November 16, 2021 — Universal Parks & Resorts has earned three Outstanding Achievement Awards for theme park experiences around the world, the Themed Entertainment Association announced today:
- Outstanding Achievement – Attraction for The Secret Life of Pets – Off the Leash! at Universal Studios Hollywood
- Outstanding Achievement – Technical Innovation for Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge at Universal Studios Japan
- Outstanding Achievement – Theme Park Land for Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan
The THEA Awards were created by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) in 1994 to help realize a key mission of the association: bringing recognition to achievement, talent and personal excellence within the themed entertainment industry. TEA’s THEA Awards have become internationally recognized as a symbol of excellence.
“We use constant innovation along with powerful stories and adventures to take our guests places they can only go within Universal theme parks,” said Mark Woodbury, Incoming Chairman and CEO, Universal Parks & Resorts and President, Universal Creative. “We create more than rides and lands. We create once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And all of us are grateful for the recognition we have received from the Themed Entertainment Association.”
The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash is Universal Studios Hollywood newest ride that continues its collaboration with Universal Pictures and Illumination. It is inspired by the blockbuster film franchise, The Secret Life of Pets, which answers the question, “What are your pets really doing when you’re not at home?” It’s a heartfelt experience that transforms guests into stray puppies as they journey to become loved and adopted. Featuring more than 64 animated figures and voiced by the film’s original talent, including Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, “The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash,” is a ground-breaking, tech-savvy attraction the whole family can enjoy.
“The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash exemplifies the very best qualities of a classic, story-driven dark ride experience, while integrating new technology that heightens the storytelling,” the THEA award says. “The rich layering and world-class execution of the ride’s immersive queue experience, scenic show environments, lovable and engaging animatronic characters, and technological gags all exemplify excellence. The ride’s inventive use of digital, gesture-tracking technology enhances its storytelling capability as guests see themselves as stray puppy avatars. The attraction’s 64 animatronic figures bring the fuzzy and furry “Pets” characters out of their digital world with warmth, humor, and charming realism.”
Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge at Universal Studios Japan is the world’s first interactive Mario Kart theme park ride and immerses guests in the worlds of Nintendo. Guests race through iconic courses from the Mario Kart series with Nintendo characters and are transported into Nintendo worlds where they’re not just playing a game, they’re actually living it. They steer through courses underwater and in the clouds and throw shells as they race to the finish line with Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach. Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge brings the experience to guests using a powerful story and characters, advanced augmented reality technology, projection mapping, and screen projection combined with a physical set that recreates iconic environments in fantastic detail.
“The groundbreaking, immersive ride experience: Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge is a richly detailed, dual-track dark ride that lets guests experience the world of Mario Kart aboard an interactive ride vehicle, using Augmented Reality headsets themed as Mario’s cap,” the THEA award says. “This blending and synchronization of physical sets and augmented, real-time graphics is a staggering and novel feat of engineering – each rider having their own unique game experience, each vehicle also working as a team, and each set of two vehicles competing against each other and against virtual and physical ride/game characters…The idea of theme park interactivity has been completely changed and elevated with Super Nintendo World, redefining what it means to give guests agency and immersion within their own, unique story experience.”
Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan, which officially opened in March of 2021, brings a highly themed and immersive land featuring Nintendo’s worlds, characters and adventures to the real world, where guests can play inside the world of Super Mario. It features rides and attractions themed after Mario Kart and Yoshi, as well as dining, shops and other experiences.
“With the opening of the world’s first Super Nintendo World theme park land at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, Universal Creative has raised the bar for high-capacity interactivity, immersing guests in the wildly unique and colorful worlds of Nintendo while also honoring the gold standard legacy of gameplay pioneered by Mario’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto,” The THEA Award says.