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Ride / Earthquake: The Big One

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"Ladies and gentlemen, we just experienced a slight tremor. There is no danger, please remain calm-"

Earthquake: The Big One was a special effects simulation attraction that existed at Universal Studios Florida from its opening day until 2007.

Based on the disaster film, Earthquake, the attraction featured three pre-shows that explained how the special effects in the film were accomplished; such as a miniature model being used to show Los Angeles' destruction, blue screen effects for the backgrounds, and numerous other practical effects. Along with this, the pre-shows also featured a narration by Charlton Heston, explaining in further detail the special effects work that went into the movie.

The final part of the attraction had guests boarding a San Francisco subway train and experiencing a simulation of an earthquake in the subway tunnels, which included events such as fires, roads collapsing, a near-collision with another subway train, and a huge flood as the finale.


The attraction was slightly altered in 2002, making it focus on several Universal movies instead of just Earthquake. This lasted until the later part of 2007, where the attraction was then closed and converted into the also now-gone Disaster!, a virtually identical attraction that was instead a tongue-in-cheek parody of the disaster B-movie genre; not being based on a particular movie.

Tropes used in Earthquake: The Big One include:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The attraction took the Earthquake scene from Universal Studios Hollywood's Studio Tour and made an entire ride/show around it.
  • Audience Participation: Guests that volunteered were taken onstage to reenact certain scenes from the movie in the attraction's third pre-show.
  • Chroma Key:
    • Used in the first version of the attraction to help create the illusion of the volunteer guests being on an escalator during an earthquake.
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    • The second version of the attraction utilized this for the filming of guests in the U-571 scene, with the host showing the different things you can do with a blue screen, such as having a submarine be out in the middle of city traffic.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: During the ride, the lighting all around the subway would flicker violently as the earthquake continued.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: A tank truck would explode upon hitting a subway column.
  • From Bad to Worse: The ride started with there first being a "slight tremor" that causes a mild disturbance, but was soon followed by a full-blown earthquake.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: Just before the earthquake started in the ride portion, there was nothing but the faint sound of ambient subway noise.
  • Kill 'Em All!: The ride was used as a pre-show of sorts for a haunted house called Dark Torment during Halloween Horror Nights in 2000. In it, the ride would end with all of the guests getting "killed" by the earthquake, and from there they would get off of the ride and wander into the house, which was themed as them stepping into Hell.
  • Matte Shot: The third pre-show in the original version had Charlton Heston explaining how a lot of the effects in the film were pulled off via matte paintings.
  • Miniature Effects: A good chunk of the second pre-show was showing a clip of Los Angeles being destroyed by an earthquake, and then how they pulled the effect off: by building and destroying a miniature model of the city (which was shown to the guests).
  • Mood Whiplash: The rather horrific earthquake finale of the ride was followed by a "director" coming out from a door and telling the riders to give themselves a round of applause.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: That's totally not Bay Area Rapid Transit trains and a station getting trashed. The signature angled nose of the train gives it away. The map itself, while not an actual BART map, does show some familiar locations like Daly City and San Francisco International Airport.
  • Ominous Fog: Used in the second version during the U-571 scene, to help create the illusion that the volunteer guests were out in the sea at night.
  • Product Placement: Advertisements for various brands were placed inside the subway tunnel, as a way of making the setting more realistic.
  • Runaway Train: The earthquake causes a nearby subway train to derail and nearly collide with the riders.
  • Scenery Gorn: The miniature model of a destroyed Los Angeles was this.
  • Sinister Subway: The ride was purposely designed to create a sense of dread in guests before the earthquake starts, with the subway tunnels being empty and foreboding.
  • Split Screen: The original second and third pre-show had three side-by-side screens, that occasionally each showed a different image.
  • Stock Scream: Several stock female screams were utilized in the main subway portion.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Along with the screams, several other stock sounds were used, including that of police and ambulance sirens.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: During the main ride, a tank truck falls down and creates an explosion when the street above collapses.
  • Styrofoam Rocks: In the portion of the attraction where guests recreated scenes from the film, these were dropped down from the ceiling.
  • Subways Suck: The main part of the attraction is riding a subway train through a big earthquake.
  • Tagline: "Brace yourself for THE BIG ONE!"
  • This Is No Time to Panic: After the "slight tremor", the female announcer stated, "Please remain calm" before getting cut off at the end by the earthquake.
  • Updated Re Release: Originally focusing on just the Earthquake movie, in 2002 the attraction was changed to have its pre-shows discuss more Universal movies, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and U571.


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