Universal Orlando has been open for thirty years, and in that time both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure have gone through some massive changes when it comes to attractions.
Since we’re feeling nostalgic today, we wanted to run through the list of attractions at Universal that have gone on to that big theme park in the sky and reminiscence about some of our favorites.
Here are four extinct Universal attractions we miss desperately!
When Universal Studios Florida first opened in 1990, it promised (and still does to this day) to put guests in the middle of some of the biggest movie moments. Big is the operative word here, because one of the most talked about attractions leading up to opening was an up close and personal encounter with King Kong in Kongfrontation.
Guests boarded a New York City skytram and would be pursued by the giant ape during his rampage through the city. The most impressive thing about this attraction were the two gigantic Kong animatronics that appeared in the attraction complete with “banana breath”.
Unfortunately, the king’s signature attraction was plagued with technical issues and eventually guests had to say goodbye to Kongfrontation on September 8, 2002. The facade and show building would play host to Florida’s version of Revenge of the Mummy, and Universal would have a distinct lack of Kong for thirteen years until Skull Island: Reign of Kong opened at the neighboring Islands of Adventure.
There were more than a few themes one could spot in Universal Studios Florida’s opening day attractions: they were all segments from the famous Studio Tour in Hollywood, they were based on some of the biggest movie hits at the time, and they were all hamstrung by various malfunctions. The one that got it the worst by far was Jaws, having to be entirely rebuilt almost from the ground up.
Thankfully, when the attraction reopened in 1993 it lived up to the original promise of a white-knuckle meeting with a great white shark. It was also a funny attempt by Universal to break the fourth wall wherein you would be going on a boat tour to see the actual shark attack locations that inspired that big Hollywood movie.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the reason why this attraction holds a special place in our hearts: the skippers and the ride script. Like the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom, the attraction could rise or fall depending on your skipper’s delivery and made for the best moments (we’ll be shark bait in ten minutes).
Back to the Future: The Ride
Universal enjoyed a steady stream of hits throughout the 80s, but one of their biggest came in the summer of 1985 with Back to the Future. The time-traveling escapades of Marty McFly and the eccentric scientist Doc Brown captivated audiences with its blend of science-fiction, comedy, and heartfelt story.
Not only did the movie lead to box office success for Universal, the concept of a Back to the Future ride would help green-light the development of Universal Studios Florida based on the suggestion of one Steven Spielberg. Once the attraction opened in 1991, guests would be able to board their very own DeLorean time machine and travel back in time.
Not only did we get to hop in our own DeLorean, but Christopher Lloyd and Thomas F. Wilson would reprise their roles as Doc Brown and Biff Tannen, respectively. This star power really made it feel like the attraction was a continuation of the events from the film and framed the guests as important participants in the story.
Dueling Dragons/Dragon Challenge
The most recent in our list of attractions that has gone the way of the dinosaurs, this inverted dueling roller coaster began life as Dueling Dragons, the E-ticket attraction of the Lost Continent section of Islands of Adventure. At the time, it was the only fully inverted dueling roller coaster in the world where guests could choose to take on the Fire or Ice Dragon.
Once it was announced that a certain boy wizard would be taking over a large part of the Lost Continent, Dueling Dragons was kept intact but renamed Dragon Challenge and themed around the Triwizard Tournament as shown in Goblet of Fire. The Fire and Ice tracks were renamed Chinese Fireball and Hungarian Horntail, respectively, to match with the lore of the wizarding world.
Dueling Dragons/Dragon Challenge’s number eventually got called when Universal announced that they would be replacing it with a brand new experience: Hagrid’s Magical Creature’s Motorbike Adventure. While the new coaster definitely brings the fun factor, we can’t help but shed a tear for this extinct reminder of a grander Lost Continent land.
What are some of the extinct attractions you miss most at Universal Orlando? Let us know in the comments below!