Jaws was a special effects water ride at Universal Studios Florida, and was the main attraction of the park's Amity area and was one of the park's original attractions. It closed along with the Amity themed area on January 2, 2012 making way for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley. It is based upon the films of the same name. The attraction places guests aboard tour boats for what should be a leisurely tour of Amity Harbor, but instead becomes a harrowing chase between the craft and a very determined great white shark. JAWS is an expanded version of a famous scene on the long-running backlot tour at Universal Studios Hollywood, also inspired by the movie. A near-duplicate version of the attraction can also be found at Universal Studios Japan near Osaka.
After the shark known as JAWS was eventually destroyed by Chief Brody, Matt Hooper and Quint in 1975, the tourism on Amity Island strongly decreased due to fear of sharks. However, resident seaman Jake Grundy decided to open a new boat tour on the island which would take guests out to the historic areas where the shark attacks actually occurred. This ultimately brought back the tourism to the island.
As guests enter Captain Jake's Amity Boat Tours, they walk through a series of boathouses located near Amity Harbor, which hold various fishing supplies, nautical artifacts and feature numerous overhead television monitors that are tuned to Amity's local TV station, WJWS13: The Station That BITES. Upon reaching the end of the queue, guests are loaded onto one of Captain Jake's tour boats.
After boarding the tour boat, guests learn that they are taking a guided scenic cruise to visit the actual locations of the shark attacks that occurred during that fateful summer of 1974, which were made famous in a big Hollywood movie that was made not long afterwards. The tour boat is piloted by one of Captain Jake's skippers, and is protected by an army surplus 40 mm grenade launcher. However, guests are reassured by their skipper that they won't need to use it because the last time anyone had seen a great white shark in the area was in 1974.
The tour begins in Amity Harbor as the tour boat passes the homes of Chief Brody and Mayor Larry Vaughn. As the tour boat approaches a lighthouse, the tour is interrupted by a radio distress call from a fellow tour boat skipper named Gordon. His call for help degenerates into screams of terror, followed by an eerie silence. As the skipper contacts the home base to figure out what is going on with Gordon's boat, the tour boat rounds the lighthouse as the remains of Gordon's tour boat, Amity 3, sinks into the murky waters of Amity Harbor.
Suddenly, a dorsal fin rises out of the water...the fin of what appears to be a very large shark. The shark submerges and passes beneath the boat, rocking it back and forth. In a panic, the skipper pulls out the now-handy grenade launcher (not realizing that it is actually loaded) and fires at the shark, but misses it entirely. They try firing a second shot, but miss again.
The skipper then decides to take the tour boat inside of an old boathouse that is owned by the grizzled old fisherman and shark hunter, Quint. Inside of the darkened boathouse, the skipper turns on their searchlight and looks for a place to tie up the tour boat. Suddenly, something bangs into the side of the boathouse knocking row boats, barrels and other fishing gear off of the walls and into the water. Attempting to escape, the skipper struggles to get the tour boat's engine to drop into gear, succeeding just as the giant shark surfaces inside of the boathouse and grazes the side of the boat with its mouth agape.
As the tour boat leaves the boathouse, the skipper is informed by Chief Brody over the radio that he will be there in ten minutes. Knowing that the tour boat (and its passengers) will be shark bait in ten minutes, the skipper rearms themselves with the grenade launcher just as the shark attacks the tour boat again near Bridewell's Gas Dock. Unfortunately, the next grenade that the skipper fires manages to hit the nearby gas dock, which erupts into flames, threatening the tour boat and its passengers. Fortunately, the skipper manages to make a getaway before the fire reaches the tour boat.
As a last resort, the skipper decides to unload everyone at an old fishing pier that happens to be located near a high voltage barge. But just as they reach the pier, the shark reappears heading straight for the tour boat. Suddenly, the shark emerges right next to the tour boat as it bites down onto a submerged power cable from the barge and electrocutes itself. The smell of roasted shark fills the air as the shark disappears into a cloud of steam that engulfs the tour boat. As the steam cloud dissipates, the charred corpse of the shark resurfaces and makes one final lunge at the tour boat. But the skipper quickly takes one last shot at it with the grenade launcher and finally hits it, destroying the shark and restoring the tranquility of Amity Harbor.
The Universal Studios Florida Jaws attraction has been closed four times in the past for numerous renovations.
The ride first closed in late 1990 due to major technical difficulties with the original ride system. During this closure, Universal sued Totally Fun Company, the original designers of the Jaws ride, and hired another company to redesign multiple portions of the attraction. Almost the entire original attraction was altered following this closure, which included the following changes:
- Tour Boat Canopies
The tour boats originally featured curved canopies, but for unknown reasons, were outfitted with flat canopies. The curved canopies can still be seen in the queue video, which was filmed just prior to the attraction's opening.
- Skipper Uniforms
Since the attraction first opened in 1990, the skipper uniform of a powder blue t-shirt, denim jeans and white shoes has remained relatively unchanged. The skippers originally wore a white "captain's hat" and a white webbed belt as part of their uniform, but they are now not required to wear hats of any kind and wear a blue webbed belt instead of white (although the queue video does still show skippers wearing the white belts and captain's hats). Optional blue denim "bucket hats" and black cold weather "skull caps" are occasionally worn by some skippers, however.
- Quint's Boat Shack
The tall wooden building off of the starboard side of the tour boats near the beginning of the ride was originally the boat shack owned by Quint the fisherman, and featured a replica of his fishing boat, the Orca, tied up outside it. The voice of Quint could even be heard from inside the shack as the tour boats sailed past, despite his death in the first film. This building was renamed "Steven's Canery" following the attraction's first closure, and the Orca boat along with the audio track of Quint's voice were removed.
- Tour Boat Pulled By JAWS
After the boats exited the boathouse, JAWS would pop up out of the water, bite down onto the tour boat and drag it through the water turning it counter-clockwise by ninety degress before losing his grip. This scene was replaced by the gas dock explosion scene that is seen today.
- JAWS Explosion
For the ride's finale, JAWS would appear one final time and the skipper would shoot a grenade into its mouth causing the shark to explode into bits and pieces, complete with blood gushing out of the water. This scene was replaced with the high voltage barge finale that is seen today.
Following the hurricanes that struck Central Florida in 2004, Universal was forced to temporarily close the ride due to the rising cost of petroleum, which is used to fuel the numerous pyrotechnical effects througout the attraction as well as the tour boats. The ride finally reopened in December 2005, but was listed as "seasonal" and only open on busier days. This lasted until February 2007 when the ride was finally opened full time again after numerous guest complaints. During the 2005 closure, several renovations were made to the ride, which included the following:
- Water Effects
Bubbling water effects were added to the sinking Amity 3 tour boat scene as well as mist cloud effects in the boathouse scene.
- Fire Effects
The size of the fire effects at the Gas Dock scene were reduced in an effort to cut costs and conserve energy.
The queue was cleaned and slightly redesigned, converting some portions of the regular queue to areas that are now reserved for overflow queuing during busier seasons.
- Repainted Sharks
The shark animatronics were completely repainted. Additional red markings were added, giving the appearance of cuts and scars.
This refurbishment lasted from January 28, 2008 through February 8, 2008. The changes included:
- Repainted Sharks
All of the shark animatronics were completely repainted.
- Return of the Orca
Quint's fishing boat, the Orca, was returned to Amity Harbor. The newly refurbished ship was completely repainted but did not display the name "ORCA" upon its return.
This refurbishment lasted from January 28, 2009 through February 15, 2009. The changes included:
- Repainted Sharks
All of the shark animatronics were completely repainted.
- Gooey Shark Pieces
Gooey shark pieces were added to the scene inside of the boathouse.
- Removal of the Hess Logos
All of the Hess logos were removed from the attraction.
- Removal of the "Firewall" Effect
The "firewall" effect that created the flames on the surface of the water at the Gas Dock scene was shut off and is now only used during special events after sunset. This was done primarily in an effort to cut costs, but removes most of the suspense of the Gas Dock scene and is a puzzling deletion for many fans of the ride.
Ride mechanics and designEdit
Over 20 "business façades" can be seen throughout Amity Island. The Steven's Cannery façade formerly featured the Ocean Spray logo, which was the attraction's sponsor when the park was owned by the Seagram's corporation. References to Ocean Spray still exist in the supplemental script material. Lampposts along the streets of Amity Island feature red, white and blue bunting with medallions that have the year '76 emblazoned on them. This is because the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration is the setting for all of Amity Island. Even the music played in this area of the park is from that era. The attraction's queue holds a maximum of 1,000 guests for up to 90 minutes. Throughout the queue and the attraction itself, guests may be able to spot numerous pairs of shoes. These shoes belong to former JAWS skippers who have worked at the attraction over the years. Over 2000 km of electrical wire are used throughout the attraction. The ride track is approximately 1140 ft in length and features a total of three track switches; two near the unload dock to take tour boats in and out of the boat storage siding, and one near the load dock to take tour boats in and out of the boat maintenance building. The tour boats travel through the attraction at an average speed of approximately 2 knots. The total ride time is approximately 5 minutes. The attraction's Theoretical Hourly Ride Capacity is listed at a maximum of 2,500 guests per hour. Amity Harbor covers an area of roughly 7 acre ha and holds approximately 5000000 gallons of water. The sinking Amity 3 boat is one of only two remaining scenes leftover from the original 1990 version of the attraction (the other being the boathouse). Amity 3 is dunked into and pulled back out of the water over 800 times a day. The diesel fuel from the tour boat engines causes its canopy to become discolored. The grenade launcher's water explosions are not set off by the skipper. They are on a timer and the skippers must memorize when and where they go off. This has resulted in criticisms of the realism of the ride because if a skipper does not practice this memorization, it results in them aiming at one spot in the water and a water explosion going off in another, or worse, in them not aiming at all and having water explosions going off for "no apparent reason". Originally, the grenade launchers were rigged with a transmitter that sent a signal to a computer on the back of the tour boat that set off the explosions. They also featured a CO2 cartridge to give the sound and appearance of a grenade being fired. The transmitters and CO2 cartridges have long since been removed, and it is now up to each individual skipper to make this effect appear believable and realistic. The tails of the two shark fin animatronics formally moved back and forth to imitate the swimming motion of a real shark. This effect was eventually disabled because it would repeatedly knock the sharks off of their tracks. The shark animatronics move through the water at speeds of up to 20 ft per second and thrust with the power equal to that of a Boeing 737 aircraft at takeoff. The shark is seen a total of 7 times throughout the attraction; 5 times on the port side of the tour boat and 2 times on the starboard side. As of March 12, 2008, the fishing boat used as a prop outside of Brody's house is labeled as being from Gloucester, MA, the same city from which The Perfect Storm's Andrea Gail boat was based.
Halloween Horror NightsEdit
The Jaws extended queue has been used for several years at Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando. The space is typically used to create a haunted house.
It has been used to make the following houses thus far:
- Dungeon of Terror (Fright Nights)
- Dungeon of Terror (HHN II)
- Dungeon of Terror: Retold (HHN Sweet 16)
- Friday the 13th: Camp Blood (HHN Carnival of Carnage)
- Reflections of Fear (HHN Reflection of Fear)
- Saw (HHN Ripped from the Silver Screen)