This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at the details in the WINDOWS at Universal Studios Florida! When many of us are beginning our fandom with theme parks, we are generally drawn to the great rides like the VelociCoaster, Rise of the Resistance, or Men in Black: Alien Attack. As the years go on, we start to appreciate the smaller details that separate places like Disney and Universal from local amusement parks and carnivals that are filled with just rides. We’ve done deep dives on the overall atmosphere in lands such as Liberty Square in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, or on Easter eggs such as Back to the Future: The Ride’s own Doc Brown in the queue for The Simpsons Ride giving the backstory for the ride’s change.
One of our favorite details for theme park fans are Disney’s iconic “Main Street Windows.” This is where the Disney parks pay tribute to people who have been instrumental in the creation of the immersive worlds we love so much. In fact, this may be the closest we theme park fans get to an actual Disney Hall of Fame, as a window honor is one of the highest levels of respect one can achieve in the industry.
Over at Universal Studios Florida, they have continued the time honored tradition of paying respect through the use of window tributes, and also have used windows throughout the park to display some pretty clever references. Today we are going to look at some of our favorites, starting with…
# 6 – Kern Studios
With Universal’s annual Mardi Gras celebration ending this week, we thought it was appropriate to start off our list with a window dedication for Kern Studios. For those who don’t know, Kern Studios is the group behind the floats for Universal’s Mardi Gras parade (which may be pound-for-pound the most overall fun parade experience in any theme park.) Kern Studios is also responsible for some of the most loved and well known floats, parades, and themed environments across the globe.
As theme park fans, we are blessed to be surrounded by amazing design work almost everywhere we go, but almost never know who was behind bringing the area to life. For example, one of my favorite lobby designs at any on-site hotel is the outdoor area at Loews Royal Pacific Resort featuring playful elephants in the water. This area was created by Kern Studios. The stunning hippocampus electrolier chandelier that hangs in the lobby of Disney’s Boardwalk Resort? Kern Studios created that too, along with other elements at Walt Disney World and Give Kids the World Village.
# 5 – The People Who Helped Build Universal
In the New York area of Universal you will see a series of windows paying tribute to many individuals who helped create the Universal Orlando Resort over the years. The façade for this particular building is meant to be the front of a newspaper office, so the jobs listed generally are related to positions you would see working in that environment (ie: op-ed editor, night metro desk, and sports editor.)
Let’s take a closer look at these names. To us theme park fans, Disney has many “famous” Imagineers that are well known, such as Joe Rohde, Marc Davis, and Wally Boag. While not as many people know the names of who helped create the Universal parks we have today, one name that some may recognize is Mark Woodbury. In the make-believe world of this newspaper building, Woodbury’s title is Executive Vice President while his real life position is Chairman and CEO of Universal Destinations & Experiences. The two names flanking Mr. Woodbury, along with their real life positions while at Universal, are Dennis Rosolowski (Director of Photo Services) and Fred Lounsberry (a key member of the travel division at Universal during several challenging times, including the effects on tourism following the events of 9/11.)
David Winslow (Sr. Vice President Technical Services) and Charlie Gundacker (Sr. Vice President Attraction Development.)
Steven Shaiken (Head of Business Development), Kevin Kolczynski (Director of Photo Services), Cindy Operschall (Business Contracts.)
Phillip Randall and Randy Mazely worked in the construction and architecture fields.
Michael Morman started off playing the role of Winston in the Ghostbusters Spooktacular. The façade for the Ghostbusters show was their well known fire house. Mr. Morman eventually moved up to head of entertainment, and he has a window playfully dedicated to his “role” as the Company Chief.
Christian Kubsch currently works for Walt Disney Imagineering, but previously has done work at Universal for attractions such as Back to the Future: The Ride and Terminator 2 – 3D.
# 4 – Lew Wasserman and Sidney Sheinberg.
The Universal parks straight up wouldn’t exist without Lew Wasserman and Sidney Sheinberg. Like the fondly remembered Walt Disney World years when the company was run by Michael Eisner and Frank Wells, Wasserman and Sheinberg co-ran Universal when it began developing a theme park for Florida.
If you’ve been to Universal Studios Florida, there is a good chance you have seen the statue dedicated to Lew Wasserman.
# 3 – Boris Shuster
One of our personal favorite “hidden in plain sight” details is located in the New York Section of Universal Studios Florida. There is a window advertising Boris Shuster’s Private Investigations. This was originally created as part of the backstory for the icon of HHN 18, Bloody Mary. After HHN ended, this particular window dressing stayed, and has become a fan favorite ever since.
Boris Shuster has been used in mobile games, Tribute Stores, and for HHN merchandise.
Shuster is extremely popular in the HHN fan community, with many artists creating work inspired by the character.
# 2 – Past Attractions
You will see references to former Universal Studios Florida attractions in several windows throughout the park, generally right near where the attraction used to be. In the Hollywood section of the park, you’ll notice among the cans Invader Motor Oil is a can for Terminator Motor Oil. Terminator 2: 3D left Universal Studios Florida in 2017 and was replaced by The Bourne Stuntacular.
Below those cans you’ll see a different set of oil cans and one of them is marked “Skipper Retro-Ride.” One of the opening day attractions for Universal Studios Florida was Jaws, and – like the Jungle Cruise – it was a boat ride operated by one of Captain Jake’s skippers.
The Jaws attraction wasn’t based in the Hollywood section of the park though. It was located in it’s own area of the park called Amity (located next to the San Francisco area of USF) and it was eventually replaced by Diagon Alley. There are several references to the movie Jaws in Diagon Alley itself, and one notable reference in the London Waterfront outside. Keep your eyes open for this album cover seen in the window of a record store façade. The album is titled “Here’s to swimmin’ with bow legged women” by The Quint Trio. Quint was one of the main characters of the movie Jaws and the title of the album is a line he said in the film.
Also look for a certain blue shirt which is referencing one of the greatest actors in American history…
While not a reference to a ride, one of my favorite Easter eggs is located in the Hollywood section of the park in a window of the Beverly Wilshire façade (the Beverly Wilshire is an actual hotel in Beverly Hills, California.)
A closer look reveals a travel ad for Universal’s own Cabana Bay Beach Resort!
# 1 – Pulse shooting victims
In 2016, Universal put up a window tribute honoring victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting who were Team Members or contracted workers for the resort. The names Jonathan Camuy, Anthony Laureano, Xavier Serrano, Shane Tomlinson, Luis Vielma and Jerald Wright are written in gold lettering inside a winged heart with a message below stating “carrying messages of peace, love & hope to the stars.”
While unfortunately mass shootings have been happening in this country so frequently that many have just become numb to the news and they all begin to mix together, for others the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub that took 49 people (and injured 53 more) is a stain that Florida can’t remove until actions are taken to protect the LGBTQ+ communities currently at risk. For me, and many people reading this, the theme parks are a safe spaces where we can leave all the troubles of the world behind and be able to spend time enjoying a fantasy world in which everything is the way we wished it was, rather than the way it is. For others there are no safe spaces, and – for me at least – it’s up to us to help these disenfranchised groups achieve a level of existence and acceptance that the rest of us just take for granted.
So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Looks at some of the window details at Universal Studios Florida! 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:
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.