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Welcome to the AmityBoatTours.com Finale Edition. In this brand-new expansion to our website we celebrate the life, and journey of the JAWS Attraction at Universal Studios Florida and beyond. We gather together as JAWS Finatics and build an all-new never before created JAWS Community!


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History

The history of the JAWS ride has always been a topic of discussion. From the day the attraction opened its doors in 1990, all the way until the January 2nd, 2012 closing - the attraction has had a very complicated voyage. For the first time ever, we dive into the history of the attraction making stops at important key moments along the way...



  • 1987 - The Beginning

    Our story begins in November of 1979. MCA Inc. purchased around 400 acres of swamp land next to Interstate 4 in Orlando, Florida to begin work on “..a movie oriented attraction” which was rumored to be very similar to Universal Studios Hollywood’s Backlot Studio Tour. At that time Universal Studios was called Universal CIty Florida and was planned to have a majority of the park be a Tram Tour (referred to as the “Glamour Tram” back then). The “Glamour Tram” would make stops at attractions based off of the blockbusters of the time - from JAWS to King Kong and Earthquake. In 1987, with the announcement of Disney’s MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios) theme park on the horizon, the shift was made from the “Glamour Tram”  concept to having guests step out of the tram, and tour the sets and locations of a movie studio first-hand. They wouldn’t need to be in a tram to see where things were filmed, they would actually be able to walk the Backlot itself, and explore themed attractions built-in to The Lot. 

     

    With ‘Earthquake... The Big One’ and ‘Kongfrontation’ taking their roots from their California cousins, the Universal Creative Team bulked-up their resources for the “JAWS Project”. In March of 1987, Steven Spielberg (director of JAWS) was contracted in to be the park’s Creative Consultant. This is when he coined the term “Ride the Movies”... 

     

  • 1989 - Concept & Construction

    Ride Designers were still puzzled at exactly how to execute a Great White Shark attack every few minutes in the middle of their theme park... Universal turned to Ride & Show Engineering Inc. a California based theme park entertainment company to begin designing and realistically drafting the execution of the JAWS Ride. After months of work and deliberation - Universal Creative and Ride & Show Engineering Inc. put together a six minute ride concept. 

     

    The concept outlined the beginning of the tour: (a.) guests would step aboard large passenger pontoon boats with a Skipper actor on the front (in a confined “stage”); (b.) guests would then begin an education tour with it’s own ride score talking about the “real-life” Amity Island - pointing out sights where the 1974 shark attacks occurred which inspired the movie “JAWS”; (c.) a distress signal of boat ahead of us is heard, prompting a rescue mission; (d.) the remains of the tour with no survivors would be seen by guests then put them in the seats to be stalked by the shark killer himself; (e.) seeking refuge in an abandoned boathouse, the shark attacks once more; (f.) while attempting to call for back-up the shark would attack your boat, piercing one of the pontoons and spin your boat partially while attacking; (g.) with nothing left to do the Skipper fires his APC 47 Grenade Launcher into the shark’s mouth as he dives underwater; (h.) an underwater explosion is heard and seen with blood and chunks of shark flying over 10-15 feet in the air... an amazing concept was built and rehearsal began for the 1990 park grand opening... 

     

  • 1990 - Grand Opening

    On June 7th, 1990 Universal Studios Florida opened it’s doors to exciting guests and celebrities. With the operational success of ‘Earthquake... The Big One’ and ‘Kongfrontation’ during opening day, JAWS was left with long lines and scattered operational downtimes. Furious guests flooded Guest Services demanding their money back for “not seeing the sharks”. Universal immediately called in Ride & Show Engineering Inc. to begin troubleshooting. Three more months of additional “Technical Rehearsal” was needed for JAWS. Every time one problem would have a solution, more issues and challenges would surface. All the while every guest who complained to Guest Services would receive a complimentary second ticket for free to compensate their loss of the attraction. The small bugs with the other larger attractions were fixed within weeks, while the JAWS ride was plagued with serious issues. MCA Inc. ended up filing a lawsuit in August of 1990 (3 months after opening) against Ride & Show Engineering Inc. claiming “poor workmanship”. Steven W. Lew, the then president of Universal Studios, Florida was quoted saying "We have suffered tremendously. Ride & Show did not deliver on what they said they could deliver on. In the interim, we had to discover and correct problems at our own expense. I think we have been more than reasonable.". The claims continued between both Ride & Show Engineering Inc. and MCA Inc. until they were settled outside of court later that year. Ride & Show Engineering Inc. was dropped from working on the JAWS Project any longer and the attraction closed for a complete redesign at the end of 1990.

  • 1993 - Captain Jake's Amity Boat Tours

    With Universal taking notes of the challenges from the previous year, the started again to redesign the attraction. Taking into account reliability and capacity. MCA Inc. and Universal began rewiring and redesigning the whole attraction, from the ground up. The 1990 version was rumored to be around a $30 million dollar project -- all of which was redone and Universal was estimated to spend around an additional $45-50 million on it’s rehab. Universal contacted Intamin to redesign the boat track, redesigned the boats by Regal Marine Industries, and completely reprogrammed the ride system with help from Itec Productions. All of the shark were redesigned and rebuilt by Oceaneering Technologies and programmed with all new profiles and sequences. To breath new life into the attraction, Universal engineered a brand-new (for it’s time) fire effect sequence for it’s part 1 finale. The flame effects - which are still regarded as the largest controlled flame effects ever used in a theme park ride - were extremely effective in simulating a gasoline dock’s explosion. The JAWS Ride reopened it’s doors in Summer of 1993 to a gala grand opening complete with stars from the original JAWS film and, of course, Mr. Spielberg.

     

  • 2005 - Fuel Closure

    The history of our favorite attraction doesn’t end there - in Fall of 2005 natural gas prices climbed and Universal was forced to place JAWS in a “Seasonal” coma. The ride was rumored to be closing permanently -- which launched it’s current Skippers into making the infamous mockumentary “How to Tune a Fish” musical. 

  • 2006 - Back in Business

    But all would be resolved when the natural gas prices dropped again, and the attraction regained daily operation. It was rumored that during the year hiatus Universal received thousands of guest complaints about the attraction closing. 

  • 2011 - Final Fourth of July

    In December of 2011, JAWS Skippers were called in for a mandatory meeting at the Fear Factor Live! stadium where news broke of the ride's imanent closure... the date was set for the Final Voyage on January 2nd, 2012 at park close (9:00pm). Universal began marketing the "Final Voyage" and sent out an e-mail (pictured below) - as news started to spread, and sink in (no pun intended), varous website and publications showed their support and love for the JAWS ride - some of these sites included all major news sites, Perez Hilton, and CNN.com. 

  • 2012 - Farewell and Adieu

    January 2nd, 2012 - the final JAWS boat tour dispatched. Flocks of guests, past/present Skippers were on hand to salute the Final Voyage. Throughout the day, guests were seen crying as they came off the boats at Unload. Skippers were in tears as they completed their final shifts. 


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