Universal Studios FloridaUniversal Studios Theme Park and Tourist Attraction in Florida
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida is a theme park located in Orlando, Florida. Opened on June 7, 1990, the park’s theme is the entertainment industry, in particular movies and television. Universal Studios Florida inspires its guests to “ride the movies”, and it features numerous attractions and live shows. The park is one component of the larger Universal Orlando Resort. In 2013, the park hosted an estimated 7.06 million guests, ranking it the eighth-most visited theme park in the United States, and ranking it sixteenth worldwide.
Over the years, Universal Studios Florida has not limited itself to attractions based on its own vast film library. It has occasionally licensed popular characters from other rival studios, many of whom did not operate theme parks themselves. Some examples include Ghostbusters and Men in Black, (Sony’s Columbia Pictures), The Simpsons (20th Century Fox), Transformers (Paramount Pictures), and Shrek (DreamWorks Animation).
Many of the park’s past and present attractions were developed with the actual creators of the films they were based on, and feature the original stars as part of the experience. Steven Spielberg helped create E.T. Adventure and was a creative consultant for Back to the Future: The Ride, Twister…Ride it Out, An American Tail Theatre, Jaws, Men in Black: Alien Attack and Transformers: The Ride.
In many former rides, the many original stars were also to reprise their film roles such as: Christopher Lloyd and Thomas F. Wilson in Back to the Future: The Ride, Roy Scheider recorded a voice over for the conclusion of Jaws, Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Perkins appeared in Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies, additionally, various Nicktoon voice actors reprised their roles in Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast.
Universal Studios Florida
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS THEME PARK
1000 Universal Studios Plaza, Orlando 32819
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In many current rides, the original stars reprised their film roles including: Rip Torn and Will Smith in Men in Black: Alien Attack, Brendan Fraser for Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride, Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt in Twister…Ride it Out, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong and Linda Hamilton reprised their roles for Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow for Shrek 4D, Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher reprised their roles from Despicable Me for Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, and Peter Cullen and Frank Welker reprised their roles as Optimus Prime and Megatron for Transformers: The Ride.
Universal Studios Theme Park History
From its inception in 1982, Universal Studios Florida was designed as a theme park and a working studio. It was also the first time that Universal Studios had constructed an amusement park “from the ground up.” However, the proposed project was put on hold until 1986, when a meeting between Steven Spielberg, a co-founder for the park, and Peter N. Alexander prompted for the creation of a Back to the Future simulator ride in addition to the already planned King Kong based ride. Spielberg had also noticed how competitive the park could be if it could compete with the nearby Walt Disney World and Seaworld.
A major component of the original park in Hollywood is its studio tour, which featured several special-effects exhibits and encounters built into the tour, such as an attack by the great white shark from the film Jaws. For its Florida park, Universal Studios took the concepts of the Hollywood tour scenes and developed them into larger, stand-alone attractions. As an example, in Hollywood, the studio tour trams travel close to a shoreline and are “attacked” by Jaws before they travel to the next part of the tour. In Florida, guests entered the “Jaws” attraction and would board a boat touring the fictitious Amity Harbor, where they encountered the shark, then exited back into the park at the conclusion of the attraction. Universal Studios Florida originally had a Studio Tour attraction that visited the production facilities, but that tour has since been discontinued.
Universal Studios Theme Park Timeline
- 1986: Land clearing takes place on the swamp land purchased by MCA/Universal that would hold the park.
- 1987: Universal Studios Florida is announced at a press conference on the Hollywood property, with a planned opening date of December 1989.
- 1988: Universal Studios Florida’s opening date is delayed from December, 1989 to May 1, 1990. Shortly following, MCA/Universal releases a video detailing the future park, which stars Christopher Lloyd as the Universal character Doc Brown interacting with the various attractions at the Florida park. Universal Studios allows guests to witness the production of television shows and motion pictures in the Florida park’s soundstages in middle 1988, while the rest of the studio/park is still under construction.
- 1989: MCA/Universal Studios claims that The Walt Disney Company and its CEO, Michael Eisner copied several concepts of the Universal Studios Florida park, and integrated them into Disney’s recently opened Disney/MGM Studios park.
- 1990: On January 31, Universal Studios Florida’s opening date is again delayed from May 1, 1990 to June 7, 1990. Universal Studios Florida begins soft openings for the general public in late May. Many of the park’s attractions are not yet open at the time, and still under testing. Universal Studios Florida is officially opened with a grand opening style ceremony on June 7. The park opens with five themed areas: The Front Lot (entrance area), Production Central, New York, San Francisco/Amity, Expo Center, Hollywood as well as a Lagoon located in the center of the park. The Front Lot and Production Central areas are referred to as “In Production”, the New York section is referred to as “Now Shooting”, the San Francisco and Amity sections are referred to as “On Location” and the Expo Center area is referred to as “The World of CineMagic Center”. Nickelodeon Studios opens on the same day and there is a grand opening ceremony hosted by Marc Summers. Due to massive technical problems with the original Kongfrontation, Earthquake: The Big One and Jaws rides, Universal begins a temporary voucher service to allow guests to re-visit the studio/park when the attractions are operating. Jaws is temporarily closed by Universal on September 30 due to persistent major technical problems. During the shut-down, Universal sues the original designer of the Jaws ride, Ride & Show Engineering, and hires Totally Fun Company to create a re-designed version of most of the ride.
1991: Universal adds four new attractions to the park: The Blues Brothers Show, StreetBusters, The Screen Test Home Video Adventure and How to Make a Mega Movie Deal.Back to the Future: The Ride officially opens in the World Expo Center area of the park, in a grand opening ceremony. The ride is considered to be a success, and receives positive reception from theme park critics.Fright Nights debuts at the park. In 1992, it is renamed to Halloween Horror Nights.
- 1993: Jaws is re-opened, with many scenes altered. MCA/Universal announces plans to expand Universal Studios Florida into the Universal City, Florida resort complex, including a second theme park and multiple hotels.
- 1995: Universal Studios Florida celebrates its 5th anniversary. A Day in the Park with Barney opens in the World Expo area. The Production Studio Tour is closed due to a dwindle in the studios’ recent Film/TV production.
- 1996: Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time opens in the Hollywood area.
- 1997: Universal announces that Ghostbusters Spooktacular will be replaced by Twister…Ride it Out, with a planned opening date of Spring 1998 Universal Studios announces that the sole Studio park will be expanded into the Universal Studios Escape, including the Islands of Adventure park, Universal CityWalk Orlando and multiple hotels. The Islands of Adventure Preview Center opens in the New York area, replacing The Screen Test Home Video Adventure. It is meant to give guests a preview of the up-coming Islands of Adventure park, as well as expansion of the Studio park into the Universal Studios Escape resort.
- 1998: The expansion begins as the original open parking lot for Universal Studios Florida is demolished and replaced by CityWalk and a parking garage complex. Universal delays the opening of Twister…Ride it Out from March, 1998 to May 4,
- 1998 out of respect for the 42 deaths caused by a recent El Nino outbreak of tornadoes in the central Florida area. Twister…Ride it Out opens in the New York area, replacing Ghostbusters Spooktacular. A new area of the park, Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone, is officially opened, holding the attractions Curious George Goes to Town, StarToons and the previously opened Fievel’s Playland, E.T. Adventure, Animal Actors Stage and A Day in the Park with Barney; CityWalk opens outside of the park.
- 1999: Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster opens in the Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone area. Islands of Adventure opens next door to Universal Studios Florida.
- 2000: Men in Black: Alien Attack opens in the World Expo area, on the former site of The Swamp Thing Set. Universal Studios Florida’s 10th anniversary celebration.
- 2001: Animal Planet Live opens, replacing Animal Actors Stage.
- 2002: Universal Studios Escape is renamed Universal Orlando Resort. Kongfrontation closes in a closing ceremony. Halloween Horror Nights is moved to Islands of Adventure. Macy’s Holiday Parade debuts at the park.
- 2003: Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast opens, replacing The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. Shrek 4-D opens with Donkey’s Photo Finish, replacing Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies and Stage 54 respectively.
- 2004: Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride opens, replacing Kongfrontation. Halloween Horror Nights takes place in both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.
- 2005: Universal Express Plus is introduced, replacing Universal Express. Nickelodeon Studios closes on April 30 after nearly 15 years. Fear Factor Live opens, replacing The Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show. Universal Studios Florida celebrates its 15th anniversary.
- 2006: Delancey Street Preview Center opens in the New York area. Universal 360: A Cinesphere Spectacular opens, replacing Dynamite Nights Stunt Spectacular. Animal Planet Live is closed, and replaced by Animal Actors on Location. Halloween Horror Nights returns to Universal Studios Florida for its “Sweet 16”.
- 2007: Back to the Future: The Ride closes on March 30. Blue Man Group Sharp Aquos Theatre opens in CityWalk, replacing Nickelodeon Studios. Earthquake: The Big One closes in the San Francisco area on November 5.
- 2008: Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride…Starring You! opens, replacing Earthquake: The Big One. Universal announces Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, with a planned opening of Spring 2009. The Simpsons Ride opens, replacing Back to the Future: The Ride.
- 2009: The Universal Music Plaza Stage opens, replacing The Boneyard. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit opens.
- 2010: The 20th anniversary of Universal Studios Florida in June, as well as Halloween Horror Nights in October.
- 2011: The 10th anniversary of Macy’s Holiday Parade at the park.
- 2012: Jaws and the surrounding Amity themed area closes, as announced on December 2, 2011. Universal announces the additions of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories and Universal’s Superstar Parade to the park, with openings on May 8, 2012. Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, opens replacing Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast; as announced on March 14, 2011 as “…one of many exciting things planned for the next couple of years”. Universal Orlando Resort announced Transformers: The Ride will officially open in the summer of 2013, replacing Soundstages 44 and 54, which were demolished on June 24, 2012. SpongeBob StorePants,a gift shop themed after SpongeBob SquarePants opened in Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone replacing the Universal Cartoon Store.
- 2013: The opening date for Transformers The Ride is announced for June 20, 2013. Details of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion are officially announced. Details for the new Simpsons Land are announced and expected to open in the summer of 2013. Transformers: The Ride officially opens in the Production Central area replacing Soundstage 44. Simpsons Fast Food Boulevard (renamed Springfield U.S.A.) concludes its expansion as it includes one new ride: Kang and Kodos Twirl ‘n’ Hurl.
- 2014: The opening date for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley is announced for July 8, 2014 amid the Diagon Alley preview red carpet premiere on June 18, 2014 with Domhnall Gleeson, Bonnie Wright, Evanna Lynch, Matthew Lewis, James and Oliver Phelps, Tom Felton, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis and Helena Bonham Carter attending the premiere. King’s Cross station opens on July 1, 2014 as well as the Hogwarts Express Hogsmeade station at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, connecting park visitors to both theme Harry Potter theme parks via a full scale working replica of the train that appears in the Harry Potter film series. Diagon Alley officially opens, replacing Jaws and the Amity section of the park.
- 2015: Universal Studios Florida celebrates its 25th anniversary. Universal announces a partnership with Nintendo to bring their characters to either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure park. Disaster! closed on September 8.
- 2015: Universal announced on August, that Fast & Furious: Supercharged is set to replace Disaster! and Beetlejuice’s Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue in 2017. It was announced on October 27, the closing of Twister…Ride it Out for November 2, 2015 to make room for Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2017.