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Some thoughts on what might replace Jaws at Universal Studios Florida

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Published: December 7, 2011 at 4:51 PM
The Interwebs have been burning with rumors that Universal Orlando will expand its Wizarding World of Harry Potter by building new Harry Potter-themed attractions and shops on the site of the soon-to-be closed Jaws ride in Universal Studios Florida.

But before anyone goes connecting this week's announcements about the Jaws closure and the Harry Potter expansion, let's also keep a few other facts in mind.

First, the next stage of the Orlando Harry Potter expansion is taking place inside Islands of Adventure, right next to the existing Wizarding World, to the east. I've heard that they're talking just new shops at the moment, but that at least one new additional attraction is planned for the Orlando Wizarding World, even though it might not come in this next phase of expansion.

As for Jaws, well, let's remember that Universal doesn't have a track record of tearing down old attractions to the ground and building something entirely different on the site. If you look at all the new attractions that have been installed at the Universal Orlando Resort since it's opening, all were either built on undeveloped sites, or within existing structures. The Simpsons Ride went into the Back to the Future building. Shrek 4D took over the Alfred Hitchcock show. Revenge of the Mummy took Kong's space. Despicable Me is going in the old Jimmy Neutron building, which went into the old Hanna Barbera building. The only building I've known Universal to tear down to the ground was the old Hard Rock Cafe.

So when we're speculating about what might replace Jaws, I think it's smart to keep in mind concepts that would make use of the existing infrastructure on that site. After all, Universal chose to close Jaws, as opposed to two other adjacent attractions with relatively similar footprints and less fan devotion than Jaws - Disaster! and the Fear Factor theater.

Fortunately, Google Maps has an aerial view of the Jaws site that was taken during a refurbishment, when the water channel was drained, allowing us to see what's under the water:

Aerial view of the Jaws lagoon at Universal Studios Florida

You can see that the Jaws lagoon is not uniformly deep throughout, but just a single cut channel, with deeper cuts for show elements. That would reduce the cost of infill if Universal wanted to build on a blank site, but let's not forget that Universal probably has a significant infrastructure under the site to support pumping and draining all this water.

So if we're trying to figure out what Universal would build here, if it wanted to add a new water-based attraction, this would be the site where to build it.

Even if Universal didn't want to use water, presumably it would choose the Jaws over Disaster only if it either didn't need a show building, or needed a show building of substantially different dimensions than the Disaster building. Also, I think the selection of Jaws over the Fear Factor theater suggests that whatever the new experience will be, it won't be a show that would have fit in a modified Fear Factor theater.

I don't have any first-hand information about what will be replacing Jaws, but I think that keeping a broader view of Universal's history and what's now on that site, as opposed to others in the park, can help us better focus any speculation on the site's future.

Readers' Opinions

From Skipper Adam on December 7, 2011 at 4:58 PM
Traditionally, most theme parks use existing structures if they can. However, I don't think it is a big deal to fill in the water and build up in this case. The foot print is huge, and Jaws takes up so much space for such short track that it makes more sense to start from scratch in this one. Fear Factor might still go and Disaster still draws in crowds and has just recently been invested in to tear down. But if Jaws wasn't working, I don't see why they would used what it left.
From Andy Milito on December 7, 2011 at 5:01 PM
Universal doesn't start from scratch. Well, so much for Super 8...*starts crying*
Wait a minute, how are they going to create a "innovative, one-of-a-kind experience" without starting from scratch?
From Phil B. on December 7, 2011 at 5:04 PM
Well thought out Robert. I'm riding with you on this one. I don't see Potter Phase 2 being built on this spot either. If it is, that's all fine and dandy with me, but if not, I'm dying to know what will eventually go here. Whatever it is, it will have huge shoes to fill, as JAWS is nostalgic, and very much beloved and based off of one of the most timeless well executed movies in history. Good luck to whatever the successor may be.
From 65.87.190.252 on December 7, 2011 at 5:07 PM
I believe it's going to be Harry Potter replace Jaws. The Universal Studio side of the park has had trouble keep it's park pack since IOA got Harry Potter. Making this as a 2 park ticket gives you reason to stay at both Universal and IOA longer then one day. It's sad because Jaws the ride is really a nice competitor to Disney Jungle Cruise. Just wish they could find a way to keep Jaws in the park with some new theme park technology.
From edwin roman on December 7, 2011 at 5:20 PM
I am sorry to see jaws go, but excited for what could come...why not transformers? wish they could do the new kong, as in hollywood...but, why not potter...whatever they plan will have to be big as avatar should open 2015 or 2016...with construction today, to get rid of the underwater pumps no biggie...its all about taking away disney fans and increasing the crowds as to what happened over at islands with potter coming over...I think the attendance went up a good deal and if its a potter theme with a train going to each park, it could be a touchdown...transformers could work as its popular...as for islands and a few more potter stores, that is no biggie and if they do a potter show for sinbad, ok...but, to connect the parks with a train? the lines would be out of sight...a new potter ride in universal?

no matter how you slice it, universal will do just fine and I am excited for whatever could come next.

From Lucas Lee on December 7, 2011 at 5:27 PM
This is slightly off topic, but they wouldn't remove the Fear Factor stage. They need it for Bill & Ted! But anyway, I'm pretty excited to see what they would replace Jaws with.
From steve lee on December 7, 2011 at 6:32 PM
I thought the same Lucas, but what would stop them from just using the Animal stage for Bill and Ted? While it may be a smaller stage, we're talking about decisions that are made by people who look at the bottom line as opposed to one show performed during one special event for one month (don't take that as a slight against Bill and Ted - I love the show sometimes too). If they see a greater financial gain in tearing that sucker to the ground, it'll be gone faster than the Creature from the Black Lagoon show over at USH.

I'm not going to do my long "it's going to be Potter" rant that I posted a few days ago in a different thread, but it's going to be Potter.

From David Ackerman on December 7, 2011 at 6:39 PM
Universal Orlando really really needs a big draw on the Studios side. Crowds on that side of the resort are *way* down from before Potter... If they aren't going to do Potter II (with or without Hogwarts Express to connect the parts), they need an equally big draw.

Don't forget that just because Universal hasn't recycled buildings in the past, they won't in the future. Potter is throwing off tons of cash, something that Universal hasn't alweays had available in the past. Also, they now know how much a really killer E ticket can add to the bottom line.

If I ran the zoo:

1) Tear down Jaws (and associated fun fair), fill in part of the lake in the middle of the park, tear down Fear Factor and build Potter II connected by a Hogwarts Express (which could use LCD windows to give whatever views you want while the train runs thru the backlot). This would balance demand for the sort of short term.

2) Tear down Posiaden, Sinbad, and associated stuff. Drop in a Lord of the Rings section with Mines of Moria and some other experience. If more space needed, slay the Dragon and take over that space. (I have yet to be in the park when the wait for the Dragon was over 10 minutes...) LOR bring along merch opportunities and a huge fan base. (Plus a new movie in the fairly near future).

I'm not sad to see Jaws go. I like Jaws. But... the ride has been in need of a lot of work for some time and the number of riders is way down from 10 years ago. I happen to agree with Universal's call on this one.

I also realize that while E tickets rides can add to the gate, the big bucks are in merch. Look at all fo the folks drinking butter beer and buying wands, gowns, etc. I'd bet that Potter adds at least $20/person to merch sales (and possible 3 or 4 times that). Ted and Bill aren't going to add that amount nor are many other possible ideas.

From 66.225.122.50 on December 7, 2011 at 6:46 PM
I hope that it will be a Potter expansion. The best bet for Universal would be to build the London side of Harry Potter in Universal Studios and have the Hogwarts Express to take people over to Hogwarts at Island of Adventure. This would spread the crowd out over two parks and increase revenue, since people would have to purchase a two day ticket.
From Eric Malone on December 7, 2011 at 7:06 PM
I honestly think that if it's not going to be Transformers, it's going to be a Potter expansion. I know that there are a lot of people going this way and that about what it might be, and there are those of us who agree it'll be Potter and those who don't. However, I would think a closer look at Universal Orlando and IOA's footprint would be in order to see if a railroad track could feasibly fit and be long enough. How many people would pay extra for two park tickets to be able to ride the Hogwarts Express to and from either park?

Anyway, that's just my thoughts on that. I honestly think they're just going to fill in what they need to and build Transformers. A much simpler and probably way less expensive project than laying down track and using that space to rise a Diagon Alley from scratch, or something.

From Scott Marlow on December 7, 2011 at 8:01 PM
After taking a look at Google Maps a la Robert, you can see an almost direct line connecting Jaws area with the Sinbad location. However, I don't see Universal using this for a Potter Train idea, as it would mean cutting off main roadways, unless they used an elevated track. I also don't see them routing it down the side roads, as you would encounter the same issue with blocking the roads. Additionally, looking at the map I'm not sure how the will expand to the east(shown as up on the map) from the current Potter area without having to eliminate some of the buildings/road currently there.

I personally was not impressed when USF closed Back To The Future in favor of the Simpsons, as I felt the ride was actually rougher than BTTF. They will have to do something "unique" to win me over after closing another one of my favorites!

From 66.87.103.24 on December 7, 2011 at 8:09 PM
I don't like that idea....why not just change the name from Universal to harry potter world?? There are other great movies and ideas out there. While we are at it lets tear down the city walk for London at Harry's home. Then fill the lake at IOA to make a giant quddich match! Re-theme the hulk to voldermort's revenge. To top it off with Ronald Weasley's wild ride to take place of Spider-man! I love the potter at IOA and like the idea of expanding in IOA. Please can we get something new? Am I alone in this? We would need two park tickets to see one themes area?? If that's the case I want Disney to add a new country for Epcot but build it in Hollywood Studios please..
From 68.42.51.121 on December 7, 2011 at 8:14 PM
I hope Robert is right on this one. Keep Potter in IOA. Please build phase II over in the Lost Continent. It would make no sense to expand to Universal. As a themepark enthusiast I really don't need a train ride. I crave variety and innovation. As long as the replacement is forbidden journey quality I don't care what it is.

This way we get two rides (at least) for the price of one!

From Aaron McMahon on December 7, 2011 at 9:38 PM
Getting back to Bill and Ted, HHN will definetly have to be at IOA during whatever is being constructed at the Jaws site. The back end of the park is always congested and will basically be a dead end during construction.

IOA has a perfectly good 2000 seat amphitheater for Bill and Ted that mostly goes unused. All they would need is to move the sprung tents over to the field between Dudley and JP.

And I'm pretty sure they can't have Bill and Ted at the animal actors stage since the pyro and loud music would freak the crap out of the animals.

From Carrie Hood on December 7, 2011 at 9:49 PM
Thank the Higher Powers you spoke up Robert, because I was honestly ready to loose my mind with this endless babble over JAWS being turned into a WWoHP expansion. The logistics of doing that would be a completely nightmare, I attempted to point this out but it seems no one really listened.

It really could be a fresh build, if a good portion of the site is leveled out (Ride area and ride buildings) they would easily be able to re-theme the existing area around JAWS. Most of those are just simple structures with siding, easy to remove and change to fit a new themed area. Depending on what the plan is, some of those could be leveled off but in the long run I'd suspect they may keep the pathway open just blocking off the JAWS side with construction walls.

So now that the BIG VOICE of reason has spoken up, who've got suggestions on what JAWS could be?

From Rob P on December 8, 2011 at 4:49 AM
What is it with all these people wanting more and more Harry Potter ? I am more than hopeful that the good folks down at Universal will do something sensible and ignore all this ridiculous clamour for putting all their eggs into one basket and building all their dreams on one franchise.
I'm sad to see Jaws bite the dust......err....water. It seems that I may be one of an apparent minority who enjoyed this ride and it mattered not one bit that the original concept was aging. The film may be old but, so far as I'm aware , we do still have Great Whites tearing up our waters and chewing on the occasional surfer. This in itself means it never loses it's topicality.
I think it's a bad move unless they create a new , all singing all eating version of Jaws.
Maybe they could throw one or two Potter fans into a tank containing a real shark and arm them with only a wand and a broomstick.
I think they're gonna need a bigger wand !!
From 64.179.135.190 on December 8, 2011 at 5:39 AM
I have to believe that this will be the location where Orlando will get its version of the King Kong ride from Hollywood Studios. It would be amazing if they could keep it some type of boat ride so that there won't be two tram rides so close together (the Disaster Studios tram ride).
From Mike Gallagher on December 8, 2011 at 6:51 AM
+1 for Rob P's finish above.
From duncan henny on December 8, 2011 at 7:27 AM
could a water journey to skull island (kong 360) be possible i wonder for old jaws ride. but what about the rest of amity?
From Brian Emery on December 8, 2011 at 7:32 AM
Three Stooges – This will be a journey through time with the Three Stooges which will also be premiering a movie from the Farrelly Brothers in 2012…
From Mike Gallagher on December 8, 2011 at 7:55 AM
^^ Ride presented and sponsored by the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe.
From 200.82.171.253 on December 8, 2011 at 8:20 AM
hey guys remember, is not only taking jaws the ride, is taking the whole amity boardwalk area, we may have a new mini land coming, just saying
From Dominick D on December 8, 2011 at 12:32 PM
As long as Potter stays in IOA and we get a worthy replacement, I'm fine. If Universal puts Potter in USF, I'm going to rip my hair out.
From Mike Gallagher on December 8, 2011 at 12:50 PM
I can't do that, Dom. It's too late. :(

Maybe 25 years ago.

From Jevon Allen on December 8, 2011 at 1:32 PM
I hope it's not Harry Potter related. I've seen all the movies, they're good, but I don't recall what 'Diagon Alley' or 'Gringotts' is, so why would they force it upon the rest of us? And as sad as it is to see Jaws go, movie based attractions have to stay up to date to keep new interest thriving. Jaws premiered nearly 40 years ago, it's ok to let it go. While logistically, a Transformers ride makes the most sense, they'd have to build UP to make it work. I'm sure most Floridians wouldn't mind another indoor attraction.
From steve lee on December 8, 2011 at 1:41 PM
Carrie, I'll happily admit to being wrong if it's not Harry Potter as long as you agree to do the same if it is. And I do say "happily" because it's certainly not something that I want to happen at Studios.
From Jason McLaughlin on December 8, 2011 at 1:50 PM
I think whoever mentioned the Kong idea might be onto something, especially if they keep it a river style ride through the forest of Skull Island.
From Robert Niles on December 8, 2011 at 2:31 PM
The trouble with brining King Kong 360 3D to Florida is that, like most of the other attractions on the Studio Tour, it's just a minute long. Too short for a stand-alone attraction.

That's why Universal padded Earthquake, Jaws and the original Kong when they built them in Florida. They could do the same with the new Kong, I suppose, and I think that the Skull Island boat tour is a brilliant idea. The trick would be reworking the animation to include the boats, since the Universal Studios Hollywood trams appear in the Kong 360 3D film, and wouldn't be present in the Florida version.

From Dominick D on December 8, 2011 at 2:35 PM
Hey, I noticed something weird. There's alot of non-TPI members posting comments, which means they are only here because of the Potter announcement. -_-
From Robert L on December 8, 2011 at 2:53 PM
It just seems obvious to me that Universal would keep with a water theme attraction with the infrastructure already there. Upgrading, refurbishing and re-theming equipment and buildings may be a cheaper route that they could go in these days of budget cuts and lean consumer spending. It could be an option for them. Or, if they choose to "pave it over", might they think of building something along the lines of a Lights, Motors, Action! stunt show or spend big bucks and put up a new sound stage for an indoor ride. There is no one saying they can't incorporate the Fear Factor theater as well, but I believe there is a service road between the two areas where the floats for Mardi Gras begin the parade route. I really can't even guess what the new attraction might be, I never thought Despicable Me would become an attraction.
From Daniel Etcheberry on December 8, 2011 at 3:06 PM
Universal could build a Madagascar show building over the Jaws attraction; they already have the boat's water canal.

Other option: Piranha; the skipper gets into the water and a few seconds later a skeleton comes out.

From Manny Rodriguez on December 8, 2011 at 4:43 PM
It seems to me that you guys are forgetting that beetle juice show that stage is perfect for bill and Ted
From Anon Mouse on December 8, 2011 at 4:51 PM
Whatever Universal's track record, I'm not sure this applies in these times. The hot button issue is will they build more Harry Potter attractions? This is true in Hollywood and Orlando. If they do raze the Gibson Theater in Hollywood, this means they will try something new. My preference is they build on the undeveloped 200 acres in the Studios Tour.

I guess the best sign is their plans for the Lost Continent. Will it be a retrofit or will they do something more ambitious?

From Stevo B on December 8, 2011 at 6:12 PM
Theme aside, I'm not a Potter fanatic, the idea of splitting the two "lands" into two different theme parks, I think, is amazing. I hope it's more than just a rumor and that Universal Creative maybe leaked the idea to get some feedback. UO is really lacking so it definitely needs something to keep up with its sister park. The idea of LCD windows on the train is also a great idea - kudos. The Studios can certainly stand a ride that isn't based on something going terribly wrong.
From Robert Niles on December 8, 2011 at 6:17 PM
Please take a look at our recent interview with Universal Creative's Thierry Coup, who had a great response to the comment about things "going terribly wrong" and why that's necessary for a great theme park attraction.
From 71.100.193.211 on December 9, 2011 at 6:56 AM
I remember doing a survey on the Universal website a while back and answering a bunch of questions about a future waterpark expansion at Universal Orlando. Anyone think this could be replacing the JAWS section of the park or is there not enough room to expand for this attraction?
From Tim Odom on December 9, 2011 at 9:45 AM
While I don't think Potter part 2 will replace Jaws, I kinda hope I am wrong. In my eyes, it is what USF needs. If I ask myself if I had 4 days to hit 4 parks, and only 4 parks, which would I pick? And, quite honestly, USF would not be on that list. USF is nice, but for my money, I would rather spend more time in Islands of Adventure.

But, Potter part 2 in USF would be a game changer, at least for me. And I think it could work well. It would split up the mass Potter crowd, it would force Potter fans into both parks (which is what Universal wants), and it would give them the room to do another major attraction (like a Gringott's indoor coaster.)

Plus, it gives them the chance for something that I don't think has been done in a US theme park, and please correct me if I am wrong. The Knight Bus/Hogwart's Express concept could be wonderful if done right, with the windows being digital screens making it a ride. But, what it would really be is a transport from one park to the other, like the monorail at Disney (though, I think the best spot for this would be underground, so a subway thing.)

Like I said, my guess is that it will be another attraction, or 2 if they finally ditch Fear Factor, that will be completely unrelated to Potter, but I can dream a dream of dreaming about dreams. Or something.

From 72.185.208.10 on December 9, 2011 at 9:50 AM
Interesting comments. I'm wondering if they'll change it altogether. I like the idea of Harry Potter staying in Harry Potter. But what about a Grimm Trail of the Real Fairytales? With NBC hosting GRIMM, with Universal producing Snow White and the Huntsman - they have a lot of potential. Maybe based off Fairy Tale Road in Germany? Since Disney bought Marvel, I'm not sure Transformers will be one of the options either. The movie was produced by Paramount, but the toy rights are owned by Hasbro, a Disney company.Could be a bit sticky with Disney involved. What about something from the SYFY channel? Syfy is an NBC affiliate.
Just as long as it has nothing to do with True Blood or Twilight, I think I'll be okay.
From 72.204.131.77 on December 9, 2011 at 10:38 AM
Has to be Madagascar. Family friendly. That with Despicable me, Shrek Simpsons etc would a good marketing stratgegy to bring families to the Studio. Boat ride. Would just be a copy from Singapore so would be cheaper to create but to a new market in US.
From duncan henny on December 9, 2011 at 12:52 PM
Tim exactly what i think although i don't think they will replace jaws with harry potter it would make sense as islands seen a 50% raise in attendance and they will probably want to repeat that. although whatever comes to replace it. it will be good although i will miss jaws
From 58.168.88.196 on December 13, 2011 at 9:53 AM
i hope they extend Wizarding world of harry potter its kinda crap that you'd have to buy 2 park tickets but im a true harry potter fan and i'd buy the two tickets ive been to wizarding world of harry potter and its awesome if they add on to it that will be so much more awesome tho the train ride would be abit hard but it would be awesome if they could make it work cant wait to see what they decide!!

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