It opened with the park on June 7, 1990 and was permanently closed on November 5, 2007 to make way for Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride...Starring You!. It put guests in scenes inspired by the 1974 disaster film.
The ride itself was inspired by a scene on the long running Universal Studios Backlot Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood.
A duplicate of the ride is expected to appear at the upcoming Universal Studios Singapore in 2010.
Location and FacadeEdit
Earthquake was located in the park's San Francisco area. In fact, the area's theming was specifically chosen to compliment the attraction's Northern California setting.
Although the attraction itself was located in a large, L-shaped show building out of sight to park guests, it did occupy a large swath of facade real estate along the Embarcadero waterfront boulevard.
The actual entrance to the attraction was located in a mission-style brick structure designed to mimic a cable car barn for the Ferries and Cliff House Railway, which had been taken over by the San Francisco Transit Authority, or S.F.T.A.
Although the S.F.T.A. was a fictional transit company created as part of the attraction's storyline, the Ferries and Cliff House Railway was an actual cable car railway in San Francisco around the turn of the century.
They were based out of a large powerhouse located at the corner of Washington and Mason streets. In the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 portions of the brick building collapsed, destroying many of the cable cars inside.
While the attraction facade was not an authentic replica of the powerhouse, many of its architectural elements (such as the base of a quake-toppled smokestack and the window design) were easily spotted, as are several references to the Ferries & Cliff House Railway (such as the initials and the date of establishment on the pediment).
Many portions of these facade details were altered or removed when the attraction was replaced by "Disaster!"
This version was in operation from the park's opening in 1990 through 2002.
As guests walked through the exterior queue, they passed various props that were used in the film Earthquake. Upon reaching the end of the queue, guests entered the show building.
The pre-show was divided into three separate theaters. The first theater featured wallpaper that contained photographs of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, as well as a windo backdrop of a view of the San Francisco skyline.
It was here that a casting director selected members from the audience as extras for a reenactment of scenes from the film Earthquake that would take place later during the pre-show.
The audience then entered a second theater where they watched a brief film hosted by Charlton Heston, who explained how the special effects shots for the movie were created using scale models.
Following the film, the screen would raise to reveal a large section of the scale model that was used in the movie.
In the third theater, the guests who were selected at the beginning of the pre-show participated in reenactments from the film which included a scene on an escalator in a shopping mall as well as a high fall stunt down a collapsed stairwell.
Following this sequence, the audience entered the ride portion of the attraction.
Guests entered a subway station modeled after the BART's West Oakland Station where they boarded an open air Golden Gate Transit subway train.
Departing the station, guests traveled beneath the bay and soon arrived at the Embarcadero subway station.
Shortly after arriving at the station, the train was shaken by a minor earth tremor that soon turned into a violent earthquake.
The entire station was seemingly destroyed as large cracks formed in the station platforms, sections of the roof collapsed, a gasoline truck fell through the ceiling and burst into flames, another subway train entered the station and derailed and a flash flood of water rushed down the stairs and into the station.
Following the sequence, a live director would appear from inside of a control booth and would congratulate guests on surviving "The Big One."
The subway train then backed out of the station and returned to the West Oakland station where guests disembarked the train and exited the attraction.
This version was in operation from 2002 to the attraction's final closure in 2007.
Upon reaching the end of the queue, guests entered the show building.
As with the original version of the attraction, the pre-show was divided into three separate theaters.
The first theater still featured wallpaper that contained photographs of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, as well as San Francisco skyline view backdrops which were used to show examples of rain, snow and leaves used in movies.
As before, a casting director selected members from the audience as extras for a reenactment of scenes from various films.
The audience then entered a second theater where they watched a brief film about how special effects shots for various movies were created.
Following the film, the screen would raise to reveal several scale models and props that were used several Universal films including "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "U571" and "Earthquake" and the film with Charlton Heston would again play.
In the third theater, the guests who were selected at the beginning of the pre-show participated in reenactments from several films, including U571 and Earthquake.
Following this sequence, the audience entered the ride portion of the attraction.
After the ride, guests could enter Shaiken's Souvenirs; a gift shop for the attraction which sold Earthquake and Universal Studios-related merchandise. This gift shop has now been replaced by Disaster! Studios Gifts.
Earthquake: The Big One opened with the theme park on June 7, 1990. It was directed by Peter N. Alexander, and designed by Alexander's company, Totally Fun Company in association with MCA Planning and Development.
During the ride portion's downtime periods, guests would not experience the ride and were directed through the ride boarding area and to the exit, however, in the next three years, most of the bugs in the ride system had been worked out, and the ride did not break down as often.
By 2002, Universal noticed that park guests were becoming less aware of the Earthquake film, and so, the pre-show portion was revamped to sever some ties to the film and instead have a larger focus on models and special effects used in Universal films.
Even so, the attraction's attendance continued to dwindle over the years prompting Universal to begin drafting up plans to replace it with a new attraction that would be solely focused on Disaster films in general rather than the Earthquake film; the result was Disaster!
Earthquake: The Big One officially closed on November 5, 2007 to make way for Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride...Starring You!.
In preparation for the Disaster! attraction, the pre-show theaters were closed early on September 8, 2007.
During this time, the three pre-show theaters served as a temporary indoor queue and only the ride portion of the attraction remained in operation.
The ride portion of the attraction finally closed on November 5, 2007 so that on-board video monitors could be installed on the subway train and so additional special effects could be added for "Disaster!"
It is interesting to note that the attraction was permanetly closed only several months after the final closure of another classic Universal attraction, Back to the Future: The Ride.
There are several homages to the attraction in Disaster!: A Major Motion Picture Ride...Starring You!. The first being in the queue line, where a crashed plane model has the codename "EQ1990" on it (which stands for "Earthquake 1990", which was the name of the original attraction and the year it opened).
The next is on a poster of Frank Kincaid which features disaster struck Los Angeles from the Earthquake film as the background.
Inside the attraction's pre-show, models from the Earthquake scale model are on display in glass cases, and the dummy that was used in the stairwell high fall stunt can be seen lying on a couch.
A vest which a volunteer would wear in Earthquake can be seen lying on a desk. There are also clips from the Earthquake film seen in a movie clip montage.
The last homage is seen on the actual ride portion of the attraction, where Mikey refers to the Disaster in the ride as "The Big One!".
Halloween Horror NightsEdit
The Earthquake queue had been used to make a haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights. They have used it to make the following:
- Dungeon of Terror (HHN IV)
- Cryptkeeper's Dungeon of Terror (HHN V)
- The Cryptkeeper's Studio Tour of Terror (HHN VI)
- Tombs of Terror (HHN VII)
- S.S. Frightanic (HHN VIII)
- Fear in First Class
- Carnage Crew
- The Mummy (HHN IX)
- Doomsday (HHN IX)
- Universal Classic Monster Mania (HHN X)
- Dark Torment (HHN X)
- The Mummy Returns: The Curse Continues (HHN XI)
- Run (HHN XI)
- Run: Hostile Territory (HHN Sweet 16)
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Flesh Wounds (HHN Carnival of Carnage)