It's that rarefied honor that only a handful of the most popular Hollywood entities have achieved, even more unique than getting footprints in the cement outside the Chinese Theater: a theme park attraction inspired by your movie. And few franchises lend themselves better to high-octane thrills than the "Fast & Furious" films.
"This one's for you, Pablo!" proclaimed an emotional Vin Diesel, paying tribute to his late, longtime co-star Paul Walker at the official launch of "Fast & Furious - Supercharged," the latest addition to the famed backlot Studio Tour at the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood.
Joined by his fellow "F&F" stars Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham, producer Neil Moritz and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in the studio's famed Courthouse Square (best known as the center of "Back to the Future's" Hill Valley, though the iconic clock tower was temporarily made-over into a clock-less generic city hall), Diesel helped kick off the attraction in high style -- including a wild car chase led by Dominic Toretto's 1970 Dodge Charger.
"Fifteen years ago, I was lucky enough to become part of a family, and that family is Universal," Diesel told the crowd. "Universal has supported us to the point where we're actually going into production for 'Fast and Furious 8' in 2016. And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, Universal Studios has created a ride -- and I remember when [NBCUniversal CEO] Ron Meyer came to talk to me about it the first time: he said, 'Your grandchildren are going to be able to experience you in a ride!'"
The new "Supercharged" attraction, which officially opened to the public June 24, serves as the grand finale for the long-running tram tour through the studio's backlot, which includes the "Psycho" house and Bates Motel, a plane crash set from Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds," still-standing Whoville structures from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and the "Jaws" harbor. Along with replacing a previous "Fast & Furious" pitstop along tour, "Supercharged" takes place within a brand new auto shop-style structure erected where the 13-year-old Curse of the Mummy's Tomb tunnel once stood, It mixes a traditional hydraulic motion ride with state-of-the-art, hyper-real 3D-HD special effects projected in 4K on a 360-degree screen and incorporates real-life props (including Dom's Charger), storyline-setting clips on the tram monitors and appearances by characters in the franchise, including those played by Diesel, Rodriguez and Gibson as well as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Luke Evans.
"That's Letty in her tank top and her jeans -- the recognizable tomboyish Letty," Rodriguez teased reporters before taking the tour, noting how she and her castmates shot new footage specifically for the ride. "This was cool: it was mainly green screen work and they put us on rigs so we could fly on to different sets -- I can't even explain it," she laughed, though she admitted she was pleased with the chance to be included in a ride that may run for decades to come. "It's like being immortalized forever!"
Although his character doesn't appear in the ride, Statham was happy to be on hand for its debut. "I got invited down here by all the people at Universal so I'm here for some support on a franchise I'm very proud to be in," said the actor, who still marvels at the extent of the film series' global appeal. "[Audiences] like the characters, they like the cars, they like all the elements that people turn up for," he said. "It's popular beyond belief, and they keep coming back. We're talking about doing part 8!"
"One of the great things about Universal Studios Hollywood is we get to work with the actual filmmakers themselves, the writers, the producers, and the actors, themselves, and that enables us to create a very authentic film ride experience, so that's what we do here," Larry Kurzweil, President of Universal Studios Hollywood, told Spinoff Online. "The Studio Tour is one of the most popular attractions here at Universal Studios Hollywood, and what we wanted to do was create a grand finale to that. And so we looked around at different IPs we could use, we realized that'"Fast and Furious' is already like a thrill ride at the theaters. What if we could let guests and fans actually feel what it's like to be in one of those films? And I think we delivered on that."
Kurzwell was especially pleased with the inventive way the theme park's team simulated the high speed action the movies are known for. "When you see the tram driving around, it's a traditional tram that doesn't move very fast, and we said 'How are we ever going to make that tram feel like it's going fast?'" he said. "And so we developed a hydraulic system and a motion base -- kind of a flight simulator technology that enables us to do anything we want with the tram. We can make it race through the streets of L.A. at 120 miles an hour; we can make it jump a river and crash through a warehouse -- and believe me, we do all that and a bunch more in this thrill ride -- 'Fast and Furious' is going to be something people are going to be talking about and coming back to ride many times."
"Fast & Furious - Supercharged" is open now at Universal Studios Hollywood.