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20 years of changes at Universal Orlando: A pictorial history – part one


The first time we visited Universal Studios Florida was in 1992. Our daughter was 10 and so little for her age but she was tall enough to Ride the Movies. I remember how she slipped down in the seat while on Back to the Future, and we thought she was going to bounce completely out of the car; it scared me half to death and later I couldn’t even remember what happened on the screen! But she LOVED it and giggled so hard it was comical. She loves anything that moves, even elevators, so Earthquake: The Big One (now known as Disaster) amused us all. We took the backlot Studio Tour and got a kick out of seeing sets from TV shows and working studios.

We didn’t take a lot of pictures because film and prints cost a bunch back in the day, but I did recently find a few of them from our first visit. I decided it would be fun to go back to the same spots and take new digital photos to see how Universal Studios Florida has changed in 20 years. We have been Annual Passholders for 14 of those years, so we also have pictures from our first year of having passes, 1999-2000, and many since.

I truly dislike the phrases “I’ve been there” or “I’ve seen it” when it comes to going to theme parks. Yet, when we ask visiting friends to go with us just one day, these are the phrases I most often hear. There is NO WAY anyone who visited Universal Studios a few years ago can say that they’ve experienced everything! I honestly wish I were able to treat all of these people to a second visit so they could see for themselves the changes over the years and how the park has expanded. Universal Studios is more fun now that it was in 1992, or even 1999! So, I’ve put together the few photos I have from 1992 with their 2012 images.


Part one: Central Park & World Expo

We stopped in Central Park to give our daughter her lunch in 1992. At the time we had to carry her prepared meals with us (she can’t chew) so we enjoyed this grassy knoll as a picnic spot.

Central Park - 1992.
Central Park – 1992.
Central Park - 2012.
Central Park – 2012.

We could see completely across the lagoon as the trees were all small and views were not obstructed. It is one of the prettiest spots in Universal Studios and I don’t understand why we rarely see visitors make use of it. We also took pictures from this area toward Lombard’s Seafood Grill and New York.

Central Park - 1992.
Central Park – 1992.
Central Park - 2012.
Central Park – 2012.
Central Park - 1992.
Central Park – 1992.
Central Park - 2012.
Central Park – 2012.

Opening as the Animal Actors stage in 1990, this attraction became Animal Planet Live in 2001 but was re-named Animal Actors on Location in 2006. Later in 1998, Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone was opened in the area behind the Animal Actors show. This is how the stage looked in 1992 and now in 2012:

Animal Actors - 1992.
Animal Actors – 1992.
Animal Actors - 2012.
Animal Actors – 2012.

I would have loved to have taken the picture from the same spot, but the area is now for electric scooter parking.

On the Studio Tour we went by the working set for Swamp Thing: The Series, a TV show that ran for three seasons beginning in 1990. MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack now occupies the land.

MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack - 1992.
MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack – 1992.
MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack - 2012.
MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack – 2012.

The Studio Tour was discontinued in the fall of 1995, but on the tram we also saw Universal’s first on-site motel, The Bates, was used in Psycho IV: The Beginning. It was also used for the Psycho Path Maze during Halloween Horror Nights until it was demolished in 1995 to make way for A Day in the Life with Barney. This park adjoining the Barney Theater is also a beautiful spot to rest.

Bates Motel / Barney - 1992.
Bates Motel / Barney – 1992.
Bates Motel / Barney - 2012.
Bates Motel / Barney – 2012.


Needless to say, every time we go to the Universal parks we notice something new, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why we continue to be Annual Passholders. The next time someone says they’ve been to Universal Studios but not recently, I’ll pull up this article and show them HOW the place has changed, and then challenge them to see for themselves. You should do the same!

You can continue onto part two of this series, or view all of the posts on our blog tagged with UOR history.


[sws_author_bio user=”iamdollie” size=”105″ authorposts=”More OI posts by debi” name_format=”About the author”] [/sws_author_bio]

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Taylor Strickland
Taylor Strickland
September 14, 2012 1:53 pm

Absolutely incredible! This is fascinating stuff, and I’m so happy I have the opportunity to publish it on our site.

By the way, do you remember if the Animal Actors stage was uncovered in 1992?

Taylor Strickland
Taylor Strickland
September 17, 2012 1:18 pm
Reply to  Debi Dame

I meant, was there a roof over the whole structure? It just looks like it might have been an open air auditorium in the picture.

February 2, 2013 10:50 pm

Actually, the Bates Mansion was not replaced by Barney, and they were even both in the park together at one point in time. The Curious George water park is what (sadly) took the Mansion’s place.

November 11, 2013 11:14 pm

Barney replaced the Batel Motel. Curious George replaced the Bates mansion.

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