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A Fine Time to Get Slimed

Universal Studios' new Totally Nickelodeon attraction lets kids star in mini-productions based on the cable network's shows.

March 27, 1997|IRENE GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

How would you like to get a bunch of creamy pies tossed in your face by a device called the Pie Pod? What about gallons of gooey green slime dumped on your head by a large machine called the Sliminator?

If that doesn't sound messy enough, try coasting down a 7 1/2-foot Sundae Slide that dips your entire body in a massive mound of fluff.

It may not sound appealing to most adults, but kids love it, and that's who Universal Studios' newest attraction was created for.

Called Totally Nickelodeon, the attraction gives kids the opportunity to participate in mini-productions based on some of the cable television network's most popular shows.

Pies, slime and slides are only some of the playthings found in Totally Nickelodeon, which is scheduled to open Saturday at Universal Studios.

The 1,200-seat theatrical playground will feature interactive games and stunts from such Nickelodeon fare as "Hey Arnold," "What Would You Do?" and "Family Double Dare."

Inside the theater will be 100 sweat socks, 48 toys from the animated show "Rugrats," 14 giant orange helium balls, six TV dinners, 12 onion rings and three gallons of catsup.

The stuff will be used to create 25-minute productions based on 24 Nickelodeon shows.

Twenty kids and eight adults will be randomly picked from the audience to participate in each production, which will be hosted by Stick Stickly, the talking Popsicle stick who oversees the safety of the games.

Speaking of games, Universal officials consulted hundreds of kids ages 10 to 13 before final decisions were made on which ones to use in the new attraction.

Children from local schools were bused in, fed cookies and milk and shown samples of different Nickelodeon skits.

"Their feedback was vital," said Bob Brandenburg, producer of the Nickelodeon shows at Universal. "We're trying to mesh the magic of Hollywood and the excitement of kids, and they're the best ones to ask."

The Nickelodeon experience doesn't begin inside the theater. From the moment participants are in line to enter the colorful building, they are immersed in the sights, sounds and vocabulary that are distinctly Nickelodeon. The cable network has been around since 1979 and broadcasts 24 hours a day, with plenty of original programming, so there's lots of material to choose from.

While in line, participants are asked trivia questions related to Nickelodeon programming, with winners receiving pies. A large orange ball is also passed around and plenty of goofy staff members are available to entertain those waiting to get inside.

The theater looks like a cartoon set. It has two huge video walls and a 20-by-40-foot stage, which is loaded with all the fun toys and memorabilia made popular on Nickelodeon programs.

"Every show will leap off the stage and into the audience," Brandenburg said. "Audience participation is the key thing."

During the park's busy season in the summer, Brandenburg expects to do 13 to 15 shows daily with only 20 minutes between productions to clean off the equipment and reset the machines.

Other games feature dumping a TV dinner on a couch potato, crossing an aerial bridge, collecting sweaty socks and rescuing Alex Mack, a character from the program "The Secret World of Alex Mack."

"The idea is to make a lot of different shows so you have to come here a number of times before seeing the same one," said Universal spokesman Javier Mendoza. "All of them were kid-tested and -approved."

And the messier the better, according to most of the kids consulted. (Jumpsuits and plenty of towels are provided to minimize the impact on kids' clothes.) With that in mind, producers say Totally Nickelodeon will use 26,000 gallons of green slime per year and 104,000 gallons of "GAK," which is any messy substance other than slime.

During one recent focus group session with 60 rowdy kids, the pie-in-the-face activity was a huge hit.

"This is so much fun!" said a giggling 11-year-old boy. "It's the best and it's my favorite."

The folks at Universal expect their new attraction to be as big a hit as it is a mess.

BE THERE

Universal Studios, Hollywood Freeway at Lankershim Boulevard, Universal City. Daily 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Adults, $34; children 3-11, $26. (818) 508-9600.

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