Welcome to Extinct Attractions. Today, we’ll be going on a spiritual sequel journey to one of the most popular films of all-time.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial broke the box office when it was released on June 11, 1982. The 1980s were a different time with less films in the market, but also films appearing on less total screens because there were only a finite number of film prints. Those facts do not erase E.T. spending a total of 16 weeks as the number one movie at the box office and 44 total weekends in the Top 10. That’s almost an entire year! In fact, E.T. was in theaters for exactly a year during its original theatrical run, with only 8 of the weekends not being top 10 finishes. When you adjust for inflation, the film is currently the fourth-highest grossing movie of all-time domestically.
So obviously the movie was popular with the standard moviegoer, but even more impressively, it was just as big of a hit with the critics. It has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for nine Oscars, winning four of them. It even managed to snag a Best Picture nomination, though it did not win unfortunately. Still, for a summer family adventure film, it truly shows how great this movie was that it could affect people so profoundly.
With that in mind, E.T. was a no-brainer of a property to bring to Universal Studios Florida when it opened with the park on June 7, 1990, especially with the film ending the 1980s as the highest-grossing movie of all-time. In fact, the more surprising part was that E.T. Adventure actually opened in Florida before Hollywood, the first property to have a presence in both parks that called Florida home first. California did get an identical version of the attraction just about a year later opening on June 12, 1991 on the Lower Lot. But the fun didn’t just happen domestically, as Universal Studios Japan also got its own E.T. Adventure when the park opened on March 31, 2001.
Over the years, the attraction has remained relatively static, but one area that did change was the preshow. In its original iteration, Steven Spielberg, director of E.T., was sitting in a theater munching on popcorn, when you stopped in and he begins to tell you about how he’s making a sequel to E.T. and all the guests were going to be extras in the film. But after this, the pretense was dropped, with no film equipment throughout the queue or the ride, and the whole preshow felt a little pointless.
Luckily, that preshow was changed around for the 20th anniversary of the movie because Spielberg, who has always been partial to the attraction, wanted to shake things up a bit and update it. Now, Spielberg was still introducing the attraction (which didn’t quite make sense because it’s not like he’s in the movie), and he gives you the important task of helping bring E.T. back to his home, the Green Planet, which requires his healing touch.
At this point, you were ushered through the doors where you were given an Adventure Passport that allowed you to travel through space with E.T. While doing that, an employee also would take your name to make sure they knew who was trying to engage in space travel.
Then, it was time to hop aboard your very own bike because how could you have an E.T.-themed attraction without the bikes that are quintessential to the film. Personally, every time I hop on that bike, I get such a rush because I feel like now it’s my chance to become a part of the movie.
After the ride begins with a quick escape from some NASA scientists trying to catch E.T., you two run away through a forest. All the while, E.T. pops up from the front of your bike to help lift you up in to the sky for a beautiful view of the city. Though it is basically stripped right from Peter Pan’s Flight, the overview still feels grand and exciting because of the awesome details that were put into making it a reality.
With this flyover complete, the real fun begins upon finally arriving at the Green Planet. Everything is so colorful and vibrant upon E.T.’s arrival and you can’t help but feel excited to be there. Plus, there are baby E.T.s! I mean, you just can’t look at them and not be happy because they are just so darn adorable. Every single time that I see them, I just can’t wipe the smile off my face.
And who could forget how at the end, E.T. would say every person in the vehicle’s name. Well, attempt to. Inadvertently, he would go about 1 for 12, but if you were that lucky one he got right, oh boy was it special.
All of that being said, I absolutely love E.T. Adventure, considering it one of my favorite attractions in Universal’s history. I went to Universal a lot as a kid and with this attraction being one of the few child-friendly attractions, I remember having such a great time each and every chance I got to ride it.
Unfortunately, E.T. began to show its age, and Universal looked to replace it. It first closed in Universal Studios Hollywood on March 14, 2003 to be replaced by Revenge of the Mummy. Personally, I think this was a bit too soon for the attraction to go because it had only been there for 12 years and was E.T. was having a bit of a resurgence with its 20th anniversary, but I understand them wanting to capitalize on the latest popular IP, with The Mummy franchise being their largest property at the time. Still, I remember my whole family being devastated to hear about E.T.’s closure.
Over in Japan, it lasted until May 10, 2009, when it was time for Space Fantasy – The Ride to take over the space. Space Fantasy is an original idea, so I do like that Japan took the risk on something new, and from what I’ve heard, it is an awesome roller coaster.
Luckily over in Florida, it seems like E.T. Adventure is going to be flying for a very long time. From what I’ve heard, the attraction is pretty much untouchable, mainly due to Steven Spielberg. It has been rumored to disappear multiple times over the years, but from what I’ve heard, Steven Spielberg was not happy about losing both Jaws: The Ride and Back to the Future: The Ride, so he basically threatened to not work with Universal anymore if they took out E.T. I’m sure there’s a bit more to it than that, but as long as Steven keeps doing what he’s doing it, I’m here for it.
E.T. will always be one of my favorite attractions, just like it will always be one of my top 10 favorite movies of all-time. (In fact, I’m even going to see it this weekend at a local event.) Though it is a bit old and the technology could be improved, it stands the test of time as the only opening day attraction still around at Universal Studios Florida, and I am so grateful for it.
Well, that brings today’s trip through time to a close, but here’s a look at what I’ll be talking about in a couple of weeks.
- The replacement to this attraction is primed to officially open any day now.
- This attraction has appeared in three Universal parks worldwide.
- This attraction is based on the Steven Spielberg film that topped E.T. at the box office.
Thanks for reading and have a magical day!
Cole Geryak is a college Disney fan making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.