This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Attractions We Miss at Universal Studios Florida! We are about to enter the part of the theme park calendar when both Universal and Disney like to unveil new attractions and experiences for the busy summer crowds. However, in most cases, whenever we get something new it means we also have to say goodbye to something it replaced. For example, for guests to be able to enjoy the Valley of Mo’ara in Pandora: The World of Avatar, Disney removed Camp Minnie Mickey. Universal Studios Florida has gone through more turnover than most theme parks. In fact, of the park’s opening day attraction lineup, only E.T. Adventure and the Horror Make-Up Show remain. Today we’re going to take a look at some of our favorite USF attractions that have been replaced over the years, and let’s kickoff the countdown with…
# 6 – Kongfrontation
Amazingly enough, despited be based around one of the worst filmed versions of King Kong in history (the 1976 remake) Kongfrontation remains an attraction that many Universal fans wish was still in the park. Even though it was replaced by the incredibly popular Revenge of the Mummy indoor coaster, the nostalgia for Kongfrontation is strong. The attraction had many signature moments, including interactions with various super-sized Kong audio-animatronics, and a very memorable end-of-ride photo opportunity where guests could be photographed in Kong’s hand. The Universal mantra of “Ride the Movies” was exactly what Kongfrontation was all about. It may have been a bad movie, but you were in it and the experience was awesome. There are still references to Kong in Revenge of the Mummy, and Universal finally brought the great ape back into the parks with Skull Island: Reign of Kong, but man we still miss Kongfrontation.
# 5 – Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies
It may seem odd to theme park fans today, but both Universal Studios Florida and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at one time had several attractions based around showing guests “behind the scenes” of producing TV shows and movies (RIP SuperStar Television and Backstage Studio tour.) One of the best can you believe this existed attractions was Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies. Here guests would start off by watching an incredible montage of some of Hitchcock’s most famous films (The Birds, Pyscho, Rear Window, etc) and then see a bit on how some of the memorable scenes were made. Personally, I would absolutely love to see an attraction like this that could rotate amazing directors like Quentin Taratino, Steven Speilberg, and David Fincher to show guests how they make some of their iconic film scenes and moments. The Hitchcock attraction closed in 2003 and was replaced by… wait for it… Shrek 4D.
# 4 – Earthquake: The Big One/Disaster!
An opening day attraction in 1990, Earthquake: The Big One began its run by showing guests how some of the effects were done for the 1974 film Earthquake. The attraction concluded with a show stopping tram experience with guests seeing the effects of a massive earthquake. Tweaks were made over the years, but in 2007 there was a massive overhaul turning the attraction into Disaster! In the new version, Christopher Walken played director Frank Kincaid and he welcomed guests to see the production of his newest film “Mutha Nature.” Walken’s part was done using Musion technology, which we see in the Wizarding World with Dumbledore in the queue for Forbidden Journey. The sequence with Walken is spectacular and involved interaction with an actual Team Member on the stage. Guests then went into another area, where – using green screen technology -they saw how action scenes were shot (using guests who volunteered at the beginning of the show.) Finally, guests boarded the tram and had the experience from the original Earthquake ride. However, in Disaster!, after the the spectacular tram sequence there was an added bonus: the trailer for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in “Mutha Nature.” The trailer included tongue-in-cheek scenes starring The Rock mixed with the shots guests performed in during the attraction. This video was always a big hit every single time I personally went on the attraction.
Disaster! is currently in the process of being replaced by Fast & Furious – Supercharged, coming in 2018.
# 3 – Ghostbusters Spooktacular
Ghostbusters Spooktacular was a stage show which had our heroes fighting at the Temple of Gozer. The show’s original incarnation was under the premise that we the audience were being given a tour of where Ghostbusters was shot, when something goes wrong. A later version would change up the story a bit, going much more slapstick and using secondary characters seen in the movies. A short, greatest hits package of the first movie would then close out the show with the Ghostbusters using their proton packs to take down Gozer in – for its time – pretty amazing fashion. Guests got to hear the Ghostbusters theme, see Slimer, and even get a glimpse of the huge Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Dear Universal. We want Ghostbusters back in the parks. We don’t care how you do it. Attraction… show… meet and greet….heck, even just the Ecto-1 on the streets like the Mystery Machine… doesn’t matter, just get it done. Thank you, signed everyone.
# 2 – Back to the Future: The Ride
Guests in line for The Simpsons Ride get to watch a series of clips featuring The Simpsons interacting with theme parks. Some of the clips are from classic episodes of the series, while others were created just for the attraction. One of the new clips actually explains how Doc Brown lost the Institute of Future Technology to Krusty the Clown. The Institute was the former home of Back To the Future: The Ride. Here guests got to board a DeLorean ride vehicle and travel back through time to chase down Biff Tannen.
Back to the Future: The Ride is a beloved attraction for many, no doubt, but it is also impossible to deny that the area’s transformation into Springfield USA has made the park much, MUCH better overall.
# 1 – JAWS
Speaking of beloved attractions, I’m not sure there is a single ride the average person would associate with Universal more than JAWS. The ride itself can best be described as Universal’s version of the Jungle Cruise, where a tour guide from Captain Jake’s Amity Boat Tours takes guests through “actual locations” where the famous shark attacks took place back in 1974. The ride features several appearance of the great white shark, and could get really creepy when the sun went the down. An opening day attraction, Jaws was well known for having persistent breakdowns from the start (something it would share in common with the movie it was based on.) Universal ended up completely changing the ride system and some show elements.
JAWS and the Amity section of the park took up a rather large footprint, and there would probably still be people protesting its closure today if its replacement wasn’t Diagon Alley (and in a nice touch, Diagon has several references to Jaws.) The photo-op with Jaws remains, and is still one of the most popular in the park (it was even featured in the movie Sharknado 3.) However, we’d be remiss in not mentioning Universal changing the name of the Shark Attack drink to the Ocean Attack. UGH.
HONORABLE MENTION – The Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show
We here at the SATURDAY SIX have given our wish list of what should be dropped off to the Disney Dump, and if we were to pass by a similar area for Universal items we would start off by throwing away the Fear Factor Live show. Before Fear Factor, Universal had a different show based around various tropes we’ve all seen in various Western shows and movies. Lots of cowboy humor, lots of stunts, and a whole lot of guns were the basis of this wild show.
DOUBLE SECRET HONORABLE MENTION: Murder, She Wrote Mystery Theater
Sometimes, even when seeing things with your own eyes it is still almost impossible to believe they actually existed. In the area which now houses Transformers: The Ride-3D there was once an attraction based around the television show Murder, She Wrote. Like the Hitchcock attraction, guests would experience some of the elements that went towards putting together an episode of the classic who-dunnit show starring Angela Lansbury. Using audience participation, the attraction went through the process of editing, foley work, and even recording ADRs. If this sounds next level bananas, that’s because it is! These were the type of long attractions we used to get back in the day AND WE LOVED IT.
So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX looks at the (possible) future of Walt Disney Word! 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 Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, SATURDAY SIX mentor Seth Kubersky, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with goofballs co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde , while fellow Potterheads may enjoy Meg’s work on the Central Florida Slug Club.
FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2017 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!