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Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! is the ride Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios Hol­ly­wood was missing.

It’s no secret that Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios Hol­ly­wood has a seri­ous real estate chal­lenge. Between being built into a hill­side in L.A.‘s Cahuen­ga Pass to shar­ing space with one of the largest work­ing movie stu­dios in the city, the theme park often has to take out old attrac­tions just so they can squeeze in new ones. For­tu­nate­ly, in the case of the park’s lat­est ride – The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! – the Uni­ver­sal cre­ative team was able to trans­form an area pre­vi­ous­ly used only for event space to bring the all-new attrac­tion to life with­out sac­ri­fic­ing any fan favorites.

 

 

 

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A RIDE REVIEW OF Universal Studios Hollywood's The Secret Life Of Pets: Off the Leash! Everything you need to know about the new ride.

 

 

Location, Location, Location

 

Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! was about 2.5 years in the mak­ing, work­ing close­ly with the entire team at Illu­mi­na­tion Enter­tain­ment to come up with this adven­ture,” said Jon Corfi­no, senior direc­tor and exec­u­tive pro­duc­er for Uni­ver­sal Cre­ative. “One of the things that real­ly res­onates with every­body is the fact that we all love our pets and ani­mals, so it’s that kind of heart­felt expe­ri­ence that extends to the brand and was our objec­tive with the ride. 

 

The charm­ing new attrac­tion is a wel­come addi­tion to the park’s already fam­i­ly-friend­ly upper lot, and while based on the pop­u­lar “The Secret Life of Pets” films, pre­vi­ous knowl­edge of the movies and its fur­ry char­ac­ters is not required – some­thing I was grate­ful for since hav­ing two 20-some­thing sons put the rel­a­tive­ly new fran­chise off my radar. Plus, the ride’s orig­i­nal sto­ry­line trans­forms park guests into lost pup­pies in search of for­ev­er homes, which is anoth­er rea­son rid­ers who’ve nev­er seen the movies will still enjoy the adventure.

 

 

Snowball explains his plan to get the lost puppies to an adoption fair across town

Snow­ball explains his plan to get the lost pup­pies to an adop­tion fair across town — © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

 

We have this great fran­chise which is real­ly in the ‘sweet spot’ of Illu­mi­na­tion where it’s fam­i­ly but not nec­es­sar­i­ly lit­tle kids,” Corfi­no explained. “So, it made all the sense in the world to put it next to Despi­ca­ble Me: Min­ion May­hem and have this become an Illu­mi­na­tions neighborhood.

 

 

What to Expect: The Ride

 

Riders enter 'Secret Life of Pets - Off The Leash!" through Katie's New York City apartment building from the movies

Rid­ers enter ‘Secret Life of Pets — Off The Leash!” through Katie’s New York City apart­ment build­ing from the movies — © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

 

Guests are imme­di­ate­ly immersed in the attrac­tion’s sto­ry as they make their way through the queue expe­ri­ence inside Katie’s New York City apart­ment build­ing from the movies. Here, they encounter a parade of unsu­per­vised pets like Nor­man the guinea pig, who acts as an unof­fi­cial tour guide; Bud­dy the dachs­hund, who’s get­ting a kitchen counter mas­sage cour­tesy of a stand mix­er; and Snow­ball the some­what con­trol­ling rab­bit, who comes up with a plan to get the lost pup­pies into an adop­tion fair across town. 

 

 

Buddy the dachshund gets a kitchen counter massage courtesy of a stand mixer - Photo by

Bud­dy the dachs­hund gets a kitchen counter mas­sage cour­tesy of a stand mix­er — © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

 

Snowball explains his plan to get the lost puppies to an adoption fair across town

Snow­ball explains his plan to get the lost pup­pies to an adop­tion fair across town — © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

 

Hot Tip: Be sure to peek through the mail­box slots to see what the pets are up to while their fam­i­lies are out. 

 

Fea­tured in the queue and through­out the ride are favorite “Secret Life of Pets” char­ac­ters voiced by the orig­i­nal actors from the films, includ­ing Max (Pat­ton Oswalt), Snow­ball (Kevin Hart), Duke (Eric Ston­estreet), Gid­get (Jen­ny Slate), Daisy (Tiffany Had­dish), Chloe (Lake Bell), and Pops (Dana Carvey).

 

 

Riders board cardboard box-shaped vehicles in the apartment building's mailroom -

Rid­ers board card­board box-shaped vehi­cles in the apart­ment build­ing’s mail­room — © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

 

The tra­di­tion­al dark ride employs an Omn­i­mover ride sys­tem that pro­pels two-per­son card­board box-shaped ride vehi­cles board­ed in the apart­ment build­ing’s mail­room (of course) through the streets of New York to make it to the “Pets Store” in time to be adopt­ed. As the box­es move through the col­or­ful cityscapes, we notice pets enjoy­ing a day on the town – includ­ing one excep­tion­al­ly lim­ber pup who “upward dogs” right along with a neigh­bor­hood yoga class.

 

 

One NYC pup takes in a yoga class -

One NYC pup takes in a yoga class — © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

 

We want­ed it to be very immer­sive,” Corfi­no said. “It’s such a rich series of envi­ron­ments and 64 charm­ing, engag­ing, and love­able char­ac­ters. We also have some sur­pris­es in terms of media effects and phys­i­cal effects. 

 

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Advanced Features

 

One par­tic­u­lar­ly unique fea­ture of The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! is advanced opti­cal ges­ture tech­nol­o­gy that allows rid­ers to see them­selves as ani­mat­ed pup­pies in the win­dow of an elec­tron­ics store, and while Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios Hol­ly­wood is known for attrac­tions that rely heav­i­ly on screens, this ride uses pro­jec­tion map­ping, shad­ow pro­jec­tions, and dig­i­tal media spar­ing­ly, so the tech­nol­o­gy nev­er detracts from the phys­i­cal sets and char­ac­ters, includ­ing the unsa­vory feline gang in cat alley who attempts to hin­der the pup­pies’ progress.

 

 

When we took a look at what we want­ed to do and how we want­ed to exe­cute the immer­sion lev­el, the best way was not through media, but by tak­ing you through the actu­al places that you’d rec­og­nize from the films and immerse you in ways we could­n’t do with a tra­di­tion­al media-based expe­ri­ence, Corfi­no said. 

 

 

The Problem

 

Snowball's plan to use fireworks as rockets backfires - Photo by Samantha Davis-Friedman

Snow­bal­l’s plan to use fire­works as rock­ets back­fires — © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

 

As with so many ani­mat­ed adven­tures, the jour­ney hits a snag when Snow­ball (as the self-appoint­ed mas­ter­mind) comes up with the arguably short-sight­ed idea to use fire­works to speed up the trip. Thank­ful­ly, despite Snow­bal­l’s plan “back­fir­ing,” the stray pup­pies make it to the “Pets Store” in time for a vis­it to the pet spa before meet­ing their new fam­i­lies and cel­e­brat­ing at a rous­ing pet par­ty that rivals the min­ion dance par­ty at Gru’s house across the street. 

 

 

A spa day is needed to clean up after the adventure -

A spa day is need­ed to clean up after the adven­ture — © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

 

The adoption celebration is the hottest party in town

The adop­tion cel­e­bra­tion is the hottest par­ty in town © Saman­tha Davis-Friedman

 

 

As always, rid­ers exit through the gift shop, which in this case, is the “Pets Shop” from the ride that car­ries super cute “Pets”-related merch, includ­ing plush pets up for adoption. 

 

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What? No Lines?

 

But, wait. There’s more! “The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!” uses a Vir­tu­al Line sys­tem – the same one Uni­ver­sal Orlan­do guests use to ride Race Through New York Star­ring Jim­my Fal­lon and Hagrid’s Mag­i­cal Crea­tures Motor­bike Adven­ture with­out stand­ing in painful­ly long queues. That’s right, there’s no stand­by line. But have no fear, it’s very easy to access the Vir­tu­al Line and get a return time via the offi­cial (and free) Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios Hol­ly­wood App or with help from a team mem­ber at the kiosk next to the ride entrance – one might even say it’s a walk in the (dog) park.

 

Good to Know: Even though the ride is fam­i­ly-friend­ly, there is a height restric­tion of 34″ and kids under 48″ need to ride with a par­ent or oth­er taller super­vis­ing companion. 

 

Advanced Tickets

 

Pre­pur­chase tick­ets to get the best deal and avoid lines when you arrive. You can buy them here.

 

 

Where to Stay

 

Use this inter­ac­tive map to find pri­vate homes and hotels around Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios Hollywood.

 

 

 

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A RIDE REVIEW OF Universal Studios Hollywood's The Secret Life Of Pets: Off the Leash! Everything you need to know about the new ride.