Universal Orlando Resort, formerly called Universal Studios Escape, opened in 1990 as a direct competitor of Disney’s movie inspired park MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios). The park’s original goal was the allow visitors to “ride the movies”, and was composed of themed areas based on the film industry designed to guests the feeling of being on a movie set through rides, shows, and attractions inspired by popular film and television projects. Check out some of the biggest past and present movie influences on Universal attractions.
- King Kong was brought to life twice at Universal Orlando. Kongfrontation opened in Universal Studios’ New York section on June 7, 1990 as one of the park’s original attractions. Based on both the 1976 King Kong film and the King Kong Encounter from the Studio Tour attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, the ride simulated a tram riding through the streets of New York City in the wake of King Kong’s destruction. The ride was replaced by another movie-inspired attraction, The Revenge of the Mummy, in 2004. Fast forward to 2016, when a new King Kong film inspired a brand new attraction, Skull Island: Reign of Kong. The 3D trackless ride, which opened at Islands of Adventure in 2016, takes guests on a dangerous expedition in trucks featured in the film. The queue also offers a large nod to the film, designed as a replica of the temple in the movie.
- E.T. the Extraterrestrial came out in 1982 and inspired Universal’s E.T. Adventure, which opened as one of the park’s original attractions on June 7, 1990. Steven Spielberg helped Universal engineers create the dark ride, which features the film’s original music by John Williams. The exterior queue is meant to look like the sound stage that the movie was filmed at, and TV monitors show filmmakers telling stories about their experience creating the movie and quizzing guests waiting to ride on E.T. trivia. In the ride pre-show, Spielberg explains to riders that E.T.’s teacher needs him to come back to the Green Planet because the planet is dying and needs his magic touch. Riders speed past NASA and the Police, who are trying to capture E.T. and begin to fly over the city and eventually into outer space traveling to the Green Planet.
- Back to the Future: The Ride opened in 1991 as a mini-sequel to Back to the Future Part III, following Doc Brown and his family after the events of the third film. Steven Spielberg also served as a creative consultant for this attraction, which is a first person adventure through time. Movie characters like Biff Tannen and Doc Brown and other recognizable elements including the Delorean, hoverboards, the Jules Verne Time Train from the films make appearances throughout the queue and the attraction. The ride was originally imagined as a roller coaster, but Universal creatives realized it would be very difficult to continue the story in fast motion, so it became a motion simulator ride instead.
- The Twister movie came out in 1996, and inspired Twister…Ride It Out, which opened in May 1998. The ride was hosted by the film’s stars Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt and featured tons of nods to the original storyline. The queue took guests through a mock-up of Wakita, Oklahoma, which served as the movie’s setting. In the pre-show riders learned stories from behind the scenes of the movie making process, as told by Paxton and Hunt. The attraction’s first scene features a model of Aunt Meg’s damaged house after the twister, and the second scene puts guests in a recreation of the drive in theater set from the movie. Twister…Ride It Out closed in 2015 to make way for the Jimmy Fallon ride.
- Jaws the movie came out in 1975, and the attraction was among the few that opened on Universal’s opening day in June 1990. Inspired by a small attraction dedicated to the film on the Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour, the ride’s story takes place after the Jaws has been killed by Chief Brody. Riders board a tour boat for a leisurely tour of Amity Harbor that quickly becomes a terrifying chase between boat and great white shark.Because Steven Spielberg worked as a creative consultant for the attraction, there were several noticeable parallels from the movie to the ride. The attraction eventually closed to make way for Universal’s largest movie inspired project, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- Men In Black came out in 1997 and the Men In Black: Alien Attack attraction opened in 2000. The interactive dark ride features several elements from the film including multiple familiar characters, such as the “worm guys”, alien twins Bob & Bhnxaxx, Rip Torn as Director Zed and Will Smith as Agent J, and the overall design of the ride building’s interior mirrors the Men in Black headquarters. Much like in the movie the MIB organization must be kept secret, so the ride building is disguised as an exhibit called The Universe and You – Are We Alone? from the 1964 New York World Expo. Once on the attraction, riders travel through the streets of New York looking for aliens to eliminate under the instruction of Agent J (Will Smith) before they are neutralized and reenter the Universe and You exhibit.
- Jurassic Park River Adventure opened in June 1996, inspired by the 1993 film Jurassic Park. Designed to have the same feel of Isla Nublar depicted on screen and featuring characters from the film like John Hammond, the log flume ride takes guests through familiar scenes including Ultrasaur Lagoon and Stegosaur Springs.
- T2 3-D: Battle Across Time technically acts as a mini-sequel to Terminator 2: Judgement Day, but several elements from the films are incorporated into the interactive stage show. Director James Cameron was involved in creating the show, which opened at the park in 1996. Familiar characters include Arnold Shwarzenegger as The Terminator, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Edward Furlong as John Connor, and Robert Partick as T-1000, who all appear in the filmed portion of the show. The live action version of the Terminator, Sarah and John are portrayed by lookalike actors. The pre-show features a Cyberdine representative showing guests a brief video highlighting the company’s innovations before being interrupted by a frantic Sarah and John. Once inside the theater, the live show takes guests on a journey to Skynet. The high-energy show recently closed to make way for another movie-inspired attraction
- The Harry Potter films have had such an impact on Universal, there is a significant portion of both Universal Orlando and Islands of Advenutre dedicated to the franchise. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter puts park-goers directly in all the action from the very beginning with nearly identical recreations of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. The attractions take it even further, giving guests a wild tour of Hogwarts on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, taking riders on a dangerous journey on Escape From Gringotts, and even providing the opportunity to take the Flight of the Hippogriff. Everything from the butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks to riding the Hogwarts Express provides an authentic experience for Harry Potter fanatics.
- Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride acts as a sequel to The Mummy. References to the film start in the ride queue, where props, molds and concept drawings are on display. TVs located at various spots throughout the line play a video with a behind the scenes look at the filming process featuring the film’s star, Brendan Fraser. Once the ride begins, guests are taken on a roller coaster through Imhotep’s tomb and other familiar scenes. In addition to references to The Mummy, riders can also spot a few nods to Kongfrontation, which was formerly located at the ride site of Revenge of the Mummy.
While a few of these attractions no longer reside at Universal Orlando, the resort is still widely dedicated to bringing life to popular films and television shows to life throughout both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Experience the real-life movie magic for yourself with discount Universal Orlando tickets from Tickets2You!