I worked on the JAWS ride at Universal Orlando for 4 years, doing more than 20,000 shows. It has been 8 years since my last show, I work a boring (but much more lucrative) desk job in another company, and the ride has been torn down and replaced. Thus a return to Amity Island is impossible unless I journey to Japan. I still have the occasional "Jaws Dream" at night. A common form of 'PTJD' most long-time skippers face. There was nothing like being a Jaws Skipper, saving a boat full of tourists every 5 minutes. AMA!

Proof: me then and now: http://imgur.com/SgeFack http://imgur.com/NgvyKjK

EDIT: For those who never experienced this attraction, here is a video from the last day of the ride. This is not me, I had left 4 years previous. https://youtu.be/QurplyEz_P4

Edit for posterity: some photos of the mechanics of the ride: http://imgur.com/a/jrtNW The last ride EVER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwlKgc-aiw4

Edit: Thank you all for the questions. It was an awesome stroll down memory lane. I may come back and answer some worthy questions later, but I must focus on work right now. I'm so glad that so many people still have fond memories of this attraction.

Edit: I would encourage other former Jaws skippers to hop on and do their own AMA! My experience was my own, and while many have similar experiences, perspectives are always different. Maybe some of the off-script scalawags would even share some of their most infamous shows. That's all folk's. #chompchomp

Comments: 1195 • Responses: 69  • Date: 

captainhowdy27559 karma

Did anyone ever propose when Jaws popped out of the water?

ShowScene5834 karma

That'd be a terrible time in the show to propose as the boat rocks back and forth violently and the sound of the sharks "roar" and the mortars make it very loud and impossible to hear anything, even the skipper when shouting over the microphone.

That said, Jaws was a favorite place to propose at Universal and it happened on occasion. I never got to have a proposal on my boat, unfortunately. I planned for one, but the couple no-showed.

What we'd do it is work with the guy who wanted to propose. We'd plan it before hand. Usually it was someone who was a huge fan of the ride and/or movie. The spot most people would propose would be right after the explosion and the fire on the water goes out. The skipper would drop the boat of auto-mode and then ad-lib something about how we all might die and should say what we needed to say to our loved ones. Then the would-be groom proposes. Again, I never got to witness one, but i happened and we were glad to help make it happen.

I was gonna propose to my wife on the ride, but I felt like that would have been too predictable, so I did it on one of the resort yachts in the middle of Portofino bay. Magic. :)


I think the OP of the comment was referencing Mall Rats, the film. The main character was going to take his girlfriend to Universal and propose when Jaws popped out of the water but she dumped him before they could go.

ShowScene5213 karma

Never saw that movie or knew there was a connection to the ride. They've filmed some other movies at the ride. I think there was a scene in like the 3rd sequel to "bring it on". lol

KYLO__REN64 karma

and the sound of the sharks "roar"


ShowScene5118 karma

It was a mixture of animal sounds, mostly seals. It was loud, and not realistic, but having ridden without guests and no audio, it's not scary without the roar.

truman_chu445 karma

What was the worst passenger freak-out?

ps; Thank you. You and your colleagues on Jaws were amazing, going on that ride (repeatedly) was a real highlight of many Orlando holidays over the years.

ShowScene51109 karma

You're welcome! Most of us loved that attraction dearly and felt privileged to bring Jaws to life for millions of guests every year.

My favorite was this large African American woman who was sitting closest to where the shark came up. She FLIPPED OUT. She was easily pushing 300lbs but did this backward craw/flail across the laps of her entire family to get to the other side of the boat while screaming "Oooo Jesus!!! Awww lawdy!!"

I had to turn my mic off I was laughing so hard.

PC_Mustard_Race83309 karma

Haha. Did she not know she was on the Jaws ride? I like to think her family just told her they were taking a ferry across the park and the whole giant mechanical shark was a complete surprise.

ShowScene5328 karma

I don't know the back story. I couldn't even finish my show, I laughed all the way into unload.

Rev6G15362 karma

How brutal was the ride with the pyrotechnics on hot summer days?

ShowScene5634 karma

Absolutely brutal. The fireball in show scene 4 was very real and very large. And the heat so intense, that we regularly had people complain about how it burnt their skin. This was usually British tourists who already had significant sun burns, so the heat from the explosion was likely a hellish feeling. I never saw a single real heat-related injury. And having had that thing explode in my face 20k times, I can vouch for its safety.

Summers on the ride could be very hot. But I was young and in shape and drank a bottle of water or sports drink every 3 shows or so to keep hydrated. The spray from the water-effects also kept me pretty cool. The heat from that scene was only a momentary discomfort compared to 95 degrees and 90 percent humidity. But it was very hot none-the-less.

In winter though, it was a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

Rev6G15142 karma

I had gone to Orlando in the mid 90's. It had to have been 105 degrees that day. My family thought "Hey let's go on the Jaws ride to cool off!"....horrible idea.

ShowScene5175 karma

Sometimes in the summer, we'd purposely try to flood the first two rows by stopping the boat in a certain location just to remind people it was a water ride - er I mean "cool people off". ;-)


This happened to me. But it was November.

ShowScene5127 karma

Well sometimes we'd do it TO the skippers by hiding in what we called "the firehouse" which was a building in the fire scene that housed all the effects for that scene. There was a ride computer that we could control the effects from and you could activate a water bubbler at just the right time to make a tidal wave flood the skipper area and front row right when the skipper was on that side of the boat. We'd do that more to get the skipper's feet soaked than to get the guests wet, but oh well there's a disclaimer on the door. lol

pretty_in_porcelain115 karma

As a very pale English girl (who went to Florida every year for a while), the pain of that heat on sunburn is real! I got really good at positioning myself the opposite side of the boat to avoid the worst of it!

ShowScene5153 karma

I'm freckled, light skinned ginger. I feel your pain. Fortunately I could run away and from the fireball. The few times I had a sun-burn it was pretty uncomfortable. I always felt bad for the European guests with sunburns who sat on the port side of the boat. So I understand why people would complain about the heat occasionally.

The most baffling question I regularly received was "is that fire real?!" I mean, this IS Orlando, and we can fake alot of things, but yes, the fire was very very real. We had a complete safety protocol and a button on our boats to extinguish the flames in an instant if we ever felt unsafe.

Also, the cost of propane used for the explosion was why the ride was nearly permanently closed in 2005. Fortunately the outrage of fans of the ride brought it back from near extinction and kept it open until 2012.

rolodex9287 karma

How can they close Jaws but keep open the piece of shit borefest that is Twister?

ShowScene5208 karma

I enjoy twister. After living through several hurricanes, it gives me the same feeling. It's a neat experience. But I will admit that Bill Paxton makes it seem dull. See my comments about how the performer can make or break an attraction. lol

dakpluto105 karma

Twister was OK, but not worth replacing Ghostbusters.

ShowScene594 karma

I agree with this.

oh_hai_dan50 karma

Because they have nothing better to put where twister is, and Jaws was almost a straight path to the Harry Potter world in Islands of Adventure, so the Universal Harry Potter had to go there with a convenient train connecting the two. It is actually pretty cool.

ShowScene5107 karma

Jaws was not a straight path to ANYWHERE. It was on the farthest corner of the resort from Islands of Adventure.

ShowScene5178 karma

I take that back, It was a straight path to the employee parking lot, which was AWESOME!

Miss_Melusine233 karma

That sounds like an awesome job. Best/most embaressing story? Do you swim-scuba-surf in the ocean and have the theme music going through your head? (I know I would.)

ShowScene5645 karma

It was an amazing Job. The pay was very low, just a bit over minimum wage, but I may have paid THEM for the job if I had to.

It is hard to label one of the stories I have as the "best" or MOST embarrassing. I've had/seen a lot of awesome/embarrassing things.

One story that sticks out to me is this: I was working as the Team Lead one particular day and was not on boat. Basically my job was to make sure everything was running well, plan rotations and breaks, and help out everywhere. I get a call to the unload dock as a boat comes around the corner. Strangely, I didn't hear the usual "Call off the Marine, we're coming hooooome!!!". The boat was full of guests, but the skipper was missing. Just as I was about to hit the E-stop, I see the skipper rise from the floor with a bloody face.

Apparently during the final scene (show scene 5) where the skipper vanquishes the great white with a combination of electrocution and grenades shot from a 50mm grenade launcher, she managed to hit herself in the head with the barrel of the weapon and knock herself silly and bloody her face.

These grenade launchers were, of course, props. They were made of wood and metal. The barrel as heavy and hard as any real weapon. Comparable to a shotgun. The grenade launcher is used throughout the ride as we timed our shots with pre-timed water mortars that shoot water in the air. The trick to making it look really good is in how you mimic the recoil of an actual weapon.

I had done some training with her and a few other recently hired skippers on how a real firearm reacts when fired. Well, apparently she took this training to heart and over-acted the last shot, popped the barrel of the launcher into her head, and knocked herself nearly unconscious. The look of terror on the faces of both the skipper and her audience was priceless.

She was ok, but was off-boat for a day or two to recover. I don't think she required stitches. She kept her bloody uniform as a souvenir, and if she ever does an AMA, I'm sure it'll be her proof.

I don't have the traditional "dun-un dun-un" Jaws sound in my head. It's mostly the unload music that stays with me. Fortunately, It's happier music.

Wonderlandian1660 karma

Hey Michael. Skipper Taryn checking in. It was actually in Show Scene 2 when the shark fin first appears, not scene 5. Besides that, I corroborate your tale of me bashing myself in the face with a lifeless piece of metal. Still have the shirt, 7 years later! http://m.imgur.com/EJoo5QD

Edit: oh wow, thanks for the gold! I should make myself bleed with self-inflicted blunt force trauma more often! :D

Edit 2: I just got home from work. It took me 20 minutes to find it, but I dug the shirt out of storage. I ripped it up a few years back for a Halloween costume (if you're a fan of the ride, I'm sure you'll appreciate the fact that I went as Gordon.) Before you can even ask...yes, that's my blood, yes, it's been festering on a shirt for 7 years, no, I've never washed it, and yes, I absolutely understand how disgusting that is :) http://imgur.com/7AYVbwa

ShowScene5423 karma

thanks for the extra context, now I remember! you were out on your feet for a alot of the ride, right? congrats, you're now reddit famous!

ShowScene512 karma

Wait, you got GOLD? Finally after all these years, that accident has paid off!

Stylux42 karma

Nice workers' comp claim there. I don't think the insurance company would dispute it.

ShowScene5170 karma

Then we would have gotten less realistic grenade launchers. We were willing to bleed for our craft.

godcreatesdinosaurs194 karma

Are you disappointed in Universal tearing down old rides to make way for new? I still remember Back to the Future and that was one of my favorite rides ever to this day.

ShowScene5265 karma

Back to the future was one of my favorites but it was shot on film and the film had degraded badly, and the building's foundation was damaged because of all the movement of the RV's for 20 years. So much so, they had to only run one side of the ride at a time so as to limit the damage. It was beginning to show its age for being "in the future" as well. BTW, welcome to the "future!" 2015

But it does make me said when I think about how the only original ride left is ET. Everything else that I knew as a kid is gone. I grew up at universal and now the shows and rides like Kongfrontation, Jaws, Back to the Future, Earthquake (in its original form), Hannah Barbera, Ghostbusters, murder she wrote, Alfred Hitchock, and the wild west stunt show are all gone forever.

jhc141552 karma

That's pretty sad. Do you think the rides that replaced them are equivalent, just for a new generation? Or do they seem less visually impressive? I remember that was the coolest things about those rides. They were incredibly immersive and like nothing you could find anywhere else.

ShowScene5110 karma

My feeling is that they have strayed from their behind the scenes movie making roots. But it is a new generation that doesn't care how the magic happens, they just want to be immersed in it. So it seems like a natural progression.

OmnipotenceUprising144 karma

Did you meet any famous people? 20,000 shows seems like a hell of a lot, chances are you might have?

ShowScene5338 karma


I've had the Jordanian royal family on board. Topher Grace too.

I've been working, but didn't do the shows when The Rock came through as well as Parramore, and some others that I can't remember just yet.

My favorite show of all time was the one I did for my favorite Pro Wrestler Mick Foley ( /u/GenuineMickFoley ) during Wrestlemania week here in Orlando. Another skipper had the Undertaker on board. It was a private show with just Taker and his guides/security. She had no idea who he was, just that he must be a famous wrestler. I flipped out on her. And then I started dreaming about how my life would be complete if my favorite wrestler (who was working for TNA, not WWE at the time) would come and ride my show. Well, Monday comes around and I think all hope is lost for wrestler sighting as Wrestlemania was the day before. I had just started a show and noticed a flannel-clad gent in the 6th row with long brown hair. I thought to myself that it must be a fan. Until I saw his smile. His big, teeth missing, unmistakable Foley smile. Then I notice his kids, who I knew about because I was a super fan. The rest of the show was at 120%. I didn't have the nerve to say anything to him because it was drilled into us to use discretion with celebs. But since he's not well known outside of wrestling, he doesn't ask for a tour guide or special treatment. So I might have gotten away with a handshake. I should have at least done the ole Cactus Jack "Bang bang!" when I shot the shark. It was a legit honor to perform for someone who had performed for me in such a big way.

Celebrity sightings were not uncommon, especially since as a lead, I was notified whenever a VIP guest was arriving.

zissou99107 karma

Did Foley put his sock on his hand and put Jaws in his Mr. Socko submission hold?

ShowScene5141 karma

That would have been the most awesome thing ever. Except the part where the hydraulics ripped his arm from his torso. That would have been a bad day. Not worth it.

plentifulpooper129 karma

Would you have gone down with the ship if called upon?

ShowScene5242 karma

I would not have abandoned guests on a sinking boat, if that's what you mean.

We all took water safety classes which included having to tread water for 5 minutes with our arms in the air. They never explained that part to me, but I guess it was so we could swim even if our arms were ripped off by the shark, or so we could swim while holding a drowning guest.

The boats operated on a track, so although they could fill with water, they could never truly sink - unless they fell off the track. And I saw that once. I'll share that tale if asked.

plentifulpooper118 karma

That answers it yes, I was curious what the thinking was on water rides and safety. Please tell us about when the boat fell off the track!

ShowScene5281 karma

Spoiler alert: it was actually my fault.

I was working in the control tower. I guess I can share a photo since the ride doesn't exist anymore: http://imgur.com/4viTjyb

Anyway, I was bringing a boat from the offline spur, a side track where we keep the extra boats. Pretty standard for rides that use a track.

We had begun using a bastardized version of the SOPs for bring boats on and offline. The way it was designed to be done was we initiate the track switch in Tower. We tell the computer which ride vehicle is coming on from which track switch. When we switch the track, the skipper holds a button, which moves the boat onto the track. If we've told the computer which offline spur and track switch the boat is at, the boat would not move. But apparently, (and ironically) a skipper screwed up adding a boat so the technicians were now moving the boats onto the track. And instead of using the button skippers used, they would drive it manually from the back of the boat.

So, for whatever reason, I switched the wrong track switch and gave the go-ahead to come forward, and the tech drove the boat off the end of the track. And the front dipped down into the water, but it didn't sink because the heavier back of the boat was still on the track.

There were guests on the ride, but because the boat was now in the path of the track, we could not cycle them all off, so we had to do alot of shuffling of boats to get them to the evac points, and needed the evac boat to get guests off one boat.

After I realized what I had done, I first called the ride down to the operations phone number, made a spiel in the queue, and called a lead to come relieve me. Trying to keep it together knowing I may well be fired.

It took divers with air balloons 4 hours to raise the boat and put it back on the track. I was suspended one day and was promoted a month later because I brought to light a problem with how we were not following SOPs and operating the ride as it was designed. In the past, switching the wrong track would cause an additional 2 minute downtime, but because we bypassed safeties, it caused the ride to be down the rest of the day.

The only people on board were a lead and a tech.

When I was relieved from my position, I went and legit cried because I thought I was fired and because I was the head trainer at the time. People looked up to me. I had trained people in that position and helped train half the staff. That rapport saved by bacon. I worked there another year after that.

gnomeshell82 karma

It took divers with air balloons 4 hours to raise the boat and put it back on the track

wait how deep was the water in this ride (its been years, if not decades, since ive ridden it) but I always though the pool was like waist deep with the exception of where things popped out from. ( Ie: those were recessed)

ShowScene586 karma

It was generally only about 4-5 feet deep. But you're right there were VERY deep pits throughout the ride. One of those spots was at the track switches where all the hydraulic motors to move the track were located.

yamahagamerman56 karma

I'm imagining falling into the water and seeing a big mechanical shark come towards you.

ShowScene576 karma

The skipper would have hit the emergency stop long before it got to you. In the event it was the skipper who fell, we had a kill-chord attached to us that would stop the ride if it was yanked out by us falling. Sucks when we got tangled in it though.

wyattkelly120 karma

Really weird question here: I worked at Men in Black: Alien Attack for a year back in 2004-2005, and there was a rumor that the Jaws Lagoon was protected by the EPA due to being the only place where a particular type of worm lived. With Harry Potter there now, the lagoon seems gone. Is this rumor true?

ShowScene5196 karma

haha. This was during the time that I worked there. And no, no truth whatsoever. The worms would have been destroyed in the great hydraulic leak of 04 anway. So much fluid leaked out, the lagoon was electric green for a week.

jshap94115 karma

How many times did you hear a passenger exclaim, "OH MY GOD! LOOK AT THOSE GAS PRICES!" ? Because I've personally done it twice.

ShowScene593 karma


This was my biggest theming problem with the ride. It was the biggest issue in that scene and took people out of the moment. I lobbied for years to fix it. Never found out why they didn't. Maybe they didn't want to be bothered to change the prices every week. But seriously, the Ops team would have done it if the techs didn't want to.

TheOneTheOnlyC112 karma

I recently went on the Poseidon ride at Islands of Adventure and the guide was hilarious and was able to incorporate a lot of guests into the show. Do you guys (tour guides) receive any training on how to act with the guests?

I really have to say that a guide can make or break a ride.

ShowScene5180 karma

The performance of the guide/performer/skipper can truly make or break the attraction. Because the whole resort is based on entertainment by suspending your disbelief. If your performer is not enthusiastic or making you believe what you are seeing is real, it will blow the entire experience. This is unacceptable, especially with all the resources devoted to the attractions, and in particular the entire Jaws franchise. We'd always say that not matter how many times you have done a show, it will be someones first time every time. So don't ruin for them.

I was a show quality nazi. It was understood that you will not mock the ride, or the outstanding job of the rest of the team and ruin someone's experience because you're bored with your job. There were days when skippers, including myself, would request to not be on boat because were were not emotionally up to providing the top quality show guests deserved. And if a skipper was not self-aware enough to know when they were "phoning it in", I'd pull em from boat for the day.

I made it my goal that even my worse show would be a good show. So my auto-pilot show was still a super show. The only times I've ever been disappointing in my performance as after working in the rain for 3 days straight. I was miserable and my feet were wet.

We received some good training in acting. Over at Poseidon, those people are paid as legit "performers". We were merely classified as "spielers". But most of the staff were theater students, or otherwise involved in the entertainment industry. Some others, including myself were just schmoes who wandered somehow into the coolest job ever.

call_of_brothulhu44 karma

I'm a huge coaster fan, so I have an annual pass to both islands and studios and there's a certain point where you've ridden everything so many times you have to start exploring to keep visits fresh. It was on one of these adventures when I finally made it into Poseidon's. While it did seem a bit dated, I can honestly say that I was incredibly impressed with the amount of professionalism and energy the "tour guide" put into his performance. Can you recommend any other interesting/unique/little known diversions for someone that's visiting for the dozenth time?

ShowScene537 karma

It has been years since I've been to either park. But I enjoy the Blue Brothers show across from Mummy.

Phaedrus2129103 karma

The one time I went to Universal Orlando and went on the Jaws ride, Jaws malfunctioned and got stuck out of the water and they shut down the ride after I'd been standing in line for 90 minutes. Also it was raining, and a seagull shat on me.

Basically, I now hold you personally responsible for ruining my childhood. How does that make you feel?

ShowScene5113 karma

That makes me feel like the substance that landed on you. But you were lucky you were only in line for 90 minutes.

jmanpc92 karma

I had some great memories on that ride. One in particular was around Mardi Gras if I remember correctly, because everyone was stumbling around with a Yard of Beer, you know, the three foot long beer glass...

Anyways, a large majority of the people on my cruise were wasted. The skipper "ran out of ammo" so he had to fight off Jaws with Kung Fu. He whipped his arms around and kicked and then BOOM! Charred Jaws.

It was rather amazing. The other people on the ride loved it, and I'd never seen such an impressive display of Kung Fu prowess.

Was that you?

ShowScene5106 karma

Definitely not me. I would have pulled that skipper from boat. In fact, I have 3 guys who I think may have done the kung fu show. Honestly, on event nights like grad night or rock the universe where it's almost all teens, I didn't care as much, but during the day when families from around the world are riding, I want to make sure we give them the most authentic Jaws ride possible. See my previous answer about show quality.

Metroidude4785 karma

Any notable incidents? Has the ride ever had to be stopped because a passenger requested it? Has anyone ever fallen out of the boat (okay this one is a bit ridiculous but nonetheless)?

ShowScene5291 karma

Over the life of the ride, there were many notable incidents.

During Halloween Horror Nights, a drunk guest jumped overboard and swam to a dock on the other side of the lagoon. The skipper hit the emergency stop button, which instantly halts all effects and hydraulics and locks them where they are. This can be very damaging to the ride, depending on what is in motion. I understand he was arrested and trespassed.

If a guest is panicking, we had the ability to stop our boats by "dropping out of auto", basically pausing our forward movement on the track. We control the audio in the boats too. And we can turn the "rolling" motion off. So we would do all those before pushing the E-Stop because that affects the whole ride and could bring it down for hours depending on what might be damaged as a result. It would take a truly unsafe condition to do that.

We were always on the lookout for people standing or putting themselves in a position of falling out.

Here's a story, that I believe was prerry infamous on the attraction:

In the spring, the are can be inundated with duck families. Ducks and ducklings find their way into every body of water and lagoon on property. Even the Jaws lagoon. I don't know why they would even hang out more than 3 minutes with the fire, sounds, and water mortars, but they did.

One time a duck swam right over a mortar as it went off, sending the duck flying into the boat, bouncing off the canopy and falling dead and mangled into the lap of a little girl. With the girl thinking the skipper shot the duck. The family was compensated greatly by guest relations and we were were thus authorized to perform "duck stops" or e-stops for duck safety to avoid a similar incident from occurring that season. This story was thereafter included when training new skippers about emergency stop procedures.

Metroidude4765 karma

This is very interesting, thank you, but it makes me curious about something else.

Disney maintains a fairly strict "immersion" policy where they very rarely "break the forth wall", so to speak, in terms of acknowledging that the rides are in fact, rides in a theme park and everything is basically fake. Now, the JAWS ride is pretty much an on-rails narrative telling a quick story of an encounter with the shark itself. In the event that staff had to stop or otherwise pause or modify the ride in any way, did they break character and say "Alright folks we're gonna wait for these ducks to fly away", because as a guest that would sound completely hilarious to me and break any form of immersion I'd have had on a boat ride with a killer shark in the waters, or was there some kind of protocol to weave the technical modification into the ride experience?

Thanks for your detailed answers!

ShowScene5141 karma

YES. Before you could be sign-off to take guests, you had to do a spieling test. Where you would have to spiel for 20 minutes about ride themed stuff. We were all encouraged to come up with back stories about our lives on Amity Island. I have a pretty good "radio voice" that I perfected while spieling mine was I was a part time DJ at WJWS radio. Which allowed me to act kinda smarmy and gave me license to tell terrible jokes.

If there was an issue on our boat safety was number one. We'd break character for safety. If there was a downtime but there was hope of salvaging the show (for a momentary stop or a backup of the boats) we would keep up with the act. If we were there for more than 5 minutes, we'd transition from the "fear for your life" mode and move into our back story and tell some island lore. If the track was blown or we knew there would be an extended downtime, we'd break character and then talk about the ride system and how we create the effects. kinda a behind the scenes tour. Since Universal is a working movie studio, that's still on-theme. And pretty neat for the guests. We'd then give them a password to come back later and not have to wait in line when the ride was working again.

We had a whole book of amity history. I can tell you something about any building on the island. We'd sometimes plug some of the amity businesses you saw commercials for while waiting in line too.


This was my favorite ride at universal because i am insanely afraid of robotics. Like, freaked the fuck out by them. Did you ever get to see all the shit in the ride without the water in it? That would be the worst thing to see. Like the ride completely drained of water. I would be afraid of that.

ShowScene5168 karma

Let me either help ease your fears or make them worse:


I took all of these myself.

ShowScene55 karma

Then don't look for the same comment someone else made where I posted said photos. Oh heck here you go: http://imgur.com/a/jrtNW

appleremote269 karma

How did they train the shark?

ShowScene5117 karma

my least favorite question after "is the fire real?"

texmexcoconut61 karma

Back in the 90's, my family took us to Universal. I don't remember the ride because I had my hands covering my eyes. I can still remember my dad screaming "open your eyes!" because he had SUCH a blast on it and wanted us to see how cool it was.

I went back as a college student but didn't have the guts to ride it. And I regret it.

So, my question. How did you feel when they tore down your ride? Were you there for the last day?

ShowScene5124 karma

I was unfortunately not there on the last day. I was out of state.

My good friend got to do the last show. I was devastated just as all my Skipper colleagues were. It's like going to college somewhere and then the college being leveled into non-existence. That's how I look at my four years there. It truly was my college experience.

To give you an idea about how much this ride means to those who had the privilege to work there: the skipper who did the last show turned down numerous offers at promotion into management to stay at the ride. The video of the actual last ride makes me cry every single time. I can't watch it, because I break down a little. And I still talk about the ride to everyone I meet. And do the show for strangers on periscope. And do random AMAs about it. See? We're obsessed.

Nikki9doors56 karma

I have been a jaws fanatic ever since I saw the movie in 1975 at ten years old. I dreamed of going on that ride at Orlando all my life, finally, 3 years ago, I was able to go to Orlando and universal I rushed to the area only to discover it was gone, flushed away with my dreams. So my question is... Can you please make my jaws ride dream come true?

godcreatesdinosaurs45 karma

Just a heads up there's a small portion of it that you can see at Universal Hollywood. It's also at Universal Japan.

ShowScene589 karma

The Jaws part of the backlot tour at USH is terrible in comparison. Japan's version is a mirror copy of the Orlando attraction, It's just all in Japanese. I believe they shipped alot of surplus parts to Japan after the closure in Orlando. My dream is to go there someday.

kinjinsan52 karma

I was on the very last Jaws ride. Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. Eleven hundred tourists went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know how you know that when you're in the water, chief? You tell by lookin' from the dorsal to the tail. Well, we didn't know. 'Cause our Amity Tour mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent, huh. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, chief. The sharks come cruisin'. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know it's... kinda like 'ol squares in battle like uh, you see on a calendar, like the battle of Waterloo. And the idea was, the shark goes to the nearest man and then he'd start poundin' and hollerin' and screamin' and sometimes the shark would go away. Sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he's got... lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eye. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be livin'. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin' and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin' and the hollerin' they all come in and rip you to pieces. Y'know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men! I don't know how many sharks, maybe a thousand! I don't know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin' chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player, Bosun's Mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well... he'd been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. He's a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper, anyway he saw us and come in low. And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred tourists went in the water, three hundred and sixteen come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29, 1945. Anyway, we was on the last ride.

ShowScene59 karma

This. This so hard.

WulfwoodsSins50 karma

How did they perform maintenance on a ride like that? Could they drain parts of it, or was it guys in scuba suits?

ShowScene5121 karma

There were 3 ways maintenance was performed.

Nightly the sharks and fins would be raised on their MLPs (Maintence lift platforms) which would include the little track it moved on, the hydraulic motors, attacked effects, and skin. They could also raise these during the day to do emergency maintence.

Diving was also done, mostly for track switch maintenance, sensor repair, or fixing the MLPs if they would't raise. (and raising sunken boats)

Lastly every year or two they would drain the entire lagoon to work on everything and repaint things. One time when I was working there, they found a golf cart in the lagoon. Apparently during the previous 2 years someone drove a golf cart into the lagoon and never said anything. Also lots of sunglasses. Hundreds of sludge covered sunglasses.

call_of_brothulhu48 karma

did the mystery golf cart's story ever get revealed or is it still a mystery?

ShowScene558 karma

Not to me. It was obviously a tech. I'm sure they all covered it up together. So I assume it's still a mystery.

majoleine50 karma

Shit you look so familiar. I've been going to Universal/IOA since I was a young girl and I always remembered the familiar faces of any employee. Sorry if that sounds creepy!

Anyway, Jaws not included, what is your favorite ride between the two parks?

ShowScene573 karma

My favorite non-Jaws ride? Wow, that's a hard one. I guess it'd have to be another extinct spieling attraction: Kongfrontation.

Current ride? The Mummy. I rode it some mornings before my shift just to get in the mood to scream all day.

TheCreamySmooth46 karma

I always loved near the end of the day when the boat drivers were a little tired and sarcastic and would go a big off book (shooting the mortar over the shoulder, deadpanning "oh no. look. there's. a. shark.) and altering the monolog for amusement. Did you have any particular go-to things to try and make it more interesting rather than the same thing over and over?

ShowScene5118 karma

I've answered this alot. Show quality was really important to me. Going a little off-script to add color is one thing, but going rogue and mocking the ride is another. It may be your 20th show that day, but there is a family who flew literally around the world to be there and they were in line all day long to ride other things, and now finally they are on the Jaws ride and expect a true to life recreation of the movie that has become so iconic. I did not tolerate this and pulled people from boat if I witnessed it.

One of the best skippers of all time (any Jaws skipper or superfan knows his name (JB)) would always be off script. But in the form of adding a line or saying something different. He was cut alot of slack because his show was so good. He never mocked the ride.

But otherwise it was frowned upon except in very rare cases.

To give skippers the chance to let off some steam, we'd sometimes have a night where we would be open only for us and do sill shows for each other. Those were the best.

DailyRich8 karma

I had plenty of people go off-script -- there was the infamous "Sea Turtle" show where the skipper would never actually see the shark, but kept talking about the rare, endangered Amity sea turtles that must be causing all that splashing -- but for me, I always thought it was more of a challenge, and therefore much more satisfying, to make the script work as written than to add my own funny stuff to it.

ShowScene513 karma

We would do the "Amity Manatee" show. But usually only if the ride was broken and the sharks weren't working. Because the sharks looked like manatees underwater.

MotleyJu7 karma

Any stories about those private shows? That sounds hilarious.

ShowScene515 karma

They were totally off-script, not PC, outrageous, and sometimes unsafe. That being said, many of the offenders are still employed so I will not dive into those tales.

fightonphilly45 karma

Oh man, the Jaws ride! I rode this ride back when I was around 10 or so, and it is the genesis of my lifelong (and completely irrational) fear of man-made objects underwater (submechanophobia). So my question is did you enjoy inflicting permanent emotional damage on the children who rode your ride?

No, just kidding, thanks for the AMA you've got some pretty great responses here.

ShowScene537 karma

In the spirit of the entire JAWS franchise, yes I enjoyed instilling or reinforcing this fear of what lurks beneath the water. Unless you were under 6, than I felt bad that you had such crappy parents to bring you on the ride.

LumieLuna44 karma

How do you tune a fish?

ShowScene554 karma

Are you a skipper or superfan?

For those wondering what this means: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10thnMMfWTw

LumieLuna15 karma

Neither, but friends with some skippers and I was working at another ride when the clicker was made.

ShowScene522 karma

Jaws by far made the best clickers. I was in the Harry Potter spoof and did the voiceovers for "how to build a better skipper".

shadeofmyheart40 karma

Ride and Show speiler from EarthQuake here... How many times did Jaws go 11-1 in a week would you say?

ShowScene559 karma

Howdy, I did some time spieling at Earthquake in 2005 when Jaws closed. It was fun for a awhile, but no sunlight, and lots of downtime.

Gosh, it would depend on who the Jaws lead, studio west, and Tech manager were. We went 11-1 (down due to technical difficulties) often due to a combination of show elements being out. In theory, they each had a point value and any value above a 4, meant we would close until we could fix them.

For instance
a shark was 2 points. So 2 sharks was 4 - closed. a fin was 1 point, so 1 shark and 2 fins - closed flames were 3 points I think. so flames plus anything was a closure. everything else was a half a point.

The other closures would be because the track "was blown" which meant that the computer thought, or there actually were 2 ride vehicles in the same zone at the same time. It's kind alike a BSOD on your computer and you need to reset the whole system if it happens. This was more likely when you had 6 boats online (the max) in the summer. If one boat was fast and it was behind a boat that was slow, the fast boat could overtake the slow boat into a show scene and cause the track to blow.

The other commons issues were hydraulic leaks. The sharks ran on hydraulic (vegetable oil). If a hose broke, it would leak. If they could shut-off that effect it would be ok. But if a hose broke on one of the big sharks and bleed the entire hydraulic system, then it was big trouble.

The reason I said it depends on who is in charge is because the ride, much like earthquake (now Disaster), the ride was a combination of different effects and systems. So there were multiple points of failure. And despite the point system it was ultimately the call of management. Sometimes the Jaws lead would do it and then have to defend it to the manager when they arrived. But I always erred on the side of show quality. But sometimes we'd do shows with major parts not working.

But usually it was a boat breaking. So I'd day at least once a day. The longest stretch I can remember was like a week in september, when the park was empty. It was a very mechanical ride, so when it broke, it broke good.

Ragnar_Targaryen32 karma

Was there a severance package when you left?

Did they offer you a lifetime pass to Disney?

Were they kind to you when you left?

I feel like they'd be the type of place that allows that but I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't offer you a severance package, I'm sure they have a high turnover of employees.

ShowScene599 karma

Severence? hahahaha. ahem sorry. No. The health benefits were great because of the large number of employees on the plan and the fact that we were owned by GE.The pay is low. Even as a lead on the ride, the most I made was 8.50. For 8.50/hr I was in charge of a 50million dollar attraction. But I would have paid them to work there.

No lifetime passes to Universal, much less Disney (who is the main competitor of Universal). I had free passes while I worked there. Sometimes I'd show up at 2am to get a bite to eat at the commissary and just walk around peaking in buildings.

My friends were nice to me when I left. Management was indifferent more or less. It's a large corporate entity. Although, those of us working in Amity managed to buck the corporate culture more often than not.

I don't know what country you're from, but in the USA, severance pay is not standard unless you are a salaried professional and let go without cause. It is unheard of for an hourly theme park worker.

N0V0w3ls30 karma

What!? They tore down the ride??? That was my favorite ride at Universal!!! What are they replacing it with?

Also, were you ever in on the crazy improvising that some of the skippers used to do? The last time I went, they really had fun with it. One guy would be way over the top any time the shark came by, and when he accidentally blows up the gas tanks, he would throw his "gun" at a little kid riding in front and yell "What did you DO!?" Another guy told us he had superpowers and could put out the fire with his mind. He had the timing down that he'd wave his hand and the fire would go away. I am so upset that all this is gone. Did you ever do anything like this or have any stories of some really good improvisations?

ShowScene536 karma

It's been gone since 2012 and was replaced with the Harry Potter Expansion. I feel your sadness.

I was all for playing with the guests and including them in the show, but the super powers things really messes up with the ability suspend your disbelief. See my previous answers on show quality.

That being said, it was a goofy show during a private event that made me want to be a skipper in the first place.

PC_Mustard_Race8329 karma

When the shark came at you, did it not even seem to be living?

ShowScene547 karma

I never thought it was real. I just saw it as the prop that it was. Not even when I was new. But I think that's because you become so familiar with the ride elements and timing that nothing is out of the ordinary. But when something is a half a second off, you notice.

razor-ramon28 karma

Do Universal employees have beef with Disney employees?

ShowScene577 karma

No, because the reality is that most universal employees have been or will someday be Disney employees.

TheSaladIsRaw27 karma

Oh god I remember being on this ride as a kid with my parents (I think I was around six years old) and I cried so much during it because I thought the shark was real and that it was going to eat us (because of the jaws movie) how do you feel when their are kids crying on the ride?

ShowScene554 karma

I generally enjoyed seeing kids older than 6 cry. But younger than that, their parents should no better. I hated to see babies cry on the ride. That's right, BABIES. people brought them on all the time. I started refusing to allow parents with kids under 1 bring them on. It's insane and sad.

BenaiahLionPwnr24 karma

Did you ever feel like you needed a larger boat?

ShowScene573 karma

No. I could cram 60 brazillian girls into a boat made for 48 - easy.

But I did get tired of that joke everyday.

Funkicus23 karma

When did they stop using actual steam as an effect? I went when I was around 10 in 1992 and was sat in the outside seat of the row, at the edge of the boat. I remember thinking it was brilliant myself but my parents losing their minds because of the steam burn I got over my left leg

ShowScene533 karma

We used steam at the dock on and off until the ride closed I believe. It had a certain roasted fish smell which really sold that last shark-frying scene.

I have seen one or two burns people said were from the steam, and we'd turn it off for the day to check it. Mostly I think that was the moment when people realized they had missed a spot with the sunscreen.

nomadofwaves22 karma

Who would win in a showdown, the Disney jungle cruise skippers or the jaws skippers?

ShowScene540 karma

Sadly, Jungle Cruise has won with their terrible jokes.

Aborkle21 karma

How do you feel about Skipper Dan by Weird Al?

ShowScene529 karma

Since it's a poke at Jungle cruise, I'm good with it. Everyone knows that Jaws is far better than Jungle cruise. Admittedly, only jungle cruise skippers are still working...

Joshhawk19 karma

Anyone ever jump in the water?

ShowScene558 karma

Guests have. And skippers have as well. It used to be a tradition for skippers to jump in on their last day (at the dock), but when GE bought Universal, that ended. Stupid OSHA regulations.

KnightOfPineapple19 karma

Do you like pineapples?

ShowScene545 karma

Only if they are under the sea and inhabited by a yellow, goofy, sea sponge.

ThingsGetWorse17 karma

Do you like Harry Potter? If the answer is no, do you like it even less now?

Edit for context: Diagon Alley replaced this area of the park.

ShowScene570 karma

I've never read the books are seen the movies. I've not ridden the rides either. I wouldn't be against it, as I hear the ride technology is really cool, and I have some very good friends who opened both the harry potter rides.

But, yes, I do loath the fact that they bulldozed JAWS and put a harry potter expansion there.

I do understand the business reasons though. JAWS was by FAR the costliest ride to run and maintain. They couldn't just close it because of its worldwide cultural appeal. So they needed to replace it with something that was just as iconic for this current generation that would bring it more guests and more revenue and cost less to operate.

cheewiee17 karma

Thank you for starting this, I was a Jaws skipper back in the late 1990's and this was the best job I think one could have.... Which shows did you prefer? The day shows or the night shows??

ShowScene514 karma

NIGHT SHOWS. duh. :)

Xthenewnitex15 karma

This ride traumatized me from when i was really little and i had nightmares every night for 7 years and still haunts me to this day. How does that make you feel?

ShowScene529 karma

The ride still haunts me to this day too. just 20,000 times more.

molrobocop10 karma

Does it make me weird that the T2 3D ride is, and will continue to be my favorite ride/show there?

Also, all those houses and shops that build to look like places. But aren't actually open to fill in space: Is there anything behind the doors? Any administrative stuff?

ShowScene519 karma

Throughout Universal there are a bunch of facades. Most cover parts of buildings used for rides or storage. But there are offices and break rooms throughout as well. Some are just facades with no building behind them as well.

On amity, every building had a purpose. It was either a storage room, control room, office, or workshop.

shizknight3 karma

Do you like to to go swimmin' with bow-legged women?

ShowScene56 karma

No, but my good buddy Quint does. Do you know he didn't really die and runs charters on Amity Island to this very day? Oh well he did, until Harry Potter annihilated it!

Boonaki3 karma

When was the last time you feared for your life?

ShowScene53 karma

A near-miss car accident a few months ago.

Fnerb1 karma

How often do your "performances" get reviewed? When I was down there I went on the King Kong ride and the person was amazing - really sold it and helped make the ride immersive. The JAWS ride was really meh because the skipper just went through the motions.

ShowScene52 karma

Toward the time we left, we were doing 2-3 spiel observations a day. The were always constructive with the belief that we could all do a better show. So we even reviewed other leads' shows. Show quality was really really important to me. So I was a hard grader, but I always provided constructive feedback.