Universal Studios Florida

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Universal Studios Florida
UniversalFlorida.png
USF Entrance.jpg
The archway entrance to the theme park.
Slogan Jump into the Action
Location Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando, Florida, United States
Coordinates 28°28′31″N 81°28′01″W / 28.4752°N 81.4670°W / 28.4752; -81.4670Coordinates: 28°28′31″N 81°28′01″W / 28.4752°N 81.4670°W / 28.4752; -81.4670
Theme Show business
Owner NBCUniversal
(Comcast Corporation)[1]
Operated by Universal Parks & Resorts
Opened June 7, 1990
Operating season Year-round
Website Official website

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.[2]

History[edit]

The original entrance to the theme park.

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) 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 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.

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.

Park history[edit]

From its inception in 1982,[3] 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.[4]

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.

Branding[edit]

Previous slogans for Universal Studios Florida were: See the Stars. Ride the Movies. (1990 - 1998); No one makes believe like we do! (1990 - 1998); Ride the Movies (1998 - 2008); Jump into the Action (2008–2012). The current slogan is: Experience the Movies (2012–present).

Timeline[edit]

  • 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.[5] 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.[6]
  • 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.[7]
  • 1990: On January 31, Universal Studios Florida's opening date is again delayed from May 1, 1990 to June 7, 1990.[8] Universal Studios Florida begins soft openings for the general public in late May.[9] 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.[10] 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 also opened on this day where there was 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.[10] 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,[11] 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.[12] Back to the Future: The Ride officially opens in the World Expo Center area of the park, in a grand opening ceremony.[13] The ride is considered to be a success, and receives positive reception from theme park critics.[14] 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.[15]
  • 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.[16]
  • 1997: Universal announces that Ghostbusters Spooktacular will be replaced by Twister...Ride it Out, with a planned opening date of Spring 1998[17] 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.[18] 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.[19] 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.[20]
  • 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.[21] Shrek 4-D opens with Donkey's Photo Finish, replacing Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies and Stage 54 respectively.[22]
  • 2004: Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride opens, replacing Kongfrontation.[23] 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 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.[24] 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.[25] Universal announces Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, with a planned opening of Spring 2009. The Simpsons Ride opens, replacing Back to the Future: The Ride.[26]
  • 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.[27]
  • 2012: Jaws and the surrounding Amity themed area closes, as announced on December 2, 2011.[28] 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.[29] 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".[30] 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.[31] 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 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.

Previous attractions[edit]

The previous icon of the Jaws ride is still a popular photo spot.

Like all theme parks, attractions are sometimes closed due to aging and replaced with more contemporary attractions. Universal has seen this happen several times. Some notable closures include Kongfrontation, Back to the Future: The Ride, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera and Jaws. The closures of Kongfrontation, Back to the Future, and Jaws have been given homages by the park to honor veteran visitors who revered the former rides.

Park design[edit]

Universal Studios Florida features seven themed areas all situated around a large lagoon. In 2012, this lagoon was the site of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories, a thematic display that showcased scenes from various Universal films, featuring lasers, projectors and fountains, and pyrotechnics.

The seven surrounding themed areas, clockwise from the entrance, are Production Central, New York, San Francisco, London/Diagon Alley, World Expo, Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone and Hollywood. Each area features a combination of rides, shows, attractions, character appearances, dining outlets and merchandise stores. A new area, based on Harry Potter's Diagon Alley was added to the park in the July of 2014.

Production Central[edit]

Ride Year opened Manufacturer
Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem 2012 Intamin
Shrek 4-D 2003 PDI/DreamWorks
Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit 2009 Maurer Söhne
Transformers: The Ride 3D 2013 Oceaneering International
The Universal Music Plaza Stage 2009

The area is also home to a variety of dining outlets and merchandise shops. Food and beverage items can be purchased from Beverly Hills Boulangerie or Universal Studios' Classic Monsters Cafe while merchandise can be bought from a variety of themed stores including Universal Studios Store, Studio Sweets, It's a Wrap!, Super Silly Stuff, Shrek's Ye Olde Souvenir Shoppe, and Transformers: Supply Vault.[32][33]

New York[edit]

Ride Year opened Manufacturer
Twister...Ride it Out 1998
Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride 2004 Premier Ride
The Blues Brothers 1991
Delancey Street Preview Center 2006

New York features several dining outlets: Finnegan's Bar and Grill and Louie's Italian Restaurant which were designed for the park as well as Starbucks Coffee and Ben & Jerry's which are commercial franchises. Within New York exist three merchandise shops: Sahara Traders, Aftermath and Rosie's Irish Shop. The first two feature merchandise related to attractions within this area.[32][34]

As Nickelodeon was headquartered in the park at the time, the opening credits for Roundhouse and All That (two of its shows) were filmed around this area of the park.

San Francisco[edit]

Ride Year opened Manufacturer
Beetlejuice's Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue 1992
Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride...Starring You! 2008

In addition to the themed shops mentioned previously there are several other shops including Lombard's Landing Seafood Grille and San Francisco Candy Factory.[32][35]

London/Diagon Alley[edit]

This area is one half of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Ride Year opened Description
The Knight Bus 2014
Hogwarts Express 2014
Knockturn Alley 2014
Ollivanders 2014
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts 2014

World Expo[edit]

Ride Year opened Manufacturer
Fear Factor Live 2005
Men in Black: Alien Attack 2000
The Simpsons Ride 2008
Kang & Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl 2013 Zamperla

Sometime after June 2005 the optical illusion of the Space Shuttle was removed from this part of the park. As you headed towards World Expo from San Francisco/Amity it was one of the many designated photo spots throughout the park. There was a hanging platform that you would place your camera on and take the picture. The Shuttle would look as though it was sitting on the top of expired park ride Back to the Future: The Ride.

Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone[edit]

Ride Year opened Manufacturer Description
Animal Actors On Location 2008 A 20-minute live stage show featuring trained animals showcasing their talent.
A Day in the Park with Barney 1995 A live, sing-along stage show featuring Barney and his friends.
Curious George Goes to Town 1998 A play area featuring two large water troughs that dump 500 gallons of water on its visitors every few minutes, and a ball area where guests can shoot soft, foam balls out of cannons.
Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster 1999 Vekoma
Fievel's Playland 1992 A children's playground which includes a 30-foot (9.1 m) spider web to climb and a 200-foot (61 m) long water slide.
E.T. Adventure 1990

Hollywood[edit]

Ride Year opened Description
Universal's Horror Make-Up Show 1990 live stage show that shows guests how horror film special effects are created. Before the main show guests experience a pre-show walk-through of set pieces and props used in various horror movies. The pre-show currently houses a character appearance by Hellboy from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. In August 2008, a section of the pre-show lobby was included to contain material from Halloween Horror Nights which includes some concept art, and a timeline of park map covers dating from its debut year in 1991 as Fright Nights. Both of these attractions opened in 1990.
Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time 1996 The show is a live, 3D experience that combines a 3-D film with an actual stage show based on the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Lucy: A Tribute walk-through museum featuring the best of "America's favorite redhead", Lucille Ball

Hollywood's two dining outlets are recreations of actual Hollywood outlets. Schwab's Pharmacy and Mel's Drive-In offer guests a variety of food and beverage options. A third outlet, named Cafe La Bamba, operates seasonally. Guests can purchase Terminator merchandise from Cyber Image and magic-related items from Theatre Magic.[32][36]

Character appearances[edit]

Woody and Winnie Woodpecker are the mascots of Universal Studios

Universal Studios Orlando has a number of costumed characters. The following is a list of characters that can be seen in the park:

Seen in Hollywood Seen in Production Central
Seen in Springfield Seen in Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone
Seen in New York Seen in San Francisco
Seen in Diagon Alley

Production facilities[edit]

Universal Studios Florida is also a working production studio. It has been used for several movies, television series, commercials, music videos, and other events throughout its history. It was also the home of Nickelodeon Studios, the production location for Nickelodeon from 1990 until 2005. In September 2008, Nickelodeon returned to Universal Studios Florida for the production of "My Family's Got GUTS. In January 2009, the Powerball lottery drawings moved from Iowa; they are conducted and made at Universal Studios Florida, coinciding with the Florida Lottery's entry into the Powerball game. In July 2010, RTL Group's Family Feud was filmed at the studios, coinciding with the show's debut of new host Steve Harvey.

Soundstages 18 and 19 at the park were home to Nickelodeon Studios prior to the debut of the Blue Man Group show.

Universal Studios Florida is home to six soundstages that are available for a variety of purposes. A seventh soundstage, Stage 18, was one of the former Nickelodeon Studios soundstages; it was redesigned in 2007 as the Sharp Aquos Theatre, where the Blue Man Group has performed since June 2007. The soundstage and the core production facility were made a permanent part of Universal CityWalk. Soundstage 21 has been used from 2004-2013 for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) which has produced its weekly television program, Impact Wrestling from there, and has aired some of its pay-per-view events from this location since November 2004; it is referred to as the "Impact Wrestling Zone" for this reason. TNA also uses soundstage 24 for backstage use. The remaining soundstages are available for rent by other production companies. During Halloween Horror Nights, the soundstages are occasionally used for the event's haunted houses.

A wide range of productions have been filmed in the soundstages during the studio's history, including many local and national commercials. Television shows include SeaQuest DSV (from its second season forward) and Superboy (second-fourth seasons). The Ellen DeGeneres Show taped a week-long series of episodes at the resort in the spring.[40] Sports-entertainment shows WCW Monday Nitro and roller derby series RollerJam! were taped at the studios. In 2009 the studios also became headquarters for the Adrenaline Partnership's FIREBALL RUN(R) series; a popular national motoring event series. The studios have hosted numerous game shows, including national tours of Wheel of Fortune, Fear Factor (portions of episodes from 2004–2005) and the Florida Lottery's Flamingo Fortune. Since 2009, the Powerball drawing originates from the facilities. Major scenes of the movie Parenthood were filmed at the studios prior to the park's opening to the public in 1990. The film Psycho IV: The Beginning as well as the TV series Swamp Thing were also filmed at the theme park shortly following its grand opening. Most recently, the films Bring It On: In It to Win It, Ace Ventura Jr: Pet Detective, Beethoven's Big Break and The Final Destination were filmed at the studio.

During the 1990s when Nickelodeon's main home was at Universal Studios, the soundstages were used to film almost all Nickelodeon's original live action programming including: Get the Picture, Kenan & Kel, Family Double Dare, All That and many others, although many programs, including All That and Kenan & Kel later moved to Nickelodeon On Sunset in California. While Stage 18 is now used as the Sharp Aquos Theatre for the Blue Man Group, Soundstage 19 and the core production facility are home to Sun Sports and Fox Sports Florida.

Other soundstages located throughout the park (while primarily in the Production Central area) house the attractions Blue Man Group Sharp Aquos Theatre (in CityWalk), Shrek 4-D, Donkey's Photo Finish, Twister...Ride it Out, Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride, Men in Black: Alien Attack and E.T. Adventure.

Annual events[edit]

Universal Studios Florida features several seasonal events throughout its operating calendar. Some are included in the daily park admission, while others are separately-ticketed events.

Grad Bash and Gradventure[edit]

Grad Bash and Gradventure are two separate events held in April and May at the park. Grad Bash is an event for graduating high school senior classes who can gather for an exclusive, all-night party at the Universal Orlando Resort featuring all of the best park attractions, live performances by some of the most popular musicians, dance parties with DJs, and pre-parties live at The Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central area.[41] After Disney's retirement of Grad Nite, Grad Bash will be held for five nights in 2012. Gradventure is similar, but is designed for junior high/middle school graduating students.[42]

Halloween Horror Nights[edit]

Halloween Horror Nights turns the park into a giant haunted playground, including scare zones, numerous haunted houses and special themed shows. The event is run annually in late September and October.[43]

Macy's Holiday Parade[edit]

Macy's Holiday Parade brings some authentic balloons from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to Orlando in a month-long event in December that highlights the Christmas celebrations at the park.[44]

Mardi Gras[edit]

See also: Mardi Gras

Generally in February through to April, a parade and concert series inspired by New Orleans' Fat Tuesday party is held at the park.[45]

Rock the Universe[edit]

Main article: Rock the Universe

Rock the Universe is the park's Christian music festival, featuring two days in September of concerts with leading contemporary Christian, Christian rock, and Christian rap artists live at The Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central.[46]

Summer Concert Series[edit]

Summer Concert Series occurs annually and features a variety of popular music acts performing live at The Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central.[47]

Universal's Express Pass[edit]

Several attractions in Universal Studios Florida allow guests to utilize Express Pass. This pass admits users to a separate line for the attraction, which is given priority status when boarding. Express Pass is not a virtual queuing service. Instead, passholders may enter the "Universal Express" line whenever they wish. This pass is not included with park admission.

Attendance[edit]

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Worldwide rank
6,231,000 [48] 5,530,000 [49] 5,925,000 [50] 6,044,000 [50] 6,195,000 [2] 7,062,000 [2] 16

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]