind the scenes here at Universal Studios and this is how studios quite often were defined architecturally at that time.”
Guests will go past the DreamWorks marquee and see a sleeping Pinocchio in the ticket booth “muttering very funny one liners.” Then they will enter the lobby of a grand old theater where the pre-show begins. LED panels will feature Shrek and Po arguing over who’s show will play, with Po winning. Then they will tell you about Po’s delivery mission to the Emperor and the wolf Kang wanting to steal it. DreamWorks fans will see cases with the studio’s awards and items from the movies, including a talking Magic Mirror.
“We actually tried to integrate, as you can tell, a lot of the physical action that goes all the way to the back sides of the house. So again, it transports you, transforms you,” Corfino said. While the seats move, they do not shake or jerk around. There are not age restrictions for the show. The seats are there to reinforce movement and transport the audience through a new experience. DreamWorks Animation did most of the character animation, with other effects, like wind and water, handled by outside developers. A full orchestra recorded the show’s soundtrack at Abbey Road studios.
DreamWorks Theatre will include a space to meet Shrek and Fiona and an experience to talk to Donkey and other characters. Universal tied a food cart into the space and they are bringing back Mr. Pings Noodle Shop. The shop will have a place for photo ops with Po and Tigress.
The show itself is an “transformative and immersive experience” using multiple projectors. Guest do not need 3D glasses with the high-quality CGI animation. 3D glasses work great with things popping out of a single screen. But the glasses remove peripheral vision and fast-moving action does not work for everyone in 3D.
Corfino went on to say, “The entire concept of this show was to be transformative and embrace the peripheral potential of the theatre. So, I guarantee you if we made a 3D experience in there, I think that you’d lose the peripheral sensation of that whole transformative effect.” The quality projectors, high frame rate, and other effects create an experience just as good or better than current 3D attractions. Along with the pre-show, the entire experience should take about 10 minutes.
When asked how long it took to redo everything he jokingly replied, “not long enough.” The process of taking out Shrek 4D and installing the new attraction took about a year and a half. Everyone involved wanted the best experience possible for the audience. They completely redesigned the theatre to accomplish this and it is more complex than before. Universal built a test theatre to see how the room would interact with the effects. “In this case we really came in to a show and said we have to improve the sight lines, we have to make sure that, actually, in certain cases the back seats are better than front seats.” Corfino is referring to the effects that start at the front and go to the back sides of the theatre. Only people in the back rows will be able to see those. The theatre has 241 seats. “It’s a quicker show than it used to be, so the capacity is roughly the same,” Corfino mentioned.
THE OPENING & THE FUTURE
There are currently no plans to bring in other shows. But Corfino did say, “Having a great home for DreamWorks, it gives us the opportunity, especially in the theatre, to refresh, to possibly consider it sometime in the future.”
The grand opening will be held on June 15, 2018.