The ride itself is four and a half minutes long but original footage for the ride can be seen in the queue, and there is also a pre-show video. In the ride, patrons are introduced to a cartoon theme park called Krustyland built by Krusty the Clown. Sideshow Bob, however, is loose from prison to get revenge on Krusty and the Simpson family. At least 24 regular characters from the series make an appearance, all voiced by their original actors. Along with the attraction is a gift shop modeled after the Kwik-E-Mart, which opened in late 2007.
On June 1, 2013, Universal Studios began selling a real version of Duff Beer at the expanded Duff Beer Garden in the new Springfield section of the park.
To enter the ride's queue area, visitors must walk through a 32-foot (9.8 m) Krusty the Clown head which leads them into a pavilion under various circus tents themed to carnival stalls. Various posters in the queue display advertisements for the attractions at the park, while various television monitors display clips from the TV show billed as moments from Krusty's past, as well as live animated footage from Krustyland. The queue area ends with a sign instructing guests to wait for a short time before entering "Krusty's Carnival Midway".
In the midway, riders line-up into rows to wait for a confirmation from Krusty. TV screens posted inside the walls on the left and right sides of the room display the residents of Springfield running the midway booths at the park. Soon, Krusty appears on another screen in front of guests and prepares to pick the first family to ride his "Thrilltacular: Upsy-Downsy Spins-Aroundsy Teen-Operated Thrillride", the most extreme ride at the park. While Krusty is not looking, Sideshow Bob appears in a Scratchy costume and steps on Homer Simpson's foot causing him to yell "D'oh!" and Krusty picks the Simpson family. Krusty asks them to pick another group to go with them, and Bart chooses the riders. While Krusty leads them into a waiting room, Sideshow Bob bursts out into evil laughter.
Riders are then ushered into the pre-flight "Funhouse" room by a team member. Here, Krusty leads the Simpsons into a backstage area where Grampa and Maggie Simpson are told not to ride due to certain safety restrictions (Maggie doesn't meet the 40 inch height requirement, and Grampa has certain heart conditions that could be aggravated). Grampa falls asleep while Maggie crawls into a nuclear reactor room, causing her to grow larger. Meanwhile, Krusty leads the Simpsons into a ride room where he tells them to enjoy the ride, before Sideshow Bob appears, knocks Krusty out, and tells the Simpsons Family to enter the ride vehicle. Homer enters, followed by the rest of the family. Sideshow Bob then tells the Simpsons and the riders that they must watch a safety video from Itchy and Scratchy. The screen then displays a recap of the safety reminders (but showing Scratchy's attempts to follow the safety rules getting sabotaged by Itchy constantly), while riders are ushered into the main ride room.
The ride portion is four and a half minutes long. Riders with heart conditions, motion sickness, claustrophobia or similar conditions are not recommended to ride.
After riders enter a Krusty-themed ride vehicle, Homer orders everyone to sit down and threatens to make an annoying noise until they sit down. Jeremy Freedman then appears on a TV screen in the ride cabin and tells the riders that they are with him. He then says to keep the screaming down so he can study for a math test, because if he does not get a C or higher, he will get kicked out of the audio-visual club. He then begins reading his textbook upside down (unknown to him) while quiet elevator music, utilizing part of the instrumental to "The Simpsons Theme" begins playing in the background. If the ride takes longer than usual to begin, a visual reading 'Krustyland, where fun takes a holiday," with Krusty and Mr. Teeny dancing appears, and the music changes tempo, getting more upbeat.
After approximately less than a minute, Sideshow Bob suddenly cuts off Jeremy's signal and takes control of the screen, telling the riders that he has taken over every area of Krustyland and that there is no place for the riders to be safe from him. He then flips a switch from "thrilling" to "killing", which activates the vehicles and makes them rise out of the room, starting the ride with the Simpsons in front of them. The roller coaster begins going down various drops before Homer gets hit by a wrecking ball controlled by Sideshow Bob before it smashes into the track and breaks it. Homer and the riders fly into a different part of the roller coaster track before the "steel" wrecking ball breaks free from its cable and starts chasing them.
Soon, the riders are knocked off the roller coaster and into the "Happy Little Elves in Panda Land" attraction with Bart and Lisa, where Bob takes control of an evil panda and sends the vehicles crashing through the attraction. The ride then flies off the attraction and enters "Captain Dinosaur's Pirate Rip-Off" with Homer and Marge. After they plunge down a waterfall, Sideshow Bob appears in a projection on the second waterfall in the attraction and tells Homer to resist temptations inside. (This is a parody of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, and the Jurassic Park: The Ride.)
As riders pass through the waterfall, they get sprayed with water effects. Homer grabs a barrel of beer in the ride which soon triggers a trap that destroys everything and causes them to exit out of the attraction and arrive at "Krusty's Wet and Smoky Stunt Show" where they are taken racing in circles while tied to a killer whale before Bob corners them at the attraction's exit.
The Simpsons fly through a tipping metal water tower and Bob cuts a big hole into Hell. Maggie, now giant-sized after entering the reactor room during Pre-show 2, appears and grabs Bob and slams him into the vehicle, which almost plummets into Hell before it is saved by Professor Frink. Bob then steals Maggie's pacifier and tells her that she must destroy Springfield to get it back. Riders then take a ride through Springfield with references to the original opening sequence before encountering Maggie again, who mistakes their car for a new pacifier, and sucks on them repeatedly, before spitting them out (getting riders wet), onto overhead power lines and catapulting them into the Simpsons' house by crashing right through the front door. While Maggie is sucking on the riders, the aroma of baby powder is released.
The family is sitting on their couch when Kang and Kodos turn the house into Krusty's "Death Drop" ride. The riders are then dropped down from the sky, encountering various Simpsons characters along the way (A faux photo is taken here). They crash back at the entrance to Krustyland, where Bob prepares to kill them, before the couch the Simpsons are sitting on crushes him. Maggie then appears and pushes down the Krusty head over the Simpsons.
The vehicle is calmly lowered back down to the ground while mist, fire, electricity and smoke effects spray, and Homer yells that he wants to ride again. Krusty then appears on the TV screen in the loading room and remarks "Well, that's our ride. Hey! What does THIS do?!". For the Orlando attraction, Krusty is sitting in a control room and pushes an emergency button on a control panel, causing the vehicle to vibrate, ending the ride. In the Hollywood version, Krusty is sitting in a control room and takes a picture of the guests (The on-ride photo is taken here for the Hollywood attraction). After the gullwing doors on the car lift up, guests exit the ride.
Planning for The Simpsons Ride started two years prior to its opening. The Simpsons creators James L. Brooks and Matt Groening, as well as executive producer Al Jean, collaborated with the Universal Studios creative team, Universal Creative, to help develop the ride. Music for the ride was composed by Jim Dooley, who worked with composer Hans Zimmer on the feature film The Simpsons Movie. The ride is located at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood in the former Back to the Future: The Ride buildings at both locations. The Back to the Future opened in Florida in 1991 and closed March 30, 2007, while the Hollywood version opened in 1993 and closed on September 3, 2007.
The construction began at Universal Studios Florida in May 2007, and the original concrete on the ground from Back to the Future: The Ride was dismantled and replaced by a red and blue ground holding trees and benches. The building was given a complete overhaul; the cars were changed and the original Intamin mechanics system was updated by Oceaneering International. The construction began at Universal Studios Hollywood in mid-September 2007, with the disposal of the building's Back to the Future insignia. Outdoor painting on the building began in January 2008. Sometime during 2013, some of the ride's dialogue was changed. This happened because a team member apparently liked the new jokes better. These changes only occurred at the Florida location; Hollywood still has the original version.
The four-minute ride uses 85-foot IMAX Dome screens and Sony Projectors. There are 24 ride cars, each seating eight people, and approximately 2000 people can ride it per hour. The projection system uses four overlapping Sony SXRD 4K resolution projectors on each dome, using custom-made semi-circular fisheye lenses to project undistorted images at a rate of 60 frames per second (in comparison, most feature films project at 24 frames per second). The video is projected onto two dome screens which are made of 416 panels (each 4 feet by two feet) and are approximately 80 feet tall and 85 feet wide. The animation in the ride uses computer generated 3D animation rendered by Blur Studio and Reel FX, rather than the traditional 2-D animation seen on The Simpsons and the queue and pre-show of the ride. The animation reference was provided by Film Roman, the animation studio that animates the series. Each car contains 12 speakers and a Dolby 6.1 surround sound, while the domes contain an additional 90 speakers.
The ride vehicles are themed to look like cars from a classic dark ride, and like the previous Back to the Future attraction, the vehicles feature fake wheels and gull-wing doors. Each dome features 12 8-passenger ride vehicles arranged with 3 cars on the first level, 5 on the second and 4 on the third. Each vehicle is mounted on a motion platform atop a scissor lift, which raises the vehicle 9 feet into the dome. The motion platforms are capable of a total motion of three feet. In addition to the motion-based ride vehicles, riders also feel water effects, smoke, mist, and experience lighting effects and scents. As of 2017, the smoke and water effects only work on a few vehicles at the Florida location.
The Simpsons Ride uses new technology that cuts down on its energy consumption. According to Universal Studios, the ride is able to save over 55,000 watts on average and 662,000 watt-hours per day. The ride includes over 2,500 LEDs, the largest number in theme park history, which allows the ride to cut down on lighting energy by almost one quarter when compared to incandescent lighting.
The ride features more than 24 regular characters from The Simpsons and features the voices of the regular cast members, as well as Pamela Hayden, Russi Taylor and Kelsey Grammer. Harry Shearer, however, decided not to participate in the ride, so none of his characters have vocal parts and many do not appear in the ride at all. In homage to the Back to the Future ride that it has replaced, The Simpsons Ride's queue video features a brief animated cameo from Doc Brown who is voiced by Christopher Lloyd.Nancy Cartwright - Bart Simpson, Maggie Simpson, Nelson Muntz, Ralph Wiggum, and The Happy Little Elves
Dan Castellaneta - Homer Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Grampa Simpson, Groundskeeper Willie, Squeaky Voiced Teen, Hans Moleman, Barney Gumble, Kodos, Repo man, and Mr. Freidman
Julie Kavner - Marge Simpson, Patty Bouvier and Selma Bouvier
Yeardley Smith - Lisa Simpson
Hank Azaria - Chief Wiggum, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Moe Szyslak, Professor Frink, Cletus Spuckler, Officer Lou, the Sarcarstic Man, Snake Jailbird and Pants-Off Johnson
Kelsey Grammer - Sideshow Bob
Pamela Hayden - Milhouse Van Houten
Russi Taylor - Martin Prince
Christopher Lloyd - Doc Brown
In October 2007, gift shops modeled after the Kwik-E-Mart were built, replacing the Back To The Future: The Store gift shop at Universal Studios Florida and the Time Travelers Depot gift shop at Universal Studios Hollywood. The stores sell Simpsons-related merchandise. Carts were opened near the stores which sell Squishees, (which are The Simpsons' parody of 7-Eleven's Slurpees.)
At Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood, the park converted much of the World Expo and some of the Upper Lot in Universal Studios Hollywood into one based on Springfield. The new area includes some iconic landmarks from The Simpsons such as Krusty Burger, Frying Dutchman, Luigi's Pizza, Lard Lad Donuts, Bumblebee Man's Taco Truck, Moe's Tavern, The Android's Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop and a Duff Brewery. The park also added one amusement ride named "Kang & Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl"
The Simpsons Ride was well received by fans after it opened. Seth Kubersky of Orlando Weekly described the ride as "a more than worthy successor" to Back to the Future: The Ride. Brady MacDonald of the Los Angeles Times described the ride as "visually stunning" and said it "truly delivers — with loads of in-jokes and satire for serious fanatics and tons of thrills and fun for casual fans." Elise Thompson of the LAist said "the ride is a total blast, with plenty of laughs as well as thrills."
Jay Cridlin of the St. Petersburg Times wrote that "the ride is packed with more original, funny material than you'd expect to see in a sitcom, much less a theme park." However, he admitted that the ride was "a little discombobulating".
The Universal Studios Florida version of the ride hosted its one millionth rider on 14 July 2008, reaching the milestone faster than any other attraction in the resort. The ride was named the best new attraction of 2008 by the website Themeparkinsider.com.