Universal Studios Orlando is among the most popular theme parks, even in the highly competitive Central Florida vacation market. The resort itself consists of Universal Studios, with classic attractions such as the Hollywood Makeup Show and E.T., Islands of Adventure, with areas dedicated to franchises such as Jurassic Park, and the newest addition, the Volcano Bay waterpark. Also, Universal Studios Orlando regularly hosts popular events, such as Halloween Horror Nights and Mardi Gras parades.
The parks are widely attended, with many visitors waiting in lines and having a great time without realizing how long they have been there. Universal is designed to be entertaining to the point where you lose track of time, or don’t notice the strange things hidden throughout the park. Here are 15 Weird Facts about Universal Studios Orlando.
15. E.T. is the Only Original Ride Left
Theme parks change their attractions pretty often, but there are some rides that last. E.T. is the only original ride at Universal Studios Orlando that is still there. All of the others have been redesigned or reconstructed into different attractions. E.T. was open on the first day of Universal Studios Orlando’s operations, and has been in operation ever since except for a few problems here and there. Fortunately, there seem to not be any plans that would remove the ride anytime soon. It is nice to see that no matter how much things change, there is always one ride that can stay.
14. Universal has Several Exclusive Drinks
Universal movies are not like Disney movies in most ways. One of the big differences is the level of adult themes they tackle, such as drinking. Disney films avoid many of these themes, but Universal goes at them at full power. That’s why two of Universal’s best-known attractions involve their own drinks. Butterbeer from Harry Potter and Duff Beer from The Simpsons are both only available in Universal Parks. Unfortunately, Butter Beer is a family drink and non-alcoholic in all of its forms. Duff Beer is fully loaded, comes in multiple flavours, and is located across the lagoon from the children-focused areas.
13. Universal Shares Marvel Characters with Disney
One thing that Disney and Universal have in common besides the ridiculously popular theme parks is Marvel. Well before Disney bought Marvel Studios and the rights to all of its characters, Universal worked out a licensing agreement for many of those characters. So, Disney needed to work out the licensing agreement with Universal when it wanted to purchase Marvel. That’s why you may see X-Men and other Marvel characters in Disney and Universal parks. However, the licensing agreement seems to only cover the old comic book versions of the characters. It is unlikely that you will see one from a new movie at Universal, ever.
12. Transformers Uses Both Floors During the Ride
If you have been to Universal Studios Orlando, then you’ve seen the Transformers building. You literally cannot miss it. It is right in the center of the park near the lagoon and has a 30-foot-tall Optimus Prime statue on it. The thing is that the giant building that the ride is in actually uses both floors as a part of the ride. Part way through the ride, likely the part where you end up on a rooftop, the ride takes you to the second floor. So, those parts where you feel like you are floating or moving up, you probably are.
11. No One has Aced Men In Black
Men In Black (MIB) is a new take on interactive rides in that it resembles a moving first-person shooter video game. It even keeps track of your score as you move through the training sessions. Getting the top score is hard, but there are two achievements that no one in the entire history of the ride has achieved. There are two hidden targets in the ride, and both have the highest point values possible. In fact, one is the same value as the Red Button at the end (100,000) points, and the other is basically an automatic win (999,999 points per shot). While these two targets are still active, no one has ever been able to locate them successfully.
10. Mythos was the Best Theme Park Restaurant
Everyone knows that restaurants can win awards. Apparently, that is true even for theme park restaurants. Mythos located in Universal Studios Orlando: Islands of Adventure held the award for the best theme park restaurant for several consecutive years after its opening. It is located near Poseidon’s Fury, and is nearly always packed. If it wasn’t enough that it is a great restaurant for its food, the décor and the design are also unique. This includes the giant stone fountainhead outside the restaurant that can be seen from almost every other area in the park. Fortunately, you can schedule a reservation. However, you must be on time or they will give your table away promptly. It is worth it though since it serves the best food in the park.
9. The Hulk is Designed to Make That Sound
Inside Islands of Adventure over the entry bridge and to the left, you will likely be surprised by a very loud and concerning sound. It is the Hulk roaring to life as it exits the launch ramp directly into a spin and down into a loop. Aside from the exhilarating takeoff, the Hulk is known for the sound that it makes which resembles the Hulk’s load roar from all of his movies. While many roller coasters make a similar sound, the Hulk is actually designed and tuned to sound that way. A combination of hollow rails with nylon car wheels creates a vibration at that specific frequency. It just shows how much detail was put into the ride’s design.
8. Universal Likes to Mix Old And New Rides
While it is sad when a ride is replaced at a theme park, they are never completely gone if they are well-loved by visitors. That is because theme parks, including Universal, put a part of the old ride in other newer versions. When the Simpsons replaced Back to the Future, the ride designers put two cameos into The Simpsons ride. Doc Brown is in the line waiting video as well as a Simpsons character wearing Marty’s jacket. The Mummy Returns Replaced the original King Kong, but there are two cameos there as well. The most notable is the golden Kong statue prominently displayed in the treasure room at the start of The Mummy. Jaws, unfortunately does not have one in Diagon Alley, but the original Jaws shark statue was relocated nearby. It is yet to be seen if the new Jimmy Kimmel ride will have a cameo from Twister which once stood where the new ride is now.
7. Not Everyone Can Ride The Attractions
Universal’s rides are designed differently from other theme parks. To fit the constraints of different locations, ride designers must make adjustments to the restraints. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of people cannot ride specific rides. The Harry Potter ride in Islands of Adventure is a prime example and continues to be a source of rage and disappointment for a lot of visitors. The restraints are exceedingly short and narrow which puts overweight, tall, and muscular people off the ride. This became a problem, especially with military enlisted visitors. On a positive note, there have been instances where Universal did a variety of things to make it up to enlisted visitors including comping their stays and providing entertainment. There have been rumours that some special visitors that could not fit on the ride somehow got early morning access in a modified seating arrangement, but these rumours were never confirmed.
6. Losing the Original Monsters
Universal Studios is responsible for horror movies including the original monsters that we all associate with horror and Halloween. Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and Dracula are all Universal creations. While there have been scores of other creations since, these four are credited as the first horror monsters. Over time, they have been slowly phased out of the parks. However, you can still find some of their earlier props in the Monster Café across from the concert stage. Four fully-featured costumes are enshrined in the restaurant. The history of these monsters is also explained in the Horror Makeup show. Other than that, they are only seen in the park around Halloween.
5. The Horror Makeup Show Is for Kids, Too
Speaking of the Horror Makeup Show, many people think that it is not for kids. It is easy to think that given the nature of its content. Exposing children to scary monsters, horror themes, and a somewhat gloomy looking sound stage doesn’t seem appealing to most. However, the Horror Makeup Show is made for adults and kids. In fact, there are parts of the show that depend heavily on there being at least one cooperative kid in the front row. There are parts that are scary, but they will not give children nightmares. The show is based far more on dark comedy than it is on scaring the viewers.
4. Jurassic Park Holds a Record
If you’ve never ridden Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure, here is a fun spoiler for you. The ride starts as a tour through Jurassic Park on a boat, presumably to keep you safe from dinosaurs. At first it is peaceful, but you get off track and end up in a carnivore-infested building complete with raptors and those spitting dinosaurs from the first movie. At the end, there is a T-Rex that tries to eat you. You’re only escape is down Jurassic Park’s award winning water drop. It is the longest water drop in the world, at least at the time of its construction, at 85 feet. This also helps explain why nearly everyone watching the ride from the outside gets soaked if they are near the guardrail.
3. Good-Natured Rivalry with Disney
Throughout Universal Studios Orlando, you will come across a simple theme of “this is not Disney”. Universal show actors and designers are acutely aware of this and poke fun at Disney in some good-natured rivalry. On several of the rides like Shrek 4-D, several of the characters can be seen in the famous poses of Disney characters. The most prominent and hilarious incarnation of this theme is found in the Horror Makeup Show. At one point, the children in the room are involved in the show, and the characters on stage (playfully) get agitated. One of them loudly announces that, “This is not Disney, we don’t have to be nice to the kids”. It is sure to get a laugh out of everyone in the room and really sinks home that Universal has a very different approach to nearly everything from Disney.
2. The Sound Stages are Real
At one time, Universal Studios Orlando (the main park) was constructed as a functional movie studio. You can easily see the remnants of this in the backdrop. The big yellow buildings that you see around are all numbered because they were, at one, time active sound stages. Movies were shot in these sound stages until Universal ran into too many difficulties with ambient noise from the park. Many of the rides in the park are built into active sound stages as well. Earthquake, which was removed a few years ago, was used as an earthquake sound stage to simulate them in movies. Twister functioned much the same way for inclement weather scenes. Terminator 3-D, the Horror Makeup Show, Animal Actors Live, and Barney remain active on professional quality sound stages that are in constant use, and can be used for movies at any time.
1. Universal Innovates the Most
One of the things that sets Universal apart from other theme parks is innovation. Every few years, it finds a new way of creating attractions. The Spiderman ride was revolutionary when it came out. It effectively combined 3-D with interactive ride mechanics in a way that had never been done before. Transformers successfully replicated it on a higher level, and King Kong: Skull Island took it to a new level again with 3-D surround/immersion techniques. Universal is also developing a Quick Queue system that doesn’t require you to wait in line. Instead, you will sign up for a ride time and be able to go to the front of the line when it is your turn. If Universal keeps innovating like this, it will continue to be one of the leading theme parks.
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