The concept for Universal Studios Florida began back in 1981. In the 70's actually, they bought the land in late 85, I do believe. Universal already had a popular Studio Tour in Hollywood, but they wanted something that would double as a working studio and theme park, and the concept of Universal Studios Florida was born.
At the time, Universal's parent company, MCA, was a bit leery of spending the anticipated $250M dollars it would cost to build the park, so they scouted out partners. Among the partners they looked to was Paramount, at that time, Paramount's studio chief was none other than Michael Eisner. Paramount passed on the project, but Eisner never forgot what he saw. When he came to Disney, one of his first projects was to put the Disney MGM Studios project in the pipeline. Thanks to Disney's Reedy Creek Development District (a quasi-governmental agency that gives Disney the ability to zone itself for construction), Disney was able to complete it's working studio and theme park more than a year before Universal Studios opened it's gates in June 7, of 1990.
The early days for Universal were not good. Attractions failed to work correctly, lines were long and people left the park vowing never to return. Kongfrontation and Earthquake, two of the parks most popular attractions at the time of the opening, didn't work. The JAWS attraction suffered a similar fate. Universal resorted to handing out free passes to apologize, but the damage was done. It took Universal years to recover from it's opening day "black eye", but it did recover.
What many people don't realize is while Universal was being opened, former recreation chief Jay Stein was conceiving Islands of Adventure. According to some reports, about 70% of what he envisioned actually made it into the park.
By 1996 not much had changed at the park, but plans were in the works for a massive expansion. The plan was to open a second theme park, a new hotel, and an entertainment district almost simultaneously. By 1996 construction had started, and in 1999 Universal Studios Florida became Universal Studios Escape (followed by another name change, Universal Studios Orlando).
The new theme park, entitled Islands of Adventure, would put the amusement world on notice that Universal was capable of delivering a first rate, multi faceted theme park every bit as good as Disney. As a matter of fact, some of the creative talent behind the Disney-MGM studios was responsible for Islands of Adventure. But it was clear from the beginning that Islands would not be a 'kiddie park'. Strewn with high energy coasters and thrill rides, this would appeal to an older set of visitors.
Subsequently in 1999, Universal opened CityWalk (an entertainment district similar to Disney's Pleasure Island and the luxury hotel Portofino Bay. In 2000, the resort introduced the Hard Rock Hotel and in 2002, the Royal Pacific Resort opened. Now, with three hotel properties, two theme parks and an entertainment district, Universal seems poised to give Disney a real run for the money.
And don't think for a second that Universal is finished. It still owns another 2000 acres where it plans to develop at least two additional theme parks, more resorts and even some golf courses. While Universal will likely never be the size of Disney World, it may not have to. Universal has shown itself to be a strong player, actually increasing it's visitor base during the dismal 2002 season, when all other parks in Orlando were down. Universal is far from challenging Disney's dominance in Orlando, but it has created a very unique, very upscale resort to offer guests an alternative. With a third park, and some more resorts, Universal just may give Disney a real run for its money. In the end, it is us, the visitors, who win.
Only at Universal Studios Florida can you experience the world of cinema and Ride the Movies®! At this real working film and TV studio, an incredible array of rides, shows, movie sets and attractions put you right in your favorite scenes from your favorite movies. It\'s the number one movie studio theme park in the world!
From the spine-tingling excitement of films such as Earthquake, Jaws and Twister to the out-of-this-world adventure of movies like Back to the Future and E.T. The Extraterrestrial, only Universal Studios puts visitors right into the center of all the action. It\'s the only place where you can save the earth from aliens on the interactive ride, MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack and where you can Plunge into the 3-D cyber-adventure TERMINATOR 2: 3-D.
Must Sees at Universal Studios
Universal Studios Florida is both a movie studio and a theme park featuring lots of great shows and rides.
Revenge of the Mummy- The Ride
The newest ride at Universal…Plunge into total darkness as you face fireballs, scarab beetles, and an army of warrior mummies on a psychological thrill ride totally unlike anything that's come along in the past 3,000 years!
Join Princess Fiona and heroes on an all new honeymoon adventure picking up where the winning movie left off. Featuring an original 3-D film, plus an extra dimension of special effects through the miracle of OgreVision, you see, hear and actually FEEL the action right from your seat!
Jimmy Netron's Nicktoon Blast™
The evil Ooblar from the planet Yokian has stolen Jimmy's newest rocket creation...The Mark IV. Board your own rocket and follow Jimmy on a wild chase through your favorite Nicktoons, including SpongeBob SquarePants, The Fairly OddParents, Hey Arnold!, and Rugrats.
Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time
Join forces with the TERMINATOR in a battle to prevent mankind's extinction at the cold, steel hands of futuristic cyborgs. Live action stunts, special effects and amazing 3-D film come together in this TERMINATOR adventure that says “Hasta la vista, baby” to entertainment as you know it.
Can you help E.T. (the extra terrestrial) make it back home? Bring the kids and board your flying bikes as you soar across the stars to help E.T. save his home planet. It's an adventure that will touch your heart all over again.
Men in Black Alien Attack
As an agent trainee, you'll zap aliens as you spin and careen through the streets of New York in this interactive ride based on the hit movie. With multiple endings, it's never the same ride twice! Have you got what it takes to be the best of the best?
Animal Planet Live!
Animal Planet Live is an outrageous show featuring a humorous mix of video, live animal performances and audience interaction. Don\'t be surprised if things don't always go as scripted, because as anyone will tell you, the animals are running the show!
Back to the Future: The Ride
Great Scott! Doc Brown is sending you screaming through time and space on a 1.21-jigowatt adventure…in Sensurround! You\'ll fly from 2015 Hill Valley through an Ice Age avalanche and into the clutches of a dinosaur and back to the future - all to stop Biff from altering the future.
Twister…Ride it Out
Step into one of the most action-packed movies of all time and feel what it's like to be a storm chaser, looking a tornado right in the eye. Grab onto the railing and “Ride It Out,” as our special effects wizards re-create the explosive force of nature at its worst.
Earthquake - The Big One
We shook the Academy Awards with Earthquake the movie, now we shatter every notion of how thrilling a ride can be. Hold on as ceilings collapse, subway cars crash, and gasoline trucks explode in an authentic earthquake registering 8.3 on the Richter Scale.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in- to the water… a giant fin slices through the waves and you\'re suddenly face to face with three tons of Great White fury - JAWS. Only this time you're riding a boat through the water where he's lurking just around the corner! Are you ready to withstand the all-out assault of JAWS?
Take a closer look at Nickelodeon Studios, where popular Nickelodeon shows are produced. Experience Game Lab, an interactive show with wacky games and stunts based on Nickelodeon programming. You might even be the lucky kid to get slimed. Then meet some of your favorite Nicktoons including SpongeBob SquarePants.