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Meet the Sea Dragons of OZ and the Yeti Crab

Meet the Sea Dragons of OZ and the Yeti Crab
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Bad Biker Kitties Are On The Prowl
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Formula Juan Racer: Numero Uno!

Formula Juan Racer: Numero Uno!
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Universal Studios Florida: Scream For Your Mummy

During my August 2011 trip to Orlando, I visited the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. This Revenge of the Mummy slider pin was a hidden treasure at one of the discount shops at the front of the parks (I can't remember if I found this at Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure). Smedley the Dog, Chilly Willy and Woody Woodpecker take a wild ride on one of my favorite attractions at Universal Studios. In 1999, Universal decided to redesign Woody, the famous cartoon bird created by the late Walter Lantz. We'll call this newer version of Woody "Green Eyed Maniac Woody."

Green Eyed Maniac Woody is the "New Coca-Cola" of the theme park mascot world.

I'm sure the redesign of Woody (which was based on the original "lunatic" version of Woody from the first animated shorts) was an attempt to make the character hip and edgy. Green Eyed Maniac Woody seems aggressive and not exactly friendly.

Even Knothead and Splinter, Woody's nephew and niece, were redesigned.

Woody's Girlfriend, Winnie (not shown here), was also given an extreme makeover. The initial redesign of her that I saw looked a bit like a cross between Marge Simpson and the Bride of Frankenstein. Winnie's extreme redesign was toned down a bit. The new character designs were used as part of the 1999 animated TV series The New Woody Woodpecker Show, which debuted on the Fox Kids Network.

The Woody Woodpecker I grew up with was a friendly looking rascal.

Green Eyed Maniac Woody does not seem like an ambassador to a theme park.

The appealing looking Woody starred in his own comic book. This one is from 1976.

Woody's rival, Wally Walrus, almost seemed human. I've met some people that look just like him.

The Good Version of Woody had his own Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon for many years.
That's one of the best balloons they ever made!

Woody and Winnie appeared on some great merchandise over the years.

I got this key chain from Universal Studios Florida in 2004. This is the earlier character design because the mold for this figure (made by Bully in Germany) has been around for a LONG time.

Friendly Woody Woodpecker had a cool pompadour hair-do.

I can't believe there aren't any Andy Panda plush toys for sale at the Universal Resort.

Universal Studios Florida is loosely based on Universal Studios Hollywood, which opened for tours in 1964.

The park in Hollywood was mostly about the Backlot Tour. Later, individual attractions were added, including the E.T. Adventure (1991) and Back to the Future The Ride (1993).

Universal Studios Florida would have a Backlot tour (now closed), but some of the Hollywood tour elements (like King Kong, Jaws, and Earthquake) would be expanded into their own attractions.

Totally new to Florida was Nickelodeon Studios, Ghostbusters, and The Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera.

Universal Studios Florida opened in May 1990.

Like most theme parks, it experienced some difficulties at first.

A 1993 Universal Studios Florida Map shows a very different roster of attractions.

Many of the attractions here were eventually replaced or updated. The Hard Rock Cafe was moved as part of a much bigger expansion.

The entrance to Universal Studios Florida itself has dramatically changed.

Visitors to the park now enter by crossing a bridge from Universal CityWalk, a shopping and dining district opened in 1999.

The parking lot for Universal Studios Florida used to be near the park entrance.

A mammoth parking garage located near CityWalk now serves the Universal Orlando Resort.

Before Universal's Islands of Adventure opened in 1999, Popeye and Rocky and Bullwinkle could be found at Universal Studios in 1993.

The characters strolled through the park in style with Marilyn Monroe.

Now it's time for my Universal Studios Florida trip report.

Day Two---Continued (Friday, August 26, 2011): Universal's Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.

I spent the first part of the day at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Read about that at Harry Potter At Universal's Islands of Adventure: Wonderful Wizard of Aahs!

In the afternoon, I went to Universal Studios Florida, where my first stop was the E.T. Adventure.
The E.T. Adventure dark ride can only be found at Universal Studios Florida. The ride could be found at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Japan, but the attraction was closed down at those parks to make way for new rides (Revenge of the Mummy in California and Space Fantasy in Japan).

E.T. Adventure was not very crowded. A visit here is a nice way to escape the Florida heat.

This 1994 Map shows a time when the Hard Rock Cafe was E.T.'s neighbor. The old location of the Hard Rock Cafe is now home to Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone.

When I was a kid, E.T. was insanely popular.

You could even get E.T. Shoes from Buster Brown. Hey, those loafers are out of this world!

Visitors to the E.T. Adventure fly on bikes to go save E.T.'s home planet.

E.T. says your name at the end of the ride, which is something that doesn't happen on any other ride in Orlando. E.T. says the name of everyone in your ride vehicle, which sounds a bit like he is saying something to you in another language.

There is a shop near the ride selling E.T. merchandise. You can also find an E.T. Pressed Penny (I found it at the Universal Studios Store at the front of the park).

I also found a Friendly Woody Woodpecker Pressed Penny near the Front Gate.

Near the E.T. Adventure, kids could meet some characters, including Woody Woodpecker, Curious George, the Man in the Yellow Hat, and Scooby Doo.

This Hertz/American Express Ad shows what Woody Woodpecker and Scooby Doo looked like in 1993 (the new versions look quite different). Also shown here are Fievel from An American Tail (you can find Fievel's Playland near the E.T. Adventure) and Rocky and Bullwinkle (I saw Bullwinkle in Toon Lagoon at Universal's Islands of Adventure).

It was time for lunch, so I went to Mel's Drive-In.

I had a tasty cheeseburger and fries here.

Mel's had singers performing outside, but not these particular people (this photo is from Universal's 1993 park guide).

After lunch, I went to see the former location of Back to the Future The Ride.

Back to the Future opened in 1991 and closed in 2007.

In its place is The Simpsons Ride, which opened in 2008.

This was my first time to ride The Simpsons Ride. On my November 2009 visit to Universal, I was short on time and chose to ride the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster instead (I did not have time to see that coaster on this trip). I'm glad I finally went on The Simpsons Ride, because I think it's the funniest theme park ride I've experienced.

The fun begins in the queue line, where some hilarious Simpsons clips are shown on TV monitors. These include Simpson visits to Duff Gardens and Itchy and Scratchy Land.

Visitors enter the ride through Krusty the Clown's mouth. We then see posters for some of the attractions in Krustyland. We are about to board the park's newest ride.

The Simpsons characters in the ride's film are computer generated. The re-themed Back to the Future vehicles move in time with the film.

I don't know if it would have been possible, but this attraction would be plussed if the film was in 3D.

Pressed pennies of The Simpsons can be found here.

Curiously, there's no mention of Universal Studios on them.

Some of the fake Krustyland attraction posters can be found on merchandise.

I found a couple of them at Universal's discount stores at the front of the parks.

Many Orlando attractions are spoofed on The Simpsons Ride.

Not even Universal is safe from getting picked on.

Up next was a spin on Men In Black Alien Attack, which is my favorite shoot-em-up dark ride. I used the Single Rider Line for this, and got on the ride quickly. On my last trip to Universal, the Single Rider Line was not in use, and there was a very long wait for this popular attraction.

The ride vehicles are similar to those on The Cat in the Hat Ride at Islands of Adventure. Passengers weave through the city shooting at animatronic aliens, and eventually at other ride vehicles. Be sure to press the red button inside your vehicle when prompted to do so---your score will improve. The ride has different endings depending on how well you round up the aliens.

Up next was a ride on Revenge of the Mummy. This is another of my favorite Universal attractions. It's a dark ride, and it's a roller coaster. I think it's fantastic! It's also easy to get on if you use the Single Rider Line like I did. I always seem to have a problem walking up the stairs in the pitch-black Single Rider queue line here.

Revenge of the Mummy replaced Kongfrontation, the tram ride that featured a gigantic animatronic King Kong. I miss King Kong, but I'm a big fan of Revenge of the Mummy. I did find these great King Kong pressed pennies at the Universal Studios Store at the front of the park.

For more King Kong, check out King Kong, Christmas Ape.

It was then time to go to the front of the park to see Shrek 4-D at Universal Studios Florida for the first time. I had actually seen the 3D Shrek film before, but not in a theme park. How's that? The Shrek 3D movie was released on DVD in 2004, which was promoted during the release of Shrek 2.

Shrek is housed in a building that used to host an Alfred Hitchcock attraction, which included a 3D film sequence from The Birds.

It is fitting that the Shrek 4D attraction uses the Shrek movie clip of Fiona's singing ending the life of a bird.
Shrek 4D debuted at Universal Studios in 2003. The fun versions of the characters shown here were created for a merchandise line released to coincide with Shrek the Third in 2007.

Across from Shrek 4-D, there's construction going on in the former location of The Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera.

This Hanna Barbera attraction debuted in 1990, and was replaced by the Nickelodeon Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast ride in 2003. The Jimmy Neutron version of the ride recently closed, and this attraction will soon be themed to Universal's Despicable Me. You can already find plush Minions and a Unicorn from the film at Universal's shops. The Hanna Barbera ride film has been shown at numerous theme parks around the country. You can still find Scooby Doo at Universal Studios Florida, even though the Hanna Barbera attraction has been closed for years. Similarly, you can still find Nickelodeon characters too, even though Nickelodeon Studios and the Nicktoon Blast have been closed.

After Shrek 4D, I returned to Islands of Adventure to ride Dragon Challenge and take another ride on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. After a ride on the Incredible Hulk roller coaster, it was time to end my big day at Universal Orlando.

I went to CityWalk and had dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Eating here has become a Universal tradition for me (I've also been to the location at Gardenwalk in Anaheim, California). After drinking a Butterbeer, a Frozen Butterbeer and eating a cheeseburger and fries that day, I wasn't incredibly hungry. I was really thirsty, and ready to relax. I got Grilled Shrimp Tacos at Bubba Gump, which is what I ordered on my last visit. I noticed one of the waiters was wearing a LT. DAN shirt. Yes, they sell one, and I am kicking myself for not buying that shirt!
I did get these cool shrimp magnets at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

Soon it was time for my 9:15 pm Mears shuttle back to Disney's Yacht Club Resort. I had a great day at the Universal Orlando Resort, and can't wait to return!

Up next: I go Park-Hopping, and see a Wookie, a Yeti, and a Neanderthal all in the same day.

5 comments:

  1. We ate at Mel's Drive-In too, but it must have been at an off time because there wasn't any singing or dancing.

    We also had to pass on The Simpsons Ride because we were running out of time. But now from your description, I wish we would have experienced it.

    Great trip report Dan. Look forward to hearing about your park hopping.

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  2. Thanks, A Snow White Sanctum! Mel's has two entrances, and only one side had performers, who were singing in the blazing Florida sun. There was also a musical group performing near Shrek 4-D. I guess I was there on a good day to see musicians.

    The writers for The Simpsons Ride did some top notch work. Krusty the Clown was especially funny, prepping riders before boarding our teen-operated "ferris wheel or whatever this ride is."

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  3. Another great trip report. I didn't know that Universal Orlando ever had a tram tour. I wonder how long it was and what guests saw along the way? I hope they never take out their E.T. attraction, especially since theirs is the only one that still exists....it's such a cool dark ride!

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  4. Sounds like Universal Orlando has changed a lot -- I only went once, shortly after it opened, with our high school marching band. I'll have to include a visit next time I go to WDW (this year's upcoming vacation is Disneyland + San Francisco).

    If you're looking to visit all the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co's, you should come visit the one here in NYC in Time Square!

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  5. Thanks, TokyoMagic! Florida's Tram Tour had little in common with the one in Hollywood. My memory is fuzzy, but I think it mostly just traveled past some props, building facades and the Nickelodeon Studios Sound Stages. Hopefully E.T. is safe in Florida, because it is a wonderful dark ride.

    Hey Matt! I didn't realize our high school band went to Universal. I guess the new thing back then was Jaws or Back to the Future the Ride. Your California trip sounds great! I want to go to Disneyland again and finally visit San Francisco, too. I've never been to New York, either, so when I do, I'll have to visit their Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and get my LT. DAN shirt!

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