As reported in our blog of 2nd December 2011, today sees the closing of JAWS! at Universal Studios Orlando so there’s really not much time left if you want to take a ride for one last time.
JAWS! has been a popular ride among guests since its opening on 7 June 1990 and it’s going to be sad to see it go. All good things must come to an end though as we have to make room for the new.
The attraction was originally inspired by a scene on the long-running Universal Studios Backlot Tour in which the Studio Tour tram passed through several sets from the filmand was then attacked by the shark known as JAWS while driving by an Amity Harbour shore line. The original ride was designed by MCA/Universal Planning and Development, in association with Ride and Show Engineering, which designed the original tour scene and Steven Spielberg, who directed the first film in the series, also served as a creative consultant for the ride.
Following the opening of Jaws in 1990, it experienced extensive and persistent breakdowns as a result of the massive special effects involved. This also happened at fellow original rides like Kongfrontation and Earthquake: The Big One and while Universal was able to eventually contain the technical bugs in the Kong and Earthquake rides at “utmost consistency”, the effects in the Jaws ride constantly refused to work at all, resulting in the ride having to be evacuated almost daily.
Universal temporarily shut down the ride in August 1990, and sued Ride and Show Engineering for failing to properly design the ride. Throughout 1991 and early 1992, Universal attempted to refurbish the effects of the ride for a re-opening, but with no result. Some reports leaked that the high-tech electronics used in the sharks was damaged due to inadequate waterproofing. Eventually, Universal then collaborated with Totally Fun Company (who designed many of the park’s original attractions) to create a new version of almost the entire ride. Some of the changes which resulted in the re-design of the ride include the replacement of two major ride scenes; the first one being in which JAWS bit onto the tour boat and turned it by 90-degrees (which was replaced with the Gas dock explosion scenes) and the second being the finale (which was loosely based on the first Jaws movie in which the skipper shot a grenade into the shark’s mouth, causing him to explode underwater, resulting in gushing blood (which was replaced by the current finale in which JAWS is electrocuted after biting onto a high-voltage barrage which was loosely based on the ending for Jaws 2).
Following the hurricanes that struck Central Florida in 2004, Universal was forced to temporarily close the ride due to the rising cost of petroleum, which is used to fuel the numerous pyrotechnical effects throughout the attraction as well as the tour boats. The ride finally reopened in December 2005, but was listed as “seasonal” and only open on busier days. This lasted until February 2007 when the ride was finally opened full time again after numerous guest complaints. During the 2005 closure, several renovations were made to the ride. The attraction was further refurbished in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 but on December 2, 2011, Universal Orlando Resort announced that the JAWS! attraction and the Amity Area will close permanently on January 2, 2012 to “make room for an exciting, NEW, experience. ”