Theme parks always undergo turnover to draw in new crowds and coincide with newer media. We’ve seen this most frequently with the Disney and Universal properties. With Disney’s expansion into a galaxy far, far away, Universal’s been quick to usher new, successful titles under their parks and resorts umbrella.
However, a number of these defunct attractions were fan favorites, and to this day, we still miss their presence. Here are 10 Universal Studios attractions that were shut down.
10 Jurassic Park: The Ride
This only goes for the Hollywood location (for now), but Southern California is in the early stages of mourning its presence. Shut down after the 2018 summer season, the attraction recently reopened as Jurassic World - The Ride. Fundamentally, nothing changed. The attraction was essentially given a facelift and a renovation, adding in Blue the Raptor and the Indominus Rex from the movie of the same name.
But don’t worry—most of the dinosaur animatronics made the cut! And it’s one of the rare circumstances of a Universal ride actually being improved by the inclusion of screens. The new water tank area, as well as the messages you get from the titular characters Owen and Claire, enhance the experience and set a narrative that was missing before.
9 Dragon Challenge
Ah yes, the most devastating loss of Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Also known as Dueling Dragons, the ride was repainted and rebranded to be included in the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter with a 2010 release. Because it was simply retooled, Dragon Challenge can be considered an original to the Orlando park, with its continuous operation running from 1999 to 2017.
The ride officially shut down in September of 2017 and was replaced by Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure. With the amount of theming and animatronics in the new ride, it seems like a worthy successor. Well, once the technical difficulties get worked out.
8 Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast
Brain blast from the past anyone? Jimmy Neutron was a beloved early-2000s CGI show about a boy genius who gets into all kinds of messes, mostly related to whatever invention he made to ultimately make life easier. While the animation might not hold up now, the show was certainly creative and had many witty, funny moments. Some of them are memes!
This ride replaced the also-defunct ride The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, which didn’t do it any favors. Comparatively, Jimmy Neutron was lackluster in conception and execution, but it struck the right chord with its intended audience. It has since been replaced by Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.
7 Star Trek Adventure
Universal and Paramount spent a pretty penny on this attraction. Pouring in $7 million, the live show recreated sets and costumes from the TV show and put audiences in their favorite characters' shoes. Typically, ten people would be chosen from the audience to participate in a live recording. They’d be dressed in the costumes and given lines to say to the cameras. At the end of each show, the video would be available for purchase.
Probably the biggest drawback is that audience members weren’t really with the Star Trek actors. But the final results fit with the pre-recorded film, and it definitely made Trekkies happy.
6 The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera
One of the original Orlando attractions, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera is still remembered fondly by many park-goers. It was the first simulator ride to make Soundstage 42 its home and, honestly, the only attraction functioning well on Orlando’s opening day.
The ride featured the most famous of the Hanna-Barbera characters, including the Jetsons, the Flintstones, Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Crew, and Yogi Bear. For the most part, it was very well-received and captured the most memorable parts of each franchise.
5 Ghostbusters Spooktacular
Don’t think about it too hard! For theme parks, we usually let inconsistencies between the movies and attractions slide because hey, we’re here to have fun. So while you don’t exactly know when Ghostbusters Spooktacular is supposed to take place in the Ghostbusters timeline, it really doesn’t matter.
The show was enjoyable, fun, and hit on everything that makes the franchise special. Using a technique called the Pepper’s Ghost Effect, the crew was able to project very ghostly looking ghosts onto the stage. This effect is most prominently known and used in the Haunted Mansion. Think of the ballroom scene. The show also included a huge Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man!
4 E.T. Adventure
Operating in only one of three locations, E.T. Adventure was one of the opening attractions for the Orlando location. It’s a suspended dark ride, with park goers riding flying bicycles as seen in that iconic movie scene. The ride has been through numerous updates and renovations, but that’s something to be expected from a ride approaching 30 years of operation.
Steven Spielberg actually saved the Orlando location’s attraction. After the Hollywood and Japan ones were shut down, Spielberg threatened to end his theme parks agreement with Universal Studios if the Orlando version was shut down. As you can see, Universal definitely listened.
A big lagoon and multiple mechanical sharks. Things can’t possibly go wrong, right? Everything went wrong at the Orlando opening. After numerous mechanical shark failures and damaged boats, the Jaws ride underwent a major overhaul into what people fondly remember today. Complete with a tour around Amity Island and a fiery explosion that rivals the end of Jaws 2, the now nonexistent lagoon is home to Diagon Alley’s Escape From Gringotts.
There’s still some hope of recapturing the experience, but you have to travel internationally. Jaws is still in operation at Universal Studios Japan. And the original Bruce the shark is still alive and well in Hollywood’s Studio Tour.
Still considered a marvel of engineering, Kongfrontation was a suspended dark ride through New York City where guests would encounter none other than King Kong. Featuring a huge animatronic of King Kong, complete with his signature banana breath, it was a sight to behold. High operating costs, frequent stops, and Universal’s desire to update the franchises represented in Orlando led to its closure.
Echoes of Kongfrontation still echo through the parks. Both Hollywood and Orlando have King Kong-themed attractions, the former being part of the Studio Tour and the latter a standalone attraction based on the mechanics of the Studio Tour. But if you look closely in Revenge of the Mummy in Orlando, you can find a gold statue of King Kong as an homage to the former ride.
1 Back to the Future - The Ride
Perhaps remembered most fondly by the Universal Studios Hollywood pass holders, Back to the Future - The Ride was a spectacle to behold. As a timeless '80s franchise, it was only natural that the film was rewarded with a ride. And wow, a lot of care was put into this one.
At the time, the attraction was groundbreaking. Zooming through time in your very own Delorean, you had to drive through time to stop Biff from messing everything up. The specialized IMAX footage contained a mix of stop-motion animation, live-action sequences, and an impressive array of models.
Back to the Future was a labor of love and arguably saved Universal Orlando from failure. It was the only franchise strong enough to push back against DisneyWorld’s Hollywood Studios.