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Goodbye, Jaws

by Nick LoCicero

In 2012, guests to Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure are in awe of the modern theme park marvel called the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But two decades ago, guests where just as much in awe of the spectacular attractions at Universal Studios Florida. And today, Universal Orlando says goodbye to one of it’s original attractions. Guests to Amity Village are taking their last boat ride through the shark infested waters of Jaws.

Aerial of Jaws I took last week

My family and I made our first trip to this brand new Walt Disney World alternative in 1991, just one year after Universal opened it’s doors. I remember the wonder and magic of getting to “ride the movies.”

Early 90’s park ticket
But, an interesting thing happened when I began to dig through the LoCicero archives of our summer Florida vacations for this article. First I must say, I remember fondly riding Jaws, of that I have no doubt. Second, we made many trips to Universal in the 1990’s… and as you know, memories tend to blend together. So as to how many times or what trips I rode Jaws, I do not know. But a look at my park map and souvenir book from my early 90’s trips showed something peculiar.
Jaws is missing from the maps! It was also not to be found in the souvenir book. I know it was there! I rode it. Hesitantly at first, but I rode it. I was not as scared as I was of the mighty King Kong, but I did think there was a chance that shark would take my boat down. So with Jaws missing from my maps, I did a little research. Apparently, although Jaws was an opening day attraction, it encountered many breakdowns. So much so that it was actually completely closed down, and apparently pulled from printed material, until its grand re-opening in the Spring of 1993. So I do not know if I rode the boats before 1993 or not, but I do know I have some cool early ’90s postcards to prove I was there.
Scan of Jaws postcard. You can see why I was scared!
One of my favorites! Disaster is just not the same.
Loved this one! Would ride it over and over and over and over.
I have now rode Jaws countless times over the past 20 years and the memories will last a lifetime. But after today, it will be gone. I have to say this about Jaws closing… it is time. Although I have many fond memories riding this once great attraction, it’s relevance to guests has long since faded. It’s not so much the technology, but the movie franchise itself. I have always said that Disney can get away with hanging onto older attractions much more than Universal. Most Disney attractions have ties to classic Disney movies that we all grew up with and hold dear to our hearts. Where as Universal Studios attractions are based on movies that are a pop culture fad at the time.
In this aerial you can see Amity and, if you look closely, and explosion by the boat
Jaws, like the Jungle Cruise at Magic Kingdom, relies heavily on its skipper. Especially today when the wow factor of the older technology has long faded, the cast member can make or break the journey. After hearing that this storied attraction was closing up soon, I took my last trip to Jaws in early December to experience the thrills one last time. I’ll tell you what… I had one of the most remarkable trips around that lake I can ever remember. The cast member was perfect. He was so into the story the whole time. And it’s an odd thing, the sharks seemed a little more real than I could recall. The explosions seemed a little more in my face. The action seemed to be a little more intense. It may not seem this way on the Eye on Orlando podcast, but I really do love this ride. I am sad to see it go, but happy all the same to see what is next. It is time to move on. It takes a lot to get put on the short list of legendary Orlando theme park attractions, but I think Jaws is securely on that list. Goodbye Jaws, you will be missed by generations of guests who have sailed your waters.
I’m the one in the Red Sox shirt on the left. I seem to get a little more into photos like this the older I get! Please share your thoughts on Jaws with us.

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