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Former Universal Studios Florida Rides and Shows

History of the Jaws Rides at Universal Studios Florida

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The Jaws ride at Universal Studios Florida (USF) was a thrilling but unreliable ride that opened in 1990 as one of the theme park’s original attractions. based on Steven Spielberg’s classic 1975 film.

Similar to the series of setbacks and problems that plagued Steven Spielberg and the cast throughout the first film’s production, the ride’s robotic sharks regularly experienced mechanical failures, leading to frequent delays and temporary closures.

When the first version of the Jaws ride was functional, it took guests on a pontoon boat tour of the fictional Amity Island. The timeline was set after the films where they encountered the infamous great white shark, nicknamed “Bruce”, after Steven Spielberg’s lawyer.


The original engineering of the first set of sharks for the ride proved too poor for daily usage. As a result, the original version of the ride was closed for an extensive refurbishment in 1991, just months after its initial opening.

The second version of the ride, which reopened in 1993, featured significant improvements for mechanical reliability, although the visual appearance of each shark was considered by most as less realistic than the sharks used in the first ride. Elements of the original ride that changed included the end of sharks biting the boat, and the ending featured the shark being electrocuted, similar to the ending of the Jaws 2 movie.


The sharks on the original version of USF’s Jaws ride had authentic shark teeth across their mouths, which could be clearly seen at one point of the ride when a shark bit one of the boat’s pontoons.

Eventually, the authentic teeth had to be replaced with rubber versions.

Another notable aspect of the original ride was its explosive finale. After the skipper shot a fake grenade into the shark’s mouth, an explosion blasted the shark apart, or so it seemed to the naked eye. The pieces were held together by small wires and retrieved to reenact the scene for the next boat in line.

The updated ride was more successful and operated for nearly two decades before closing permanently in 2012. The Jaws ride remains a beloved memory for many theme park enthusiasts and a significant part of Universal Studios Florida’s history.

[For a full overview of Universal Studios Florida’s original Rides, go HERE]

TWO SHARKS AT USF OFTEN CONFUSED WITH THE ONES USED ON THE RIDE:

Two sharks that are often mistaken as former robotic sharks used on the ride are the shark that hangs by its tail and continues to reside in the park and a “JAWS: The Revenge” (JAWS 4) screen-sued robotic shark that was once located in a former section of the park known as “The Boneyard.”

The hanging great white shark was created specifically for park visitor photo ops, and is the last major physical tribute to the film at the park. In 2021, it was temporarily removed for refurbishment, but returned to the same location just a few months later. The section around the JAWS ride which was themed as Amity Island, was deconstructed and rebuilt into the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley.

The JAWS 4 screen-used shark that once sat in the graveyard was among multiple movie props that were displayed at the grand opening of Universal Studios Florida in 1990.

Other Jaws4 props featured included a single dorsal fin prop and miniature sub.

The JAWS 4 props were placed next to the houseboat from the 1991 version of the flim “Cape Fear.” Other props throughout The Boneyard included military vehicles from various TV shows and films.

Numerous park guests stole rubber teeth from the prop. Ultimately, Florida’s relentless humidity and sunshine led to the shark’s removal from The Boneyard.

The last known image of the JAWS 4 shark showed it riding the back of a junkyard hauler’s trailer that appeared to be traveling on Interstate 4, which runs parallel to Universal Orlando Resort.

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Ed Dean: Publisher

 

Ed Dean is a leading radio and news media personality including hosting the #1 statewide radio talk show in Florida. Contact Ed.Dean@FloridaDaily.com

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