SUSPENDED ANIMATION #238
The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera was a simulator ride at Universal Studios Florida where guests were part of an animated adventure in a H-B cartoon. The attraction had a soft opening on May 1st, 1990 and officially opened on June 7th, 1990. It closed on October 20th, 2002.
Fortunately, I moved to Orlando in 1995 to take care of my parents who had health problems and so I was able to experience this attraction several times and enjoyed it. While I am often known as the “Disney guy”, I grew up watching Hanna-Barbera shows and have a deep fondness for their first decade of so of productions.
The attraction was really family friendly, including plastic, non-moving benches at the front of the auditorium for people who did not want to be jostled by the rocket simulators but wanted to just see the film or accompany their children. So, children under forty inches who could not ride or expectant mothers and others were given an opportunity to enjoy it. Regretably in my opinion, that is not the case on other simulator attractions at theme parks.
In the waiting queue there were multiple television screens showing excerpts on a loop from H-B cartoon shows. In the pre-show, there were three screens with Joe Barbera and William Hanna on the big center square one explaining the process of animation. They hand-drew Elroy Jetson from The Jetsons who springs to life.
They also show how a computer can design a rocket vehicle for Dick Dastardly but the villain and Muttley pops up from the inside of the rocket demanding to be in H-B’s next feature film.
Informed that the next film will be The Jetsons, the villains grab Elroy using a suction cup toilet plunger and take off. It is up to Yogi Bear and his sidekick Boo Boo to give chase in their own rocket taking you along for the ride to save Elroy. In the beginning, guests even got a small pinback button declaring “I saved Elroy!” with a head shot of the young boy.The simulator was inside Soundstage 42 and was later converted into the Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast and later Despicable Me Minion Mayhem simulators.
Powered by a large rubber band, Yogi’s rocket ship is fired off into the cartoon universe. The first stop is the town of Bedrock from The Flintstones with the rocket racing through the streets, narrowing avoiding people and things, and at one point zooming right behind Fred and Barney in Fred’s car.
Flying upwards into the sky to try to catch Dastardly, the rocket ends up in a spooky cemetery in the middle of the night where Scooby Doo and Shaggy are driving the Mystery Machine van. Dastardly goes into a haunted house followed by Yogi and the guests in their rocket and apparently also Scooby and Shaggy and some real ghosts.
Zooming out an upper floor window, the riders end up in Orbit City of The Jetsons. They are joined in the chase by George and Jane Jetson and Rosie the robot in their iconic bubble-topped saucer and they all end up in a futuristic amusement park.
Rosie extends her mechancial arms to lift Dastardly and Muttley out of their rocket. George grabs Elroy but thanks Yogi. Dastardly and Muttley are surrounding by flying police cars and are dropped in a flying jail cell.
Yogi’s rocket returns home but crashes on the launching pad where he thanks the guests for helping as they exit into a gift shop selling H-B merchandise and an interactive play area.There were twelve individual rockets, each holding eight people so a total of 96 riders could experience the attraction at the same time. The vehicles were created by Ride Trade with four degrees of movement.
The characters were created using traditional hand drawing and then optically composited. The character animation was done by the Sullivan Bluth Animation studio. Originally Kurtz & Friends and director Bob Kurtz were originally assigned to do the work and had supplied sequences for Jetsons: The Movie.
However, during production, Kurtz left the project citing creative differences. Universal who had released An American Tail (1986) and Land Before Time (1988) by producer-director Don Bluth gave the job to his studio instead.
Fievel’s Playland is a playground section for young children at Universal Studios Florida that opened in 1992 based on the American Tail films. There used to be another version at Universal Studios Hollywood but that one closed in 1997.
The play area features over-sized movie props, such as a giant cowboy boot and 1,000 gallon cowboy hat, tin can tunnels for kids to crawl through, a 30-foot spider web that kids can climb and it is all designed to make kids feel like they’re the size of a mouse.
In 1990 (to promote the opening of the attraction), Universal released various series of Hanna-Barbera cartoons on VHS tapes which included the theatrical trailer for Jetsons: The Movie, a commercial for the attraction which had a child tourist (played by R.J. Williams) sitting in the Hanna-Barbera office from the pre-show, explaining the attraction and a commercial for Universal Studios Florida.
Rhythm & Hues Studios created the 3D Jetsons sequence for the ride film. deGraf/Wahrman created the 3D Flintstones and Scooby-Doo portion of the film.
Character and Effects Animation produced by Sullivan Bluth Animation Studios
Producer: Thad Weinlein
Director: David Steinberg
Assistant Director: Ron Allen
Directing Animators: Linda Miller, Larry Leker, John Pomeroy, Mark Koetsier, Ken Duncan and Jean Morel
Character Animators: Mark Pudleiner, Nasos Vakilos, Shane Zalvin, Matt Bates, Joe McDonough, Dave Kupcyk, Bill Waldman and Todd Waterman
Opticals Produced by Pacific Title & Art Studio
CGI Effects Supervision by Brad deGraf and Michael Wahrman
Bedrock Modeling: Liza Keith and Adrian Iler
Scooby Modeling: John Adamezyk and Ardrian Iler
Jetsons Sequence produced by Rhythm & Hues Inc. (Animators: Jean Cunningham, Kevin Barnhill, Neil Richmond, Charlie Gibson, Darren Kiner, Michael Tigar, Daniele Colajacomo, Peter Farson and Lorne Lanning)
In 2006, Paramount Parks acquired a license to use this simulator in their amusement parks like Canada’s Wonderland and Paramount’s King’s Dominion. The film was also shown at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom with its original name and The Park at MOA under the name of Yogi’s Big Rescue. It also popped up at Dollywood in 2007 for KidsFest under the name Yogi’s Wild Ride.
Yogi’s rocket made an appearance in the TV series Yogi’s Treasure Hunt (1985) which probably inspired the ride vehicle and the computer in the pre-show showed up in Wake, Rattle and Roll (1990).
In the opening scene of Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast (the replacement attraction for The Funstastic World) ride film, The Jetsons and Yogi Bear can be seen flying in a Hanna-Barbera rocket through one of the Nicktoon sound stages.