by John Crumlish
LOS ANGELES, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Heralded by a parade of dragon warriors, Kung Fu artists and traditionally garbed dancers who slinked, kicked and twirled their way down the red carpet, Universal Studios Hollywood's new DreamWorks Theatre featuring "Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest" celebrated its grand opening Thursday.
The attraction, which officially opens Friday, stars beloved Po, his cohorts from the "Kung Fu Panda" film franchise and other popular DreamWorks Animation characters in a ride that boasts the first-ever integration of interior projection mapping designed to engulf guests in 180 degrees of excitement.
"Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest" takes guests on a thrilling story-driven journey from fully articulated seats which pivot and swivel with the action. Along the way they experience roaring rapids, menacing river pirates, wind, magic, flaming arrows, a cave full of fireflies and plenty of Kung Fu.
Karen Irwin, president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios Hollywood (USH), said visitors' consistent fascination with and appreciation for "Kung Fu Panda" and Asian culture in general inspired the attraction, which was created and produced by DreamWorks Animation and Universal Creative.
The ever-increasing popularity and scope of USH's annual Lunar New Year celebration revealed an organic connection with the blockbuster film franchise, Irwin said.
"The Lunar New Year event has gotten bigger and bigger, so this seems like a natural fit, a natural extension, to do something bigger and more immersive as an ancillary opportunity," she told Xinhua.
"Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest" is the first attraction to open at USH since Universal's recent acquisition of DreamWorks Animation.
USH's previously opened Mr. Ping's Noodle Shop, whose proprietor is none other than Po's father, gave the partners additional confidence in the power of Po and friends to attract and amaze guests.
"Mr. Ping's Noodle Shop was themed from DreamWorks because we were really trying to leverage our new position, our new partnership," Irwin said. "It was phenomenal. It was so well-received, so we ended up really thinking a lot about what we could do to bring in more of an expanded entertainment that might appeal."
Irwin said "Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest" showcases DreamWorks Animation's artistic and technical inventiveness.
While many DreamWorks Animation favorites co-star in the attraction, the "Kung Fu Panda" cast naturally takes the spotlight, she said.
"The DreamWorks characters are popular, and you'll see that many of them are featured because DreamWorks has such gravitas," Irwin said. "But there's definitely a focus on Po and the Asian piece of it, because we found that these really resonate with people."
Irwin said "Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest" could well boost the already substantial number of Chinese guests to the park.
Two of the youngest guests at Thursday's grand opening raved about the attraction's non-stop action, surprising special effects and unpredictable plot.
Daniel Cruz, aged six, said his favorite moments were "when the waterfall came and I got a little wet," and when Po's nemesis, Kang Wolf, struck the Ming Hammer to send characters and guests alike into the wondrous Spirit Realm. "I give it two thumbs up," the boy said about the attraction.
John Swanson, a 10-year-old Chinese-American, said he recommends "Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor's Quest" to guests -- especially Chinese visitors.
"It was really exciting, and made me want to jump out of my seat," he said. "There was a lot of Chinese elements, and it was just really cool in general."