Universal Orlando Resort History

Universal Orlando opened on June 7, 1990 as the theme park Universal Studios Florida. It was opened as a joint venture between Universal Entertainment and The Blackstone Group. The park was in direct competition with Disney MGM Studios (now called Disney's Hollywood Studios).

In 1994, executives started planning the expansion of the resort into a multi-day vacation destination. In late 1995, construction began on a new park, Islands of Adventure. The Islands of Adventure Preview Center opened in May 1997 replacing the Screen Test Home Video Adventure. During this time, several new attractions were being built and opened at Universal Studios Florida, including Woody Woodpecker's KidZone, which opened in 1998, Men in Black: Alien Attack and Animal Actors On Location! (formerly Animal Planet Live).

 

On May 28, 1999, Universal’s Islands of Adventure opened to the general public. It featured six themed "islands", including the Port of Entry, Seuss Landing, The Lost Continent, Jurassic Park, Toon Lagoon, and Marvel Super Hero Island. The park opened to mediocre attendance, and several attractions were closed shortly thereafter, including Island Skipper Tours, due to lack of attendance.

Along with the new theme park, the resort also opened a Florida version of Universal CityWalk from Universal Studios HollywoodCityWalk Orlando, but with different venues and design. Universal also opened the resort's first onsite hotel in September 1999. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (originally Portofino Bay Hotel, a Loews Hotel) was operated and partially owned by Loews Hotels but was also partially owned by Universal and The Blackstone Group. The two theme parks, CityWalk, and the hotel were branded as Universal Studios Escape, however the name was quickly changed to Universal Orlando Resort. In December 2000, Hard Rock Hotel opened as Universal Orlando's second onsite hotel. Despite its name, the hotel is owned by Loews Hotels, like Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and is not affiliated with Hard Rock International. In 2001, Loews Royal Pacific Resort opened. In the midst of all these openings, two parking garages were constructed and the popular water park Wet 'n Wild Orlando was acquired. In 2003, rumors began swirling that a Harry Potter themed attraction would be coming to Universal or one of the Disney parks. On May 31, 2007, Universal, in partnership with Warner Bros., officially announced The Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be added to its Islands of Adventure park. Just over three years later, on June 18, 2010, the seventh "island" at Universal's Islands of Adventure, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, opened.

Shortly after the massive success of the grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade, rumors began to swirl once again, this time of a second Potter-themed area in Universal Studios Florida. It was announced shortly thereafter that Universal would begin construction of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter -Diagon Alley, replacing Jaws: The Ride.[4] On July 8, 2014, Diagon Alley officially opened to the public.

The Blackstone Group sold its stake in Universal Orlando in early 2011.

1986 Land clearing takes place on the swamp land purchased by MCA / Universal that would hold the 414 acre plot for the park. Universal Studios Florida is announced at a press conference on the Hollywood property,  with a budget of $500 million and a plan to open December 1989 and would feature live shows, filmed demonstrations, exhibits, and a number of famous movie sets and streets for guests to tour. Additionally, it would also have studios for filming motion pictures and television shows.

1987 Saw the release of a 10 minute advert three years before the park opened and centers on Universal big wigs sending Christopher Lloyd (as Doc from Back to The Future) into the future to document how cool the new theme park will be.  here is a link to that video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1Db2_fqRoc 

1988 The popular kids network Nickelodeon bought part of Universal Studios Florida to make their very first studio. They have access to Sound Stages 17,18,19 and 21. This means that Universal Studios Florida's opening date is delayed from December 1989 to May 1, 1990.

1989 MCA/Universal Studios claims that The Walt Disney Company and its CEO, Michael Eisner copied several concepts of the Universal Studios Florida park, and integrated them into Disney's recently opened Disney MGM Studios park.

1990 On January 31, Universal Studios Florida's opening date is again delayed from May 1990. Universal Studios Florida begins soft openings for the general public on May 21, Universal Studios Florida soft-opened to tourists and local residents, who were able to purchase nearly half-price tickets – just $15.95 – due to the fact most of the rides and a few of the park’s shows wouldn’t be open to guests right away. According to reports, even the shows that were working would likely be rough versions of the hopefully-polished final versions, as they would be altered and rearranged based on the reactions of guests who attended the soft opening.

Universal Studios Florida is officially opened with a grand opening style ceremony on June 7. The park opens with five themed areas:

 

The Front Lot (entrance area),

Production Central,

The Front Lot and Production Central areas are referred to as "In Production" Murder She Wrote Mystery Theatre, Alfred HitchcockThe Art of Marking Movies, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, Production Tour,Nickelodeon Studios

New York, , "section is referred to as "Now Shooting",

Kongfrontation Ghostbusters Screen Test Home Video Adventure.

 

San Francisco/Amity, "the San Francisco and Amity sections are referred to as "On Location"

Earthquake The Big One Dynamite Nights Stunt Spectacular

 

Expo Center, Expo Center area is referred to as "The World of CineMagic Center".

ET Adventure Animal Actors Stage, Back to the Future The Ride

Hollywood as well as a Lagoon located in the center of the park.

The Gory, Gruesome & Grotesque Horror Make-Up Show, How to Mark a Mega-Movie

Nickelodeon Studios opened on the same day and there is a grand opening ceremony hosted by Marc Summers that was broadcast live on Nickelodeon.

Due to massive technical problems with the original Kong frontationEarthquake: The Big One and Jaws rides, Universal begins a temporary voucher service to allow guests to re-visit the studio/park when the attractions are operating. Jaws is temporarily closed by Universal on September 30 due to persistent major technical problems. During the shut-down, Universal sues the original designer of the Jaws ride, Ride & Show Engineering, and hires Totally Fun Company and intamin to create a re-designed version of most of the ride. Swarm thing and American Tail Theatre set opened

 

1991 Universal adds four new attractions to the park: The Blues Brothers ShowThe Screen Test Home Video Adventure and How to Make a Mega Movie Deal allows visitors to act as a movie star for a day and then leave with a videocassette of their performance. The Screen Test, which costs $31.75, including tax, is the only show not included in the general admission price. Streetbusters features the action of two popular films, "Ghostbusters" and "Beetlejuice. 

Back to the Future: The Ride where visitors would sit in a DeLorean car surrounded by a seven-story hemispherical screen. The car will shoot up 10 feet, in an imitation of Michael J. Fox's character blasting off into space officially opens in the World Expo Center area of the park, in a grand opening ceremony. The ride is considered to be a success, and receives positive reception from theme park critics. Fright Nights debuts at the park. In 1992, it is renamed to Halloween Horror Nights.

 

1992 Nickelodeon Studios gets rid of their Audition Room and the "Touch Screen" Surveys at the end of the 40 min walking tour and replaces them with the Game Lab. Nickelodeon also have a time capsule buried there on April 30th. Fievel's Playland opens in the World Expo area. American Tail Theatre was replaced by a new show Beetlejuice's Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue and Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle show opened. 

1993 Jaws is re-opened, with many scenes altered. MCA/Universal Studios Florida would announce a 10-year, $3 billion expansion, which will include a second theme park and five hotels and allow it to compete head-on with Walt Disney World.

"We have demonstrated that we can have our own place in the sun," Sidney J. Sheinberg, president of MCA Inc., a co-owner of Universal Studios Florida, said today at a ceremony.

Another 600 acres is being added to the present park, bringing the total to 800 developed acres at the movie-and-television-based tourist attraction a few miles southwest of downtown Orlando in central Florida. Construction was expected to begin in 1995, Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle show closed and replaced by StarToons Opened.

 

1994 Released a souvenir video, Experience the magic of movies a 1hr and 15 mins promotional video featuring all the shows and rides open in 1994. The link to that video can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEqpU7jGZ3Q

1995 Universal Studios Florida celebrates its 5th anniversary. A Day in the Park with Barney opens in the World Expo area. The Production Studio Tour is closed due to a dwindle in the studios' recent Film/TV production. Nickelodeon Studios's red & white pillars change to green. This is also the last year Nickelodeon uses Stage 21.

 

1996 Ghostbusters Spooktacular closes on November 8. T2-3D: Battle Across Time opens in the Hollywood area. Murder, She Wrote Mystery Theatre, MCA recording studio, Ghsotbusters and StarToons Closed.

1997 Universal announces that Ghostbusters Spooktacular will be replaced by Twister...Ride it Out, with a planned opening date of Spring 1998 Universal Studios announces that the sole Studio park will be expanded into the Universal Studios Escape, including the Islands of Adventure park, Universal CityWalk Orlando and multiple hotels. The Preview Center opens in the New York area, replacing The Screen Test Home Video Adventure. It is meant to give guests a preview of the up-coming Islands of Adventure park, as well as expansion of the Studio park into the Universal Studios Escape resort.

 

1998 The expansion begins as the original open parking lot for Universal Studios Florida is demolished and replaced by CityWalk and a parking garage complex. Universal delays the opening of Twister...Ride it Out from March 1998 to May 4, 1998 out of respect for the 42 deaths caused by a recent El Nino outbreak of tornadoes in the central Florida area. Twister...Ride it Out opens in the New York area, replacing Ghostbusters Spooktacular. A new area of the park, Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone, is officially opened, holding the attractions Curious George Goes to Town, StarToons and the previously opened Fievel's Playland, E.T. Adventure, Animal Actors Stage and A Day in the Park with Barney; CityWalk opens outside of the park.

1999 Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster opens in the Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone area. This was the first roller coaster to be constructed at Universal Manufactured by Vekoma with a top speed of 21mph with a capacity of 780 rides per hour. 

Islands of Adventure opens next door to Universal Studios Florida. Universal's Islands of Adventure (formally called Universal Studios Islands of Adventure and often shortened to Islands of Adventure) Islands of Adventure had a soft opening beginning March 27, 1999, during which visitors could preview the park at a discounted price while the staff conducted a technical rehearsal and worked on the "finishing touches." During this soft opening, guests were informed that attractions might open and close throughout the day without notice and that some attractions might not be open at all. Initial plans were to open the park in mid-May, but this was ultimately delayed It opened on May 28, 1999, along with CityWalk, as part of an expansion that converted Universal Studios Florida into the Universal Orlando Resort.

After the enormous capital expenditure required to build Islands of Adventure, CityWalk, and the resort hotels, Universal sought to overtake nearby Walt Disney World in attendance. However, with the addition of the second park, new resorts, and entertainment district, the resort was named Universal Studios Escape. Essentially, it seemed that visitors were confused by the name, assuming that Islands of Adventure was a new area added to the already-existing Universal Studios Florida theme park. For the first two years, attendance did not rise as expected.

 

1999 saw many new rides and rollercoasters open at the new Islands of adventure,

The Hulk a B&M coaster, the launched lift hill accelerates the train to 40 mph (64 km/h) in approximately two seconds and reaches a top speed of 67 mph (108 km/h). Riders experience seven inversions throughout the course of the 3,800-foot-long (1,200 m) ride.

Dragon Challenge (known as Dueling Dragons from 1999 to 2010) was a pair of intertwined, inverted roller coasters in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter area of Universal StudiosIslands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, United States. The ride was themed to two chasing dragons, one side being Chinese Fireball and the other Hungarian Horntail. It featured a layout in which the two trains shared adjacent lift hills but traversed two unique courses. The ride was designed by Bolliger & Mabillard of Switzerland. The Chinese Fireball dragon reached a top speed of 60 mph, and the Hungarian Horntail dragon reached a top speed of 55 mph. Both versions featured five inversions and a total ride time of two minutes and 25 seconds.

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is a motion-based 3D dark ride located at the Islands of Adventure, Orlando and Universal Studios Japan, Osaka theme parks. Built for Islands of Adventure's opening in 1999, the attraction is a hybrid ride combining special roving motion vehicles with 3D projection, elaborate physical sets, and both practical and tactile effects.

Doctor Doom's Fearfall a S&S Power Drop towers with a height of 185ft and top speed of 40mph

Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls is a log flume ride the attraction's queue area passes through: Snidely Whiplash's hideout; a theater that spoofs movies such as JawsThe Silence of the LambsE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThree Men and a Baby and Star Wars; and a room with a talking bear head and a talking beaver head on a wall. The ride was designed and manufactured by Mack Rides with a 75 ft drop and a top speed of 45mph

2000 Dynamite Nights Stunt Spectacular ends. Men in Black: Alien Attack opens in the World Expo area, on the former site of The Swamp Thing Set. The ride opened in April 2000 after a five-year development process. The ride has generally been well received, winning an Outstanding Achievement award from the Themed Entertainment Association.

2001, the marketing was revamped, clarifying that Islands of Adventure was indeed a second, completely separate park with new rides and attractions. Universal Studios Escape was renamed Universal Orlando Resort, and ended up being the only resort in the Orlando area to actually have an increase in attendance after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Animal Planet Live opens, replacing Animal Actors Stage. Macy's Holiday Parade debuts at the park.

 

2002 Universal Studios Escape is renamed Universal Orlando ResortKongfrontation closes in a closing ceremony. Halloween Horror Nights is moved to Islands of Adventure. The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera closes on October 20.

 

2003 Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast opens, replacing The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. Shrek 4-D opens with Donkey's Photo Finish, replacing Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies and Stage 54 respectively.

 

2004 Revenge of the Mummy opens, replacing Kongfrontation.[24] Halloween Horror Nights takes place in both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Nickelodeon Studios' last show is taped.

 

2005 Universal Express Plus is introduced, replacing Universal Express. Nickelodeon Studios closes on April 30 after nearly 15 years. Fear Factor Live opens, replacing The Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show. Universal Studios Florida celebrates its 15th anniversary.

 

2006 Delancey Street Preview Center opens in the New York area. Universal 360: A Cinesphere Spectacular opens, replacing Dynamite Nights Stunt Spectacular. Animal Planet Live is closed, and replaced by Animal Actors on Location. Halloween Horror Nights returns to Universal Studios Florida for its "Sweet 16".

 

2007 Back to the Future: The Ride closes on March 30.[25] Blue Man Group Sharp Aquos Theatre opens in CityWalk, replacing Nickelodeon Studios. Earthquake: The Big One closes in the San Francisco area on November 5.

2008 Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride...Starring You! opens, replacing Earthquake: The Big One.[26] Universal announces Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, with a planned opening of Spring 2009. The Simpsons Ride opens, replacing Back to the Future: The Ride.[27]

 

2009 The Universal Music Plaza Stage opens, replacing The Boneyard. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit opens.

 

2010 The 20th anniversary of Universal Studios Florida in June, as well as Halloween Horror Nights in October. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens to the public.

2011 Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast closes on August 18. Universal 360: A Cinesphere Spectacular closes. The 10th anniversary of Macy's Holiday Parade at the park.

 

2012 Jaws and the surrounding Amity themed area closes on January 2, as announced on December 2, 2011.[29] Universal announces the additions of Universal's Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories and Universal's Superstar Parade to the park, with openings on May 8, 2012.[30] Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, opens replacing Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast; as announced on March 14, 2011 as "...one of many exciting things planned for the next couple of years".[31] Universal Orlando Resort announced Transformers: The Ride 3D will officially open in the summer of 2013, replacing Soundstage 44, which was demolished on June 24, 2012.[32] SpongeBob StorePants, a gift shop themed after SpongeBob SquarePants opened in Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone replacing the Universal Cartoon Store.

 

2013 The opening date for Transformers: The Ride 3D is announced for June 20, 2013. Details of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion are officially announced. Details for the new Simpsons Land are announced and expected to open in the summer of 2013. Transformers: The Ride 3D officially opens in the Production Central area replacing Soundstage 44. Simpsons Fast Food Boulevard (renamed Springfield U.S.A.) concludes its expansion as it includes one new ride: Kang & Kodos' Twirl 'n' Hurl.

 

2014 A Celebration of Harry Potter, an annual three-day weekend event celebrated on the last weekend of January, debuts at both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure on January 24. The opening date for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley is announced for July 8, 2014 amid the Diagon Alley preview red carpet premiere on June 18, 2014 with Domhnall GleesonBonnie WrightEvanna LynchMatthew LewisJames and Oliver PhelpsTom FeltonRobbie ColtraneWarwick Davis and Helena Bonham Carter attending the premiere. King's Cross station opens on July 1, 2014 as well as the Hogwarts Express Hogsmeade station at Islands of Adventure, connecting park visitors to both Harry Potter theme parks via a full scale working replica of the Hogwarts Express train that appears in the Harry Potter film series. Diagon Alley officially opens, replacing Jaws and the Amity section of the park.

 

2015 Universal Studios Florida celebrates its 25th anniversary. Metal detectors and airport-style security are placed at the entrances to the Dragon Challenge and The Incredible Hulk at Islands of Adventure, and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, as a precaution, banning loose articles from all pockets of riders, including cell phones, wallets, watches, and such. Universal announces a partnership with Nintendo to bring their characters to either Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure park. Universal announced in August, that Fast & Furious: Supercharged will replace Disaster!, set to close on September 8, and Beetlejuice's Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue, set to close early 2016, set to open in 2018. Disaster! closed on September 8. It was announced on October 27, the closing of Twister...Ride it Out for November 2, 2015 to be replaced by Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon in 2017.[34]

 

2016 Beetlejuice's Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue closed on January 5. Construction for Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon commences.

2017 On the January 12, 2017 episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, host Jimmy Fallon announced April 6 as the official opening date of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon[35] with tapings of the show taking place at the resort April 2–6. Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon began soft openings on March 2 and opened on March 6. Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon attended the grand opening of the ride as well as announcer Steve Higgins, house band The Roots, Gary, Sara's stepdad and Hashtag the PandaT2-3D: Battle Across Time closed on October 8 to make room for a new attraction opening in 2019.[36] Universal's Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories closed to make room for a new night show.[37]

2018 In 2018 Universal opened Fast & Furious: Supercharged on April 23, 2018. The attraction is based on Fast & Furious film franchise, which features Vin DieselDwayne JohnsonMichelle Rodriguez and Tyrese GibsonFast & Furious: Supercharged replaced Disaster!, which closed on September 8, 2015. Also on July 16, 2018, Universal Orlando Resort debuted its new Night time lagoon show, Universal Orlando's Cinematic Celebration.[38]

2019 Beverly Hills Boulangerie closed early January to be re-themed to The Today Show and open in Spring as TODAY Cafe. A Celebration of Harry Potter was not celebrated as Universal focused on the construction of Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Islands of Adventure. TODAY Cafe opened on May 16 with a grand opening attended by Al Roker and a live broadcast of The Today Show.

Roller Coasters coming soon

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