Twister…Ride It Out places us in the 1996 film, Twister, and is a re-creation of a tornado ripping through a small town in Oklahoma. Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, the stars of the film, host the attraction by narrating a couple pre-shows that relay what it’s like to survive a tornado and film a movie about one. The main part of the attraction, though, is more than your average show.
Guests walk into a room designed to look like a drive-in movie theater. There they witness an action-packed weather phenomenon taking place in front of them. It begins with lightning splitting a tree in half, but as glass breaks, rain pours, trucks slide, fire roars, farm animals fly, and an actual wind funnel lands on the set, it is hard to know when the event will come to an end. However, when the storm does pass, a final surprise awaits to provide guests with a fitting climax.
I recently experienced this attraction with all three of my children. Each had a slightly different opinion of the ride. Between the four of us, there is a span of nearly three decades in age as well as a wide spectrum of personalities. This is our family’s take on one of Universal’s most well-worn attractions.
Elle is 10-years-old and a bit of a daredevil. Very little frightens her. In fact, she takes pride in her ability to venture where others turn away. You would think that an attraction about tornadoes would have had her pumped from the beginning, but Elle seemed a bit skeptical about the attraction’s ability to please as she entered the queue.
There were portions of the show that did amuse Elle. She specifically spoke of being startled when the platform beneath her shifted, and she laughed when she recalled a fake cow being flung across the room in front of her. For the most part, though, she didn’t find the attraction entertaining enough to want to repeat it ever again. When asked what others should know about the experience, she warned, “It wasn’t that much of awesome. It was kind of boring just standing around.”
Miller is 13-years-old and takes most things in stride. He doesn’t seek out thrills, but he doesn’t run from them either. His strength is being able to “bend in the wind” in most situations. Miller approached Twister…Ride It Out with a blank slate. He didn’t seem to have any expectations before we walked in.
Miller genuinely enjoyed the experience, using words like “funny,” “freaky,” and “a little scary” to describe the attraction. “I think it’s pretty exciting. It entertains you throughout the whole thing,” Miller said plainly. His favorite parts were the fire explosions, and like Elle, he found the cow being carried up in the tornado to be really humorous. However, he did caution, “If you get jumpy or scared a bit easily, this might not be the [attraction] for you because it does get a little bit creepy.” He clarified, though, that it wouldn’t stop him because he planned to see the show again on a return trip.
Margeaux is 15-years-old and is timid about attractions that tend to frighten. In general, she despises rides that drop you or place you in the middle of a harrowing situation. While she can appreciate a thrill or horror story, actually experiencing one is not something for which she volunteers. Margeaux seemed mildly curious when told we were going to experience Twister…Ride It Out, but the show didn’t even live up to her low expectations for it.
“A tornado is attacking… things fly by. Things get shot by lightening or electricity shortouts. Things start sliding and breaking. That kind of stuff,” Margeaux described. She said that she would repeat the experience, but it was said in reluctance as she admitted that she was mildly bored. She held an open mind, however, in her assessment about other’s ability to enjoy it. “It may or may not interest you. It’s just a lot of effects and stuff that you watch, and then it is over. If you are easily startled, you might not like it, but there is not even that much to startle you.”
I am the mom of this brood and a thrill seeker at heart. Scary things, fast things, and “bragging rights” have always appealed to me. In general, rides grab me and shows don’t. Knowing Twister…Ride It Out was a show didn’t exactly get me jazzed at the start. My initial thought was, “This will be 10 minutes of my life that I will never get back.”
As I proceeded to a pre-show that was staged inside a tornado-ravaged home, an eerie feeling came over me and my curiosity was piqued. The pre-show didn’t really hold my attention, but what I found far more interesting were the details inside the home. A car that partially plunged through the roof, destroyed kitchen cabinetry, and a bathtub sitting in an area where the house had been ripped apart…all were sights that fascinated me as I began to imagine what it must be like to live through a tornado.
The main show carried the same type of eerie fascination for me. I wouldn’t say that I was captivated by the scene playing out in front of me, but I was definitely intrigued. I am one who startles easily, so there were a number of times when a small shriek escaped my throat due to the unsettling nature of the special effects.
The main thing I found interesting about this experience was that while it had a slight thrill factor, it was ironically comical at times. All of my children were laughing at some point throughout the show. I doubt that this was intended by the creative team that designed the attraction. The nature of everything takes a serious tone, and yet it is difficult to not laugh when a statuesque farm animal strung up on wires is carried away in the sky.
It did occur to me that the show might be too frightening for children who have difficulty differentiating between reality and fantasy, but all of mine exceeded that age. Instead, we left Twister…Ride It Out giggling. I realized that the show held some mild entertainment value that I had not previously realized, although it didn’t hold enough for me to make the attraction a priority on future visits.