Jaws The Ride: 1990-2012
Jaws, the popular Universal Studios Orlando theme park attraction based on the 1975 film of the same name, will die on January 3, 2012, after over two decades of frightening tourists with a mechanical polyurethane shark. Universal announced the ride’s closure this morning, citing the need to “make room for an exciting, new attraction experience.”
“Jaws has been an amazing attraction and an important part of our history,” said the company in their public statement. “But we must always work to provide new, innovative, entertainment experiences for our guests.”
The Jaws ride and its surrounding Amityville area (modeled after the fictional town from the film) will last be open to curious theme park visitors on January 2, 2012. While there’s no word yet on what will replace Jaws, rumor has it Universal bosses plan on expanding their immensely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction. Insiders claim the idea being bandied about would involve the construction of new Potter simulations in the current Jaws location and using a train system (the magical “Hogwart’s Express”) to connect it with the original Wizarding World in neighboring theme park Islands of Adventure.
Opened with Universal Studios Orlando itself on June 7, 1990, Jaws was an expansion of the brief Jaws segment added to Universal Hollywood’s famed Backlot Tour in 1976. Initially, Jaws was the most technically plagued ride at the park, so much so that it had to be evacuated nearly every day during its first summer. On September 30, 1990, Universal shut the ride down and sued the engineering company that built it for faulty design. Jaws limped along for the next two years as implemented corrections failed to bring the experience to life correctly. Universal eventually hired another contracter for a complete overhaul (removing complicated elements such as the robotic shark biting the tour boat) and reopened the ride in the Spring of 1993.
Jaws entertained Universal attendees after that without major incident until 2004. That year Florida was ravaged by several hurricanes in succession, inflating the price of petroleum and thereby making the gas-reliant seven acre shark attraction too expensive to operate on a daily basis. Universal closed Jaws that year but reopened it on a seasonal basis in late 2005 after a heavy cloud of fan protest. The complaints didn’t stop, though, and eventually the park relented by reopening Jaws full in February of 2007.
I’ve mourned various theme park attraction closures before, but this one really hits me where it hurts. Jaws has always been my absolute favorite non-science fiction film, and being afforded the opportunity to enter that world via Jaws the Ride—no matter how phony it kept looking to my ever-maturing eyes or how thick the malaise was through which all the teenage skippers read their lines—was something I truly relished in life. In 1994, when I was a mere lad of fourteen, my parents decided to move our family from New England to the greater Orlando area; part of the reason I didn’t throw a huge stupid sucky baby fit over this development was because I knew I’d be that much closer to Jaws. Forget oranges and the beach and goddamn Mickey Mouse. I needed that creepy shark recreation.
That Jaws the Ride will be murdered on my thirty-third birthday is just pouring salt on the wound. At least I’ll be down that way next month visiting my parents for Christmas, so I’ll ostensibly be able to putter around Amity Lagoon one last time before the Fake Shemp Bruces are carelessly tossed in Universal’s backyard to make room for Brand New More Popular Film Franchise Simulation. Not that I’m against progression. It just stings us old timers on occasion.
Paying my final respects to a robotic shark at Christmas. That sounds like a Beck lyric. I wish it weren’t real.