When Universal Studios Florida (now Universal Orlando Resort) opened in 1990, its most impressive themed dark ride was called E.T. Adventure, based on the popular E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial movie (1982).
Before the ride, guests enter a “sound stage” where a pre-show video with Steven Spielberg plays. Spielberg, in the early version of the ride, tells guests:
“Now today we’re going to cast you as actors in some scenes inspired by my film E.T. … your role in the story is to hop on a dirt bike or one of E.T.’s spaceships and take E.T. home.”
Spielberg explains that guests are in a closed set and will need a special pass to enter. Each guest must write their first name on a card and hand it to a stagehand to receive a pass.
Next, guests experience the most themed and immersive ride queue that can be experienced. Enwrapped in the dark, quiet forest, guests are surrounded by scenes recreated from the movie.
When the guests board the bicycle-like ride, they must avoid the police trying to capture E.T. in a scary chase adventure. And, just like in the movie, the bikes become airborne and the city becomes a distant view below, reminiscent of Peter Pan’s Flight at Disneyland.
In a departure from the movie, guests are transported to E.T.’s planet where they become surrounded by all unique species, plants, environment, colors, and sounds of E.T.’s home — the Green Planet.
Remember those cards with guests’ first names? At the end of the ride, an animatronic E.T. says the name of each person on the ride to thank them for their help in getting him home.
There are many things about the E.T. Adventure that make it a truly memorable experience. In addition to the spectacular sounds and visuals, the attraction was also infused with smells that helped set the scene.
“People who have never experienced it literally think I’m crazy when I say, ‘Wait till you smell the ride!’” Jamie Babineau told The Kingdom Insider in a touching story of the ride’s impact over the years. “I don’t know what that scent is and how Universal makes it, but it’s amazing. It’s so unique, but also with the trees, it really puts you in the environment.”
The suspended dark ride was partially created by Sally Corp (now Sally Dark Rides), who made more than 300 original animatronic plants, trees, and characters.
The E.T. Adventure ride was an immediate hit with guests. It soon opened at other parks: Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Japan.
E.T. Adventure is now more than 30 years old. It is one of only two remaining attractions from the original Universal Studios Florida theme park. It’s also the only remaining E.T. Adventure ride from the three parks it appeared in. At Universal Studios Hollywood, the ride was replaced with Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride. Universal Studios Japan replaced it with Space Fantasy: The Ride.
At Universal Orlando Resort, E.T. Adventure has undergone updates and upgrades over the years. In 2002, the preshow was revised. And 2017 saw a major refurbishment.
The E.T. Adventure was revolutionary among dark rides in 1990. And it still stands up well today.
Editor’s Note: In this article, we told you that E.T. Adventure is one of only two remaining attractions (and the only remaining ride) from opening day in 1990. Do you know what the other only remaining attraction is? Let us know in the comments below (you can log in via Facebook to comment). Theme Park Magazine will be implementing a reward program in the future. The first person with the correct answer will be awarded points when that new reward program launches.