Robotic alley cats? Universal’s ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ is old school and devastatingly cute


The pandemic-forced closure associated with Universal Studios Hollywood last year came just before the great opening of the park’s long-anticipated 2020 addition — a ride inspired by the 2 films in “The Key Life of Pets” business. But after a pause of more than a year, guests attending the park’s reopening this week will be able to get their paws, which will be squirted by Universal staff with hand sanitizer just before boarding, on the attraction.

What’s they’ll discover in the Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! is the kind of ride that is something of an endangered species in the theme park world. While there are plenty of clever uses of technologies, this isn’t an attraction made to thrill or emphasize spectacle. The Secret Life of Dogs uses screens in contributory rather than starring roles, and when it comes to interactivity, the trip encourages playful silliness rather than more overt game-like techniques.

Basically, the emphasis is largely on the joy of the emotional type of physical, built environments — a New York cityscape that comes alive with canines doing yoga, dogs taking a spa day in a scorching dog cart, cats dogging from roped blankets then one ill-advised scheme to use fireworks as aircraft.

The ride includes 64 robotic animal figures and thus relies on old-school theme park philosophies. The focus is upon animation-worthy vignettes rather than a stringent beginning, middle and end to the ride. There’s an underlying narrative — you’re a pup up for adoption — but in just a few minutes the particular ride switches through multiple locales, from posh New York apartments to a cat-bullied alleyway to a pet wash and much more. Guests are constantly looking around them, and often above them, to pick up on the screwball hijinks.


Although it’s based on a relatively recent business — Illumination Entertainment’s 2016 film “The Secret Lifetime of Pets, ” which is reported to have grossed a lot more than $875 million worldwide — the tone throughout any of frantic, exaggerated goofs that place guests within an old-fashioned cartoon. Think “Looney Tunes, ” “Rocky & Bullwinkle” or the work associated with Tex Avery as much as any kind of big-budget, modern CGI-animated movie. Throughout the attraction we experience a sly-looking cat having a Jerry Lee Lewis scowl wreaking havoc on a piano, the sad Dalmatian trying anxiously to snare a bit of your favorite ice cream, a bunny trying to commandeer a drone and more.

One of the most complex animations in Universal's ride inspired by "The Secret Life of Pets" is an alley cat playing a piano.

One of the most complex animations within Universal’s ride inspired by “The Secret Life associated with Pets” is an alley cat playing a piano.

(Universal Studios)

If you’re a pet enthusiast, it’s the only unconditional adore you get

Jon Corfino, Executive producer, Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash

In the New York apartments, we see glimpses of how pets mirror their owners — a woman clears and dances with a pet dog while across the street, another, apparently annoyed with the racket listed below, shuts the drapes to hunker down with her assortment of sharp-eared, silhouetted cats and kittens.


While based on the film plus featuring its characters, past knowledge isn’t needed. This isn’t a “ride the movie” sort of experience so much as you that wants to give us weird, colorful scenarios to assume our own storylines.

The underlying theme driving the experience is that of a human-animal bond, so much so that at two points the ride becomes us into pups and even shows the excitement of meeting an adopted loved ones. While so many cinema-based points of interest in recent years have put an emphasis on re-creating movie scenes, often relying heavily upon screens and projections, Key Life of Pets concentrates on animal personalities and lasting love.

Pet owners should be able to relate to the feeling of presence the ride creates, as those who discuss their homes with creatures know that comfort comes in them simply being around — be it watching a dog smell out new objects or taking a moment to listen to a cat purr. While the animals might not wear fireworks as hats or paw through cupcake trays intended for humans, the ride shows the power of tactile, theatrical worlds.

Like Disneyland’s dark trips in Fantasyland, which are clearly the lineage Secret Life of Pets is drawing on, the attraction gives us a stage on which to assume ourselves rather than a world to see.


The exterior of the newly opened Universal Studios Hollywood aattraction The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!

The exterior of the newly opened Universal Studios Hollywood aattraction The Secret Life of Animals: Off the Leash!

(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

“I say this particular a little tongue-in-cheek, but if you are a pet lover, it’s the only real unconditional love you get, ” says Jon Corfino, the creative director of Universal Creative, the arm from the company responsible for theme park encounters, and the executive producer on the Secret Life of Domestic pets. “So you really want to see the physicality of it. You want to see that attraction. This is all about the heartstrings, and it’s touching on that will on a heartfelt level. The simplest way to do that was to work with an alternative set of tools, in this case a very actual set of tools. ”

Almost everywhere you look there’s something to imagine a story about. There are pets playing in trash, pets struggling with construction equipment and a cat trapped in a weird, washing machine-like contraption. The darkened kitty alley is especially cluttered with cats hanging, strutting or just plain trying to intimidate. The particular centerpiece of the room is a cat playing a violin, a rather impressive piece of theme park robotics in which the scrawny cat stalks the keys. The particular cat moves, the keyboard moves, and hidden from sight are the mechanisms or tracks propelling the cat along.

“That was pretty complex, ” says Corfino, noting the piano and the pet are fully animated, right down to the way the cat eyes all of us. While the larger-than life dinosaurs of Universal’s Jurassic Entire world ride certainly impress, the precise movements of such a tiny cat may make this Universal’s the majority of lifelike figure at the Hollywood park.


Each scene on Universal's "Secret Life of Pets" ride is full of stories-within-stories.

Each scene on Universal’s “Secret Living of Pets” ride contains large amount of stories-within-stories.

(Universal Studios)

“That process followed traditional animation, in which you create animatics and figure out what unique movements can be important to this character. Doing that degree of animation was something that was new to us. We spent a long time on that one. ”

This trip, as well as Universal’s other Illumination properties (notably the “Despicable Me” universe) has given Universal the opportunity to more completely transform its upper great deal. The New York that surrounds the Secret Life of House animals isn’t, of course , a setting on the grand scale from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but the way it feels both urban and animation-friendly is an achievement, designed right here less as a movie established and more a New York that never was, one that is present the way we imagine it when told affecting, child-friendly stories.

“Obviously, it’s fictionalized New York, ” Corfino says. Yet it had been a challenge because a few measures away Universal has a the slightly more realistic New York included in its backlot-inspired sets. Guests will likely be drawn to the balcony across from the ride, exactly where one of the film’s characters can look as a talking figurine, but there are plenty of other details scattered about. You could spend a significant amount of time reading classified advertisements, examining tabloid magazine covers or trying to get a glance into the apartment windows.


Most important, however , the ride gives Universal something it has lacked in its Hollywood park, which is a family-focused ride that does not use screens or stomach-churning 3D effects or choose thrills. Here, we see how being in an environment filled with funny and silliness can allow us to dream up an assortment of tales. And in one scene, because of some motion-tracking technology, we’re able to lift up our own hands and see them shown back as paws as we fully transform into canines.

Followers who miss old-fashioned theme park rides — Universal veterans will no doubt fondly recall the particular E. T. Adventure that closed in the early 2000s — will be pleased to note that some old tricks could feel new.

“This is something we all haven’t done a lot, ” Corfino says. “You can take a look at our rides and attractions, and we don’t really have 64 animated characters that will you’re that close to. However you want to pet these. You wish to be around them. ”


You may also come home plus wish you could teach your own cat some jazz licks on the piano.