From Jaws to Diagon Alley – Tributes to the classic Universal Orlando ride hide in new Harry Potter land

in Entertainment, Featured, Theme Parks, Universal Orlando, Universal Studios Florida

It was perpetually July 4th in Amity, home of the classic Jaws ride. But on July 8th, 2014, Jaws’ replacement will officially open as Universal Orlando debuts Diagon Alley.

The massive Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion is far bigger and better of an attraction than Jaws and its Amity area ever were. But just because Jaws is gone, doesn’t mean it should be forgotten.

Mike Aiello is Universal Orlando’s Director of Entertainment, in charge of creating the new area’s live entertainment. But his own journey to that “Harry Potter” position began many years ago when he was hired for the role of Jaws ride boat captain, rounding Amity on a daily basis.

“Working at Jaws was a great time in my life,” said Aiello. “I met a lot of people that I still am very close to. I’m very fortunate to have been working here so long and to see this park evolve into what it is today.”

Mike Aiello, at the helm of the Jaws ride in the early 1990s

“To be a part of and standing on the very spot of two amazing attractions at two very different points in my life and the two very distinct iterations of the studios is simply fantastic,” Aiello continued. “Jaws holds a very special place in my heart and those on the teams in various capacities creating this new Wizarding World. It will always be the best and the only.”

As such, Universal’s designers have included a few hidden references to the former attraction throughout the land. The list below likely isn’t comprehensive, as there are probably even more nods to be found. But these are some pretty good ones.

It’s hard to believe the Amity area pictured in the animated gif below has transformed into the London waterfront embankment that exists today.

When wandering around Diagon Alley, fans of the Jaws ride may be curious to know exactly where they would be standing if the old lagoon was still around. In fact, Aiello has been doing just that. “I found myself many times during the construction and rehearsal phase of Diagon looking around and placing myself back at Capt. Jake’s,” he admitted. “‘Where am I standing right now? Is this turn 1 at Amity 3? Or am I on Brody’s lawn?'”

The satellite images above offer a few frames of reference to keep in mind when walking through. The former spot for the Bruce photo op is almost exactly on the far right corner of Grimmauld Place. The old Jaws loading area is now the area near the Carkitt Market stage. Brody’s house was roughly where the entrance to the Escape from Gringotts ride is today. Much of the old lagoon, including the boat house, are encompassed by the massive Gringotts show building. The fiery finale of Jaws was roughly around where the Hogwarts Express is boarded now as well as parts of Horizont Alley and a bit of Knockturn Alley. And the Jaws unload area was where The Leaky Cauldron now sits.

Jaws ride Amity area (Dec. 2011)

London waterfront, as seen from the neighboring San Francisco area (June 2014)
Diagon Alley London waterfront at Universal Orlando

Entrance into Diagon Alley requires passing through the London facades, which are a major change from the boat shack that once marked the entrance of Jaws.

Jaws entrance (Dec. 2011)
Jaws photo op

Jaws - Captain Jakes' Amity Boat Tours

Diagon Alley entrance (June 2014)
Diagon Alley London waterfront at Universal Orlando

They don’t share exactly the same space, but the comparison is worth noting. Thankfully, the Bruce shark photo op is still in the park, relocated into nearby San Francisco.

The Record Store facade on the left side of the London embankment features the first of a few Jaws tributes. The displayed records are fictional and are full of in-jokes and credits from the creators of Diagon Alley. But one is a Jaws reference.

The record’s title is “Here’s to Swimmin’ with Bow Legged Women” by The Quint Trio. It’s a quote from the character Quint in the movie “Jaws,” one of a trio that sail out to hunt the shark, along with Brody and Hooper.

Deeper inside Diagon Alley, next to Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour is a store facade called Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary. Inside one of its windows behind some plants is a shark’s jawbone, another Jaws tribute.

Nearby, Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment is decorated with various astronomical instrumentation. High up on shelves are quite a few telescopes, the largest of which were partially constructed using pieces from the old Jaws boats.

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando

Behind the Thrills was alerted to another Jaws reference in the form of a song sung by the shrunken heads in Knockturn Alley, also featured in the movie:

(These are the Jaws ride references spotted so far, but not necessarily the only ones. Comment below if you’ve heard of or seen any more.)

As the July 8th opening date of Diagon Alley approaches, take a look back at the classic Jaws experience that had been at Universal Studios Florida practically since the park first opened, courtesy of the video tribute below. With 6 million views, it’s clear fans miss this old attraction.

Video: Jaws Ride: The Movie – An ultimate tribute to the Universal Studios Orlando attraction

Mike Aiello fires a final shot at Jaws.

Bringing it full circle, here’s Aiello talking about the new entertainment he helped create for Diagon Alley:

And what would happen if the two worlds were blended?

Perhaps the Hogwarts Express would be a boat, replacing Platform 9 3/4 with a dock? The Internet made it happen, with rather amusing results:

(Photo credit: Derek Burgan / Orlando Informer.)


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    We’re going to miss the Midway Grill the most – we loved those Nathan’s dogs and fries!

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    I’m glad Bruce is still hanging around (tehe). But right before they closed Jaws, we rode it, and in comparison to all the other rides in the park, it was just so boring. It was terrifying as a kid, but kids these days are not scared by Bruce, “fish are friends, not food.” I’m super stokes about the Wizarding World expansion and I’m glad they paid homage to such a classic. It will be interesting decades from now, what will replace Harry Potter.

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      John S.

      Don’t even say what will happen to Harry Potter. I am so excited to see it come to life. Imagine what would happen if Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade were to leave. It changed theme parks as we know it. It made Universal millions of dollars and imagine how the fans would react. I wonder what would even replace it.

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      I doubt it will be replaced anytime soon. They’ll celebrate a 100 anniversary that none of us will be around for! Harry Potter will live on, especially with the books out there, much like Wizard of Oz & LOTR continue to be popular decades after the original books. Just like I can’t imagine them getting rid of the ET ride. Or “Its A Small World” or “Space Mountain” at Disney. Or Jurassic Park at Islands.

      Plus, JK Rowling is developing a new trilogy in the Wizarding World that takes place 70 years before Harry Potter.

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        By no stretch of the imagination will Potter still be at Universal in 100 years, if indeed Universal *itself* is still there, so many decades down the line. By Universal’s current track-record, Wizarding World will be gone within 20-30 years, as it should. Potter’s online cheerleaders cannot cheer ‘progress’ for the destruction of a ride that had an immensely loyal, albeit significantly smaller fan base, while simultaneously assuming the same won’t – and shouldn’t – happen to their attractions in decades to come.

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    I haven’t heard of anymore in diagon alley but I do know about one in the queue for Disaster. One of the movies in the line is for a weaponized shark . The head of the supposed prop from the movie is one of the sharks that came out of the water. It’s a nice little momento from the ride.

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      I used to work at Disaster, and we were constantly asked that very question or people assumed after the ride shut down. While many people believe that our shark “Stoner” from the prop bone yard was one of the sharks from the ride, it has actually been there since Disaster opened, which was 4 or 5 years prior. One of the reasons people think it is actually from the ride is because it was created from the same mold as “Attack Shark” in Jaws.

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    Cynthia S.

    I worked at JAWS as a Skipper for several years, and those were some of the best years of my life. Just like Mr. Aiello did, I met some of the most talented people there who are still a part of my life. These friends are part of a giant extended family that will always be in my heart. You can take JAWS out of the park, but you can never take JAWS out of the skippers who worked there every day. Memories never fade only flourish with time and I hope that the lovely people of Diagon Alley will make just as many as we did. So, if you ever turn around the corner and hear somebody say, “This is Amity 6. Call off the Marines! We’re coming home!”…just know it’s an old friend playing homage to a time in their lives that they’ll never forget. 🙂

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      Jonathan G

      Me and my family absolutely loved Jaws the ride and often quote the famous ‘we’re coming home’ line. Thanks for all the wonderful memories!

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        Cynthia S.

        It was a pleasure being a skipper to every guest because I loved my job. It was the guests who made us look forward to libg days at work and we were honored to help them be a part of Theme Park and movie history. Thank you for helping me have one of the greatest jobs ever. 🙂

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      Keri H.

      Would you believe growing up my dream job was to work at Universal as a Jaw’s Skipper 🙂 I believe they’re the ones who really made the ride extra special, because every Skipper that I’ve had was always so passionate about the role and you could tell that they weren’t just there to get paid but to really bring this ride to life. Needless to say, although I do understand why Universal did what it did, Jaws will always be my favorite theme park ride and have a very special place in my heart (and on my skin, with the 2 tattoos I have dedicated to it).

      Thank you Cynthia and thank you to all of the past Skippers who helped make Jaws so fin-tastic!

      PS You can take JAWS out of the park, but you can never take JAWS out of the skippers and true fans 😉

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      I feel honored to be able to reply to a skipper from the ride. I had always wanted to go on it. I went to Universal once….on January 3rd 2012.
      Worst realization of my life.

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    KONG 4 LIFE!

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      My husband feels the same way!

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    Kerry Hill

    I love love love the look of Diagon Alley, but my gosh do I miss Jaws.
    A classic UNIVERSAL film replaced by a Wizard from Warner Bros.

    Long live Bruce!

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      My multiple points exactly.

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    Potter may be bigger, but it will never be better. We are not going to Universal because of their lack of respect for Jaws. A few hidden bits are not going to cut it.

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      I understand where you are coming from, but unfortunately times have to change. I’m actually wondering what will happen to ET in the future, as there are rumours of a kids zone revamp incoming. It’s a shame we are losing all these classic attractions, yet at the same time I can see where they are coming from, it’s not wowing today’s audience. Yes, it does annoy me, but the fact that they’ve learned a lot more and are making these immersive areas does have me wondering, what will they do next? Also, I dont’ know how else they could respect the classics. Could they really move the attractions themselves to other areas? That would be fine for a while but then they’d want to probably expand those, and once again, we’re back to square one. The attraction closes.
      In summary: On the one hand, I’m annoyed that the attractions are closing. On the other, we’re getting bigger, more immersive environments and they even have tributes for those who look hard enough. Thus, I will say again: what will universal do next? How far can they raise the bar now? I will be following this park closely, and I’d like to end this by saying that I’m glad I have ridden most of these classic attractions. I wasn’t old enough for Kong, but I’ve ridden ET and Back to The Future. I unfortunately did not get to ride Jaws, ironically.

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      I can understand your frustration, but you have to understand that places have to change to attract visitors. If it stayed the same over 20 years, then the place would feel dated and look old. Its like the saying goes: “Evolve or die.”

      Also, the current generation of kids didn’t grow up with E.T. like I am guessing you and I did. They want attractions that reflect their interests; not their parents. Haha.

      I was a little bummed too when Universal closed Back To the Future to make room for the Simpsons ride, but I understood why they did it.

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        Like kids today probably look at movies like “Jaws,” “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” and “Back To the Future” and probably “Jurassic Park” and think “Those are movies my parents liked when they were kids. Where are rides based on my movies?”

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          Josh Thomas

          Then that sounds like bad parenting to me. Growing up I enjoyed current stuff AND stuff before my time.

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    this is more of a rumor but its said that a whole Bruce shark is buried under the London fountain as a tribute so jaws will always be lurking just below the surface of the water

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    I was not expecting Jaws to be closed down one of the years I went so was shocked! It closed not long after the King Kong ride shut down. Both, classic rides that will not be forgotten. I’m grateful I was able to take my girls on both rides at least one time in their life. I wish Universal could just purchase more land to build on instead of taking away current attractions. Unless Disney bought everything up! lol I joked once how this is going to be called Potter Studios instead of Universal Studios. Oh well, they are catering to a newer generation and us ole folks will just have to go along and let this new generation enjoy the parks as much as we did when we were younger.

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    In Knockturn Alley, right behind the ice cream parlor, there is a window full of talking shrunken heads. One of their songs is “Show me the Waybto Go Home.”

    Nice nod!

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    “The massive Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion is far bigger and better of an attraction than Jaws and its Amity area ever were.”

    Excuse me? This is just another example of Universal doing bigger and better and not up-keeping classic rides. Take a page out of Disney’s book Universal and keep The Carousel of Progress. Jaws was just prime real estate for Universal so they could build bigger and better.

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      Jaws fans, get over it. Jaws has gone and it’s not coming back. At least I got to ride Jaws a couple of years before it closed down. It was fun, but it was showing it’s age by that point. IF Jaws were to ever come back, it would have to be a totally different ride to keep in line with the new level of immersion Universal are going with these days.

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        Don’t tell me what to do.

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      I agree with bigger, not better. One compared and HP is crap compared to Jawsus. (Like the pun? No? Okay, sorry)

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    Jaws has been my favorite movie since I was a kid. I first went to Universal Florida in 1996 and was so excited to go on the Jaws Ride. I loved it!
    I visited again in 2000 for my 18th birthday, then again in 2009, 2010, 2011. I was glad to have gone to the park when Jaws was there and also when Universal used it’s movies. I feel like the original park is ruined now. Unlike Disney, Universal has demolished all there original rides. All of them have been replaced by lame projection screen experiences and kiddie rides. Since I zero interest in Minions or Harry Potter I just don’t care to visit the park anymore. I wish Universal would’ve maybe improved the Jaws ride not got rid of it. I’ll always have the memories.

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    superb collection.

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