Ride / Universal Studios

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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 number 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.) A seventh island later opened in 2016, themed around King Kong's Skull Island.
    • Wet 'n Wild Orlando: A water park that opened on March 13th, 1977, founded by SeaWorld creator George Millay. Universal acquired the lease for the park in 1998, and in 2013 they purchased all of the land surrounding the location. It was announced that the park will be permanently closing at the end of 2016.
  • 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.

Universal also used to own the Spain park, PortAventura, until they sold all of their interest in it in 2004.

As previously stated, a good number 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, 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:

  • Adaptation Expansion/Expanded Universe: A few attractions qualify as this to their source material, though most of them appear to be set in an Alternate Continuity.
  • Affectionate Parody: Being their main rival, numerous attractions and aspects of the parks in general poke fun at the Disney Theme Parks.
  • 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 Disney Springs.
    • CityWalk Orlando has Blue Man Group, Universal's answer to Walt Disney World's Disney Springs complex hosting Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba.
  • Art Deco: Several parts of the parks carry this kind of style, most notably on the big archway that stands at the entrances to them.
  • 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 Nuthouse 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...
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 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 SpongeBobs, Patricks, Planktons, Squidwards, and Krabby Patties.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Many rides use this principle on its vehicles, including Men In Black: Alien Attack, The Cat in the Hat, and Storm Force Accelatron (the latter two are Islands of Adventure attractions).
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: A very common plot element of the parks' attractions involve guests going on what's supposed to be a completely-normal experience until "something goes wrong".
  • 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.
  • Halloween Special: As mentioned before, each of the locations around the world has Halloween Horror Nights, a nighttime event where the parks become host to a series of haunted houses, scarezones, and special shows.
  • 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.
    • Universal Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories, the nighttime show at the Florida park.
    • The CityWalk restaurant, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen.
  • 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.
  • Our Founder: The New York area at Universal Studios Florida has a statue of Lew R. Wasserman, a Hollywood executive that made a tremendous impact on MCA-Universal, doing things such as putting the marketing for Jaws into full-force; which helped make the movie a massive success and in turn began the blockbuster genre. Among many other things, he also served as a producer for films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, and Jurassic Park.
  • Phony Psychic: The "psychic fountain" next to Poseidon's Fury is this, completely intentionally and Played for Laughs, of course.
  • Portmantitle: The CityWalk entertainment district that's connected to each of the locations, except for Singapore.
  • 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 Real Heroes: The Backdraft attraction that's at Japan and formerly at Hollywood dedicates a large amount of its pre-shows to discussing the horrors of what real-life firemen have to go through and why they deserve our respect.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: In a very stealthy-kind of Shout-Out, many of the buildings in the New York area at Florida and Japan are made up of loose-recreations of facades from many famous films. Examples include The Kit Kat Klub from Cabaret, Priscilla Hotel from Thoroughly Modern Millie, an alleyway from The Sting, Adrian's Pet Store from Rocky, Louie's Italian Restaurant from The Godfather, the Empire Hotel from Vertigo, the firehouse from Ghostbusters (1984), various facades from The Seven Year Itch as well as Citizen Kane, and even the orphanage from Annie (1982)
  • 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.
  • Steam Punk: The CityWalk restaurant, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium is more-or-less a steampunk goldmine, being themed as a 19th century chocolate factory that carries a very Jules Verne-style to it.
  • Title: The Adaptation: Back to the Future: The Ride, Transformers: The Ride, Jurassic Park: The Ri— you get the idea.
  • Totally Radical: The Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit roller coaster.
  • Wolverine Publicity: Many attractions have been given the primary spotlight throughout the parks' history. In the 90's, it was Kongfrontation, Back to the Future: The Ride, and E.T. Adventure. In the 2000's, it was The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Shrek 4-D. And currently, it's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Several of the park's past and present attractions include endings that trick guests into thinking the ride is over, including Revenge of the Mummy, The Simpsons Ride, and Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast.


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