The infamous “Jaws” ride and the big attraction at Universal Studios Theme Park in Florida sadly is no more. When they opened their doors in 1990 “JAWS” was their premiere attraction. But, on January 2, 2012, the final excursion of the Amity Island tour and interactive movie experience set sail. The next day the ride was walled off and dismantling started so a new attraction could take its place. Another summer rite of passage and memories of younger days to be tucked into a shoe box under the bed.
Photos courtesy of The Shark is Still Working
The attraction celebrated the movie “Jaws” based on Peter Benchley’s novel by the same name and directed by Steven Spielberg. It was released to theaters in the summer of 1975 and was a blockbuster smash. It’s since become the prototypical watershed of the summer blockbuster. It was the highest grossing film of all time that summer and was nominated for several awards.
Wikipedia gives the synopsis: In the story, the police chief of Amity Island, a fictional summer resort town, tries to protect beachgoers from a giant man-eating great white shark by closing the beach, only to be overruled by the town council, which wants the beach to remain open to draw revenue from tourists during the summer season. After several attacks, the police chief enlists the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter. Roy Scheider stars as police chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as oceanographer Matt Hooper, Robert Shaw as shark hunter Quint, Murray Hamilton as the mayor of Amity Island, and Lorraine Gary as Brody’s wife, Ellen.
I was just 13 years old that summer. I had read the novel by Benchley the previous year. Based on real life exploits of shark fishermen and the shark attacks on the Jersey Shore in 1916 it was ample fuel for my 13-year-old curiosity. My thrill-seeking friends and I scurried to the local theater to see the monster shark and the havoc it wreaked on poor unsuspecting Amity Island. As I recall, our parents cautioned us it might be too intense.
I have to laugh now. I remember feeling so brave when the house lights went down, but by the time the thrum of the first few notes of that infamous first attack scene score vibrated my seat I was terrified. I was so afraid I sat through the whole movie with my feet tucked safely under me on my seat. I wasn’t going to risk having my legs bitten off by some unseen floor cruising shark! I couldn’t even face the bathtub that night.
I’m sad to say I never experienced Jaws the Ride at Universal Studios but I remember wishing I could when the park opened. Now it’s a thing of the past. It was plagued with constant malfunctions, having been shut down several times during the 90s and then redesigned. By 2005, the ride was shut down temporarily due to rising petroleum costs which fueled the pyrotechnics. When it reopened months later, it was only as a seasonal attraction. The Jaws attraction still remains open at Universal’s Osaka Japan location.
If, like me, you never experienced the attraction or you want to ride it one last time, here it is: