A Photo Essay at
Yesterland
Universal Studios Florida
Then and Now

I had fun putting together seven “Then and Now” photo essays about Walt Disney World for Yesterland in 2011. Figuring out the right location, camera angle, and focal length to match a photo taken many years earlier is quite a challenge.

Today, I have a “Then and Now” article about Universal Studios Florida. The “Then” photos aren’t as old as my Disney photos, but there have been some interesting changes.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, December 23, 2011


Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

Brown Derby (2000 photo)

Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

Brown Derby (2011 photo)

The Hollywood Blvd. section of Universal Studios Florida hasn’t changed much—although the hat was smoother in 2000 and the canopy over the entrance walkway has changed.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios Florida both feature the Brown Derby. Disney’s version is a signature restaurant based on the Hollywood Brown Derby. Universal’s version is a hat shop based on the Brown Derby restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard. Yes, the real restaurant on Wilshire really did look like a derby hat.


Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

Entrance to Lucy - A Tribute (2009 photo)

Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

Entrance to Lucy - A Tribute (2011 photo)

The two photos above are were taken just two years apart. The building has not changed, but the sign now promises something entirely different (and there’s now a red carpet at the door).

There’s still a reduced version of the tribute to Lucille Ball inside, but you wouldn’t know it from the second photo. A side entrance still has a sign for Lucy - A Tribute, described by the official Universal Studios Florida website as a “loving tribute that takes you through the dazzling career of America’s queen of comedy, Lucille Ball.”


Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

New York restaurants (2003 photo)

Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

New York restaurants (2011 photo)

With several side streets, detailed window displays, and a variety of ground floor businesses, Universal’s New York offers a more convincing representation of a New York neighborhood than the New York section of the Streets of America “movie set” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.


Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

New York (2003 photo)

Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

New York (2011 photo)

Unfortunately, Universal’s New York has been going downhill. Without debating which is a better ride, Kongfrontation (1980-2002) fit into New York much better than Revenge of the Mummy (2004- ). The Starbucks sign at the corner looks out-of-place, even though there are now plenty of Starbucks locations in the real New York City. But the worst intrusion is Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (2009- ), which destroys the perspective, scale, and fantasy of the New York skyline from several angles, including the view in the photo above.


Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

Lombard’s Seafood Grille (2003 photo)

Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

Lombard’s Seafood Grille (2011 photo)

With Krustyland, home of The Simpsons Ride, right across the lake, why does Universal feel a need to feature Simpsons merchandise in the park’s San Francisco section? Sure, there are plenty of t-shirt sellers at the real Fisherman’s Wharf, but Universal’s Simpsons outpost does not come across as an attempt to provide an authentic San Francisco experience.


Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

Back to the Future: The Ride (2003 photo)

Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

The Simpsons Ride (2011 photo)

Speaking of the Simpsons, the photos above compare how the attraction building looked as Back to the Future: The Ride and as The Simpsons Ride. What you can’t see in these photos is how much more fun and entertaining it now is up close, with all its clever Krustyland gags.


Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

The shark in Amity (2003 photo)

Image for then and now article about Universal Studios Florida

The shark in Amity (2011 photo)

In “Then and Now” photos of Disneyland, it’s often striking how much larger the trees are in the “Now” photos. But in these two views of the Amity section at Universal Studios Florida, trees have disappeared in the “Now” photo.

All of Amity is likely to disappear. With the Jaws attraction closing permanently on January 2, 2012 (“to make room for an exciting, NEW, experience”), it doesn’t make sense to keep the village of Amity.

On December 6, 2011, Universal announced plans “to significantly expand The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort.” The conventional wisdom had previously been that any expansion of Harry Potter’s presence at Universal Orlando would involve absorbing the rest of The Lost Continent, adjacent to the current Wizarding World at Universal’s Island of Adventure.

The closing of Jaws opens the possibility that Harry Potter’s London locations—such Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station, the vaults of Gringotts Wizarding Bank, and Diagon Alley with the Leaky Cauldron—could replace Jaws and Amity. In J.K. Rowling’s books, Hogwarts and Hogsmeade are quite a distance from London, so putting them in two different parks makes sense. Visitors would want to visit both Potter worlds—so Universal would sell more multi-day, Park-to-Park Access tickets.


Would you like to take a “Then and Now” look at Walt Disney World? Here are the seven other “Then and Now” articles published by Yesterland in 2011.

 

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© 2011-2012 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated August 24, 2012.

Older photos and 2011 photos of Universal Studios Florida by Werner Weiss.