Many of the park's past and present attractions were developed with the actual creators of the films they were based on, and feature the original stars as part of the experience. Steven Spielberg helped create E.T. Adventure and was a creative consultant for Back to the Future: The Ride, Twister...Ride it Out, An American Tail Theatre, Jaws, Men in Black: Alien Attack and Transformers: The Ride.
In many current rides, the original stars reprised their film roles including: Rip Torn and Will Smith in Men in Black: Alien Attack, Brendan Fraser for Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong and Linda Hamilton reprised their roles for Terminator 2: 3-D Battle Across Time, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow for Shrek 4D, Steve Carell, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Elsie Fisher reprised their roles from Despicable Me for Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, and Peter Cullen and Frank Welker reprised their roles as Optimus Prime and Megatron for Transformers: The Ride.
In many former rides, the original stars were also to reprise their film roles such as: Christopher Lloyd and Thomas F. Wilson in Back to the Future: The Ride, Roy Scheider recorded a voice over for the conclusion of Jaws, Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Perkins appeared in Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies, additionally, various Nicktoon voice actors reprised their roles in Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast, and Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt introduced the pre-show for Twister...Ride it Out
Over the years, Universal Studios Florida has not limited itself to attractions based on its own vast film library. It has occasionally licensed popular characters from other rival studios, many of whom did not operate theme parks themselves, as attractions, past and present. Some examples include:Ghostbusters and Men in Black, (Sony's Columbia Pictures)
The Simpsons (20th Century Fox)
Nickelodeon, Transformers film series (Viacom).
Hanna-Barbera properties, Harry Potter films, and Beetlejuice (Warner Bros.)
Star Trek, I Love Lucy (CBS)
Barney and Friends (HiT Entertainment)
Animal Planet (Discovery Communications)
Terminator (The Halcyon Company)
From its inception in 1982, Universal Studios Florida was designed as a theme park and a working studio. It was also the first time that Universal Studios had constructed an amusement park "from the ground up." However, the proposed project was put on hold until 1986, when a meeting between Steven Spielberg, a co-founder for the park, and Peter N. Alexander prompted for the creation of a Back to the Future simulator ride in addition to the already planned King Kong based ride. Spielberg had also noticed how competitive the park could be if it could compete with the nearby Walt Disney World and Seaworld.
A major component of the original park in Hollywood is its studio tour, which featured several special-effects exhibits and encounters built into the tour, such as an attack by the great white shark from the film Jaws. For its Florida park, Universal Studios took the concepts of the Hollywood tour scenes and developed them into larger, stand-alone attractions. As an example, in Hollywood, the studio tour trams travel close to a shoreline and are "attacked" by Jaws before they travel to the next part of the tour. In Florida, guests entered the "Jaws" attraction and would board a boat touring the fictitious Amity Harbor, where they encountered the shark, then exited back into the park at the conclusion of the attraction. Universal Studios Florida originally had a Studio Tour attraction that visited the production facilities, but that tour has since been discontinued.
Previous slogans for Universal Studios Florida were: See the Stars. Ride the Movies. (1990–1998); No one makes believe like we do! (1990–1998); Ride the Movies (1998–2008); Jump into the Action (2008–2012). Experience The Movies (2012–2015) The current slogan is Vacation Like You Mean It (2013–present; along with Islands of Adventure as Universal Orlando Resort).
Like all theme parks, attractions are sometimes closed due to aging and replaced with more contemporary attractions. Universal has seen this happen several times. Some notable closures include Kongfrontation, Back to the Future: The Ride, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, Jaws, and Nickelodeon Studios. The closures of Kongfrontation, Back to the Future, and Jaws have been given homages by the park to honor veteran visitors who revered the former rides.
The large area that once housed the Jaws attraction was reconstructed to make way for the new Diagon Alley, part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction. As an homage to the Jaws attraction that was available to so many visitors of the years, references to Jaws are sprinkled throughout the new Diagon Alley. One being a set of shark jawbones appearing behind the herbs and potions of Mr. Mulpepper's Apothecary.
Nickelodeon Studios became a Blue Man Group attraction in 2007.
Universal Studios Florida features six themed areas all situated around a large lagoon. In 2012, this lagoon was the site of Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories, a thematic display that showcased scenes from various Universal films, featuring lasers, projectors and fountains, and pyrotechnics.
The six surrounding themed areas, clockwise from the entrance, are Production Central, New York, London/Diagon Alley, World Expo, Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone and Hollywood. Each area features a combination of rides, shows, attractions, character appearances, dining outlets and merchandise stores. The newest area, based on Harry Potter's Diagon Alley, was added to the park in the July 2014. The San Francisco area closed in 2016 and construction will begin for L.A, set to open in 2017.
The area is also home to a variety of dining outlets and merchandise shops. Food and beverage items can be purchased from Beverly Hills Boulangerie or Universal Studios' Classic Monsters Cafe while merchandise can be bought from a variety of themed stores including Universal Studios Store, Studio Sweets, It's a Wrap!, Super Silly Stuff, Shrek's Ye Olde Souvenir Shoppe, and Transformers: Supply Vault.
New York features several dining outlets: Finnegan's Bar and Grill and Louie's Italian Restaurant which were designed for the park as well as Starbucks Coffee and Ben & Jerry's which are commercial franchises. Within New York exist two merchandise shops: Sahara Traders and Rosie's Irish Shop. The first two feature merchandise related to attractions within this area. Also located here is a statue of longtime MCA/Universal executive Lew Wasserman, honoring his achievements and history while head of Universal.
As Nickelodeon was headquartered in the park at the time, the opening credits for Roundhouse and All That (two of its shows) were filmed around this area of the park.
Diagon Alley is the second half of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Opening in July 2014, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley features 2 rides, the main ride being Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and the secondary Hogwarts Express (Universal Orlando Resort) connecting it to the first half. Diagon Alley also features a restaurant The Leaky Cauldron and several "signature shops". These include, Ollivanders Wand Shop, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, Borgin and Burkes, Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment, and Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour.
Sometime after June 2005 the optical illusion of the Space Shuttle was removed from this part of the park. As you headed towards World Expo from San Francisco/Amity it was one of the many designated photo spots throughout the park. There was a hanging platform that you would place your camera on and take the picture. The Shuttle would look as though it was sitting on the top of expired park ride Back to the Future: The Ride.
Hollywood's two dining outlets are recreations of actual Hollywood outlets. Schwab's Pharmacy and Mel's Drive-In offer guests a variety of food and beverage options. A third outlet, named Cafe La Bamba, operates seasonally. Guests can purchase Terminator merchandise from Cyber Image and magic-related items from Theatre Magic.
Universal Studios Florida has a number of famous characters. The following is a list of characters that can be seen in the park:
Universal Studios Florida is also a working production studio. It has been used for several movies, television series, commercials, music videos, and other events throughout its history. It was also the home of Nickelodeon Studios, the production location for Nickelodeon from 1990 until 2005. In September 2008, Nickelodeon returned to Universal Studios Florida for the production of "My Family's Got GUTS". In January 2009, the Powerball lottery drawings moved from Iowa; they are conducted and made at Universal Studios Florida, coinciding with the Florida Lottery's entry into the Powerball game. In July 2010, RTL Group's Family Feud was filmed at the studios, coinciding with the show's debut of new host Steve Harvey.
Universal Studios Florida is home to six soundstages that are available for a variety of purposes. A seventh soundstage, Stage 18, was one of the former Nickelodeon Studios soundstages; it was redesigned in 2007 as the Sharp Aquos Theatre, where the Blue Man Group has performed since June 2007.
The soundstage and the core production facility were made a permanent part of Universal CityWalk. Soundstage 21 was used between 2004–2013 by Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA, now known as Impact Wrestling) which had produced its weekly television program, Impact! (now also known as Impact Wrestling), from there along with some of it's pay-per-view events before terminating their lease and beginning to tour nationally. Impact returned to Universal Studios on November 21, 2013, this time using the smaller Soundstage 19. Since then, the company has again been taping most of its programming at Universal Studios (with occasional tapings at other venues), but there is no permanent venue for the tapings. The company switches between Soundstage's 19, 20 and 21. Impact Wrestling refers to the Universal Studios soundstage's, and in particular Soundstage 21, as the Impact Zone, derived from the name of their television programming.
During Halloween Horror Nights, the soundstages are occasionally used for the event's haunted houses.
A wide range of productions have been filmed in the soundstages during the studio's history, including many local and national commercials. Television shows include SeaQuest DSV (from its second season forward) and Superboy (second-fourth seasons). The Ellen DeGeneres Show taped a week-long series of episodes at the resort in the spring. Sports-entertainment shows WCW Monday Nitro and roller derby series RollerJam! were taped at the studios. In 2009 the studios also became headquarters for the Adrenaline Partnership's FIREBALL RUN(R) series; a popular national motoring event series. The studios have hosted numerous game shows, including national tours of Wheel of Fortune, Fear Factor (portions of episodes from 2004–2005) and the Florida Lottery's Flamingo Fortune. Since 2009, the Powerball drawing originates from the facilities. Major scenes of the movie Parenthood were filmed at the studios prior to the park's opening to the public in 1990. The film Psycho IV: The Beginning as well as the TV series Swamp Thing were also filmed at the theme park shortly following its grand opening. Most recently, the films Bring It On: In It to Win It, Ace Ventura Jr: Pet Detective, Beethoven's Big Break and The Final Destination were filmed at the studio.
During the 1990s when Nickelodeon's main home was at Universal Studios, the soundstages were used to film almost all Nickelodeon's original live action programming including: Get the Picture, Kenan & Kel, Family Double Dare, All That and many others, although many programs, including All That and Kenan & Kel later moved to Nickelodeon on Sunset in California. While Stage 18 is now used as the Sharp Aquos Theatre for the Blue Man Group, Soundstage 19 and the core production facility are home to Sun Sports and Fox Sports Florida.
Other soundstages located throughout the park (while primarily in the Production Central area) house the attractions Blue Man Group Sharp Aquos Theatre (in CityWalk), Shrek 4-D, Donkey's Photo Finish, Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride, Men in Black: Alien Attack, E.T. Adventure, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Universal Studios Florida features several seasonal events throughout its operating calendar. Some are included in the daily park admission, while others are separately-ticketed events.
Grad Bash and Gradventure are two separate events held in April and May at the park. Grad Bash is an event for graduating high school senior classes who can gather for an exclusive, all-night party at Universal Orlando Resort featuring the 2 parks best attractions, live performances by some of the most popular musicians, dance parties with DJs, and pre-parties live at The Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central area. After Disney's retirement of Grad Nite, Grad Bash was held for five nights in 2012. Gradventure is similar, but is designed for junior high/middle school graduating students.
Halloween Horror Nights turns the park into a giant haunted playground, including scare zones, numerous haunted houses and special themed shows. The event is run annually in late September, October, and early November.
Macy's Holiday Parade brings some authentic balloons from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to Orlando in a month-long event in December that highlights the Christmas celebrations at the park.
Generally in February through to April, a parade and concert series inspired by New Orleans' Fat Tuesday party is held at the park.
Rock the Universe is the park's Christian music festival, featuring two days in September of concerts with leading contemporary Christian, Christian rock, and Christian rap artists live at The Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central.
Summer Concert Series occurs annually and features a variety of popular music acts performing live at The Universal Music Plaza Stage in the Production Central.
A Celebration of Harry Potter is an annual three-day weekend event held on the last week of January at both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, celebrating the fandom of the Harry Potter books authored by J. K. Rowling and the film series based on the books.
Several attractions in Universal Studios Florida allow guests to utilize Express Pass. This pass admits users to a separate line for the attraction, which is given priority status when boarding. Express Pass is not a virtual queuing service. Instead, passholders may enter the "Universal Express" line whenever they wish. This pass is not included with park admission.