Universal Orlando Resort opened in 1990 as a direct competitor of Disney’s film and television-inspired park Hollywood Studios. The park’s original goal was the allow visitors to “ride the movies”. It was made up of several themed areas based on the entertainment industry. Guests could experience being on a movie set attractions and shows inspired by popular film and television projects. Check out some of the biggest past and present movie influences on Universal attractions.
1. King Kong
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 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.
2. E.T. the Extraterrestrial
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 the movie was filmed at. A couple of TV monitors show filmmakers sharing their experience on set and quizzing guests in line 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.
3. Back to the Future
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. In the ride queue and throughout the attraction, there were several movie elements including Biff Tannen, Doc Brown, hoverboards, and the Jules Verne Time Train. Although it was a motion simulator ride, the original idea was a Back to the Future roller coaster. However, Universal creatives realized it would be difficult to tell the story in fast motion on a coaster.
The Twister movie came out in 1996 and inspired Twister…Ride It Out, which opened in May 1998. Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt, who starred in the film together, hosted the attraction. Paxton and Hunt also told behind-the-scenes stories about their experience on set during the pre-show. In the queue, guests moved through a mock-up of Wakita, Oklahoma, which served as the movie’s setting. The ride featured many nods to the movie’s storylines, including Aunt Meg’s damaged house and the drive-in theater. 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.
6. Men in Black
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 has to be kept secret. It is disguised as The Universe and You – Are We Alone? from the 1964 New York World Expo. During the mission, riders travel through the streets of New York looking for aliens to eliminate under the instruction of Agent J (Will Smith). When the adventure is over, Agent J neutralizes everyone, wiping their memories before the ride vehicles head back to the Universe and You exhibit.
7. Men in Black
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. However, the interactive stage show included several elements from the movie series. Director James Cameron worked with Universal Orlando in creating the show before it debuted at Universal Studios in 1996. Familiar characters include Arnold Schwarzenegger 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. Lookalike actors played the Terminator, Sarah, and John in the live-action portion.
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
9. Harry Potter
The Harry Potter franchise has made a major impact on Universal, inspiring a significant portion of both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. 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.
10. The Mummy
Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride acts as a sequel to The Mummy. References to the film started in the ride queue, where props, molds, and concept drawings are on display. A behind-the-scenes video featuring the film’s start Brendan Fraser played on TVs throughout the line. After boarding the ride, guests fly through Imhotep’s tomb and other familiar scenes on a roller coaster track. Riders can also spot a few nods to Kongfrontation, which used to be located in the Revenge of the Mummy ride building.
A few of these attractions aren’t at the parks anymore, but Universal Orlando is still bringing popular films and television shows to life. Experience the real-life movie magic for yourself at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure!