"Beware the beat of the cloth-wrapped feet!" read the tagline of The Mummy's Shroud, a Hammer horror film from the late 60s. But by that time, fresher horrors had gripped the imaginations of cinemagoers, and the Mummy, a monster-movie staple since the early 30s, was sent packing to his sarcophagus. It was not until last summer, with the wildly popular success of the exuberantly lowbrow The Mummy, that the creature was properly revived on the big screen.
With the sequel on the way for next summer, Universal Studios, which produced the original Boris Karloff film in 1932, a string of B-movie quickies starring the Bandaged One in the 40s, and its reincarnation last year, is looking to sustain Mummy momentum. Thus, in June, the maiden voyage of The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, the main event on the pathway covered by the recently overhauled Universal Studios Tram Tour in Hollywood.
To breathe life into this concept of the Mummy, Universal turned not to the mystical properties of the nine tanna leaves, as in the old movies, but to the power of invisibility as rendered by Santa Monica, CA-based UV/FX Scenic Productions. The "tomb" is a spinning tunnel, 200' (61m) long, housing the largest dual-image UV scenic treatment ever created - as the sensation of vertigo overwhelms tram riders, a placid replica of ancient Egypt transforms into a funhouse of monstrous imagery, as seen in these pictures.
The tunnel itself has undergone a change - for the last few years it housed a lava landscape, also executed by UV/FX creative director Kent Mathieu, themed after the Universal volcano film Dante's Peak (readers of LD's sister publication, Entertainment Design, may remember a news story about it in the April 1997 issue, when ED was still TCI, and Mathieu and UV/FX president Richard Green had just departed Wildfire to start the new firm). "Kent had originally designed it as a single image, meaning that it just glowed under UV light. But Universal wanted to improve the look of the tour and its attractions, for a spring debut; they called us in February, and work began in April for a June 1 opening," explains Green.
A pre-existing relationship with Universal eased the tram attraction through a fast track of its own. "We knew the creative personnel there - we had just a very few consultations, in contrast to other themed projects. And we knew the tunnel. So, for a small amount of money, they got a new attraction out of it, one that was easily repainted," Green says.
The mummification process called for complete invisibility - fittingly, for Universal also unleashed The Invisible Man in 1933. "We were doing dual images when we were at Wildfire seven years ago, but those were done using paints and coatings that weren't really invisible, but white, and then took on a color," Green recalls. "What we're using now is truly colorless, so they are true dual images - you can completely hide images, not have to conceal them in white backgrounds. Here, you have a sandstone, where you see nothing - but under the UV light all these creatures appear as fully rendered scenic images."
The dual image effect is popular on concert tours, like Clint Black's latest, and other themed attractions like the Rock and Roll MonsterFest, part of Universal Studios Japan, scheduled to open next year. But don't expect to schlep any of UV/FX's magic potions home for do-it-yourself Halloween horrors. "I get calls everyday from people who ask, `Why don't you sell the stuff?' Honestly, if we sold it, it would be about $1,000 a gallon. Our invisible pigments are extremely expensive for consumers, but they allow us to create this very cool style for concerts, attractions, and nightclubs," Green says.
Besides a terrestrial expansion of its California facilities, UV/FX is also expanding to Mars - adding its effects to the motion simulator that will whisk guests to an extraterrestrial meal at the Chicago version of New York's popular Mars 2112 restaurant. Green adds that its scenic backdrops for John Fogerty, UV/FX's first client, are still on the road with him after almost four years - a virtual immortality that always manages to elude the Mummy in the final reel.