I recently shared with you 50 Movies inspired by Universal Studios Florida that will allow you to relive the stories and adventures that inspired iconic Universal attractions in Orlando. Today, we round out the Universal celebration by looking at 25 films and tv shows that inspired Islands of Adventure just next door. From enjoying some classic 90s cartoons featuring your favorite superheroes to a legendary blockbuster filled with terrifying dinosaurs. Thankfully, this set of titles is a little easier to access on popular streaming platforms than the previous list and I've included links to all of the them. But as usual, if you don't have time to watch all these great movies and shows, I've highlthed what I consider to be the top ten titles that have inspired the best attractions at Islands of Adventure. Enjoy!
Marvel Super Hero Island
Spider-Man the Animated Series (1994-1998)
Our first stop is at Marvel Super Hero Island where you can come face to face with the likes of Spider-Man, Doctor Doom and The Hulk. My MCU fans were probably hoping to enjoy the newer collection of films that Disney and Marvel have produced over the past decade or so. But since this land at Universal is firmly inspired by the comic books and tv programs of the 1990s, I've decided to go a different route. But the good news is that all of these titles are available on Disney+. Which is also a funny reminder of how the more casual theme park guests gets confused when they see Captain America at Universal instead of Disney.
Our first title is The Incredible Hulk animated series which serves as a backdrop to Universal's best coaster. From there I've included a few episodes from X-Men mainly because you can meet characters such as Wolverine and Cyclops here but also to remind you of the overlooked Storm Force Accelatron attraction. Next we have Fantastic Four which inspired the harrowing Doctor Doom Fearfall attraction and rounding out this section is of course, Spider-Man. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is perhaps one of the best rides at Islands of Adventure and has received numerous accolades over the years by theme park experts. All together, I've highlighted 18 episodes from 4 television shows that loosely tie into the stories and characters you see featured on their attraction counterparts.
- Episode 1: The Return of the Beast Part 1
- Episode 2: The Return of the Beast Part 2
2.) X-Men: The Animated Series (1992-1997) - available on Disney+ and iTunes
- Episode 1: Night of the Sentinels Part 1
- Episode 2: Night of the Sentinels Part 1
- Episode 3: Enter Magneto
- Episode 4: Deadly Reunions
3.) Fantastic Four: The Animated Series (1994-1996) - available on Disney+
- Episode 8: The Mask of Doom 1
- Episode 9: The Mask of Doom 2
- Episode 10: The Mask of Doom 3
4.) Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994-1998) - available on Disney+ and iTunes
- Episode 4: Doctor Octopus Armed and Dangerous
- Episode 11: The Hobgoblin Part 1
- Episode 12: The Hobgoblin Part 2
- Episode 16: Hydro-Man
- Episode 54: Six Forgotten Warriors
- Episode 55: Unclaimed Legacy
- Episode 56: Secrets of the Six
- Episode 57: The Six Fight Again
- Episode 58: The Price of Heroism
The Cat in the Hat (1971)
On the opposite side of the park, we have a delightful tribute to one of America's best children's author, Dr. Seuss. This area of the park known as Seuss Landing features a collection of kid-friendly carnival rides inspired by The Cat in the Hat, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and If I Ran the Zoo. Of course some of these classic publications have not been translated to the big screen, but Universal and Illumination have produced and distributed a few other Dr. Seuss movies that the little ones will enjoy, such The Lorax.
But one extra film featured here celebrates one of Universal's best holiday offerings, Grinchmas. Tucked in one of the soundstages between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, the park puts on a fun show retelling the story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas during the holiday period. For those only committing to the condensed top ten version, you'll notice I've hightailed the 2000 live-action version with Jim Carey because Grinchmas is really tied this version as opposed to the original animated short. But feel free to interchange them if you like. I've at least hightailed the animated version of The Cat in the Hat because it is far superior to Mike Myer's version in 2003.
Next, we are zig-zagging over to Toon Lagoon, my personal favorite land at Islands of Adventure. Younger guests may not be as familiar with them today, but this land celebrates long adored characters like Popeye and Dudley Do-Right. The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show is a great place to start here because Dudley's character originated from this series before he had his own spin-off. Rocky and Bullwinkle also have a long history with Universal in that before the second park was built, the pair had their own stage show over at Universal Studios. Similar to the moose and squirrel, Betty Boop has and still is more predominantly featured at the original park. But she has her own store here inside Toon Lagoon and overall, she's a better match for the other titles in this portion of the movie marathon list.
Popeye fans may recall that the late Robin Williams starred as the sailor man who eats spinach in the 1980 film version. Ironically, the movie was co-produced and distributed by Disney and Paramount, but did not do so well at the box office. Hence again why I've stuck to the original set of cartoons which can be enjoyed on Amazon Prime.
The Lost Continent
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Now I must admit, this next section is a bit of a stretch. Before Harry Potter and his wizard friends invaded Universal, this section of the park was known as The Lost Continent. A sliver of the land still exist today but it is a shell of what it used to be and has completely been stripped of it's original rides and shows. With the exception of Poseidon of course. But there are a few Universal films that tie into the themes of this land.
Some of you may recall a popular stunt show in The Lost Continent based on the legend of Sinbad. The show was not inspired by a specific film, but DreamWorks Animation produced a animated film about Sinbad in 2003. I must confess it's a not a great movie, but for those missing the show, it's as close as to reliving it as you're going to get without watching a YouTube video. This land was also home to a popular set of roller coasters, Dueling Dragons, that also also gone extinct. Like the stunt show, this ride was not based on any film and was a completely original idea. However, Illumination along with Universal has produced a popular set of films featuring the creatures with How to Train Your Dragon. The main reason I've included it here is because the franchise will soon have its own land when Universal opens it third park, Epic Universe, in the future.
If it's any film that screams Islands of Adventure, it's Jurassic Park. The 1993 hit film directed by Steven Spielberg was another addition to the director's list of blockbusters and a must-see. A film about pre-historic dinosaurs as part of an attraction was always a good fit for a theme park ride. In fact, Spielberg and Universal began research and development for the original ride in Hollywood as production on the film was in process. In true Universal form, their hope was that the success of the film would draw in crowds to the park and it definitely worked.
Here in Florida, Universal went a step further by not only duplicating the Jurassic Park River Adventure but by building an entire land around it. Before the Wizarding World and even Disney developed Galaxy's Edge, this was truly the first all-encompassing land inspired by a single franchise so the full set of films is worth watching. I've even included the newer reboot movies because Islands of Adventure will soon have a second attraction that will presumably tie into the newer versions starring Chris Pratt.
King Kong (2005)
But I must end my Universal Movie Marathon with a return to Kong. Universal fans know that the park has had a long history with this story. RKO may have produced the original film version of this tale of beauty and the beast, but Universal is synonymous with Kong like princesses are with Disney. Universal's first entanglement with the giant gorilla was in 1986 with the development of the King Kong Encounter on the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. It came a few years after the addition of Jaws and Earthquake on the tour, but it is conserved the best of the three. Mainly because it included one of the biggest animatronics of the time. Ironically, the King Kong Encounter was inspired by a film that hit the big screen a decade earlier and by another studio, Paramount Pictures. However, it was so popular with guests that it is often credited as the inspiration to build the Florida park. Here on the east coast, Kong would get his own complete attraction similar to how Earthquake and Jaws were split and elaborated upon from the studio tour. But it wasn't until 2005 when Universal produced it's own film about the beast.
Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of King Kong was the director's first major project after the success of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was and still is an ambitious film that is 3 hours long and filled with amazing creatures and special effects. Jackson's take on the story is almost a near copy of the original 1933 version. It follows Hollywood director Carl Denham, played by Jack Black, on his expedition to capture Kong on Skull Island. Naomi Watts plays the aspiring blonde actress Ann Darrow who falls in love with playwright Jack Driscoll played by Adrien Brody and later the love interest of Kong. This version capitalizes on the the development of CGI in the early 2000s by expanding the characters time on Skull Island. The ride at Islands of Adventure focuses on not just Kong but the scary inhabitants of the island. It is a great addition to the park and a wonderful way to bring the legendary character back to Orlando.