To absent friends….

I was saddened  when I heard that Universal Studios Jaws ride was being canned – sometime last year I think it was. Sure, the ride was slightly clunky by comparison with the 3D blockbusters running today and the shark was obviously fake (so much like the film you might say) but it was one of the iconic rides that I rushed to do when we came over to Florida for the first time, and the most prized photo location just in front of the ‘Welcome to Amity – Help Shark !’ billboard from the film.

Apparently the space is being used to re-create Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books, and there will be a train connecting this with the Hogsmeade and Hogwarts attractions in Universal’s sister park ‘Islands of Adventure’ just over the way. Again, I regret this. Jaws (the film) is a modern classic and a very American piece of popular culture. When I watched the film in the mid 70’s, Amity Island was as far away as could be from downtown Nottingham – all sun, sand and exotic sea-monster along with equally exotic characters to battle the beast (fish). I loved the Jaws set at Universal – the ride and the billboard and the dead shark hanging up and all the paraphenalia of an island seaport.  Harry Potter, on the other hand is a slice of ersatz-English – a throwback to the old public  school stories of Enid Blyton and before, except with magic and a slightly more adult content. It is a vision of ‘Englishness’ which owes very little to the modern world – possibly even the real world –  and as such appeals hugely to a world-wide audience – particularly American and Japanese, if the queues for the Wizarding World are anything to go by.

The Harry Potter World part of Islands of Adventure is always packed, so it looks very much as if Universal are seeking to cash in on that by spreading HP World across both of their parks and linking the two by a new railway. I can see the economic sense in that, whilst regretting the loss of some of the older movie icons. After all, Universal was the founding father of the old monster films – surely amongst the most iconic of brands. It should be careful before it dilutes that heritage.

Today was supposed to be a short day in Universal to knock off a couple of rides we’d missed late last week. Primarily, this meant the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit where last time James and I had been thwarted in our attempts to get a Leeds United salute filmed on ride, as it were, when the video camera in our car went down. No such bad luck this time – I can’t post videos on here, but will put a compilation together later, and for the time being here is the still photo from the ride.

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On the same theme here is another ride photo, this time from The Mummy – a short and intense ride intermixed with SFX and movie footage from the modern re-make of the old Boris Karloff classic. I found it a bit short, but it is fun as you can see.

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I am generally not in favour of English tourists wearing football shirts abroad – it just feels too much like an overt statement of tribalism, and it’s also frankly naff. However, one of the side effects of wearing the shirt (for the purposes of the photograph only, you understand) was that I got accosted in a friendly way by a) a large, black Tottenham supporting American guy, b) a couple of friendly Bradford City fans and c) and unnamed guy who nonetheless gave the Leeds salute (fist on heart, pumped backwards and forwards). It was nice to feel that, even here, Leeds United are a name to be reckoned with. However, now that we’ve got the shots done it’s back to vests for the rest of the trip.

Some more shots from today.

Me taking a leaf out of Homer Simpson’s book, while the wife cosies up to some character in a bar.

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A blast from Universal’s glorious past:

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And lastly, me and the wife in front of that iconic globe.

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Not the most thrilling of days. The rides were good, although the last Rip Ride Rockit made my head feel like my brain was rattling around in my skull. Glorious weather punctuated by the daily Florida thunder, lightning and torrential rain. Only 6 more days to go before……well, best not to think of it.

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