Having taken family vacations to Orlando, Florida basically every year until I moved… to Orlando, I have had my fair share of trips to Universal Studios Park. Let me tell you, a lot has changed since my first visit and we’ve lost quite a few icons in favor of new, hip attractions.
I’m gonna be real– I miss them a lot. From Jaws to King Kong, these colossal beacons of 90’s ride operating systems meant a lot to me and hold a very special place in my heart. One can never say nostalgia is outdated. Hold onto your diapies, babies, because it’s time for tribute to Universal Studios rides of the past.
(Cue “Arms of an Angel.”)
Jaws (June 1990 – May 2012)
Jaws was one of those rides that guests got on in the middle of a gross, hot, Florida summer day in hopes of getting wet. Okay, fine, you get wet on basically every Universal attraction, but Jaws was no exception. The Jaws ride takes guests back to 1974 Amity Harbor, where they get to go on a boat tour that goes horribly wrong. In the midst of the awful Disney’s Jungle Cruise-inspired Skipper jokes, the boat is attacked by a Great White Shark. The skipper manages to save the day every time, but it’s quite the dramatic rollercoaster. The boat in front of you gets eaten by a shark, which is a pretty traumatic experience as a child. Jaws closed in 2012 in for the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts attraction, but the Jaws set can still be found at the Universal Studios Tour in California.
Back to the Future: The Ride (May 1991 – March 2007)
Oh man, this ride. Basically, the premise is Biff secretly hitched a ride with some of Dr. Brown’s assistants from 1955 to present day. Now he’s wreaking havoc in the space-time continuum on the DeLorean. For some reason, you’re super qualified to drive one of his time-vehicles and have to stop Biff in the year… 2015. Yep, the ride was just as dated as the movie! It’s hilarious to see how tacky their vision of 2015 was back in the 80’s and 90’s. Eventually, Biff is chased through time again and ends up in the Cretaceous Period. Not gonna lie, this was one of my favorites. It was replaced by The Simpsons Ride in 2008, which has a handful of references to the original attraction.
Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast (April 2003 – August 2011)
This was a ride that I could get behind. Jimmy Neutron and his pal, Carl, unveil Jimmy’s newest creation: the Mark IV. When the invention is stolen, it’s up to Jimmy, Carl, and the rest of their guests to get it back from the egg-shaped alien, Ooblar. The best part about this ride was the fact that it travelled through many different Nickelodeon cartoons like Fairly Odd Parents, Rugrats, and more. I also remember this ride earlier being The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, featuring characters like Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, and the Flintstones. This ride-system has been home to a lot of classic cartoon characters, but it was sadly replaced by Despicable Me Minion Mayhem in 2012. Nothing against the Minions, but I miss my cartoon heroes from the 90’s and back.
Kongfrontation (June 1990 – September 2002)
This attraction is the one that has been gone the longest, but it’s the clearest in my mind. Why? Because it traumatized 6-year-old Tyler from ever trusting his parents when they say “this ride isn’t scary”. This attraction takes guests on a tram ride where they are eventually… kongfronted by King Kong himself. It’s a really slow-moving attraction, but man, when you’re 6 and you think King Kong is attacking your tram, it feels like a rollercoaster. The coolest part about Kongfrontation is the shot of everyone in the tram in the news spot at the end of the ride. Props to Michelle from the video below for saving those poor guests. Kongfrontation closed its doors and made way for Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride in 2002. (In California, the original Kong ride was sadly destroyed in a fire in 2008, but it was replaced by King Kong: 360 3D.)
Personally, I haven’t been back to Universal in a while, but I’ll always cherish the memories of these icons. Of course, these are the only classic Universal attractions that are dearly missed. Shout-out to other fantastic past landmarks like Earthquake: The Big One, Twister…Ride it Out, T2 3-D: Battle Across Time, and Universal Studios Hollywood’s E.T. Adventure.