Warning: Some of the images and concepts in today’s article may be considered NSFW. Proceed with caution. Unless, of course, you have been to the Universal Orlando Resort, in which case you know exactly what you are getting yourself into! Enjoy! Recently, I decided to take a look at the former Hard Rock Park and focus on how they pushed the envelope forward to what family friendly could mean to modern audiences. Considering the park didn’t make it past the first season, the world will never know if they took rock n’ roll too far for a theme park… or not far enough. However, it’s not to say that well established theme parks don’t also have some questionable subject matter. Today’s focus: Universal Orlando Resort in Central Florida.
Let’s start with the resort’s newest addition: Transformers: The Ride 3D. In my opinion, this is the most violent attraction in theme park history. From the moment your ride vehicle (also known as EVAC) leaves load, you hear the sounds of bullets whizzing past your head and into the panel in front of you. Granted, the violence takes place in a science fiction universe, so there is no blood shed. However, there isn’t a single scene in the attraction where Transformers aren’t shooting at each other, your vehicle or physically trying to rip each other apart. True to the films, they leave a ton of CGI destruction in their path. Even though the Transformer films all carry a PG-13 rating, this attraction doesn’t offer so much as a warning for the sci-fi violence.
However, there was once a warning for the Horror Make Up Show just down the street from Transformers that the show “might not be suitable for children under 13”. The good news is, this show is one of my favorite theme parks of all time. It’s extremely well written and when performed by the right actors, can literally end in an unprompted standing ovation (I have seen this several times). While Horror Make Up is a comedy, there are some extremely graphic images in a montage of scary films from Universal Studios’ legacy shown that are extremely disturbing. The actors do warn the audience that what they are about to see is graphic, but while the lights are down and the only thing to focus on is the overhead screens, most kids watch anyway.
Right next door to the Horror Make Up Show is Terminator 2: 3D Battle Across Time. This ground breaking 3D movie also once had a PG-13 warning on Universal Studios Florida park maps, but again, has since been removed. True to the R Rated films, there is a fair amount of violence including extremely jarring gunfire from a series of robots known as the T-70 terminators scattered around the theater doing target practice directly above the audience’s heads. A few moments later the T-1000, a liquid metal shape shifting robot, appears on stage with may be the loudest shot gun I have ever heard in my life. Then he grabs the host of the Cyberdyne presentation, Kimberly Duncan, by the neck and lifts her 3 feet off the ground and throws her body behind a podium, killing her.
Maybe, in your household, “family friendly” consists of an all-you-can-eat violence buffet and considering the video games kids play these days, shows at Universal Orlando are par for the course. However, if you want to keep your kids away from sexual connotations, don’t walk anywhere near the Men In Black: Alien Attack dark ride. Surrounding the attraction is a series of hip-hop songs that is designated specifically for that zone. Amongst these is a song called “O.P.P” by Naughty By Nature, which became a number one hit in 1991. Not familiar with what “O.P.P” means? Here are some lyrics to help you out:
OPP, how can I explain it
I’ll take you frame by frame it
To have y’all jumpin’ shall we singin’ it
O is for Other, P is for People scratchin’ temple
The last P…well…that’s not that simple
It’s sorta like another way to call a cat a kitten
It’s five little letters that are missin’ here
You get on occassion at the other party
As for the ladies, OPP means something gifted
The first two letters are the same but the last is something
It’s the longest, loveliest, lean– I call it the leanest
It’s another five letter word rhymin’ with cleanest and meanest
I won’t get into that, I’ll do it…ah…sorta properly
I say the last P…hmmm…stands for property
Perhaps your family can’t figure out what that means. Maybe Grandma or the kids need it explained to them thus no harm, no foul, right? Stick around the Men In Black attraction entrance and you’ll hear a song by Janet Jackson called “If”. Not familiar with the lyrics? Let me help you out:
If I was your girl
Oh the things I’d do to you
I’d make you call out my name
I’d ask who it belongs to
If I was your woman
The things I’d do to you
But I’m not
So I can’t
Then I won’t
If I was your girl
Not too bad, right? Wait, there’s more. And you can hear this come directly from the speakers around Men In Black:
…Close your eyes and imagine my body undressed
Take your time cuz we’ve got all night, oooh
You on the rise as you’re touchin my thighs and
Let me know what you like
If you like I’ll go
Down da down down down da down down
I’ll hold you in my hand and baby
Your smooth and shiny
Feels so good against my lips sugar
I want you so bad I can
Taste your love right now baby
Day and night
Night and day
True story time: a few months ago, I was walking past Men In Black Alien Attack and decided to stop near a planter, which hid a speaker that happened to be playing “If”. I wanted to make sure that this was the actual version being played in the park or if it was edited in some way. A mother sitting next to me with her 5 year old son in a stroller saw that I was leaning in towards the speaker and said (without me saying a word to her), “Yep, it’s kind of crazy that they play this in a family park, right?” I then told her I was checking to see if they were playing the real thing and she said that as an annual pass holder, that she spends a lot of time listening to these lyrics with her son because he is too young to ride (her husband and older son were on the attraction at the time).
She then went on to inform me that, to Universal’s credit, the versions they play in the park are the same versions you can hear on the radio (she’s right). And she has found herself in an awkward position having to explain to what “O.P.P.” means to her young children. This woman brought up a very valid point. If the song comes on the radio, she can change it (and apparently she does), however it’s not exactly easy to just “run away from it” when you are strolling through the park. Not exaggerating, she thought that Universal should post signage stating that they are playing more “adult music” in this section of the park to at least give parents a heads up. While I think a sign will be largely ignored and possibly create more harm than good with children listening more intently (“Mom, what’s a ‘smooth and shiny’?”), I understand where she is coming from. Why Universal ditched the PG-13 warnings for their attractions is unclear. Perhaps it was a shift in management combined with a shift in what society considers acceptable. Either way, while I personally don’t find anything I have mentioned in the article offensive; no doubt, there are families that do. However, maybe it’s to be expected from Universal who is known for catering to a slightly older crowd than Disney down the road. Your thoughts?