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“You can choose from these three rides.”
“Let’s go with Men In Black,” I said. “I can rock a necktie.”
This was 10 years ago when I interviewed for a job at Universal Orlando Resort. I was given the choice of which attraction to work, and I chose MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack. Admittingly, I based my choice solely on what wardrobe I thought I would look best in. Little did I know that this would become one of the biggest life-changing moments for me…but more to come on that later.
Fast forward 10 years and I find myself now writing for the Universal Orlando blog about this attraction turning the big 2-0. 20 YEARS. It’s no wonder to me how this ride has endured and remains one of the fan-favorites at the parks. I mean, who doesn’t love the idea of joining a secret agency that defends Earth and the universe from alien scum? And with new movies released over the years, the viral sensation of storming Area 51, and the recent confirmation of unidentified objects, it only continues to remain relevant.
Join me on a trip down memory lane (if you haven’t been wiped by a neuralyzer) to see how this attraction first came to be, all the way to present day as the fandom continues to grow. Here’s why MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack is one of the best of the best of the best in Universal Studios Florida.
It Opened at the Right Time
On July 2, 1997, the first Men in Black film hit theaters with wild success. It had the perfect formula; an incredible cast, great comedic and action-packed writing, and a storyline that hooked into the age-old question of does intelligent alien-life exist? It was just begging to be made into a theme park ride, and who better to make that a reality than a destination that touted the tagline “Ride the Movies!”
Five years later on April 14, 2000, the ride opened to a wave of fanfare. Following the grand opening of Universal’s Islands of Adventure the year before, it was great timing to open a new ground-breaking themed attraction to Universal Studios. But you may be saying, “Deni, there were other laser-shooter style dark rides before this one. What makes this one so special?”
Well, let me tell you.
When the ride opened, it was the most ambitious in regards to animatronics at Universal Orlando. It had the largest one in the parks with the big bug you defeat at the end.
And not only did it bring an interactive element by hooking into the competitive nature in all of us, but it expanded upon the universe of Men in Black with a unique storyline and theme.
Welcome to The Universe and You!
After seeing the movie in theaters, I think we all wanted to believe there’s a secret alien agency that monitors and protects us from extraterrestrial activity. I also think we all wish we could be one of those agents in the black suits, rocking a pair of shades and giant bug-blasters. MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack makes that real, but the storyline behind the attraction makes you believe you’re experiencing something completely different… at first.
As you walk through the World Expo through the ride entrance, you see posters advertising The Universe and You. This is the entertaining “ride” you think you’re about to experience where you discover the truth about what lives beyond our solar system. But that would-be experience is over before it begins when it’s interrupted by Agent Z, and you’re recruited to train as a MIB rookie.
In the queue, you’ll see familiar scenes like the “worms” having coffee in the breakroom, the main headquarters where you see the two recognizable twin aliens, and even a weapons room, complete with the Noisy Cricket.
After you board the ride and your training begins, you’re interrupted again and told that your help is needed with an alien invasion that has hit New York. It’s your job to zap those alien bugs and save Earth! The more aliens you defeat and the more points you get, the closer you are to earning your very own MIB suit.
999,999. That’s the magic number. The precious sequence of digits that gives you bragging rights for “maxing out” on the ride. I’ve gotten it a few times, although I’m lucky if I break 700k nowadays as I’m a terrible shot. You can check out my tips blog post if you’re looking for how to get a high score. But no matter what you do, don’t forget to push that red button!
The theming and storyline don’t stop with the ride. It extends to MIB agent characters that will periodically make their presence known in-park for meet and greets. You can also enjoy a special tour of the downstairs level of the main headquarters room if you ask one of the agents working (pending availability).
Details That Are Out of This World
Have you ever stopped and really appreciated the level of detail put into this ride? Well, I have and it’s AMAZING. The creative teams developing the ride made the perfect blend of iconic scenes and details from both the film and our very own Universal designs. You may recognize the sleek, futuristic design of the architecture from the movie, complete with the iconic towers from the New York World’s Fair. And keep an eye out for the posters advertising The Universe and You in the beginning of the ride. These were designed by our creative teams, as well as the lyrics for the song playing in the attraction (I got the song stuck in my head all the time when I worked!). You can also find fun notices, news clippings, and advertisements on the bulletin board in the break room where the worms are grabbing their coffee.
The ride also expands on the diverse MIB universe of alien species, many of which were exclusively designed for the ride. You may recognize the little green and blue guy with the long arms below, the giant tentacled eye alien waving the ray gun, and of course the giant bug at the end. We’re talking a whopping 120 different kinds of aliens, with a large number of them being the animatronics I mentioned earlier. Something I loved to do when I walked the track after closing is look for a new alien I hadn’t noticed. Some of my favorites are just the eyes you see hidden in the bushes or on the walls, but of course, my all-time favorite is Frank the Pug.
You can even find fun easter eggs cleverly disguised. In the main headquarters room, if you look down at the desks, you can find unique paperwork and alien phenomena on the screens. Our horticulture team shapes the trees outside to resemble UFOs. There’s even an alien using a certain famous filmmaker’s head as a disguise reading a newspaper in the New York area of the ride.
20 Years and Counting of Training Agents
Many of us have a Universal attraction that holds a special meaning in our lives. Whether it was the first ride you ever did as a kid during your family’s first vacation to the parks; stepping into your favorite fantasy world you’ve only ever seen on the big screen; or even making lasting relationships with friends or loved ones that you met there. For me and many other fans, MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack is that favorite attraction.
Throughout its 20 years, there have been guests who’ve gotten engaged there, designed shirts and outfits themed to the ride, and countless couples or friends who ride to settle bets or prove who’s the best. And it continues as the fan base grows! I just recently learned about a group of fans who call themselves the MIB 900 Club and meet up to ride. I even met my husband during my year of working the ride, and we took our pregnancy announcement photos there.
Even the Team Member agents get caught up in the fandom, bringing a passion and dedication that gives our guests a unique experience. From offering tips on how to get a high score to epic elevator spiels to even joining guests on the ride for some 1-1 training. I have fond memories of taking breaks and hanging out downstairs in the main headquarters room at a desk, or work friends who would take theming to the next level by carrying around a Noisy Cricket or having a little bug perched on their shoulder.
So, here’s to many more years of laughter, competitive banter, zapping bugs, saving the universe on a daily basis, and forever earning the last suit you’ll ever wear. MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack, you make 20 years look good.