Universal Studios Florida is an amusement park located in Orlando, Florida. Opened on June 7, 1990, the park's theme is the entertainment industry, in particular movies and television. Universal Studios Florida inspires its guests to "ride the movies," and it features numerous attractions and live shows. The park is one component of the larger Universal Orlando Resort.
Universal Studios Florida is also a working production studio. It has been used for several movies, television series, commercials, music videos, and other events. It was also a production location for Nickelodeon from 1989 until 2005. As of September 2008, Nickelodeon began to use Universal Studios Florida again for a single show – My Family's Got GUTS.
In 2007, Universal Studios Florida hosted approximately 6.2 million guests, ranking it the sixth-most visited park in the United States parks and #11 among all parks worldwide.
Park history and design
Unlike its sister facility, Universal Studios Hollywood, which was a working film and television studio that became a tourist attraction and ultimately a theme park, Universal Studios Florida was designed as both a theme park and a studio from the start. It was also the first time that Universal Studios had constructed an amusement park "from the ground up."
A major component of the original park in Hollywood is its studio tour, which featured several special-effects exhibits and encounters built into the tour, such as an attack by the great white shark from the film "Jaws". For its Florida park, Universal Studios took the concepts of the Hollywood tour scenes and developed them into larger, stand-alone attractions. As an example, in Hollywood, the studio tour trams travel close to a shoreline and are "attacked" by Jaws before they travel to the next part of the tour. In Florida, guests enter the "Jaws" attraction and board a boat touring the fictitious Amity Harbor, where they encounter the shark, then exit back into the park at the conclusion of the attraction. Universal Studios Florida originally had a Studio Tour attraction that visited the production facilities, but that tour has since been discontinued.
Over the years, Universal Studios Florida has not limited itself to attractions based on its own vast film library. It has occasionally licensed popular characters from other rival studios, many of whom did not operate theme parks themselves. Some examples include the Ghostbusters and the Men in Black (from Sony's Columbia Pictures), Jimmy Neutron (from Viacom's Nickelodeon), the Simpsons (20th Century Fox), and Shrek (from Dreamworks Animation).
Like all theme parks, attractions are sometimes closed due to age and replaced with more contemporary attractions. Universal has seen this action used a great deal of times, with many attraction closures such as Kongfrontation, Back to the Future: The Ride, Earthquake: The Big One, and The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. The most recent closures which occurred were Back to the Future: The Ride, which has been replaced by The Simpsons Ride, Earthquake: The Big One, which has been replaced by Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride...Starring You!, and The Boneyard, which will be replaced by Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit. Some closure, such as those of Kongfrontation and Back to the Future: The Ride, have proven drastic to longtime visitors and have been given homages by the park.
Universal Studios Florida is separated into seven different areas—Production Central, Hollywood, New York, San Francisco/Amity, World Expo, Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone and The Lagoon.
Production Central serves as the park's main entrance. The section is a cluster of motion picture soundstages
, each of which houses attractions inspired by today's most popular films and television shows or actual film & television filming.
- Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit, a new roller coaster experience complete with a custom soundtrack and the ability to upload a video of your experience to your webpage or video-sharing site, scheduled to open in the spring of 2009. The description provided in the announcement suggests the attraction will be built in this section of the park, but as the project takes shape it may be annexed into a different section.
- Beverly Hills Boulangerie
- Universal Studios Classic Monsters' Cafe
Along Hollywood Boulevard, guests will see recreations of some of its greatest monuments, such as Schwab's Drug Store
and Mel's Drive-In
. The real Schwab's Drug Store and Mel's Drive-In were located in Sherman, later known as West Hollywood and both on Sunset Boulevard, not Hollywood Boulevard.
- Universal's Horror Make-Up Show is a live stage show that shows guests how horror film special effects are created. Features a pre-show walk-through of set pieces and props used in various horror movies. Originally featured an opening pre-show featuring an appearance by Lon Chaney, Sr.'s Phantom of the Opera. Pre-show currently houses a character appearance by Hellboy from Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Opened: 1990.
- Lucy: A Tribute, a walk-through museum featuring the best of "America's favorite redhead." Opened: 1990
- Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time is a live, 3D experience that combines a 3D film with an actual stage show based on the film Terminator 2. Opened: 1996.
- Cafe La Bamba (operates seasonally)
- Schwab's Pharmacy
- Mel's Drive In
This section of the park is aptly named. Within its boundaries can be found architectural styles and sets that resemble the New York of yesterday or today.
- The Blues Brothers
- The Mummy characters
- Street Breaks
This section has two distinct themes; that of a mature coastal city and of a seasonal tourist town in New England.
- Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue is a live show featuring some of Universal's classic monsters, including Frankenstein, Dracula, the Bride of Frankenstein, and Wolfman. Opened: 1992.
- Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride...Starring You!, puts you in the middle of a new Disaster movie made by fictional company Disaster Studios. Opened: January 2008
- Fear Factor LIVE! is a live stunt show that puts real park guests into the action of the former NBC series, Fear Factor. Opened: 2005.
- Jaws puts you aboard Captain Jake's Amity Boat Tours, where you'll journey around the island of Amity, hoping to avoid the menace known as JAWS. Opened: 1990.
- Richter's Burgers
- Lombard's Landing Seafood Grille
- Nathan's Hotdogs
World Expo takes its inspiration from the international expositions of the 20th century. It combines ultra-modern architecture as seen from the 1960s and today. Themeing in the area includes various flags of world countries and of Simpsons characters, and a small Coca Cola
themed drink stall titled Roboasis
- International Food and Film Festival
Woody Woodpecker's KidZone
Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone is the park's children's area, and is hosted by Woody Woodpecker
, Universal Studios' mascot. The area was originally part of World Expo, but was divided into its own section with the opening of Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster
- A Day in the Park with Barney is a live stage show featuring Barney and his friends. Opened: 1995.
- Fievel's Playland, a children's playground . Opened: 1991.
- Animal Actors On Location is a live stage show featuring trained animals. Opened: 2006.
- Curious George Goes to Town is a play area featuring two large water troughs that dump thousands of gallons of water on its visitors every ten minutes, and a ball area where guests can shoot squishee balls out of cannons Opened: 1998
- Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster is a junior coaster aimed toward children and their parents. Opened: 1999.
- E.T. Adventure, a dark ride based on the 1982 hit film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Opened: 1990.
- StarToons: Blast to the 80's, a live show featuring classic Universal cartoon characters performing to 1980's songs. It is the third version of the show to be held at the park, the previous two versions being StarToons, in the Production Central area, and StarToons Character Meet and Greet, also in the Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone area. Opened: 2008.
- Woody Woodpecker
- Barney, Baby Bop, and BJ
- Curious George and the Man in the Big Yellow Hat
- Alex the Lion and the Penguins from "Madagascar"
- Scooby-Doo and Shaggy
A large lake located in the middle of the park.
- Universal 360: A Cinesphere Spectacular, a seasonal fireworks display that showcases scenes from various Universal films, featuring lasers, projectors and fireworks. The show is often shown during summer and other major holiday periods. Opened: 2006.
Universal Studios Florida features several seasonal events throughout its operating calendar. Some are included in the daily park admission, while others are separately-ticketed events.
- Mardi Gras (February-April) is a parade and concert series inspired by New Orleans' Fat Tuesday party.
- Rock the Universe (September) is the park's Christian music festival, featuring two days of concerts with leading contemporary Christian, Christian rock, and Christian rap artists. This year's edition of the event was September 5-6, 2008.
- Halloween Horror Nights (September-October) turns the park into a giant haunted playground, including scare zones, numerous haunted houses and special themed shows.
- Macy's Holiday Parade (December) brings some of the most authentic balloons from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to Orlando in a month-long event that highlights the Christmas celebrations at Universal Studios.
Universal Express Plus
Universal Studios Florida allow guests to utilize the "Universal Express Plus" Pass on selected attractions. This pass admits users to a separate line for the attraction, which is given priority status when boarding. Universal Express Plus is not a virtual queuing
service, where users receive a specific time to return to the priority line. Instead, passholders may enter the Express Plus line whenever they wish.
Universal Express Plus is not included in park admission. There are a limited number of passes available each day and they are often sold out in advance. The cost of the pass varies based on what parks are selected and even what day is selected, with higher prices charged on peak operating days during the year.
Purchasers of the Express Plus pass may use the shorter priority line once per enabled attraction. Guests of Universal's three on-site resorts—the Royal Pacific Resort, the Hard Rock Hotel and the Portofino Bay Hotel—may show their room keys for unlimited uses of the faster line for each ride. Also, guests who hold Universal Orlando's Premier Annual Pass receive the same unlimited privilege extended to hotel guests after 4pm.