Catapult to Krustyland (lost promotional online game for Universal Studios motion simulator ride; 2008)
The Simpsons Ride website prior to the attraction's opening; Buzz-Cola ad featured on the right.
When both Universal Studios parks in Hollywood and Orlando got to work on a 4D simulator attraction based on the hit animated series The Simpsons, an online promotional game was made to promote it at least two months before officially opening, only to vanish long before the demise of Adobe Flash.
The Simpsons Ride is a motion simulator attraction that opened in Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood in May 2008, four days apart from each other. The attraction's storyline revolves around a theme park that recently opened in Springfield named Krustyland, built by and named after Krusty the Clown who picks the Simpsons to test out his latest thrill ride. Though unfortunately for them, Sideshow Bob escapes from prison and sets out to kill the family as he pursues them throughout various rides.
The producers of The Simpsons worked very closely with the ride designers as the show's traditional 2D animation was used for the pre-show and other bonus clips found throughout the queue while the ride footage was done in CGI by both Blur Studio and Reel FX. Much of the show's cast members like Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, and Kelsey Grammar returned to voice their characters with the only notable exception being Harry Shearer who couldn't sign on due to scheduling conflicts; which also had an effect on the ride's alleged early version known as "Project FISH" - which was said to have involved Mr. Burns' Nuclear Power Plant and Blinky the three-eyed fish. At first, The Simpsons Ride was met with ire by Universal fans as both versions replaced the beloved Back to the Future: The Ride, an attraction that used the same ride system and 85-foot IMAX Dome screens that its replacement currently uses. Though, The Simpsons has become another viable attraction for both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood; especially after an encompassing mini-Springfield area was set up around the attraction's perimeter. As of writing, it is the second IP to be shown in a Universal theme park before they got bought out by Disney; beaten out by Marvel Super Hero Island at Islands of Adventure.
The ride was first announced in April 2007 and construction on both versions commenced as the year led on. Though on March 28th, 2008, an official website was made to promote the ride. Designed by 65 Media, who had previously worked on the website for The Simpsons Movie, with much of the site design, layout and Flash animation done by Priscilla Gomez,  the main menu resembled the golden archway entrance to either Universal Studios parks with the iconic rotating globe in the left foreground and Krustyland in the back; hidden by a tarp during construction [was counted down by a Magic 8-Ball for both versions] and was fully unveiled upon opening. Many of The Simpsons characters that could be seen before opening were Sideshow Bob standing next to a catapult, Groundskeeper Willie blocking the taped-off entrance, and Ned Flanders with Rod and Todd; who did not appear in the final ride due to Shearer's absence. Upon opening, the menu now consisted of the Squeaky-Voiced Teen in a "ride photo" booth, Sideshow Mel next to a camera, and the Simpsons crashing their car into the Universal globe. To the right of the gate is an LED billboard that would sometimes show a faux Buzz Cola advertisement or the animated commercial that was made to promote the attraction.
The main focal point of The Simpsons Ride website was a mini-game titled "Catapult to Krustyland" that worked like most online "slingshot" games did where a wooden catapult stands precariously on a green hill that, if fired with the right timing and wind direction, will send them beyond the gates of "Universal Studios Theme Parks." However, there would also be hazards in the way including a swinging wrecking ball that can throw your character off guard when thrown at the wrong time. The characters you "play" as in the game are actually "Simpson Avatars" that you would've made yourself as a log-in account and was a repurposed feature from The Simpsons Movie website that 65 Media made the year prior. Though players also had the opportunity to fling caricatures of notable figures like former The Tonight Show hosts Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno, Republican electoral candidate John McCain, Democrat electoral candidate Hillary Clinton, and future president Barack Obama. Both political figures were not referred to by their real names, but rather nicknames with Clinton dubbed "Senator Pantsuit," McCain dubbed "Senator Whitehair," and Obama dubbed "Senator Talkgood"; its unknown if the talk show hosts used their real name.  "Catapult to Krustyland" also had a leaderboard system where players could check their high scores and see which one peaks at the top overall. On April 1st, 2008, Universal announced a contest that ran through May 31st where fans could create their own Avatars with the winner receiving Simpsons sweepstakes, including a grand prize trip for four to either Orlando or Hollywood; plus their OCs being on display at both locations. Though it's unknown who the winners were or if their creations ever made it into parts of the ride.
As for other features of The Simpsons Ride website, once the ride officially opened, there was a banner hanging from the Universal archway that read "GRAND OPENING - CLICK TO ENTER" with the giant gaping maw of Krusty underneath. This presumably took you to another page that featured the exterior of The Simpsons Ride Florida version placed between the park's recreation of Hollywood Boulevard, despite being built in what was once part of World Expo before Springfield was built in 2013; with carnival game tents on both sides. This may have been the sub-menu for additional games as there have been two recovered screengrabs of title cards for games that came from The Simpsons Ride. They include "The Screamatoruium of Dr. Frightmarestein," based on the ride of the same name that is shown in the Season 9 episode "Bart Carny;" and the second is "Madam Manjula's Future Looker-After," featuring the wife of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon - both based on faux advertisements for Krustyland attractions found throughout the queue. No gameplay or screenshots can be found, though by looking very closely at the title screens, we can safely assume that "Screamatorium" was a "break-the-targets" type while "Future Looker-After" was part of the "memory card" genre. On the bottom right corner, there is a sign that says "Enjoy Exclusive Content by Completing All the Midway Games;" meaning there were at least several other carnival games to do, but have not been documented.
Other menus that could be found on the website include links to order The Simpsons Movie on DVD, E-mail updates regarding the attraction, and unspecified download sweepstakes.
While The Simpsons Ride may have gone on to become an enduring hit for both Universal Studios resorts in Florida and California, the website that promoted it will, unfortunately, remain lost forever.
- On This Day in Simpsons History (USF) - Twitter Retrieved 16 May '22
- On This Day in Simpsons History (USH) - Twitter Retrieved 16 May '22
- The Simpsons ride, Universal Studio's newest adventure, gives up its secrets - Orlando Sentinel (archived) Retrieved 16 May '22
- Mr. Burns Sucks in Real Life Too - TMZ Retrieved 16 May '22
- Virtual Reality Filmmaking: Techniques & Best Practices for VR Filmmakers Retrieved 16 May '22
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- Universal lança site da atração Simpsons Ride (English translation) Retrieved 16 May '22
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