Ride / Universal Studios


You know, the Back to the Future ride and then there's volcanoes and shit, and then you're ridin' the bike with E.T. and then the—the truck almost comes and hits ya, and then the waterfall, and then th-th-the T.Rex comes out and then—then fuckin' JAWS is jumpin' out of the water and King Kong is shakin' the tram, and then there's earthquakes and there's other movies (you don't even know what the fuck they are, nobody cares)! It was awesome.

Universal Studios are the four theme park resorts owned/licensed and operated by NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. The studio tour dates all the way back to 1912, and the theme park dates to 1964. They are very big competitors with the Disney Theme Parks, and are often regarded as the only theme park group close to it in terms of quality. Compared to Disney attractions, Universal attractions tend to appeal more to thrill-seekers than families of all ages, and thus are dubbed to be more "extreme." Most of the rides at Universal parks are centered around movies and television shows, and unlike Disney, a good amount of them are not from Universal's own library.

The idea of Universal's theme parks surfaced in 1962, following MCA's takeover of Universal Pictures. The idea began as a suggestion by executives to refresh the studio tour, which led to the inclusion of staged events during the tour. This plan was ultimately realized two years later, leading to the birth of Universal theme parks.

The theme parks include:
  • Universal Studios Hollywood: The original park, which opened in 1964. It started as a reimagining of their old studio tour, but soon grew to a giant theme park. It opened a shopping complex, called CityWalk, in May 1993.
  • Universal Orlando Resort: The largest and most popular resort, which is split into two theme parks:
    • Universal Studios Florida: Opened June 17, 1990, it was created so Universal could compete with the Walt Disney World resort. Disney, however, opened Disney-MGM (now Hollywood) Studios in 1989 in order to compete. Florida, unlike Hollywood, opened as a theme park (although there is a studio complex on-site and some of the streetscapes can easily be converted to sets as needed), exchanging a studio tour for attractions where the guests could "Ride the Movies". It also houses many behind-the-scenes shows about what goes on in show business.
    • Universal's Islands of Adventure: Opened on May 28, 1999, along with a CityWalk and a massive parking structure, it is the only Universal park to not have a studio theme. It opened with five islands (Marvel Superhero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing), each featuring some of the most technologically advanced rides ever built, including the award-winning The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. On June 18, 2010, a sixth island, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, opened to tons of excitement from both fanbases and proved so popular that it was expanded into the Studio park in 2014, with the Hogwarts Express connecting the two parks. (The Islands section encompasses the Hogwarts and Hogsmeade locales, while the Studio section features Diagon Alley.)
  • Universal Studios Japan: Universal's first park outside the U.S., it opened on March 31, 2001 with another CityWalk. It follows a very similar layout to Universal Studios Florida, but has some unique-to-Japan attractions based on such properties as Peanuts, Sesame Street, and Hello Kitty.
  • Universal Studios Singapore: Universal's newest park still keeps the studios theme, but tries to feel like Islands of Adventure. It opened within Resorts World Sentosa, which is not owned by Universal, on May 28, 2011 after over a year of soft openings.

As previously stated, a good amount of attractions at Universal parks tend to feature franchises licensed from other media companies, and not from Universal's library. The most common license Universal had was for Nickelodeon characters, as the park was the home to the production facility Nickelodeon Studios. Although the facilities closed in 2005, Universal continues to possess rights to Nickelodeon characters in theme parks in both California and Florida. In addition, Universal also has licensing agreements with various studios and companies for franchises such as Men in Black, The Simpsons, Beetlejuice, Popeye, Betty Boop, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right, Marvel Comics characters (in Florida and Japan only), the aforementioned Harry Potter franchise, and Dr. Seuss characters.

Throughout a certain time of the year, the parks hold their own special seasonal events:

  • A Celebration of Harry Potter: Held for one weekend in January, the event includes several panels, Q&A sessions with Harry Potter stars, and other events.
  • Macy's Holiday Parade: Held during December, a parade utilizing some of the balloons used in the actual Thanksgiving parade.
  • Mardi Gras: Held through February to April, this event includes a parade and several music performances.
  • Grinchmas: An event based around How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, featuring a show and several other activities that's held during December.
  • Rock the Universe: A christian rock event held during August.
  • Summer Concert Series: A series of live performances run for several weekends during the summer.

Not to be confused with Universal Pictures, the film studio that operates the theme parks.

The following attractions have their own sub-pages:

Universal Studios provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Absentee Actor: Harry Shearer decided not to participate in The Simpsons Ride, and as such, his characters either don't speak or don't show up at all.
    • Alan Rickman doesn't show up in any of the Harry Potter areas, as he didn't want to be typecast.
  • Adaptation Expansion/Expanded Universe: Many attractions qualify as this to their source material.
    • Shrek 4D is canon, revealing that Shrek and Fiona's ride to the honeymoon hotel seen at the beginning of Shrek 2 was extremely eventful.
    • Back to the Future: The Ride served as an alternate "mini-sequel" to the iconic film trilogy that guests could participate in. Countless references to Doc's previous travels are laden throughout the attraction.
  • Affectionate Parody
  • All There in the Manual: Even more than at Disney parks, breezing through the queues for most of the continuously-loading big-league rides (as opposed to film-based attractions, like the 3D movies and The Simpsons Ride, where preshows are mandatory) means missing a lot of information that is required to understand them, as well as a lot of jokes and even boarding/safety instructions.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent:
    • At Islands of Adventure, Seuss Landing and to a lesser extent Toon Lagoon for the Disney Theme Parks' Toontown areas.
    • Islands of Adventure was meant to be this for Disney World's Magic Kingdom, as was CityWalk for Downtown Disney.
  • The Artifact
    • There is a large amphitheater in Toon Lagoon (Islands of Adventure) that has consistently failed at maintaining any kind of show in it. It held a cartoon circus show for a few years, then a Mat Hoffman stunt show, THEN the filming location for NBC's iVillage. After a few years of emptiness, Mat Hoffman's Aggro Circus began in March 2010... only to be made into a seasonal show, performing during spring break and the summer. The rest of the year, it's closed to the public.
    • Fievel's Playland is being treated like this more and more, given the total lack of promotion or merchandise An American Tail gets at the park now as opposed to the much newer SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer, and Dreamworks movies. It's amazing that it's still around.
    • Woody Woodpecker's Nuthose Rollercoaster is a lesser example (you can still find Woody merchandise if you look hard enough, and he's still technically the park mascot, as hard as it is to tell these days), and even then, Woody seems to be on his way to being replaced as mascot by The Minions.
    • The entirety of Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone. While the attractions still draw decent crowds, most of the characters the attractions are based off of aren't recognizable to the young audience Kidzone targets. E.T. Adventure is the lone exception, due to its ties to the park's history and the fact that E.T. is a certified classic family film on a par with The Wizard of Oz. Beyond that and Fievel, the Curious George franchise never exactly became a huge hit for Universal, Barney may still be profitable but nowhere near as popular as it was when the attraction was added to the park (to say nothing of its massive Hatedom among the generation who are now of the age to be bringing young children to the park), and Woody Woodpecker only lives as the park mascot these days. Aside from the Animal Actors stage being changed to Animal Planet Live for a few years before reverting back as Animal Actors on Location, the only major addition to the area since 1999 (when Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster opened) is a Spongebob Squarepants gift shop near the entrance of E.T. Adventure, in the former housing area of a gift shop based around cartoons created by Walter Lantz and other cartoon characters seen throughout the resort.note  However, Rumors circulating online state that Universal is finally putting the KidZone on the chopping board to allow construction to proceed on attractions based on Nintendo franchises, which will finally give that much-ignored park section the attention it needs. The rumors also state E.T. Adventure and the Animal Actors attraction are expected to stay and be relocated, likely to avoid backlash from veteran Universal visitors.
    • This is partly why The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera was replaced by Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast, and why the latter was also replaced in favor of Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. When Hanna-Barbera closed in 2002, the licenses featured weren't very popular with kids anymore (with the lone exception of Scooby-Doo), and so they were replaced with popular Nickelodeon animated series from the early 2000s. When Jimmy Neutron closed in 2011, the only shows represented in the ride that were still airing were the long-running SpongeBob SquarePants and Fairly OddParents, and so they were replaced with a popular series of animated films from the early '10s. (It helps that Universal actually owns the rights to Despicable Me, so they don't have to pay licensing fees to operate the ride.)
    • E.T. Adventure and Universal's Horror Make-Up Show are the last two attractions at Universal Studios Florida that were there when the park originally opened in 1990. It's been rumored that the only reason why E.T. hasn't been replaced is due to the personal intervention of Steven Spielberg, who was reportedly furious when the ride was removed from the Hollywood and Japan parks and threatened to end his working relationship with Universal Parks & Resorts if the Orlando E.T. ride were ever to be closed.
    • The Marvel Super Hero Island at Islands of Adventure, as explained in this article. Even after Disney bought Marvel Comics and its associated film studio, Universal's contract with Marvel gave them the exclusive rights in perpetuity to use the Marvel characters in parks east of the Mississippi (i.e. in Orlando), as long as they used them in good faith and didn't misrepresent them. This means that Universal will likely never add any new attractions to the area, as this would give free promotion to one of Universal's competitors as a film studio, but they'll never close any of them down either, lest they risk the rights reverting to their proper owner, who happen to also be their direct theme park rival. Though Disney has seemingly found legal loopholes to add Marvel material in Walt Disney World...
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Springfield is terrorized by a giant Maggie, who's being manipulated by Sideshow Bob, in The Simpsons Ride.
  • Awkward Silence: Don't bring up the fact that Disney now owns Marvel when you're in the Marvel area of Islands of Adventure. Especially don't bring it up to the park attendants.
  • BFG: The tour guide of the Jaws ride conveniently happens to be carrying a grenade launcher.
  • Blue Man Group: In Orlando, a permanent production serves as stand-alone entertainment at CityWalk (in the former Nickelodeon Studios complex; the rest of the space is utilized by Fox's Floridian regional sports networks, and still has lots of Nick remnants); this is Universal's answer to Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney complex hosting Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba.
  • Call Back: The gift shop for The Simpsons Ride sells "BORT" keychains.
  • Canon Foreigner: Universal Studios Japan has Moppy, a Sesame Street Muppet character created exclusively for the park. Read more about him on Muppet fansite ToughPigs.com (who theorize he may be Universal's answer to Duffy the Disney Bear, a character created for Tokyo DisneySea who is massively popular over there).
  • Captain Ersatz: The metro station in the "Earthquake" segment of the Studio Tours is meant to resemble a BART station, from the Brutalist style of the station design to the train's distinct pointed-nose lead car. The system maps on the station walls look similar too and reference real-life San Francisco Bay Area locations (such as the San Francisco International Airport and the East Bay), again with station names and geography mixed up a little bit.
  • Christmas Special: Grinchmas, their sort-of Christmas counterpart to Halloween Horror Nights. They also have the Macy's Holiday Parade, which features balloons and floats ported from the New York Macy's Parade, which happens a few days before the Holiday Parade starts up in early December (and which just so happens to be organized partly by NBC, Universal's parent company).
  • Cliché Storm: invoked Parodied in the Disaster! ride with regards to disaster movies. Frank Kincaid has written an entire book of disaster flick cliches that he relies on as a guide to screenwriting and directing, referring to it as "not a formula, but a recipe."
  • Creator Cameo: In most of the pre-show rooms in The Simpsons Ride, there's a picture of Krusty having a drink with Matt Groening.
  • Easter Egg: Among the many, many examples of this trope in the Harry Potter area: Go into the women's bathroom while you're there. You'll hear Moaning Myrtle.
    • Diagon Alley also has, to be expected, A not-so secret hidden version of Knockturn Alley, complete with a small shop that sells merch devoted to Sirius Black, Bellatrix Lestrange, Horocruxes, etc.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Rides that use this principle on its vehicles include Men in Black: Alien Attack, The Cat in the Hat, and Storm Force Accellatron (the latter two are Islands of Adventure attractions).
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs
  • Grandfather Clause: The main reason why the Marvel area of Islands of Adventure is still standing even after Disney's acquisition of Marvel. Universal's contract with Marvel states that not only do they have the Marvel license for Orlando in perpetuity, but that the Marvel license can only be used in Orlando theme parks east of the Mississippi, which Universal Orlando Resort is. Walt Disney World is on the west, though Disney appears to have found a Loophole Abuse around Universal's contract.
  • Everything's Better with Plushies: Among the plushies you can find at the Harry Potter area: A Norwegian Ridgeback, a unicorn, Fang (Hagrid's cowardly pet hound), Hedwig, Crookshanks, and Scabbers.
    • The Simpsons area offers plushies of the Simpsons themselves, Santa's Little Helper, and Krusty the Clown, as well as Itchy and Scratchy.
    • You can find tons of stuffed Minions in the Despicable Me gift shops.
    • The SpongeBob store in Orlando, has tons of stuffed Sponge Bobs, Patricks, Planktons, Squidwards, and Krabby Patties.
  • Honest John's Dealership: The queue for Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges at Islands of Adventure sets up Bluto's barge rentals as being this.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover:
    • The Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue show has the title character encountering the Universal Monsters and making them into his own Rock N' Roll band.
    • During the 90's, there was a show at Universal Studios Florida called StreetBusters, which featured Ghostbusters facing off against Beetlejuice. In the show, Beetlejuice at first gains the upper hand and possesses the Ghostbusters into singing various pop songs, until they eventually manage to break free of his control and capture him soon after.
    • The walk-around characters at the parks will interact with each other every now and then.
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: The Dragon Challenge (formerly Dueling Dragons) roller coaster in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure, where the two roller coasters are actually shaped like dragons. Not to be outdone, the Diagon Alley section of Universal Studios Florida has a giant dragon adorning the face of the Gringotts bank, which breathes fire at regular intervals.
  • Long Title:
    • At Seuss Landing, the The High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride. Even worse, it was originally going to be called Sylvester McMonkey McBean's Very Unusual Driving Machines
    • Universal's Horror Make-Up Show was for a while called, The Gory, Gruesome and Grotesque Horror Make-Up Show.
  • Mascot: It was originally Woody Woodpecker, then it was Fievel for a few years in the early-'90s, and then it became Woody again, who even now is rapidly losing focus. Lately, The Minions seem to be taking up the mantle since the opening of the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride.
  • Mouse World: An American Tail's use of this trope is the basis for a playground at Universal Studios Florida — the park visitors are the "mice" sliding down a "sewer pipe" (waterslide), scampering under a giant ten-gallon hat, etc.
  • Mythology Gag: In a kind of Writer Revolt, two mainstay rides that wound up deactivated got remembered in their successors. The queue movie for The Simpsons Ride features an animated Doc Brown trying to save the Institute of Future Technology from Back to the Future: The Ride, and Diagon Alley features Jaws nods referencing the ride that used to stand there.
  • Newscaster Cameo: The King Kong ride at Hollywood had veteran ABC newscaster Sander Vanocur anchoring coverage before throwing to fictional reporter Kelly King (Tress MacNeille in a rare live-action role). When Kongfrontation opened along with the Florida park, they replaced Vanocur's footage with new footage of real New York anchor Rolland Smith (the "fighting the frizzies" guy), as MCA owned WWOR-TV in New York (well, Secaucus NJ) at the time of the ride opening (they had purchased it from the infamously-corrupt RKO General, which was ebing forced by the FCC to sell their stations); the footage of King was retained. Even long after WWOR was spun off by MCA, changed their logo and became a UPN station owned by Fox (it's currently a MyNetworkTV station), the footage was retained until Kongfrontation was closed.
  • Phony Psychic: The "psychic fountain" next to Poseidon's Fury is this, completely intentionally and Played for Laughs, of course.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Dr. Doom provides a lot of safety precautions for his Fearfall ride because he needs human fear to power his new weapon. Dead bodies do nothing for him.
  • Public Domain Character: The Lost Continent is notable as the only area of Islands of Adventure to be based around these, drawing on Classical Mythology (Poseidon's Fury!) and the Arabian Nights (The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad). Originally, a key section of this land was "Merlinwood", inspired by the King Arthur mythos, but this was subsequently incorporated into The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and its two roller coasters were rethemed (Dueling Dragons to Dragon Challenge and The Flying Unicorn to Flight of the Hippogriff).
  • The Rival: To the Disney Theme Parks.
  • Scenery Porn: A key element of Islands of Adventure, from the general lush landscaping to tons of small visual details in shops, restaurants, and ride queues.
  • Souvenir Land: Krustyland, the setting of The Simpsons Ride. Attractions include the Hall of Secretaries of the Interior, Captain Dinosaur's Pirate Rip-Off, and a log flume that is currently closed for a wedding.
  • Shameless Self-Promotion: Near the end of The Simpsons Ride, the vehicle crashes into a wall reading "SEND MONEY TO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS".
  • invokedSpecial Effects Failure: Often joked about in the Studio Tour. After an attack from the shark from Jaws, the host will then point out that it happens to be the only shark in the world that can swim backwards, while the robot shark drifts in reverse to reset to its original place.
  • Stealth Pun: At Disaster Studios, the kid standing in front of the green screen is told to stare at the rock hanging from the ceiling. In the trailer, the kid stares at Dwayne Johnson.
  • Threatening Shark: The now sadly closed ride JAWS' main antagonist was, well, a shark.
  • Title: The Adaptation: Back to the Future: The Ride, Transformers: The Ride, Jurassic Park: The Ri— you get the idea.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Back to the Future: The Ride temporarily transported guests to a wondrous, zeerusty Hill Valley in the year 2015 as seen in Back to the Future Part II. As time would pass, this would've eventually placed the ride in an awkward and highly inaccurate Next Sunday A.D. situation, which was partially the reason for its untimely closure in 2007. Though word on the street is, the ride is still operating in Japan.
    • Even though the ride has been replaced by The Simpsons Ride, there's still tons of places in the park with BTTF related stuff
  • Totally Radical: The Hollywood RipRide Rockit.
  • Trash Talk: At Popeye and Bluto's Bilge Rat Barges, Bluto does this toward the guests as they enter his Boat Wash, complete with an Evil Laugh. A couple of examples:
    "Ahoy, bilge rats! You don't think your old shipmate Bluto would leave you high and dry, do you?"

    "Just between you to me, I think your old pal Popeye is all washed up!"

    "There is nothing dirtier than a crew of clean-cut scalawags!"

    "Well, well, look what the catfish drug in!"
  • Troperiffic: Disaster!, a Universal Studios Florida attraction where the audience gets to participate in making a fictional Hollywood disaster film called Mutha Nature. The wrap-up of the ride portion is watching the resultant Fake Movie Real Trailer. The tropes featured and lampshaded include Gaia's Vengeance, Stuff Blowing Up, Cowboy Cop, Corrupt Corporate Executive, and so on and so forth.
  • Up to Eleven: The Gamma Slider (for the Incredible Hulk ride) has a very powerful launch uphill early in the ride, accelerating the train to 40 miles per hour in two seconds. That's not what makes it this trope, however. In order to do so, the ride designers had to incorporate a series of capacitors to store the power necessary for the launcher. If they hadn't, they would have needed a whole substation dedicated to just that part of the ride, or risk browning out the local energy grid (i.e. all of the Islands of Adventure and most of Universal Studios) with every launch.
  • You Already Changed the Past: Featured in one of The Simpsons Ride's preshow videos to humorously pay tribute to its predecessor, Back to the Future: The Ride, complete with voiceover work from Christopher Lloyd. Professor Frink arrives looking for Doc Brown's Institute of Future Technology (the setting of that ride), only to find it replaced by the Krustyland theme park. He decides to stop it, so he "must go back to the future! By which I mean the past." He gets into a Delorean and accelerates into a time jump. Two years ago, a broker is telling Doc Brown that he'll be able to keep the Institute open for years to come. At that point, the Delorean materializes and runs over the broker! Frink jumps out and Brown yells at him "You ruined everything! Now I'll have to sell the Institute of Future Technology to that mercenary clown!" Krusty promptly pastes a Krustyland logo over the IFT logo on the front sign. Brown then shows Krusty to his limo, and Krusty tells him to tear tickets at the front gate after he gets a haircut (Brown's fine with this, as his Einstein Hair requires a lot of upkeep).
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle
    • Near the end of the Florida version of Revenge of the Mummy, the car comes to a stop at a loading dock, and a ride attendant shadowed in the booth thanks you for riding. Then Imhotep sucks her soul out, sets the ceiling on fire, and drops the car into the highest drop in the ride!
    • Similarly, The Simpsons Ride seems to end with most of the family back on the couch at Evergreen Terrace — only for Kang and Kodos to reveal the couch is the ride vehicle of a climactic "Death Drop"!
      "Foolish humans! Don't you realize that all rides must end near the gift shop?"