Saturday SixUniversal Orlando Resort

SATURDAY SIX: Saying Goodbye to the Universal Legacy Store (the history, the merchandise, the future and more!)

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Opening less than three years ago, the Universal Legacy Store was one of the best ever gift shops for theme park fans. This past week it closed its doors to make way for a new experience coming later this year, but we wanted to take a moment and look back at this amazing walk-through the history of the Universal Orlando Resort.

Universal Legacy Store. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Formerly the home of the Universal Studios Store (a vanilla, no-frills-added gift shop cut out of the same cloth as EPCOT’s Creations Shop), the Legacy Store paid homage to the former concept of Universal Studios Florida – guests getting a behind-the-scenes look at how movies are made. The Legacy Store was filled to the brim with photos, props, and memorabilia from Universal’s past and present. Today we’re going to look at some of our favorite parts of the Legacy Store, starting with….

# 6 – A Look Back at Ye Olde Universal

When I’m at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, one attraction I always love spending time in is One Man’s Dream. As kids, when we are brought to theme parks we are obsessed with the rides. Later, as adults, for many of us the history of the parks themselves take on just as big of an importance to us as the attractions themselves. Throughout the Legacy Store you would see large signage going through some of the major events that led to the Universal Orlando Resort we know today. While the first Universal park in Orlando opened up in 1990, the timeline actually starts before that and begins in 1986,  when the land was cleared and Universal Studios Florida was officially announced to the world.

UOR Timeline. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Disney fans have plenty of options when it comes to discovering or looking back at the rich history of their parks. There are hundreds (if not thousands) 0f websites, books, and even documentaries dedicated to the history of Disney theme parks. Universal? Not so much. The Legacy Store delivered on this history in a big way, starting with two large Griffins outside the store.

Legacy Store Griffin. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

The details in these Griffins was fantastic.

Details of Griffin (or gargoyle) on display outside the Legacy Store. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Griffin Claws. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

When Universal Studios Florida first opened in 1990, these Griffin statues sat on the original USF entrance arch.

Arrow pointing to Griffin statue. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Below we have a photo taken in 1990 of the original Universal Studios Florida gateway arch and how guests looked up at the Griffins.

This arch was replaced by the current arch. For a time they were side by side. Notice the building through the arch. This building still present. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

There were so many wonderful photos located throughout the Legacy Store.

Cropped out of the middle photo above is former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, stealing the idea of Universal Studios Florida so he could fast track Disney/MGM Studios at WDW. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

As a Jaws fanatic, I can’t get enough about the ride or the movie it was based on. The Legacy Store had behind-the-scenes photos of the Jaws attraction in USF along with other memorable items such as concept art.

Jaws. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Amity concept art. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Many of the items in the Legacy Store would be tagged detailing exactly where they came from, such as this piece below coming from the Jaws ride queue.

Jaws prop. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Proton Pack from Ghostbusters. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
T2:3D, one of the best stage shows of all-time. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

The Legacy Store was set up like you were walking through a working production area. Shelves and displays are marked as if you were a production assistant on set and needed to find something for your movie. There were areas labeled with titles such as COSTUMES, EGYPTIAN, MEDIEVAL, AUTOMOTIVE, NAUTICAL and several more. In each area, you’d find bits of Universal’s history themed to that section. But throughout the store you’d discover some fantastic items that you’d never expect to see.

Team Member shirt for Jimmy Neutron’s NickToon Blast. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Back to the Future. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Photo of Konfrontation, bust of Alfred Hitchcock, Mummy sarcophagus. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

My personal favorite item in the Legacy Store were the scale miniatures of attraction vehicles.

Kongfrontation. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
E.T. Adventure ride vehicle. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

In many ways, E.T. is the bridge between the Universal of years past and today’s Universal. E.T. Adventure is one of the only opening day rides that still operates at Universal.

E.T. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

# 5 – The New and Improved Universal

The late 90s were a big one for Universal as they grew from one theme park to an entire resort with multiple theme parks, multiple hotels, and a dining and retail shopping area with CityWalk.

Universal Timeline. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Seeing this picture of a scale model of Port of Entry makes me wish Universal sold a scale model of Port of Entry!

Islands of Adventure. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
It’s pretty clear why you do NOT see a walk around Hulk character in Marvel Superhero Island. To steal a line from the end of the movie Christmas Vacation, ” Sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks.” (photo by Hunter Underwood)

This photo of Spider-Man with the background being the construction of Islands of Adventure is straight up E-Ticket. Wow!

Spider-Man. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Dueling Dragons!! (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Jurassic Park. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Reading the entry for 2002 just makes me want Halloween Horror Nights to be a two-park event again. In a world in which IP holders can be notoriously controlling, it is amazing this even happened once.

Universal Timeline. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

2010, the year EVERYTHING changed for theme parks in Florida.

Universal Timeline. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Hagrid’s Motorbike. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. (photo by Hunter Underwood)
Transformers: The Ride 3-D. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

As a self-admitted Volcano Bay superfan, I definitely loved seeing the small shoutouts for the best water park around.

Volcano Bay. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

Our last timeline poster contained some pretty awesome openings, including the VelociCoaster, Fast & Furious – Supercharged, the Bourne Stuntacular, and even the Legacy Store itself!

Universal Timeline. (photo by Hunter Underwood)

# 4 – Merchandise

Just like the next level Tribute Stores inside the parks, its easy to forget that the main purpose of the Legacy Store was to sell merchandise. Thankfully it was home to a large selection of Jaws items.

I’m not a Loungefly/Dooney & Bourke guy, but I’d rock that Jaws bag in a second.

Not every item was  a winner…

You know I was getting myself a Jaws scented candle.

The Legacy Store had some fun Universal Classic Monsters merchandise, including the Cute Plush line.

Wolfman and Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Frankenstein’s Monster and The Bride.

I love pressed pennies, and my favorite pressed penny designs are ones from extinct attractions at Universal and Disney. The Legacy Store featured designs based on Back to the Future, E.T., Jaws, and King Kong!

Legacy Store Pressed Penny Machine. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Jaws pressed penny. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

# 3- Mold-A-Matics

The one thing I like MORE than pressed pennies? The Mold-A-Matic machines that Universal brought to the resort back several years ago. These machines were a staple of my Florida vacations growing up and you would find them everywhere. Now the machines are almost impossible to find. Lucky for us the Legacy Store’s machine feature designs based on the history of the park.

Shark Mold-a-Matic machine. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Jaws Mold-A-Aatic figure.

The Legacy Store also featured a machine that was filled with graphics spotlighting Kongfrontation.

Kongfrontation themed machine. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Kongfrontation figure. (photo by Scott Sanders)

At times there were color variations available for the Mold-A-Matic figures.

King Kong Mold-a-matic figure in its original red form and dark brown version. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Later a new Jaws design arrived along with a Clock Tower figure for Back to the Future fans.

The blue Mold-A-Matic figure for Jaws was originally sold in a Tribute Store. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

Below we have ALL the types of Mold-A-Matic figures and their color variations that were offered at the Universal Legacy Store.

Pouring one out for my homies. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 2 – Legacy Store Christmas Tree

In 2023, Universal took it up a notch and decorated a tree in the Legacy Store with scale models of ride vehicles from some of our favorite attractions.

2023 Legacy Store Christmas Tree. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

Let’s start off with Jaws.

Jaws ride scale model boat. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

Look at those details!

Jaws ride scale model boat. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Jaws skipper hat decoration. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Earthquake scale ride vehicle model. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Oil tanker scale model from Earthquake. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Kongfrontation scale model ride vehicle. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Kong decoration. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

This scale model of the DeLorean ride vehicle from Back to the Future: The Ride is sublime.

Back to the Future: the Ride scale model DeLorean. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)
Back to the Future: the Ride scale model DeLorean. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

Let’s zoom in on that screen inside the ride vehicle…

Doc Brown! (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

My review?

Another cool thing they did at the Legacy Store for a seasonal overlay was put Lil’ Boo in one of the teleportation machines from The Fly.

Lil Boo Trick or Seek at Universal Legacy Store.
Lil Boo Trick or Seek at Universal Legacy Store.

# 1 – Rumors and Innuendo about What’s Next…

While Universal hasn’t given any information about what is replacing the Universal Legacy Store, we’ve heard rumblings for a while that the location will be used for an upcoming preview center for EPIC Universe.

Universal Legacy Store: CLOSED. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

For those who don’t know, in the late 1990s there was once an Islands of Adventure Preview Center in Universal Studios Florida. Out front there was a gigantic hour glass with sand running through it that counted down the opening of IOA in 1999.

IOA Preview Center. (photo by The Coaster Kings)

The Preview Center took place in the area of New York where we have seen Tribute Stores for the past several years. Like the Tribute Stores, the Preview Center was a series of rooms, each focusing on one island that would be in IOA. Like the Universal Legacy Store, the Preview Center was filled with concept art and scale models. The last room featured a scale model of the entire resort, including items that were never built (such as a golf course.)

IF the Legacy Store is converted into an EPIC Preview Center that is half preview/half merchandise, I think the place could be a goldmine. People in Orlando are dying to spend money on Nintendo, and if there was a store that featured exclusive items for Super Nintendo World, How to Train Your Dragon, and Dark Universe (for example), I think Universal would make a fortune.

THAT SAID, if it is a Preview Center for EPIC, Universal is going to have to walk a tightrope on how to educate/excite theme park fans without confusing them. The opening of Islands of Adventure (along with several other parts of Universal Orlando Resort) was a complete disaster back in the early 2000s because Universal didn’t communicate well to the average consumer that it had built a whole new theme park. Many guests going to Universal today aren’t reading theme park blogs about EPIC Universe, aren’t keeping up with @bioreconstruct‘s amazing photos construction, or watching Alicia Stella’s must see videos. No matter what happens though, we’ll be here to watch it play out.

So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Says Goodbye to the Universal Legacy 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).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

The SATURDAY SIX Celebrates Ten Years with TouringPlans

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Merchandise Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Signage Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Food Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX: Tribute to Josh easyWDW

SATURDAY SIX: Tribute to Ian Barritt

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.

Legacy Store’s last customer paying his respect to a first round Theme Park Gift Shop Hall of Famer. (pixie dust by Scott Walker)

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