On this week’s Theme Park Rangers Radar adventure, we’ll go upside down and yell “Shaboom!”, go T-shirt shopping for manatee merchandise and see how sweet Buzz Lightyear can be at Disney Springs.
Radar is a weekly roundup of attractions tidbits and turns of events. It publishes on Wednesday at OrlandoSentinel.com.
That shaboom you just heard may have just been the Ride Guys, part of Universal Orlando’s push to create content and lure vacationers.
The Ride Guys — Universal only identifies them as Dylan and Mike — appear in videos that introduce rides and attractions to potential visitors, particularly non-Floridians. The bits have a bro vibe with banter and comic asides plus sound effects and onboard footage.
“It is casually scripted. It is scripted, with the ability for Dylan and Mike, the talented actors, to actually kind of give us their own spin at times,” said Eric Gray, senior director of content engagement and part of the team that created Ride Guys.
Red Guys videos now posted on YouTube include segments about Jurassic World VelociCoaster and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Islands of Adventure as well as Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem at Universal Studios theme park.
The format has the guys answering questions about the attractions then reinforcing those facts during their riffing ride. (I’m oddly fond of the “belt or backpack” question regarding ride restraints.) The videos run for four or five minutes apiece.
They throw in a “shaboom” exclamation or two, which has become a trademark of the segments.
“It’s one of those things, you write something, and you don’t know what’s going to catch,” Gray said. “And then all of a sudden, you’ve got Optimus Prime saying ‘Shaboom!’ and you’ve got fans on Twitter saying ‘Shaboom!’, and you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I think we might have walked into something here.’ ”
The Ride Guys fall under the relatively new Discover Universal umbrella, which has seen Universal Orlando’s official blog become less newsy and more of a travel guide. In addition, there are videos in the works about the resort’s hotels, dining and “real-guest experiences,” Gray said.
This sort of messaging — where companies create media stories about themselves — fits into a corporate communications trend that goes beyond theme parks and into industries such as health care and professional sports teams. It’s a way to connect with potential customers.
“People are planning vacations and taking a long time. They get lots of information. And the way people consume content today for travel, it’s just different. We know we’ve got to show up, almost like an amazing travel show would show up on Netflix,” Gray said.
“We definitely wanted to think about YouTube-first type content … original branded entertainment storytelling content that really gets people’s attention beyond a traditional advertising spot or commercial or display ad,” he said.
The goal is to have weekly Ride Guys videos, and the franchise could expand into non-moving areas of the resort. Mike and Dylan are catching on, Gray said.
“They get our product. They’re passionate about the experience,” he said “And then they’re becoming like little mini theme parks community celebrities. People are talking about them on Twitter, stopping them in the park when we’re shooting and taking pictures with them.”
Another week, another sea cow item. But it was difficult to resist this T-shirt find at SeaWorld Orlando.
It’s a golden yellow T, with a high-contrast manatee floating near the words “Bananatee.” Price: $28.
I found similar art online but with the manatee and banana morphed together, animal emerging from peel. This was more subtle. … Well, as subtle as a bright banana T-shirt can be called.
The shirt has no SeaWorld branding on it. The park pushed it out on social media without saying where to buy, but a team member pointed me to Trek Treasures, the store near the exit of Turtle Trek.
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In keeping with the theme, there was a similar style shirt sold there in a drab green with the words “I’m the turtle package.”
It might be time for an ice-cream intervention, but, hey, it’s summer, and I have no regrets seeking out the Buzz Lightyear Star Commander Cone being sold at Swirls on the Water at Disney Springs.
The treat is color-coordinated with the “Toy Story” character, green cone and what is called purple cheesecake soft-service ice cream. There are two Lightyear “wings” made of white chocolate coming out each side, and there are sprinkles involved.
There’s an option for purple cheesecake-strawberry swirl. I passed.
It sells for $5.49, but only through June 30.
The Swirls kiosk, on the bridge near Rainforest Cafe, continues to offer the 50th Celebration Cone (Dole Whip lemon and blue butter cookie swirl with sprinkles and a Mickey topper).
What’s on your radar? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.