When Universal Studios Hollywood reopened in April, a host of new furry friends had moved into the theme park. The Secret Life of Pets was brought out into the open with the help of mechanical engineering alumna Jennifer Ambrose, a technical manager for Universal Creative.
Ambrose worked behind the scenes to ensure that Universal Studios met the technical, creative and safety aspects of Universal Studios’ newest ride, The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash. The ride takes guests through the streets of Manhatten where they encounter the stars of the movie’s franchise: Max, Duke, Snowball, Gidget and Chloe.
The attraction debuted in April as part of the theme park’s reopening and received positive reviews from guests.
“I think one of the best parts about working on theme park attractions is being able to see guests enjoy your work,” Ambrose said. “It makes me feel happy and proud to see such positive guest feedback and reviews.”
This is the first attraction that Ambrose has worked on as part of the Universal Creative team, but she played an instrumental role in bringing it to fruition. In conjunction with another technical manager, she oversaw the vendors that created the special effects, animatronics and show equipment. Her job was to make sure that the mechanisms and fur for the animatronics were being created according to plan.
“The most exciting part of working on the ride was seeing the figures’ parts and pieces in the shop and then finally seeing them running in the show,” she said. “They all turned out so cute!”
Ambrose also left her mark on the ride – in the queue, her name can be found on the spine of a book titled “Golden Silence.” She said there are other books in the queue that reference the staff members’ names and the titles all allude to inside jokes or references. She said the fun and playful atmosphere is one of the things she loves most about her job.
“Working for Universal Creative is so much fun,” Ambrose said. “I love that it’s not a boring job and that it’s completely normal to be talking about whether a dog’s tail is wagging at the right speed or talking about if we think that a guest is going to want to climb on scenic elements that they’re not supposed to and how to design for that.”
For Ambrose, a California native and theme park fanatic, this job is truly a dream come true. In high school, she’d visit Disneyland on Fridays after school, and in college, she couldn’t wait for the Universal Knights events.
The visits to Universal Studios Orlando may have fueled her passion, but her time spent at UCF helped build her career. She said that the concepts she learned in her mechanical engineering classes are the same concepts she employs every day on the job. She advises current students to pay attention in class and really learn the hard topics because they can pop up again in future projects. She also recommends that students take classes outside of their major. Because engineering is interdisciplinary, she uses principles of electrical engineering as well as mechanical engineering.
Above all, she encourages students to consider how their UCF education can be applied to their career.
“I work with some of the best in the business, and the opportunity to be so close to the top theme parks and resorts in the world like Universal Orlando is exactly why I chose to attend UCF even though I was an out-of-state student,” Ambrose said. “Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams.”
Written by Marisa Ramiccio