Orlando, Fla. -- A massive shark leaps almost to the side of your boat, its red-stained jaws and huge pointy teeth bringing screams from the passengers. Then gasoline drums explode and a wall of heat slaps your face.
Or try this: Tour an old, ghostly hotel, thick with 50 years of cobwebs, and then ride its elevator down -- real fast. Plunge 13 stories, screaming in the brief seconds of seeming free-fall.
Welcome to the lands of make-believe celebrating -- what else? -- another land of make-believe: Hollywood.
America's love for movie magic is so powerful that two competing multibillion-dollar amusement parks -- located minutes apart by interstate in Greater Orlando -- are making a compelling pitch for your vacation dollar.
The first was Disney/MGM Studios, which opened as a TV and film production site in 1988, and as a theme park in May 1989.
A year later came Florida's Universal Studios -- a combination theme park and working film-and-TV production center. Sound familiar?
Since then, both parks have been expanding nonstop -- each trying to outdo the other in thrills, chills and nostalgia, to blur the boundaries of film fiction and reality and convince you, the visitor, that you are there.
Publicists for the studio parks term each other's new attractions mutually beneficial because they lure more customers, even as they compete to be the biggest and best. Neither Universal nor Disney has dared to slow its half of their entertainment arms race.
Disney is the big boy, owner of a central Florida tract roughly half the size of Baltimore where the company over the course of two decades has built three major theme parks, two water parks, a nighttime entertainment complex and a growing number of hotels and resorts.
Universal, which recently bought additional land around its studio tours park, still measures its property in hundreds of acres rather than square miles.
But Universal has big plans for its acreage -- a multibillion-dollar expansion that will include a nighttime entertainment complex, five "themed" hotels, and a second major attraction with sections paying homage to the megahit movie "Jurassic Park" and to Popeye and Marvel superheroes.
So Orlando and Central Florida did not have enough theme parks? Just looking at those already open poses a problem for the visitor -- how best to spend the time and money available. Disney's Magic Kingdom or Epcot? Sea World? A quick trip west to Tampa's Busch Gardens?
And then comes the comparison problem -- which studio park do we go to, Disney's or Universal?
Both is my answer. It's just that tough to choose, to say one is the best.
The teen-age girls taking part in our last family vacation there issued a split verdict -- one liked Disney/MGM the best, the other picked Universal. But they agreed both parks were terrific fun -- which is, after all, the point of being there.
The problem is a lot of other people are there, too.
Both parks have long summer and holiday-season lines, which you can beat -- at least for the first hour to 90 minutes -- by arriving at opening time and trying to catch the biggest thrill rides before queues reach unbearable lengths.
Quickly take in Universal's Kongfrontation, where close to 100 people ride together on an elevated tram as it turns a corner into 1930s New York and a campy encounter with that big hairy ape. Rush to Disney's Star Tours or Twilight Zone Tower of Terror rides.
Catch them quickly, so you can avoid the horror show of The Lines. Both parks snake their waiting lines through mazes of metal rails that begin outside a building and lead to yet another indoors.
Fortunately for the disabled, both offer entrances that bypass all the waiting. Don't let a broken leg keep you from going to either park -- it can be an advantage.
Both parks have reasonably good food, although Disney/MGM seemed to us the clear winner in dining, with its assortment of movie-park restaurants with film and TV themes, and even budding actors who wait the tables.
The 50's Prime Time Cafe is a good example of Disney dining -- a 1950s decor right out of Mom's kitchen with chrome appliances, Formica tables and black-and-white televisions showing episodes of such shows as "My Three Sons." Waitresses play-acting as Mom or a well-intentioned aunt may send you packing to the restroom to wash those filthy hands -- and send you back to do it again if you don't find out the color of the soap.
Universal offers a few good dining options, though -- including a 1950s-style Mel's Drive-In (from "American Graffiti") inside the park, and a Hard Rock Cafe just outside the gates -- with prices a little steeper than fast-food fare, but well worth the difference to take in the rock-and-roll ambience.
Disney, not to be outdone, has scheduled the grand opening of a Planet Hollywood restaurant at its studio park this month.
The theme-park match game goes on at every turn -- movie by movie, thrill by thrill.