For decades, Universal Orlando Resort has been recognized for its production of exciting and innovative attractions. The addition of new experiences, however, comes at the direct sacrifice of some of the most established (and beloved) rides in the parks’ history.
To honor the past, Universal hides references to retired icons throughout the attractions that have replaced them. While some are well-known by fans and easier to spot, others require a sharp eye and the knowledge of what once was.
Let’s explore these lost attractions and nine of the cleverly hidden tributes paid to them throughout Universal Orlando’s two theme parks.
The attraction: known as a classic among guests, Jaws was a boat ride that brought you face-to-face with the monster shark himself. The looming addition of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley led to the attraction’s demise in 2012.
The tribute: there are actually several homages to Jaws that can be found all around the former location of Amity, including:
- An “Amity Island Lobster Co.” sign on a building in San Francisco
- An “Amity Shipfitters and Riggers” sign on a window of the San Francisco Pastry Company
- An album in a record shop window (in London) titled “Here’s to Swimmin’ with Bow Legged Women” by The Quint Trio
- Shark jaws in the display window of Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary in Diagon Alley, as well as in Knockturn Alley‘s Borgin and Burkes
- Shrunken heads in Knockturn Alley singing “Show Me the Way to Go Home,” an iconic part of Jaws (1975)
8. Earthquake: The Big One/Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride – Starring You!
The attraction: Earthquake: The Big One was a dark ride that used various special effects to demonstrate the filming of Earthquake (1974). It was later updated to Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride – Starring You!, which kept a similar ride experience but changed the storyline to shooting a disaster film with park guests. Disaster was shuttered in 2015 in order to make way for Fast & Furious – Supercharged.
The tribute: look for a jacket slung over a chair with the “Disaster Studios” logo embroidered on it in Supercharged’s queue. Additionally, there are three power switches later on in the line: the first is switched off and has the letters “EQ” on it (for “Earthquake”); the second is also switched off, with “D!” written on it (for “Disaster!”); and the third one is switched on, and has “FF” on it (for “Fast & Furious”).
7. Dueling Dragons/Dragon Challenge
The attraction: Dueling Dragons was composed of two inverted roller coasters that were intertwined in a battle of fire and ice. In 2010, the ride was renamed to Dragon Challenge and rethemed for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. It was closed in 2017 in order for the Forbidden Forest – and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure – to be planted in its place.
The tribute: there is a distressed painting of the fire and ice dragons, accompanied by the words “Dueling Club,” on a wall inside the queue for Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure. Look for this as you enter the line’s indoor section.
6. Twister… Ride It Out
The attraction: upon opening in 1998, Twister… Ride It Out provided guests with the unique opportunity to watch as a tornado formed right before their eyes, with special effects that included wind, rain, and flying cows. Due to the addition of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, the show closed in 2015.
The tribute: in the display windows outside of Race Through New York, an advertisement for Twister Cola is pinned onto a corkboard. Furthermore, the blue shirt that Bill Paxton wore in Ride It Out’s pre-show is hung on the wall.
5. Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue
The attraction: Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue was a musical stage show that featured the notorious Beetlejuice and his crew of classic monsters, set to an energetic rock-‘n-roll theme. It closed in 2016, several months after the next-door Disaster, which both cleared space for Fast & Furious – Supercharged.
The tribute: in Fast & Furious’s queue, you can spot a Beetlejuice figurine, a bowling pin with the face of a monster, a Frankenstein poster, and a toolbox displaying the words, “This car runs on Beetlejuice.”
The attraction: Kongfrontation was a dark ride that took guests through a havoc-wreaked Manhattan, providing close encounters with the great King Kong himself. Revenge of the Mummy replaced this ride following its closure in 2002.
The tribute: two items reference Kongfrontation in Revenge of the Mummy’s treasure room scene: a three-foot-tall golden statue of Kong resides on the left side of the room, while an oversized banana sits on the right.
3. Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast
The attraction: Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast was a simulator ride that rocketed guests through various settings of Nickelodeon’s “golden age” cartoons. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem replaced it after its 2011 demise.
The tribute: in Minion Mayhem, during the Anti-Gravity Recycling Room scene, you can spot Jimmy Neutron’s rocket (the Mark III) in the background. You can see it again in the ride’s gift shop, Super Silly Stuff, towards the ceiling.
2. Ghostbusters Spooktacular
The attraction: Ghostbusters Spooktacular was an indoor special effects show based on the Ghostbusters movies where guests could watch the films’ stars take down paranormal nuisances on stage. Twister… Ride It Out took its place after its closure in 1996.
The tribute: on the outside of the former Ghostbusters Spooktacular building (now home to Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon), the firehouse facade that represented the Ghostbusters’ headquarters still remains. On one of the windows here is a more specific reference: an ad for a paranormal travel agent.
1. Back to the Future: The Ride
The attraction: inspired by the popular film trilogy, Back to the Future: The Ride was a simulator attraction in which guests boarded their own DeLorean to stop Biff’s joyride through time. The Simpsons Ride ultimately replaced this nostalgic favorite after it closed in 2007.
The tribute: televisions play a reel of clips from The Simpsons in the outer queue for The Simpsons Ride. Within these scenes is an original bit that has Doc Brown (voiced by Christopher Lloyd himself) revealing how the Institute of Future Technology became Krustyland. For Back to the Future fans, this homage is both a blast from the past and, well, mildly depressing.
Although these retired attractions are missed dearly, fans can take comfort in knowing that a piece of them still lives on in the parks today. Do you know of any other hidden homages at Universal Orlando Resort? Tell 100,000+ other Universal fans in our Orlando Informer Community on Facebook.