Interestingly, the ride was apparently as big a pain in the ass as the production of the film that inspired it. The ride opened with the park, but shortly after was closed and completely reconceived. Surprise, the damn thing didn’t work right. The opening of Universal Studios Florida was rife with this sort of technical drama. Thankfully they were able to survive and eventually thrive.
Here’s a curious bit of theming. They claimed that “Neptune’s Folly” was a ship that was featured in “Jaws: The Revenge.” Of course, we all know that there were no sequels to the movie Jaws.
I SAID THERE WERE NO SEQUELS.
Okay, so let’s take a look at what all the Amity area offered for guests in addition to the ride.
I absolutely loathe carnival games like this, but I can’t be mad because they’re honestly consistent with the theme of the area (much like the carnival games over by Krustyland). As always, this is the part where I remind parks that basketballs are shitty prizes for all the other guests in the park.
Never tried any of the chicken from Amity. I guess now if you want fried chicken you’ll have to head over to Cletus’ Chicken Shack in Springfield. I’m…not sure I’d suggest doing that, though (no matter how much they change, that location will always be the International Food and Film Festival food court to me and I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone!)
I don’t recall ever getting anything from The Boardwalk, but the theming and selection also seemed to be consistent with the area.
Now I did get a hot dog once from the Midway Grill. If memory serves, it was a huge bun with a decent sized wiener and a shitload of chili. It was definitely a gastronomical game of Russian Roulette, but I don’t remember being disappointed in it. It was a lot more of a meal than the paltry dogs sold nowadays at kiosks around the park…
If you wanted overpriced sunglasses, there was an Oakley ready for you. If that’s your thing, you do you. I just know better so I keep multiple pairs of disposable shades around. In any case, a sunglass store was still thematically on point.
In case the decorations there seem odd, it should be noted that when Amity was there, the Mardi Gras parade ran along the entire backside of the park instead of doubling back to its starting point. So there would be some questionable theming about why Amity would have their 4th of July Festival and Mardi Gras festival at the same time. Look, you’re not an Islander, so it’s really just none of ya gaddamn business, ya got it?
Rounding out the shops was Quint’s Surf Shack. Now, this doesn’t really seem like the kind of place a guy like Quint would run, but he needed to have something to do on his days off from being drunk, right?
Jaws ran (with some interruptions) until 2012, when it was announced that the Amity area would be transformed into a Harry Potter themed area. The response to this announcement was… not pleasant. There were plenty of comments out there about how Universal was ruining their park and that the Harry Potter franchise wasn’t popular enough to warrant closing Jaws.
I guess they didn’t get the memo that the film series alone made like seven billion dollars…
I was bummed as well, but it’s in the nature of theme parks to evolve and change. Theme parks cash in on nostalgia, but you can only get so far with a property that was 37 years old (maybe if they had made sequels or something, they would have been able to squeak some extra life out of it).
In addition to the age of the source material, there was also operational costs to consider. Jaws was not a cheap ride to keep running. Every five minutes, there was a large gas fire effect being utilized and I don’t know if you’ve noticed but gas ain’t cheap lately. I’ve seen it suggested that each time the fire effect went off, it cost $500. So that breaks down to about $5,000 an hour, which can roll up to $50k on a busy day. That’s a huge amount to spend on a single effect, and is it worth it if the boats are half full?
Look. even if the operational cost was half that, it would be foolish of Universal to just leave money on the table. And the Harry Potter franchise is a license to print money. So let’s pour one out for Jaws, and start looking at what’s in its place…
We’ll start off looking at the main pathway that passes through the area.
Here’s the main area as it used to be seen from near Men in Black. The green building is Quint’s surf shack, while the building on the right is Boardwalk Snacks.
And here’s the same area today (didn’t quite get the angle right, but if you look at where the building with Pier 41 is, you get the basic gist). The Amity buildings are gone.
So this is more or less where you would be as you entered Amity. In it’s place is the London facade that masks the entrance to Diagon Alley.
This small kiosk sells London-centric gifts, with an emphasis on Grimmauld Place (the location of the Order of the Phoenix’s secret hideout). Is it a mere coincidence that it’s the same color as Quint’s Surf Shack?
And here’s Grimmauld Place – the discolored building is Number Twelve. If you watch for a bit, you’ll see Kreacher the house elf peeking out the window (a very cool touch that many people are oblivious of).
Another minor theming detail is in this telephone booth. If you dial 62442 (MAGIC), you’ll be connected to the Ministry of Magic. This method of entry to the Ministry was first shown in the fifth book/film. Hey, remember that record shop in the background. We’ll be coming back to that later.
Remember when I mentioned those paltry hot dogs that can’t compare to the gastronomical monstrosities available at the Midway Grille? Yeah, here’s where you can get one of those. Incidentally, the combo is a buck more here than it is over in Springfield. Location, Location, Location.
We’ll delve into the Diagon Alley proper on the next page, but first I do have to note that there’s a recreation of the Knight Bus from Prisoner of Azkaban parked here. There’s usually a conductor there, and you can interact with him as well as the shrunken head (“Dre Head”).
Now, I do have a confession to make here. I walked by Diagon Alley twice without knowing I passed it. These were instances where I was at Universal for HHN matters and just wanted to take a lap around the park. I wasn’t consciously trying to go to Diagon Alley (I wanted to save it for when Karen and I could go together) but the fact that I completely missed it only shows how well it’s set up. That’s part of the entrance right there – you really can walk right by it.