Universal Studios — not to be confused with the actual film studio that owns it — are the four theme park complexes owned and operated by NBCUniversal, famous for combining thrilling rides with state-of-the-art technology. Most of the rides are based on movies, a large part of them not from Universal's own library. The studio tour dates all the way back to 1912, and the theme park dates to 1964. They are verybig competitors with the Disney Theme Parks, and are often regarded as the only theme park group close to it in terms of quality.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.
Japan also has a Sesame Street-themed 3D shownote Which, in the US, can be found playing at SeaWorld parks due to SeaWorld having exclusive American theme park licensing rights to Sesame Street and another called Animation Celebration 3D.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (Islands of Adventure) and Transformers: The Ride (Singapore, Hollywood, and Orlando) combine 3D film with a moving ride vehicle and full-scale sets.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey uses a system similar to Transformers and Spider-Man, although the ride vehicle is upgraded to a robotic arm attached to a track, simulating a flying bench while the movie parts are in 2D (although they are downplayed while the scale sets are used more compared to the former two.)
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.
The Shrek 4D rides have posters set up at the queue lines, parodying Disney attractions (The Enchanted Tick Room, anyone?) and some of Universal's own.
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.
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.
The entirety of Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone is arguably this. While the attractions still draw decent crowds, a few of the characters the attractions are based off of aren't recognizable to the young audience Kidzone targets. E.T. Adventure being the obvious exception due to its ties to the park's history. Aside from the aforementioned 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, and Woody Woodpecker only lives as the park mascot these days. It may averted soon enough, a SpongeBob store has been added to the area and rumors of a massive overhaul of the area in the next few years have made their way to the internet.
This is arguably why The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera and Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast were closed in favor of Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. When Hanna-Barbera closed in 2002, the licenses featured weren't very popular with kids anymore (give or take 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-runningSponge Bob Square Pants 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.
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; this is Universal's answer to Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney complex hosting Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba.
Continuity Nod: When The Wizarding World of Harry Potter first opened at Islands of Adventure, Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and Honeydukes shared the same building. When Diagon Alley was established at Universal Studios Florida, Weasley's Wizard Wheezes was moved there. This is acknowledged in the Hogwarts Express ride, where if you take the train from Hogsmede to London, Fred and George Weasley will fly by the train at one point and set off a firework display advertising that Weasley's Wizard Wheezes is now at Diagon Alley.
Crapsaccharine World: Amity Island in the Jaws ride, at least according to the cheap local TV channel that played in the queue. It's a fun summer resort town... where everybody's just a bit TOO obsessed with the shark attacks that occurred in 1974 and inordinately cheerful when mentioning that people, you know, DIED.
Also, if the interviews with them from that queue video are to be believed, the "real" Brody is an incompetent egomaniac and the "real" Hooper had his career ruined by the events of the movie.
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.
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.
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.
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 MeMinion 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.
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).
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.
T2 3-D: Battle Across Time, specifically the pre-show, which talks about all of the fascinating new technologies that Cyberdyne is working on. Problem is, it first opened in 1996, and has not been updated in the intervening years. Most people watching this preshow now probably have smartphones in their pockets and purses, and various gadgets in their homes, that can put to shame the "advanced" computers and robots on display. To say nothing of the cameo by Shaquille O'Neal!
The E.T. Adventure ride does show its age, with its dated animatronics, bizarre continued use of tickets to get in, and simple ride design that can be rather underwhelming to those spoiled by the more high-tech rides. But it's miraculously survived the years intact in a park that, unlike the Disney parks, tends to value the new over the old regardless of its continued popularity (which still stops the ride from being The Artifact, as E.T. merchandise is still sold there).
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.
What the Hell, Hero?: Do really poorly in the Men In Black ride at Orlando, and Agent Jay will sputter at your performance, suggesting that you get back in line to try it again.
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 by going "back to the future, I mean 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).
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"!