It’s been almost 30 years since Universal Orlando Resort’s grand opening and a lot has changed over the years. Two new parks have been added, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter made its way to Orlando, and many rides have come and gone. Keep reading to reminisce on some of the most iconic attractions that have been retired from the parks.
Twister…Ride it Out
Twister…Ride It Out gave fans of the 1996 film the opportunity to step inside the action as storm chasers on the hunt for the next big tornado. The special effects masterpiece blasted guests with realistic storm conditions like high powered winds and destructive strikes of lighting as they made their way through the theater modeled after the film’s version of Wakita, Oklahoma. In order to make for a lifelike tornado experience, the theater has 54 speakers that produced enough wattage to power FIVE homes! The sound system ran at around 110 decibels, which is as loud as a rock concert.
The attraction officially closed in 2015 to make way for the Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon ride. Longtime fans of the Twister experience showed up to take their final ride dressed as Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, who starred in the original film and hosted the attraction.
Kongfrontation was one of three main attractions guests could enjoy on the opening day of Universal Studios Florida in 1990. Riders would board a tram in a New York City subway station that was quickly rerouted to Roosevelt Island when Kong went on a rampage through Manhattan. During his attacks, riders were caught by the monster when he grabbed the tram and held it over the city amongst explosions and chaos. Kong dropped the tram car when he was fired on by police helicopters.
In 2002, Kongfrontation closed and was eventually replaced by The Revenge of the Mummy. Some Easter eggs of the original attraction are hidden in the Mummy including bananas painted on the wall, a 3-foot tall kong statue in the treasure room, and a tourist dummy wearing a hat that says “Kong Rules”. King Kong made his way back to the park in 2016 when Skull Island: Reign of Kong opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Universal Orlando’s Jaws ride was inspired by the Universal Hollywood Studio Tour attraction and of course the infamous Steven Spielberg film. It was also one of the primary opening day attractions at Universal Studios Florida in 1990. Although it is usually remembered as an iconic park fixture, there were constant issues with the ride when it originally opened. The elaborate special effects and features, which were innovative for their time, caused breakdowns daily for the first few months of operation.
After 22 years of operation, the nostalgic movie ride closed in 2012 to for the expansion of the mega-successful Wizarding World of Harry Potter from Islands of Adventure. Although the Amity themed area of the park is no longer there, fans can still find several nods to the attraction throughout Diagon Alley.
Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast
Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast opened in Production Central at Universal Studios Florida in 2003. The simulator ride replaced The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera in the second quickest ride turn around in park history. Because the actual structure of the ride didn’t change much, Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast opened just five months after the Funtastic World closed.
The attraction followed Jimmy, his best friend Carl, and his dog Goddard on a chase through various sound stages of popular Nicktoons like Spongebob Squarepants, The Fairly Oddparents, Hey Arnold!, and Rugrats. Guests would board their own rocket ship to help Jimmy reclaim his newest rocket creation from his enemy, the evil Ooblar. The ultimate Nickelodeon ride closed in 2001 to make way for Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.
Dragon Challenge, originally called Dueling Dragons, first opened at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in 1999. The thrill ride was actually two coasters in one, with each track offering a different experience. The coasters were originally called fire and ice but when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010, the ride was rethemed. Dragon Challenge was based on the Triwizard Tournament from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Riders could choose their dragon, either the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail.
For a long time both ride tracks launched at the same time, creating three thrilling “near-miss” moments during the ride. After a few incidents and issues, Universal decided to stagger the launches of each side.
Dragon Challenge was permanently closed and demolished in 2017 to make room for an all-new Harry Potter attraction, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride…Starring YOU
One of the park’s opening day attractions was Earthquake, a ride that was based on the Universal Hollywood Studio Tour and the 1974 disaster film with the same name. Earthquake closed in 2007 and was replaced almost two months later at Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride…Starring YOU. The original movie-based concept had become a little antiquated, so the ride was given a new original concept that followed a similar storyline.
In addition to a new story, the ride’s makeover also included a new pre-show experience and new ride elements. The attraction focused on a fictional movie studio run by a man named Frank Kincaid. His studio was going bankrupt and he needed guests to act as extras for a few key scenes and the film’s final sequence.
Starting with the pre-show, guests were selected to participate in scenes like a child jumping from one spot to another, lab workers getting hit by styrofoam rocks, and a man in a pit. The actual ride takes guests through the “filming” of the movie’s major finale sequence. Riders boarded BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) vehicles in a subway station and made their way to the Embarcadero subway station. When the vehicles arrived at their destination, the lights started flickering as an earthquake began.
Large cracks formed in the station platform, the roof collapsed in some places, a gas tanker fell and burst into flames, another subway train entered the station got derailed, and a flash flood rushed down the stairs. After all of that madness, guests were taken back to the West Oakland station and watched the scene they had just filmed in a disaster spoof film called “Mutha Nature.”
Disaster! closed in 2015 to make for the Fast & Furious – Supercharged attraction.
Back to the Future – The Ride
Universal’s Back to the Future themed simulator ride opened in 1991 at Universal Studios Florida. The attraction was created as a sort of continuation after the franchise’s third installment, in which the riders replaced Michael J. Fox as the story’s hero. Riders were “volunteers” for a time travel experiment led by Doc Brown at the Institute of Future Technology. The plan was for volunteers to travel just one day into the future, but the infamous villain Biff Tannen trapped Doc in his office and stole the Delorean. Biff then took the vehicle on a wild through the future wreaking havoc at every turn, so Doc begged the riders to help him race through time to get the Delorean back.
Back to the Future operated for 16 years before it closed in 2007. When the closure was announced, there were no official plans for a replacement attraction. Universal’s reason for closing the attraction was to “explore possibilities for future rides”. At the time, the two rumored concepts were an attraction based on the Fast and the Furious film franchise and one based on The Simpsons. Eventually, it was replaced by The Simpsons Ride.
Doc Brown can still be found roaming the streets of Universal Studios, stopping for meet and greets with parkgoers.
Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Mash-Up
Universal’s Graveyard revue was a monster-filled musical spectacle featuring Beetlejuice, Dracula, Frankenstein and several other creepy characters performing rock songs for the audience. The show opened in 1992 in what was formerly known as An American Tale Theater. Originally titled “Beetlejuice’s Rock & Roll Graveyard Revue”, the lively musical changed a few times over the years. However, the original concept and the interaction between Beetlejuice and the audience remained in each version. The show came to an end in order to prepare for the addition of the Fast & Furious–Supercharged ride, opening in 2018. Beetlejuice’s final bow was originally scheduled for December 2015, but high ticket demand led Universal to extend the show until January 5, 2016.