Universal Studios Hollywood just announced that September 3, 2018 will be guests’ last opportunity to ride Jurassic Park: The Ride, and I feel a lot of ways about it.
To be fair, I’ve never ridden Jurassic Park: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. However, I am a devotee of Universal Islands of Adventure’s Jurassic Park River Adventure in Orlando. With all due respect to Harry Potter, the JP River Adventure is up there with the Hulk coaster and the E.T. Adventure among my favorite theme park rides of all time. I mean, how do you beat a JURASSIC PARK-THEMED LOG FLUME? According to Theme Park Insider, there’s not much of a difference between the Hollywood attraction and the Orlando one, so I can only assume that my heart would be currently broken if I lived in the SoCal area.
So, here’s what’s going down. According to a trailer that I saw on the Jurassic World FB page– which, yes, I follow– JP:The Ride is going extinct to make way for a Jurassic World attraction, and I think we might be looking down the dino-tranquilizer-gun barrel of one crazily meta experience. Theme park rides about theme parks! Excuse me, I need to go lie down.
Jurassic World is a hot mess, and I love it unabashedly. I have Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s release date penciled into my calendar. I saw a bag of Cool Ranch Dorito’s with Blue on the bag the other day, and I’m waiting to be at a Target by myself so that I can buy them without fear of shame. I don’t think I really like Jurassic World because I like Jurassic World, but because I like to be reminded of Jurassic Park. The beats of Jurassic Park are beats that I like, and Jurassic World doesn’t re-invent the wheel too hard. And, to JW’s credit, I think the story between Owen and Blue is really interesting, and it’s what most excites me about JW: Fallen Kingdom.
I prefer JP River Adventure as a form of entertainment to the film Jurassic World, but I realize that ultimately they fulfill similar needs in my heart. Visiting the Jurassic Park section of Islands of Adventure is having the promise of Jurassic Park fully realized albeit on a small level. I get to actually live out seeing a T-Rex after having just eaten an overpriced soft pretzel. It’s my heaven. Watching Jurassic World also allows me to see (okay, kind of) the potential of Jurassic Park in action.
So, I like JW, but I’m just not sure about this theme park update. Theme parks are such a tricky source of nostalgia. For example, my most beloved Disney movies aren’t the same beloved Disney movies of this generation’s. But while Frozen continues to enjoy it’s never ending time in the sun, I can still watch The Hunchback of Notre Dame. That experience doesn’t get taken away from me just because it’s not the hottest, biggest thing anymore.
When I was growing up, my dad worked in the amusement park industry, so we spent a lot of summers in Orlando. And don’t misunderstand me. I love Disney, but Universal is my park. I can still remember the excitement of going for the first time as a kid. I remember being so terrified of the Jaws ride that I couldn’t bring myself to do it the first time we went as a family. My dad was so peeved about it that it was the very first thing we did on our next vacation. And, guys, that ride was so great! It was goofy and cheesy and a living-breathing-animatronic shark-ing celebration of a classic film that still holds up. “Ride the movies,” as the park’s tagline promised.
Of course, Jaws is gone now. It was replaced by Diagon Alley in 2012. And I love me some Diagon Alley*, but I can’t help but miss Jaws a little bit. There’s something really earnest to me about the older Universal rides. Sure, Jaws was a huge blockbuster in its time, but it feels like its original inclusion in the park was earned because of its non-financial impacts on movie making and our cultural consciousness. Same for Kongfrontation and even the Monster Make-Up Show. Universal Studios Florida opened in 1990, but it wasn’t afraid to count on the “classics.”
At the risk of being a little “get off my nerd lawn,” I don’t see that when I see new and upcoming attractions based on the Transformers and Fast & Furious franchises. To me, it seems like those are just the hot, flash-in-the-pan things that the kids want. But that’s just because those properties don’t appeal to me. “Maybe Transformers will be considered a classic for some future generation,” she wondered with an overwhelming feeling of generosity in her soul. I’m sure there were plenty of folks in 1996 who didn’t get the appeal of a Jurassic Park ride.
Getting older is weird. Our resources are finite, and I want to share with all the generations, I promise. But I’m also selfish, and I want to ride my movies. I don’t care at all about Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, but I know that I’m going to cry if Universal closes down The E.T. Adventure. Theme park rides satisfy an itch that just watching a movie can’t scratch for me, so I’m feeling gooey and cranky at the prospect of saying “so long” to my favorites.
I can always watch Jurassic Park, but I can’t always be inside of it. I get to do that a little bit on JP: River Adventure. Jurassic World is fun, but, for me, it doesn’t improve upon Jurassic Park enough to merit a re-skinning of the attraction. For the kids who saw JW first, though, I hope they get a ride worthy of their fandom. For the rest of us, let’s get back in line for River Adventure for as long as we can.
* Just your daily reminder that Pumpkin Juice is better than Butterbeer. Godspeed.