DID YOU READ

Jaws and the changing face of movie theme parks

Jaws and the changing face of movie theme parks (photo)

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

…it kind of was.

As first reported by the Orlando Sentinel, Universal Studios Florida will close their ride based on Steven Spielberg’s classic horror movie “Jaws” by January 2012. The “Jaws” ride was one of the original attractions when Universal Studios first opened in Orlando in 1990; when it shuts down next month, it leaves “E.T. Adventure,” “Universal’s Horror Make-Up Show” and “Lucy: A Tribute” as the last remaining vestiges of the original park’s lineup.

“‘Jaws’ has been an amazing attraction and an important part of our history,” Universal spokesman Tom Schroder told The Sentinel. “We know that ‘Jaws’ holds a special place in the hearts of our guests. But we always have to look to the future and dedicate ourselves to providing new, innovative entertainment experiences for our guests.”

As a child of the 1980s, I do have plenty of fond memories riding on “Jaws.” Wait, are they fond memories? Can you fondly remember getting traumatized for life? I was so terrified of “Jaws” as a kid that I purposefully sat in the middle of the boat so the shark would have to eat his way through several other people if he wanted to get to me. I rode “Jaws” for the last time three years ago, when my wife and I spent a day at Universal on our honeymoon, and this time I bravely offered to sit on the end of the row to protect my new bride (she was surprisingly nonplussed by my selfless gesture). On that cool November afternoon in 2008, Jaws was not quite as fearsome as I thought him to be at age 10. He looked a lot stiffer, his “attacks” seemed a bit less random, and the boat “captain” who lead our “tour” through “Amity” a bit more rehearsed. Sort of like this guy…

Now I could channel my desire to ensure future generations are as emotionally scarred as I was nostalgia and pretend like “Jaws” wasn’t looking creaky around the edges, but it was. Truth be told, it probably was time for an upgrade. That plastic shark represented an analog artifact in an increasingly digital movie world.

This is a topic we once discussed in depth on our old podcast: how the changing face of movie-themed amusement parks like Universal Studios represents a clear signifier that the way movies are created and consumed has changed completely over the course of my lifetime. When Steven Spielberg made “Jaws” in 1974, the titular shark was a mechanical creature, and a really bad one at that; Spielberg famously shot around the fact that “Bruce the Shark” didn’t work by keeping him off camera as long as he possibly could. Almost completely by accident, he wound up making one of the greatest suspense movies of all time. So when “Jaws” opened at Universal Florida in 1990, it was cool to get menaced by a big-ass animatronic shark because that was sort of the same technology used to menace Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss (appropriately, according to the ride’s Wikipedia page, the original “Jaws” ride was plagued with almost as many technical problems as the first Bruce and had to be shut down for more than a year while the bugs were worked out).

That was one of the things that was so great about old school Universal: they could get pretty close to the real (fake) thing. A lot of the original Universal attractions were about taking you behind-the-scenes and revealing the secrets of movie and TV making. There was a “Murder She Wrote Mystery Theater” about foley work and sound effects. At “Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies,” employees taught the tourists how Hitch shot the crashing carousel at the end of “Strangers on a Train.” Just look at how much production info was tossed out at the audience during the introduction of the “Ghostbusters Spooktacular,” which recreated the climactic battle with Gozer on an impressively accurate replica of the Central Park West rooftop.

Okay, so the show is incredibly hokey. But it really was a simpler time, not only in terms of how films were made, but how they were understood to be made. The “Ghostbusters Spooktacular” is pre-DVD and pre-the widespread proliferation of making-of special features. In 2011, you don’t need to go to Universal Studios to find out how “Ghostbusters” was made. Twenty years ago, you kind of did. Even if you wanted to go to a theme park to watch modern moviemaking in action in 2011, what would they show you? The hard drive that processed the Transformers? Green screen pingpong balls from Sam Worthington’s face? “Okay everyone, gather around! Now I’m going to record Gary’s movements in this mo-cap suit. And I’ll just feed all this data into a computer and we’ll be able to see the finished effect in… 12 to 18 months! Can everyone extend their vacations until then? Super!”

Analog moviemaking left behind all kinds of wonderful detritus that could be used to litter Universal Studios. Back in the day, the park featured a whole “Boneyard” full of old props for guests to ogle. Today, the Boneyard is gone, replaced by a rollercoaster called “Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.” There’s no behind-the-scenes info to reveal because there are no scenes to go behind; it’s just a rollercoaster. It’s not even tied to any particular film.

“Jaws” really was a relic. We’ve got CGI sharks now, and CGI-based movie rides like “The Simpsons Ride” and “Shrek 4-D.” The next attraction to open in Florida? A “Despicable Me” 3D movie. I don’t think this change is despicable; it’s just progress, and a company keeping up with its customers’ tastes and attitudes. But even if I understand it, that doesn’t mean I won’t miss the good old days. Rest in peace, Bruce. You scared the shit out of me.

What’s your favorite ride at Universal Studios? Tell us in the comments below or write to Facebook and Twitter.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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