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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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