This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Movies, Television Shows, and Music Videos shot at the Universal Orlando Resort. Loyal readers have gone with us down the rabbit hole to see all the Walt Disney locations used in the Hulk Hogan TV show Thunder in Paradise. Then we checked out the times our favorite sitcoms like Boy Meets World and Full House that went to Disney World. Today we are taking I4 West across Orlando and checking out which movies, television shows, and music videos were filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort. Now, Universal Studios Florida is still a working production studio with several sound stages, and has been the home to such shows as Family Feud, TNA Impact, and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. However today we are going to look at productions which – for the most part – filmed outside of the sound stages, allowing us to see our favorite Universal rides, hotels, and characters. So sit back, follow along with us on your Comcast cable box, and let’s start our countdown with…
# 6 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt “Kimmy Finds Her Mom!”
Season 2, episode 13
We’re going to start off our list with the newest of the bunch, as this particular episode aired in April of 2016. I have to personally begin with a mea culpa. I have never seen an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s one of those shows (along with Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and Veep) that we’re all supposed to watch. But there is just too much good TV on right now to keep up with everything. I will say this after watching just one episode of Kimmy Schmidt, I’m immediately going back to watch the entire first and second seasons. It reminded me of two of my all time favorite comedies: 30 Rock and Parks and Rec.
While Kimmy Schmidt the show didn’t have as much making fun of the theme park world we know and love (unlike Roseanne, which skewered the parks) it was top to bottom the funniest show I have ever seen involving a theme park (this also includes the more recent episodes of The Middle and Modern Family which went to WDW and Disneyland.) The A-plot of the show involved Kimmy Schimdt finally tracking down her mother, played by the incredible Lisa Kudrow (Friends and the must-see The Comeback.) The B-plots, which involved one character finding herself in the middle of the Washington Redskins owners, and another over at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, were just as good as the main storyline.
Kimmy, who had not seen her mom since she was a young teenager, discovered that her mom was a roller coaster fanatic, and was about to break the record for riding Rip Ride Rockit. To show how much she loved her daughter, Kimmy’s mom ripped up her Express Pass for Rip, Ride, Rockit and the two began to have fun at the park together.
One thing I really enjoyed about this episode of Kimmy Schmidt is that it contained an element that sets great comedies apart from others. It combined legitimate laughs with some true heartfelt moments. On Rip Ride Rockit, Kimmy finally lets her mom have it about leaving Kimmy behind and not trying to search for her. Her mother explains that she tried, for years, but that everyone in their town just got depressed seeing her. She chased around roller coasters because it is the one place where you can scream and no one looks at you funny. This was a powerful sequence which was funny, as the girls kept telling the ride operators they were going again because they weren’t done talking, but also involved some true pathos between the two.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season Two is still exclusive to NETFLIX, but Season 1 is available on DVD.
# 5 – House on Haunted Hill
House on Haunted Hill is a 1999 remake of a 1959 horror film starring Vincent Price. It is ultra gory and features a next level bonkers cast including A-Listers like Geoffery Rush and Z-listers like Chris Kattan, The setup is that a weirdo theme park owner (played by Rush) offers $1,000,000 each to a group of people if they can spend one night in his ultra expensive house with a mysterious past. A haunted mansion if you will. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Nope.)
The film starts off showing Rush in his theme park world. He is giving a news crew a tour of his latest ride: Terror Icognita. Universal fans may know this ride better as The Incredible Hulk Coaster. In this version of the ride, guests take a long elevator up to the famous Hulk launch tube. Because Rush is maniacal, the elevator also simulates a drop tower, scaring guests to death. Once they get on the ride, two sets of trains are sent out almost at once. The track splits, and the guests in the second car see the first car fly off the rails into certain death. It is revealed later that the first car that goes out is filled with animatronic dummies. You get to see Hulk in all it’s glory here as the camera gives the viewer a POV of almost the entire ride, including the awesome launch. In one shot we get to see Marvel Superhero Island from a birds-eye view, giving us the chance to see the “meteor explosion” which is the backstory to the entire land.
# 4 – Jimmy Buffett “Fruitcakes”
We here at SATURDAY SIX headquarters love Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. There’s not much more relaxing that sitting on the outdoor deck, sipping on a Landshark Lager, chowing down on a Chocolate Hurricane, and people watching all the guests going to and from Islands of Adventure, all while Jimmy Buffett music plays in the background. Did you know that one of Jimmy Buffett’s songs has a music video that was shot completely in Universal Studios Florida? We’ll explain to our #Millenial readers later what a music video is, but for the rest of you the video for the song “Fruitcakes” is a must watch. Jimmy himself even passes by the Lew Wasserman statue! Personally, the prominent placement of Giovannassi’s Fruit Exchange in one shot had me grinning ear to ear. This would be like seeing The Lunching Pad used in a shot for a show at WDW.
# 3 – Ace Venture Pet Detective Jr.
I bet you didn’t even know there was a third Ace Ventura Pet Detective movie. While not technically a “good” movie, for Universal fans this one may qualify as a must watch because of some attractions that were used for set pieces are ones that no other movie or TV show ever feature. In one sequence Ace goes to a dinosaur institute to see a “$10,000,000” T-Rex skeleton. This all takes place at the JURASSIC PARK DISCOVERY CENTER. After some shenanigans where the T-Rex skeleton falls apart, Ace is chased through CAMP JURASSIC. You get to see everything including the blogger’s perch and the caves.
Later in the movie there was a bit t0-do about famous animals being stolen. In one sequence they actually show the Animal Actors on Location attraction area and have a scene play out there where a cat disappears. This leads to Ace and his gang to form a plan to thwart a famous horse from being stolen at Universal Studios. This part is great, because Universal fans will notice Ace goes out the exit of Universal Studios Florida, which now has a makeshift sign that said, “Welcome to the Universal Orlando Resort.” For all intents and purposes, USF was Ace’s “home” and not a theme park. Seriously.
After Ace saves the day he heads out of “the Universal Orlando Resort” and back to his real life, which is USF. He hops in a car and they head down production central and into the New York area of the park. Earlier in the film Ace had seen his mother sent to jail right outside the New York backdrop. What a film.
# 2 – Bring It On: In It To Win It
Speaking of unnecessary sequels, we’re about to look at the third sequel to Bring It On. The original Bring It On is actually an underrated gem, and was directed by Peyton Reed who would go on to direct Ant-Man, which we all loved. Can you imagine that Bring It On got FOUR SEQUELS and Disney’s John Carter and Tomorrowland won’t get one? We live in a crazy world.
The Bring It On franchise is based around competitive cheerleading competitions, and In It To Win It takes place solely at the Universal Orlando Resort. The teams stay at the Hard Rock Hotel and do a ton of stuff inside the parks and at CityWalk. Because the movie was filmed in 2007, three years before the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade Village, we get to see some parts of the Lost Continent that Potter replaced, including the Enchanted Oak Tavern. One scene also involves the old Universal 360 lagoon show. A major part of the movie revolves around the attraction Dueling Dragons, which is always called the “Double Dragon” by the characters in the film. The ride is now known as Dragon Challenge.
Oh, I think I forget to mention the movie features…
THE JAWS RIDE.
Believe it or not, In It To Win It is a very watchable movie. The cast is extremely likable, and there is some very good humor throughout. It reminded me a lot of Disney movies like High School Musical and Teen Beach Movie. There are two major cons though. The first is that a good portion of the movie takes place at night and the lighting is so bad it is often hard to tell exactly what is going on. The stuff shot during the day looks fantastic, but most of the stuff taking place at night is brutal. A second drawback, at least to me, is how insanely overtly sexual almost all of the characters were. I don’t consider myself a prude at all, but I can’t imagine watching this movie with a kid in the room, or letting your younger kids watch it. It’s not really a film for adults either (not counting us theme park fans in arrested development, of course.)
The finale of the movie takes place in CityWalk and has a great set of cheerleading groups doing routines. I don’t consider myself an expert on the intricacies of cheerleading competitions, but this was fun to watch. I found the big “double dragon” move – the one that is supposed to wow the audience – to be completely underwhelming and thought one of the other teams should have won. Overall a film that could have been really good, but has some major flaws. This one is a no-brainer for Universal fans who want to see the resort in a movie. I didn’t forget my #Millenial readers, Ashley Tisdale has a song (and video) over the ending credits.
# 1 – Sharknado 3
What else can I say about the cinematic masterpiece known as Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No? We did an entire SATURDAY SIX on the movie just getting fans ready for it. It stars theme park personality Banks Lee. It features not only Cabana Bay, but the Royal Pacific Resort, two of our favorite hotels in Orlando. It has a scene inside Twister: Ride It Out and another set on Rip Rip Rockit featuring professional wrestler Chris Jericho. It even had a scene where you could see the JAWS PRESSED PENNY MACHINE. All that was missing was a Coke Freestyle machine to make this the all time greatest film (as voted on by SATURDAY SIX authors.)
Come for the incredible Universal scenes, stay for the absolutely insane sequence with Freddie Munoz along with Baywatch’s own David Hasselhoff chewing the scenery like no one can.
Honorable Mention: Creed “My Sacrifice”
This is one for the all time books. Creed’s “My Sacrifice” video was filmed completely inside Universal Studios Florida, but like you’ve never seen it before. The New York area and Mel’s Diner are used almost exclusively, but you have to give the production team behind the video major props for the unique visuals they added in. As for the actual video, I’m imagining this is what it’s like to drop acid because halfway through I had no idea what was going on.
So there you have it: Six Movies, Television Shows, and Music Videos That Were Shot at the Universal Orlando Resort (we’ll try for a longer title next time.) 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, master photo manipulator Matt Cleary, 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 co-hosts Aengus Mackenzie and Brian Carey and Meg’s Yeti To Be Named Disney Podcast.