Universal Orlando is 20 years old

Posted Friday, August 6, 2010 12:05 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Twenty years ago this summer, Universal Studios theme park opened its doors in Orlando. Universal Orlando didn't make a big fuss about the anniversary this year. It was busy launching a little thing called the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and it was probably hoping we'd all forget the early days of the park, which were plagued with dead-in-water attractions and long lines — by 1990 standards.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Friday, August 6, 2010 12:12 PM

Some of those photos are pretty fascinating. I went shortly after they opened (the soft opening, at least) in 1990, and not again until late 2001. It was like a completely different place, and it felt like City Walk and the parking decks had simply always been there. Amazing what you can achieve when you plant fully grown trees.

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Friday, August 6, 2010 4:06 PM

I always get a kick out of it when somebody says the area will look really nice when the trees grow in at Cedar Point after they build something. Yeah to bad the trees take 20 years to grow in. I like you Jeff went to Universal the first year it opened then again like 7 years later and was impressed with the transformation.

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Friday, August 6, 2010 4:39 PM

I was there the opening year. Crazy busy, long lines, Jaws not working. There are some interesting books about the race between Disney and Universal to build the studio parks. (Catastrophe Canyon being an answer to Earthquake and so forth.)

Intrestingly both of them got away from the "studio" aspect by large measure. Yet Universal Hollywood still does fine. I wonder if that was just a product of the land being more profitable as amusement attractions than as film production.

I'm trying to remember some of the "former" attractions. There was a Wild West Stunt Show and Ghostbusters occupied what is now Twister. There was a Lucille Ball tribute and something monster related where the Shrek theatre now is. Of course Mummy replacing Kong. (I enjoyed Kong more honestly.)

Oh, and there was actually a "tram" tour that we waited FOREVER for (which we thought might mimic the tram tour in Hollywood) but it was extremely disappointing. No surprise they got rid of that relatively quickly. I can imagine the discussion. "We have to have a tram tour, it is what people will expect." "Ok, well we will run a tram through these 3 or four streets and maybe through a soundstage and that will suffice."

Dud. Without Castrophe Canyon the Disney tram tour would be a dud too.

Universal Florida is still a little too thrill heavy for my young family but I imagine we will be spending some time there in a few more years.

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Friday, August 6, 2010 5:20 PM

It's hard to believe its been that long already.

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Friday, August 6, 2010 10:40 PM

I remember all the old shows from Nickelodeon filmed there in the early 90's and at the end it they showed the spinning globe and said "This show was filmed at Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL." or something like that and how they would go out into the park for some of the show segments like on What Would You Do. When I finally got to the park in 1993 I was a little let down and I think I might have gone back in the late 90's but the last time was in 2003. Other than seeing Nickelodeon Studios in horrible shape with no shows being filmed and nothing really to see, I really liked the park a lot better on that later visit.

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Friday, August 6, 2010 10:49 PM

I miss Hitch... for someone that's NOT a movie-buff by any stretch, Hitchcock was the guy who could draw me into a story and make me watch two hours of a movie.

Shrek was a good replacement, but I do kinda (knida?) wish something else had been lost instead. Overall, losing Kong for Mummy and BTTF for Simpsons are HUGE wins, and even though Rock'it may not have fulfilled all of its promise as a ride, it was a big addition to the park (at the expense of no other rides/attractions).

P.S. I've been asking for something to replace Jaws for over a decade now...."can it be bye-bye tiem for the big shark yet pleez?" ;)

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Friday, August 6, 2010 10:56 PM

NO! Bill! No losing Jaws EVER!

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Saturday, August 7, 2010 7:25 AM

I refuse to go ever since they took out the Murder She Wrote attraction.

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Saturday, August 7, 2010 2:01 PM

So does that mean you'll stay home watching reruns of Matlock, or is that on at 3:30 when you meet your friends at Denny's?

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Saturday, August 7, 2010 5:43 PM

I thought it was Country Kitchen at 6am. By 3:30, he's asleep for the night.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010 12:27 PM

The big news here isn't that Universal Orlando has been around for 20 years.

It's that 1990 was 20 years ago.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010 12:39 PM

rollergator said:
I miss Hitch... for someone that's NOT a movie-buff by any stretch, Hitchcock was the guy who could draw me into a story and make me watch two hours of a movie.

On my initial visit to USF... I believe it was around maybe six months after it opened. maybe longer...(can't quite remember) ...my biggest disappointment was that the PSYCHO house...visible on the hill beyond a fence..was not a visitable attraction. Why bother constructing it if you're not gonna use it? Some one can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it ever opened as a "walk through attraction." The one cool thing was that the gift shop had Bates Motel washcloths and stationery. I used to send letters (remember those?) to my friends after cutting off the bottom line that said "UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA," leaving only the Bates Motel imprint.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010 2:48 PM

robotfactory said:
1990 was 20 years ago.

Ouch! That hurt.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010 5:13 PM

Jeff said:
So does that mean you'll stay home watching reruns of Matlock, or is that on at 3:30 when you meet your friends at Denny's?

kpjb/Jeff:

Thanks for bringing back memories of my mom. Through that period of time, Murder She Wrote and Matlock (as I called them, her M&Ms) along with Walker, Texas Ranger.. were the only network shows she liked and tried never to miss.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010 4:22 AM

Forgot about this (until now):

Win A Trip To The Grand Opening Of Universal Studios Florida

Why would somebody frame that? And why would I keep it...and put it on my website?

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Thursday, August 12, 2010 2:14 PM

Adorable King Kong plush toys! Hooray!

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Saturday, August 14, 2010 1:39 PM

It amazes me how much its changed. I can remember parking the car about where Hard Rock is now. Anyone remember the old Hard Rock? Its still there!

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Saturday, August 14, 2010 2:16 PM

I did notice it was still there. In fact, you can see it plain as day in this picture.

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