By now, we’d hit some of the important shops, so it was time for the first Sesame attraction — the 4-D Movie Magic theater. The theater has a prime location in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, about a block and a half up from the park entrance. In Disneyland terms, this would be like having the Muppet*Vision 3D theater right in the middle of Main Street, instead of tucked away in a little back corner which happens to be in a completely different theme park.
We couldn’t see the movie when we first got to the park, because there are actually two shows running in the same theater. They show “Shrek’s 4-D Adventure” in the morning, and then it switches over to “Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic” around noon.
As people were filing into the lobby, a screen was displaying pictures and facts about each character. It had all the major characters you’d expect, including the Count, Prairie Dawn, Zoe and Telly.
The lobby got pretty full as we were waiting. For a ten-year-old attraction, “Movie Magic” was still pulling in a decent-sized crowd.
Once people were inside, the lights went down and there was a 7 and a half minute pre-show running on the screen. The dialogue was dubbed into Japanese, but we could follow along.
The English-language version of this attraction has opened in several parks in the US — at SeaWorld California, and two Busch Gardens parks. There’s a nice video of the pre-show in English on YouTube, so I’ll just do a quick synopsis and then you should go watch it, because it’s adorable.
Elmo and his Sesame friends have all made their own movies, which they’re screening at the Sesame Street Film Festival. The Count presents “The Counting Kid Counts Again”, with all of his bat friends playing cows. Prairie Dawn has a science-fiction epic made in her living room, “Prairie and the Pretty Space Ponies”.
But the film gets tangled in the projector, and soon the room is just a mess of unspooled film. Oscar sneers at Elmo because the Film Festival is ruined, but as everyone files out of the screening room, Elmo has an idea — they can use their imaginations! He tells us to go into the theater and put on our special glasses.
Inside, it’s similar to the Muppet*Vision theater, with plush red curtains and lots of stars and sparkles. The audio of the 4-D movie is also on YouTube, and it’s also worth a listen because, again, adorable. (On that video, the 4-D part starts at 7:30.)
Everybody’s hanging around on the street, depressed because their Film Festival exploded. Elmo encourages everyone to use their imaginations, and Grover agrees to try. He spins around and becomes Marshal Grover, impressing everyone with a 3-D lasso trick. He spins again and turns into a fireman, and his lasso becomes a Muppet firehose, which sprays water on the audience. With another spin, he becomes Super Grover. He’s smashed by a meteor, and the theater seats shake with the crash.
It’s Ernie’s turn next, and he imagines himself as Laurence of Arabia, perched on a camel. There are desert wind effects, and Bert falls down, crashing through the floor and into Ernie’s bathtub. There’s a quick chorus of “Rubber Duckie”, and Ernie throws the duck at the audience. It falls into the ocean, which sprays us with water again. (There are always lots of water-spray opportunities in this kind of attraction.) Now Ernie and Bert are under the sea, and Bert tangos with an aggressive octopus.
In Cookie Monster’s imagination, a newspaper headline reads “MONSTER TERRORIZES CITY”, as he climbs the Empire State Building. Then an Unidentified Flying Cookie appears, soaring above our heads. Cookie smashes the intruder into floating crumbs, and then breathes in to swallow the pieces, with another wind effect.
Oscar decides to put a stop to all this by using his own imagination, which just dumps piles of trash all over Sesame Street. Soon, there’s bugs crawling all over, and there’s a little scuttling-bug effect under our seats. Oscar sings “I Love Trash” with some dirty Muppet socks.
Then there’s a rainstorm for no particular reason except to give them one more reason to spritz water on us. (By the way: When are they going to stop spraying water in these attractions? Your 3-D glasses get wet, and it messes up the effects. Somebody needs to get a handle on that.)
The film festival wraps up with a big imagination song, and floating shapes are projected on the walls of the theater. Balloons appear, Twiddlebugs fly, Zoe spins by in her tutu, and Elmo floats on a magic carpet rainbow. It’s basically your standard-issue preschool Yellow Submarine psychedelic head trip, which is pretty much inevitable after you say the word “imagination” a thousand times.
Telly blows his tuba, sending his stunt chicken flying out over the audience. Flowers grow on Oscar’s trash can, just to drive home the Beatles vs Blue Meanies motif, and Oscar slams the lid shut. This makes the seats crash, and the film ends.
When the movie was over, the screen lifted up into the ceiling, revealing the exit. We exited through the screen area, past a big three-dimensional Universal Studios logo, which is surrounded by giant film cans.
We emerged into a little replica of the Sesame Street courtyard, with the 123 Sesame brownstone and a couple benches. Silent clips of the Sesame characters were playing on a couple screens, continuing the Film Festival theme. The night-time scene meant that the area was pretty dark, so it wasn’t the fun photo-opportunity that it could be — although that’s probably intentional, because they want you to leave the attraction and walk into the gift shop, which everybody did.
The 4-D movie was the first Sesame Street attraction at USJ, so the gift shop was simply called the “Sesame Street Store”.
It had some cute Film Festival-themed decor, including a statue of Elmo holding a film clapper. We’d seen some of this merchandise before — more mascots and Halloween plush — but this shop also specialized in Sesame Street snack boxes.
The snack boxes were a completely different kind of extravagance that we haven’t even gotten into yet. Japanese people love food, especially tiny servings of food that are each individually wrapped and then sealed up in a box. When you buy the box, then it goes into another bag, which is sealed with tape. Basically, if you ever want to get your hands on the cookie you just bought, you’re going to have to fight your way through at least three different layers of packaging, all of it Sesame-themed.
So there was a huge selection of snack foods decorated with Sesame characters — including this pink monster named Moppy. And I guess there’s just no way around it. Next time: The Story of Moppy.
Click here to say the word “imagination” a thousand times on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Danny Horn