This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Universal Orlando’s latest TRIBUTE STORE! We have been raving over the Tribute Stores at Universal Studios Florida for years now. Somehow, each one is better than the last. We’ve shopped with our mouths agape in wonder for Tribute Stores themed to Jurassic World, Halloween Horror Nights, Christmas, and Mardi Gras, but as it turns out we hadn’t seen anything yet. The newest Tribute Store has recently opened for business, and it is a loving tribute to three of the most iconic movies of all time. E.T., Back to the Future, and Jaws, all 3 of which also became attractions at Universal Studios Florida. The Tribute Store is filled with some unbelievably great references, cool merchandise, and some incredible snacks, so let’s head on in!
# 6 – The Facade
This Summer’s Tribute Store takes guests back to the 1980s and starts the “story” off with a facade featuring a classic movie theater entrance.
The area pops at night thanks to some gorgeous lighting elements.
Once walking through the front doors, the first room is where guests would buy tickets. That’s right Gen Zer’s, there was a time when we all had to stand in line to buy a ticket to see a movie. There was no buying your ticket in advance. There was no choosing your seat. You stood in a line that always took forever and you liked it! You found whatever seat you could get and you liked it (actually we all hated it and there has definitely been some huge improvements to the movie theater experience thanks to technology. No one will ever again have to embarrass themselves by asking a whole row of people to move down a seat so they can get two seats together.)
The amount of little details in this Summer’s Tribute Store is next level bonkers and they begin right away. Inside the lobby area you will see ticket stubs featuring movies that are playing. These tickets all have codes featuring clever Easter Eggs related to each film.
One of my favorite codes on these tickets is one for a Jaws ticket. The code is BOW LEG. This is a reference to a line in the film said by the character Quint, “Here’s to swimming with bow legged women.”
Movie posters adorn the walls, and leads us to our first room…
# 5 – E.T.
For the room themed to E.T., guests step inside Elliott’s bedroom. You almost need to rewatch E.T. just to see how well Universal captured the look and feel of this time period. Here is a great article which goes over the details from Elliott’s room directly from the movie (CLICK HERE) and shows you how much TLC and attention Universal put into this to make sure they got it right.
Seeing the Big Track and the ViewMaster Theater Projector is blowing my mind. This is like being in a time machine.
E.T.’s ship built out of LEGO. This sits above a LEGO Universal Building Set box.
A Hulk glowplate, straight out of the movie. This is something that I didn’t even realize we have essentially lost from pop culture, putting themed plates around light switches inside the home.
Let’s take a look at one amazing detail in the room and show the realities of an ultra themed store inside a theme park in 2022. On this table we see a postcard written to Elliott from his dad. On top of postcard sits an interplanetary passport from E.T. Adventure, the beloved ride which is one of USF’s only opening day attractions that is still standing.
Within the very first week, guests had caused a lot of damage throughout the store. If a guest can touch something, or pull something, you can bet someone is going to try. As of this writing, here is how this area currently looks:
The interplanetary passport is now literally screwed into the desk with a bolt and washer.
Another great reference to E.T. Adventure is found on this album. Song 4 features “Fly Me To The Green Planet.”
Throughout the store there are references to Reese’s Pieces, a candy which became famous thanks to E.T. Here we also have a Speak & Spell, a toy which plays a very important part in the film (and can also been seen in the queue for E.T. Adventure.)
One of the most memorable moments in the movie E.T. is when E.T. himself is hidden within Elliott’s sisters collection of stuffed animals.
Like all Tribute Stores, the main reasons these stores actual exist is to sell us merchandise. Lot of great options for E.T. fans.
You don’t see too many Collectible Spoons anymore.
Of course you see even less Collectible Thimbles. I hope when Epic Universe opens up we have a full line of Collectible Thimbles for Super Nintendo World, How to Train Your Dragon, and Universal Classic Monsters.
# 4 – Back to the Future
Growing up, I always liked the movie E.T., but it was never one of my favorites. Back to the Future though? Now all three of those films I absolutely LOVED.
While the E.T. room had us in Elliott’s bedroom, the Back to the Future room has us walking into Doc Brown’s garage that is absolutely jam packed with references to all three Back to the Future films. As a huge BTTF fan, this was a dream come true.
The gigantic speaker which we see Marty McFly play in front of during the start of the very first Back to the Future film.
Doc’s scale model of Hill Valley, which he used to explain to Marty (and us, the audience) of how he was going to get Marty “back to the future.”
There are blueprints all over this area, including one featuring the Hill Valley courthouse and its relationship to getting Marty “home.”
Clocks play a vital role in the Back to the Future films.
If you notice in this area of clocks, there is a very famous photo from the Back to the Future franchise.
The photo features Marty, his brother, and his sister. The film used this photo to show the effects of time travel, as the characters started to disappear from the photo.
In what is one of the greatest Easter Eggs in the history of Universal Tribute Stores, elsewhere in the room is another photo of Marty and his family. Except this time the character of Marty is being portrayed by Eric Stoltz instead of Michael J Fox. For those who don’t know, Stoltz was originally cast in the role and they filmed for six weeks before ultimately scrapping everything and going with Michael J Fox instead. For years this was almost an urban legend in the movie world – not unlike Nicholas Cage’s costume fitting for a Superman movie – and only recently have more details from this scrapped filming come out (including actual footage that was shot.)
Famous items from Back to the Future and Back to the Future 2.
Photo from Back to the Future 3.
Fans of Back to the Future will lose their minds seeing all the memorabilia and details straight from the films.
The merchandise selection for BTTF includes blueprints.
The BTTF license plate has to be the most well known license plate of all time.
Before we leave this area, let’s check out two more amazing details. This TV is playing an ad for the Institute of Future Technology. This was the backstory for Back to the Future: The Ride at Universal Studios Florida. When The Simpsons took over BTTF: The Ride, they even created a moment which showed how Doc Brown lost the Institute of Future Technology to Krusty the Clown.
Even better? Next to the TV is an Atari 2600 E.T. game cartridge. This is one of the all-time video game disasters, to the point where there was even a documentary on the search for where Atari buried all the unsold games. What a deep cut by Universal here and they get nothing but respect in this house.
# 3 – Jaws
As I said, personally speaking, I liked E.T., and I loved BTTF, but I consider Jaws to be my favorite movie of all time. The fact that it is represented in the Tribute Store thrilled me to no end. A true “pinch me, I’m dreaming” moment.
Quint’s boat shack is the main theme of this area of the Tribute Store.
The movie Jaws doesn’t lend itself to as many pop culture references that E.T. and BTTF do, but fans of the movie will notice a lot of great details.
A great Easter Egg for fans of the Jaws ride at USF.
This was the license plate the character Matt Hooper cut out of a shark in Jaws to prove the shark which was caught wasn’t the one which had been eating people.
Why would there be a beer can? Well, we’ll answer that in a moment.
While there are not many lighthearted moments in Jaws, one great one involved Quint crushing a beer can in his hand which was followed by Matt Hooper crushing a styrofoam coffee cup.
The amount of subtle details throughout the store are next level bananas. For example, we see a bunch of items posted on the wall of Quint’s shack…
…one of which appears to be a newspaper/magazine ad selling used boats…
…but an even closer look reveals some very interesting boats that are for sale. Including a water taxi that many guests staying at Universal on-site hotels have used and another boat which seems to have finally returned from a 3 hour tour.
Like the BTTF room, the Jaws room features an old timey television which plays parts of a program which ran in the queue for Universal’s Jaws ride. I could not be a bigger fan of the movie Jaws, and I enjoy the actual Jaws ride as well, but the queue for Jaws is maybe one of the worst I’ve ever been in. I understand the love and nostalgia people have for the Jaws and BTTF attractions, but the things that replaced them (Diagon Alley for Jaws, Springfield USA for BTTF) are so much better overall that Universal was well served by replacing them.
The merchandise for Jaws is straight up FIRE. Just a fantastic job paying respect to both the original film and the Universal attraction.
Snowglobes were ubiquitous at theme parks for the longest time. Now, thanks to the airlines, they are a dying line of merchandise, but this Jaws one is pretty cool.
# 2 – Plastic Molds
Universal has released two new plastic molds for this Summer’s Tribute Store and we are truly getting spoiled as fans. When Universal first started bringing back the Mold-A-Matic machines several years ago, it was great. A part of Old Florida I didn’t think we would ever see again. There was a time when Mold-A-Matics were at every tourist attraction in the state, but now they have all but become extinct. They have made a huge resurgence thanks solely to Universal putting out several new designs each year. This tribute store has a mold for Jaws (!) and the Clock Tower from Back to the Future. Just INCREDIBLE.
You may want to get your Clock Tower mold sooner rather than later, because the machine is often out of service.
For whatever reason, the mold process for the Clock Tower regularly runs into issues.
Here is a look at some of the deformed molds. The Back to the Future logo on the back is such a great touch. They definitely didn’t have to go this hard, but they did.
Next let’s take a look at every plastic mold Universal has released to date.
While I’m more of a pressed penny guy, I can respect the amount of work that Universal has put into the medallion game
The designs for E.T., Jaws, and Kong are just wonderful.
The back of each medallion has an Universal Studios Florida logo.
The Kong design features the great ape as part of his long-gone attraction, Kongfrontation.
If Universal starts making books to keep your Medallion collection in, I may turn a corner on these. Especially if said book came with an exclusive Medallion (CALL ME UNIVERSAL, I HAVE PLENTY OF OTHER IDEAS TOO…)
The Medallion machine area has some of my favorite references in the entire Tribute Store, including this collection of Mad Magazines. I’ve always loved Mad Magazine, and these issues feature parodies of E.T., Kong, BTTF, and Jaws.
Also in this area are fake movie posters which were originally created for Halloween Horror Nights.
Speaking of HHN, one of the movie ticket stubs has a reference to LIL BOO, the breakout character from HHN 2021.
Boris Shuster, a character created for HHN which you can read much more about in the Sterling Denham Artist Spotlight, also gets a reference in the store.
Another newspaper clipping mentions Doc Brown creating the Institute of Future Technology in Orlando, FL.
You know I’m going to love any references to Earl the Squirrel!
# 1 – Snacks
The last room of the Tribute Store features merchandise of the three main films featured in the store, but also a well themed snack bar. This snack bar is loaded with baked goods themed to E.T., Jaws, and BTTF. These sell so well that items are regularly sold out each day. Guests have wanted a store like this for years and are supporting it with their wallet. Hopefully elements of this snack bar can remain at Universal bakeries even after the Tribute Store goes away.
For YEARS I have had to live in envy of Tom Bricker going to the Amity themed restaurant in Universal Studios Japan, but thanks to the Tribute Store I get a small taste of Jaws themed snacks.
Possibly the greatest snack in the history of snacks.
Honorable Mention: Kongfrontation Photo-op
What a wonderful surprise it was to have a photo-op which evokes one of the all-time most popular photo-ops in the history of Universal. Back in the day, guests could get a picture in King Kong’s hand at Kongfrontation. While that attraction is gone, the spirit of the photo-op lives on at this Summer’s Tribute Store.
Check out this detail in the photo-op. A skyline of New York is in the background…
These very same buildings can be seen in the New York area of USF!!
So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Checks out Universal’s Latest TRIBUTE STORE! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.