The Universal Orlando of the 1990s was much different than the one we know today. With only one theme park, Universal Studios Florida, and relatively low crowd levels, it felt both more exclusive and more intimate. In those days, the park was all about highly personalized experiences that placed guests in the center of the action and then explained how it was all done. Most of those experiences are long gone, replaced with attractions that simulate the latest hits.
In November 2014, I talked about Kongfrontation, Jaws, and Back to the Future: The Ride. All were headliners, drawing both new and repeat visitors into the parks, and all hold a special place in many long-time fans’ hearts. Today, we will revisit my 3 favorite departed non-headliner attractions, which many feel were an important part of the 1990s atmosphere.
1. Murder, She Wrote Mystery Theatre
When Universal Orlando opened in 1990, the Murder, She Wrote television series was only halfway through what would become a stunning 12 season run. With multiple Golden Globe wins and Emmy nominations for both the show and its star, Angela Lansbury, Murder, She Wrote was a natural fit for Universal Studios Florida. Inside the Mystery Theatre, guests took on the role of executive producers as they made important editing decisions that affected the final outcome of their experience.
The TV series was cancelled in 1996, and the Murder, She Wrote Mystery Theatre closed the same year. Hercules and Xena: Wizards of the Screen opened in the same location in 1997, capitalizing on the success of the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. Although it had much the same premise, the new show lacked much of the soul of the original, and was not nearly as cohesive. It closed in 2000, leaving the building (known as Soundstage 44) dormant for 8 years.
Rumors were rampant that the building was no longer structurally sound due to the effects of one of Florida’s famous sinkholes. Whether this was true or not, Soundstage 44 allegedly rotted out—strange for Universal to have left a locked up, rotting building on full public display. In any event, 8 years after its doors last closed, Soundstage 44 was demolished in just 3 weeks in 2012. A brand new show building was constructed to house Transformers: The Ride, which opened in 2013.