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Breathless Thrills & Drenched Spills: The Fun Of Universal Studios Hollywood – Feature

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Nothing is more satisfying for a dad to hear his son yell out: “Dad! Let’s do it again!” And then going 3 more times! The doing was visiting Universal Studios Hollywood and experiencing the new breathtaking ride: “Transformers The Ride 3D”. For almost 10 minutes you are truly jumping into the universe of Transformers. It feels like you’re really fighting the robots yourself. Universal has had a punchy experience before with the 3D experience of T3. However, with this ride, on top of having a movie in 3D screened in your face, you are also moving on-board a Transformer car being totally “one” with the adventure.

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Michael Bay, the director behind the “Transformers” movies, was breathless when he experienced the ride: “The ride envelops the audience and makes them feel like they are in this world, that they are in the midst of these robots…I wish we could do this with the movies”. My son wanted to go over and over it again and again. And yes, we did save the future of the human race several time fighting alongside Optimus Prime!

The magic of Universal Studios is also for children of all ages. Little ones like my two-year-old get mesmerized by the world of Dr. Seuss, especially when the celebration of GrinchMas is in full bloom. You can take a holiday photo with the Grinch and his dog Max but you can also join the backlot Whobilation as the Whos sing and dance through Whoville.

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Two other iconic attractions still continue. One is the Studio Tour where you will discover about the magic behind Universal movies and have a close encounter with King Kong and Jaws. The other is the undeniable fun of the Jurassic Park ride. On this cold (for Los Angeles) day, we were lucky to get the full ambiance with an enhanced fog machine giving this haven of dinosaurs a truly creepy feel. My son and I were in the front row and we got drenched with a big smile on our faces.

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Universal Studios is one destination not to miss when in Los Angeles, because there is always something new to discover. I will forever remember trying The Mummy ride for the first time a few years ago. It’s great to see that it still frightens even the more experienced rider.

So as we finish the celebration of Grinchmas take your whole family for a well deserved break in an enchanting place: Universal Studios Hollywood.

By Emmanuel Itier  

Universal Imagination & Plastic Bricks: California Legoland & The Legoland Hotel – Feature

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Everybody can agree that no matter what age you are, the idea of “Legos” speaks volumes to you. Whether you were a child of the 80’s and built with the generic blocks or whether you are a child now and can build magnificent “Lord of the Rings sets”, one thing is universal… Legos builds your imagination beyond any other toy. My eight-year-old son is an avid Lego collector and builder. He collects mini-figures and loves to build, build and build with these colorful plastic bricks. So, when we told him we would be going to Legoland, he was beyond excited. When we told him we were staying at the Legoland Hotel, that just changed the game. His eyes lit up right out of his sockets! I could see the cogs in his bright, colorful brain turning enthusiastically. I knew this was a trip that will be cherished forever in his mind and also in ours. Yes…it would be epic.

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The Legoland Hotel has three exciting themes: Kingdom, Adventureland, and Pirates. Each room is decorated in the Lego theme. The premium rooms even have Lego sculptures scattered throughout in unusual spots like the ceiling and bathroom. We stayed in the Adventureland premium room, which was like a page out of Indiana Jones. A Lego scorpion crouched in the bathroom. A Lego parakeet swung in the kid’s bunk bed area. And a curious Lego monkey sitting atop a treasure chest with a combination lock. We later found that if you put in the right combination, there would be a treasure of two mini-figures, a Lego club magazine and a pouch full of chocolate coins! Throughout the hotel, there are interactive displays and life-sized Lego figures galore. If you follow the Lego brick road, it leads to a giant castle with pirates, knights and ogres. Children can play in the castle with a moat of loose Legos for them to build with. Adults can enjoy the swanky lounge while watching over as their children seize the castle. There is even a nightly Lego building contest. We dined at the hotel’s “Brick” buffet restaurant several times. It was delicious, fast, friendly…and most of all, healthy.

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Being a guest at the hotel guarantees you with a full hour before the park opens to the public. This way you don’t have to wait in line to enjoy the rides. That is one perk that is well worth your stay. On most evenings there is movie night near the hotel pool and on the patio (with a fire pit) of the Skyline Restaurant. Children seem to love the novelty of watching a movie in the pool.

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Legoland has over 60 rides and attractions so there is something for everyone. Head on over to Castle Hill for a medieval experience that is sure to reign supreme for years to come. Or take a roller-coaster ride on “The Dragon”, gallop on a Lego horse for a Royal Joust, or take in some tee-time at the Wild Woods mini-golf. The older knights can also battle the robotic Lego dragon at the Knightʼs Tournament.

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There is also “Star Wars Miniland” which contains a fascinating collection of replicas of Star Wars scenes on display made entirely of Legos. Don’t miss the Star Wars X-Wing made of over five million legos. It weighs 23 tons and it is the largest Lego structure in the world!

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From there, be sure to cool off at Legoland’s Water Park, which happens to be the worldʼs first Lego water park. Giant Legos make up a 45-foot tower that serves as a base for two humungous water slides that empty into a three-foot deep pool. This park is probably the most child-friendly park I have ever been to. It caters to children who may still be timid about swimming, with shallow waters and foam Lego blocks.

Not to be missed, on your way out, make sure to swing by the Sea Life Aquarium — an underwater exploration experience that is both interactive and educational. With beautiful, exotic sea creatures, the aquarium gives you a glimpse into our planet’s other half — the ocean. The Lost City of Atlantis is the incredible centerpiece of this aquarium where underwater divers made out of Legos mingle with sharks and exotic fish in this massive tank. It makes you realize how nature is amazing when it comes to the growth of a precious, living creature. 

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To see all of Legoland thoroughly, I would recommend at least two days. So many attractions have been added throughout the years that, to see everything, one day is not enough. So be sure to stay and build memories one brick at a time. Your children (including your inner child) will thank you forever!

 By Roxanna Bina-Itier with Emmanuel Itier

Havoc Essence & Necessary Scale: Halloweentime Disneyland 2012

The essence of Halloween wreaks havoc through theme parks but having the necessity of hard scale brands to inhabit the effectiveness of both rides, upcoming possibilities and new technology helps the progression along with the essence of old school nostalgia. With Halloweentime at Disneyland inhabiting the kingdom in Anaheim, new friends and old tendencies galore make themselves known in abundant harmony.

Central to the Halloweentime internment is the transformation of the Haunted Mansion using the essence of Jack Skellington’s interests via “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. Adorned with pumpkins from head to foot and an undeniable mood, the mansion takes on the essence of dexterous luminescence even before night falls.

Within the texture of the Mansion, the differences are complete and sometimes paint a better portrait while also bringing out more layers than normal. The descension inside the elevators reveals a distinction of Jack’s visage above while not resorting to simple CG effects. Journeying through the Mansion ride itself, the neon traction of Jack’s land as well as the black light ice personifications make the Mansion less dark than it should be bringing out many of the tricks. However the head of a witch inside a spinning pendant is exceptionally well achieved. The main hall again is lit up more and the smell of a real gingerbread house anchors the nostrils but the ghost themselves show themselves more as projections than usual. While running through Christmas, experiencing this vision should be adequately experienced in its current state, since with a new “Haunted Mansion” film to directed by Guillermo del Toro of “Hellboy” fame on the way, its fate will be determined to have a possible effect on said house.

Space Mountain, while not as outfitted for the ghoulish pursuit, places itself in the same realm with “Ghost Galaxy” making the ride by comparison inherently darker with a devilish orange spirit chasing you up and through the different twists and turns with supposed arms reaching after you as the turns become faster.

Experienced in tandem since last visit (via D23’s 1st Anniversary Party), Star Tours itself has been refurbished with new high-end CGI effects. The key within this structure is the shifting endings and different ways that the adventure can be handled. The underwater rumblings of Naboo and a daring run on the Death Star are two of the possibilities available. The ones experienced in two separate runs included Tatooine and Hoth, both taking advantage of high speed forced perspectives while a drop of Coruscant proved interesting because of the intensive vertigo perceived.

Running consecutively regardless of holiday tendencies, the Fantasmic Show and consequent fireworks display played well into the Halloween festivities specifically because of its water-born infusion of bad guy personifications from the winged demagogue in “Fantasia” to the whale in “Pinocchio” to the Queen from “Snow White” but it was the dragon transforming nemesis from “Sleeping Beauty” that had the most impact both because of the scale of the actual animatronic beast but also the impending big screen adaptation brewing as Angelina Jolie is currently inhabiting this character as she shoots “Maleficent”.

Halloweentime at Disneyland is always one of fun but also interesting since the brewing positivity is underlit by a sense of darkness simply intrinsic to the holiday that allows both for invention but also for a bit of chicanery.

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