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“Transformers: The Ride” honors franchise at Universal Hollywood premiere

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Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the “Transformers” franchise doesn’t begin and end with the action-packed Michael Bay movies. The series about a group of robots in disguise has managed to transcend the passing of time and remain relevant almost three decades after its creation. That’s why it only seems fitting that “Transformers” be memorialized in yet another medium: a theme park ride.

Thursday May 24 marked the grand opening of “Transformers: The Ride” at Universal Studios Hollywood. IFC was on hand for the event along with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Judd Apatow and Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime himself. Even though the ride has Bay’s stamp all over it — he even made an appearance via satellite before the ride was opened — it is clear that the attraction is more about the blockbuster appeal of the characters than the filmmaker himself.

Glenn Morshower, who plays General Morshower in the “Transformers” movies and ride, kicked off the premiere by appearing in character to let us know that Megatron was trying yet again to capture the All Spark. Cue Bumblebee and Optimus Prime rolling up in their disguised forms to prevent the evil Decepticon from obtaining the cube. Spoiler alert: good prevailed, though if you have a chance to ride “Transformers: The Ride” you’ll know that it doesn’t prevent Megatron from trying to snag it yet again.

I had the pleasure of standing next to Cullen and Frank Welker, the voice of Megatron, during this performance, and it was clear from the looks of glee on their faces that this is a ride for “Transformers” fans, by “Transformers” fans. When Morshower first announced that Megatron was trying to steal the All Spark, Cullen playfully started punching Wekler in the arm. When the Optimus Prime truck and Bumblebee car rolled up, Cullen could only whisper, “Wow.”

The ride is as involved as any of the Universal rides are and, while it isn’t as immersive as say The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, it’s certainly a treat for fans of the franchise. I had the chance to catch up with Industrial Lights and Magic visual supervisor Jeff White, who was largely involved in the development of the ride’s effects, and said his team did their best to make “Transformers: The Ride” as true to the franchise as possible.

“We had our first meeting right after we finished the second film and the whole ride was in progress during the production of ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon,’ so what was really great about that is Michael was very involved in both projects and there was a lot of cross-collaboration between the two.” he said. “For those of you that are big fans of the movie, when you go on the ride you’ll see elements of the movie in there, and yet the ride very much stands on its own in terms of the action that goes on in there.”

Cullen and Welker both lended their voice talents to the project, and were both on hand to look at storyboards and talk to the ride’s creators during its development. For Welker, working on this project was a dream come true.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my career and started working in college and never ever stopped, so I’ve veen very lucky and fortunately animation took off in the middle of my career so there was a lot of product to do and it was like a Renaissance in animation, it’s been fantastic. But now, being a voice in a ride is sort of the epitome. It’s like being in voice heaven,” he said on the premiere red carpet.

With the ILM team working on the “Transformers” ride as well as the movies, the visual effects are consistent across both mediums. And though it’s a standalone storyline, it’s clear to see where the ride stands in the Michael Bay “Transformers” universe. In fact, it feels a lot like riding through an action scene in one of Bay’s movies, and that’s definitely a good thing. The 3D aspect of the attraction adds to its immersion, and White said a main goal in the development of the project was to make riders feel like they’re a part of that world.

“What we tried to do was bring the ‘Transformers’ aesthetic to the ride, and yet we had a real opportunity to the ride being in 3D and with the screens being so huge to play the characters out in the audience space and to really make it interactive with the audience and be completely immersive, which is something you can’t typically do in a movie theater. We tried to take advantage of the venue, and Universal knows how to make such great rides, that it ended up being a great collaboration,” he said. “When we do an effect like a water spray or heat and then there’s an actual physical experience that combines with that, it just adds to the believability of what you’re seeing.”

Though the ride has been open in rehearsals for several weeks, Cullen and Welker hadn’t had a chance to experience it yet. They were right at the front of the line when guests at the premiere were finally allowed to go on the ride, and it was clear they were dying to see how the characters they have personified for 28 years were immortalized in a theme park ride.

“It really is so cool. I’m trying to be very calm, but inside I’m going, ‘You’re a part of the ride! Ahh!'” Welker said before he was allowed to go on. “I’m trying to be very, very cool. But it’s awesome.”

Special thanks go to Ricky Brigante at Inside the Magic for the awesome video of the event.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.