Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest Premieres At The New Dreamworks Theater At Universal Studios Hollywood

This week, Universal Studios Hollywood opened the Dreamworks Theater with the premiere of Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest. /Film was among the first to experience the new attraction and get the scoop on its potential for the future of Universal Studios.

The opening of the Dreamworks Theater at Universal Studios is significant. Now that Universal is the distributor for Dreamworks Animation, all the Dreamworks characters can join the Minions, King Kong, the Mummy, Jurassic Park's dinosaurs and The Fast and the Furious gang at Universal Studios theme parks. After Dreamworks SKG stopped distributing, Dreamworks Animation moved to Paramount and 20th Century Fox before settling at Universal.

President and COO of Universal Studios Hollywood Karen Irwin said as much in her introduction.

"Today is a significant milestone for all of us as we open the first theme park attraction developed together since Dreamworks Animation and Universal Studios have become one company," Irwin said. "For those of you familiar with the story of Kung Fu Panda, you know it features a cast of characters who champion and inspire each other despite challenges and obstacles. It is the story of perseverance and determination where good of course prevails in the end. There are bits of life lessons weaved into the fabric of this fun and spirited story the whole family is going to enjoy."

The press opening allowed us to breeze right through the line queue where regular attendees will have to wait, but we heard snippets of Donkey from Shrek giving instructions. There may be more Dreamworks characters speaking to the captive audience who won't be as lucky to skip to the line.

The waiting foyer is also full of Dreamworks animation characters. Although the Kung Fu Panda characters are the star, this is a rare opportunity to see them crossover with Shrek, Madagascar and Trolls characters in a funny preshow bit. It sets up the premise of the ride, too. Po has to deliver the Liquid of Ultimate Power to the Emperor, and he needs the audience's help to accompany him, Master Shifu and Mr. Ping in a raft.

The doors open to a beautiful blue theater. Seats are spread a comfortable distance apart with a few non-moving options. "The Emperor's Quest" is a fairly standard seat shaker that is fortunately relatively calm, considering all the river rapids, waterfalls, crashes and Kung Fu moves on screen. It's enough to make you feel like you're in the raft with Po and the gang, but not throw your back out.

The movie on screen emphasizes martial arts action over comedy, although it is hard to catch all the dialogue in a single sitting. Perhaps you'll catch more jokesĀ on repeat performances.

The antagonist of the show is the wolf pirate, who battles Po for the Liquid. In the highlight of the piece, the wolf pirate fights Po in the spirit realm. The spirit realm envelopes the theater, expanding onto the side walls beyond the screen in the front. Earlier in the ride, flaming arrows land in the walls too, taking advantage of the full 180 degrees.

These effects don't require 3D glasses and show that truly immersive effects are more about the creativity of the space, not flinging things at the viewer. Water spray felt light considering the whole adventure is on a river, but that's fine. It's not a soaker ride.

In total, the theater experience lasts approximately five minutes. It might be 10 minutes all-in with the preshow, but that means the lines will also move steadily in five minute chunks. Heck, during the summer months, 10 minutes of sweet air conditioning will be welcome.

Kung Fu Panda is the first attraction for the Dreamworks Theater ,but the program can be swapped out using the theater for different shows. So enjoy Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest and look out for future attractions at the Dreamworks Theater.

"What's particularly exciting about this Dreamworks Theater is its versatility," Irwin said. "Today we proudly present Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest, but this theater has the flexibility for us to change the entertainment and feature other Dreamworks animation stories in the coming years."