logo_jawsDates: 1976 – present

First opened on April 10th 1976 on the banks of the former Singapore Lake (see below), following the release of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 smash-hit film, Jaws is still the signature attraction of Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour.

It’s a Disneyland-inspired animatronic attraction that originally featured very little of the shark (like in the movie) and a lot of the sets including the actual ORCA. Later visitors would be dropped off at the Visitor Entertainment Centre where they could take a picture with an exact replica of Bruce the shark.

The Making of the Movie

None of the Jaws movie was filmed at Universal, so the Jaws attraction is a recreation of a few of the buildings seen on Marthas’ Vineyard, where the entire film was shot on location.

Evolution

The attraction has evolved over the years, with the most noticeable differences being the design of the shark, and George the fisherman becoming George the diver. As the mechanisms have aged, some effects are less pronounced than before.

jawsthroughtheages

Tilting Dock

In mid 2010, the hydraulic mechanism that tilts the tram towards the water (when the dock is ‘dragged’ by the shark) has finally been put out of service. The tram now stays rigidly upright and the entrance and exit to the tilting dock have now been sealed in concrete, so it’s unlikely the tilting dock will return any time soon.

Jaws Shark Mark I (1976 – 1978)

Jaws Shark Mark I is remembered as ‘Carrot Tooth’. According to Jaws Production Designer Joe Alves ‘Carrot Tooth’ came out of a meeting in which the studio execs wanted a shark with long teeth ‘like the poster’. It was more goofy than scary. Its giant teeth resembled icicles from the doomed avalanche attraction more than killer shark teeth.

The body of the attraction shark is actually struck from the Bruce sea-sled mold used in the movie. Look closely and you will see that the bottom is missing. This same body is still in use today. The head is a caricatured resculpt of Bruce with less pronounced jowls. Bob Mattey was embarrassed by the jowls of the movie shark so these were toned down while an improved mouth was created which allowed for greater water scoopage. This cartoon head would only exist on the Mark I fish.

There were two colour schemes for this fish. The first version was green with a pale blue belly. The second was bluer on top with an off-white belly. The shark also leaped out of the water at a higher angle than subsequent sharks.

The video below shows a Super 8 film clip, on sale in 1979 which shows footage believed to be shot in 1976 as part of a TV commercial.

George the Fisherman (1976 – 2000)

Before the police boat & diver who falls victim to Jaws’ first attack, the victim was a very different visitor to Amity. Meet George, the wooden fisherman.

Jaws Shark Mark II (1978 – 1980)

With the release of ‘JAWS 2’ in 1978, the attraction shark was changed to look like the new movie shark. This second shark lost it’s carrot-like teeth and gained even more fake looking teeth. The head was widened and he eyes were made completely black. Since 1980 there have been numerous repaints and various dentures put in to replace the silly version that first appeared.

The Orca (1976 – 1996)

After the film wrapped, the studio sold off nearly everything from the film, as they had no faith it would turn a profit. The boat was purchased by a special-effects technician, who restored the boat and later used it for sword fishing up and down the California coast. After the film was released and became a huge box-office success, the studio approached the former tech and purchased the boat back from him for use at the Universal Studios Tour This is the original Orca, the boat used during all the major scenes requiring a moving, floating boat. The Orca was on display in the Amity lagoon for all to watch and admire as the tram pulled away from the JAWS attack. Over time, the boat was neglected and forgotten. The pond wasn’t that deep and when the wood rotted the boat sank in the shallow water, which flooded the lower cabin where the bunks/head was and the engine room. In 1996 Universal apparently tried lifting the Orca out with a harness and the hull was so rotted that the boat simply broke in half.
There’s a story that a certain Steven Spielberg used to sneak into the park when he was working on the lot, and have his lunch sitting in the hull of the Orca, I guess as a way of keeping in contact with a physical relic of the movie that made his name in Hollywood.

Ben Gardner’s Boat (1976 – 2005)

Ben Gardner’s Boat featured in the scene which Richard Dreyfuss went under water to look for the missing fisherman, when suddenly Ben’s head appears!
Ben Gardner’s Boat was one of the first things you saw on your right as you entered Amity Island. In 1981 the boat was re-painted white and so lost its original blue colour as seen in the film.

In May 2005 Ben Gardner’s Boat was removed for unknown reasons and binned in a skip during a major refurbishment of the area (see photo below, courtesy universalstonecutter and Scott Weller). The boat was the last remaining piece of authentic Jaws movie history featured in the attraction.

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Jaws on Fire (2001 – present)

The Jaws Experience is upgraded with new fire effects to become Jaws on Fire!

(c) theStudioTour.com

(c) theStudioTour.com

The tram pulls into the peaceful Amity seaside town. The shark has been caught, and there’s a strong Police presence to make sure there are no problems. But wait, there’s a shark in the water. Maybe they caught the wrong shark!
The shark is going for the Police diver! Hey George get back into the boat! Ohhh. Too late. Poor George. Maybe the shark will take the bait – a big yellow buoy that’s attached to the dock. Yeah he’s taken the buoy and is pulling it away from us. But he’s also pulling the dock! Aghhhh the dock has tilted, nearly plunging the tram guests into the water! And it looks like it’s ruptured the gas line too – the whole dock is catching fire! We’d better get the tram out of here! Wait – what’s that in the water? AAHHHAHHGHHHGHHGHGH!

This sequence made less sense from mid 2010 when the dock tilting mechanism was removed, apparently due to maintenance issues. The dock unfortunately now remains stationery and no longer tilts. The tilt helped all visitors on the far side of the tram to get a good view of the shark, as well as adding to the peril of the situation.

In 2014, the lake was drained to create a completely solid roadway for the tram.

Bruce the Shark on the Upper Lot

See separate page about the Jaws photo opportunity, formerly on the Upper Lot.

Photo Gallery – Publicity Material

Amity Lake and surroundings

The Jaws Lake and Amity buildings were originally known as Singapore Lake (see below). When the shark moved in around 1976, it changed forever.

The area has been seen in Murder She Wrote (as ‘Cabot Cove’) and has appeared in numerous other TV shows and movies such as Casper and The Backlot Murders.

History of the Jaws attraction and Singapore Lake

Singapore Lake was formerly just a body of water with a scary house overlooking it (see photo). It’s main attraction was a wave and smoke machine. However, in 1976 that all changed forever…..

Jaws Press Release (1976)

JAWS, GREAT WHITE SHARK ATTACK,
LATEST SPECIAL EFFECT ON UNIVERSAL STUDIOS TOUR

With the appearance of the Universal Studios Tour’s newest attraction, the “Jaws” special effect, opening April 10th, many visitors may anxiously wonder just what was the ending of this popular Universal film. Is it possible that the same deadly 24-foot shark of the screen has found its menacing way to Southern California and the back lot of Universal Studios?
This disturbing question begins to materialize the moment the visitors’ tram approaches what appears to be the town of Amity, its billboard announcing the town’s annual July 4th celebration and regatta.
The Eastern seaside resort community seems alive with tourist expectations, its bright orange-and-white striped cabanas, concession stands and quaint commercial shops glistening in the summer sun.
As the tram approaches the calm waters of the bay, a fisherman is noticed off to the right, his dinghy afloat and fishing rod patiently awaiting the day’s first catch.
Suddenly, a huge dorsal fin heads in the boat’s direction and begins circling. Before tram passengers have a chance to gasp, the fisherman’s line is jerked backwards and he and his dinghy sink rapidly into the water, leaving only a circle of blood to tell its terrible tale.
Not without horror, the tram quickly moves on, traversing a pier built decades before, along with the historic town.
Again, unexpectedly and off in the distance, flotation barrels with shark bait lines tumble into the water, the line dragging them across the bay and under the water by some massive force.
A fragment of the pier is towed out to sea, collapsing the main section under the tram and leaving all aboard dangerously approaching the water level.
Out of the water lunges the Great White Shark! Its teeth deadly sharp and close, its size and intent horrifying!
Luckily, the “jaws” are only threatening, not biting, and the unbelievable sea creature sinks back into the water. The tramload of would-be shark victims is saved and, as it limps off the pier, only memories of an incredible “Jaws” sea drama remain.

Jaws attraction on TV & Film

  • Columbo: Fade in to Murder (1976)
  • The A Team (1983) “Steel” episode
  • Knight Rider (1986) “Fright Knight” episode
  • Mallrats (1995) Finale
  • Your Studio and You (1995)
  • Escape from LA (1996)
  • Murder She Wrote (The houses around Singapore Lake / Jaws Lake feature as “Cabot Cove, Maine”)

Seen on Screen: Universal Studios Hollywood [Jaws]

TitleReleasedDirectorIMDB
Psycho [Feature Film]1960Alfred HitchcockIMDB Database page about Psycho
The infamous shower scene and Bates Motel interiors were shot on Stage 18. Stage 28 was used for the interiors of the Bates house (the Psycho house). The Psycho House and Bates Motel were originally built close to Singapore Lake (now Jaws Lake) during production. The house has been in three different locations around the backlot in total.
The Nude Bomb [Feature Film]1980Clive DonnerIMDB Database page about The Nude Bomb
The Tram Tour features heavily, including GlamorTrams being used in stunt sequences, Park Lake, Jaws Lake, Battle of Galactica
The A Team [TV Series]1983-1987Stephen J. Cannell, Frank LupoIMDB Database page about The A Team
Little Europe, Six Points Texas
Steel (Season 2 Episode 11) - Upper Lot, Jaws Attraction, Studio Tour
Murder She Wrote [TV Series]1984-1996VariousIMDB Database page about Murder She Wrote
"Incident on Lot 7" - Season 8, Episode 13 (1992) - Psycho House
"Jessica Behind Bars" - Season 2, Episode 9 (1985) - Square of Warriors / Spartacus Square Embassy building appears as the Prison exterior.
"Hooray for Homicide" - Season 1, Episode 3 (1984) - Front Lot & Studio Tour
Colonial Street, New York Street (as London), Tower of London set (as an amusement park), Little Europe (unknown episodes)
Elm Street (as Industrial Street), Singapore Lake (Jaws Lake) appeared in the opening titles as Cabot Cove, Maine.
"To Kill A Legend" (Season 11 Episode 3, October 1994) Circle Drive on Colonial Street is featured prominently as the location for the battle re-enactment. The Colonial Street Church is seen in many shots.
"Seal of the Confessional" - Season 6 Episode 2 (1989) - Colonial Street Church appears in the opening sequence. Jaws Lake appears as Cabot Cove.
Stage 20 [pilot], Stage 22, Stage 25 (interior Jessica Fletcher's house), Stage 29, the backlot Train Station appeared in one episode.
Episode The Murder Channel (Season 11, Episode 6) features Brownstone Street and New York Street prominently. (1994)
"Judge Not" (Season 8 Episode 6) Shot in 1991 - featured the Embassy buildings in the Square of Warriors and Little Europe on the backlot.
Murder She Wrote [TV Series]1984-1996VariousIMDB Database page about Murder She Wrote
"Incident on Lot 7" - Season 8, Episode 13 (1992) - Psycho House
"Jessica Behind Bars" - Season 2, Episode 9 (1985) - Square of Warriors / Spartacus Square Embassy building appears as the Prison exterior.
"Hooray for Homicide" - Season 1, Episode 3 (1984) - Front Lot & Studio Tour
Colonial Street, New York Street (as London), Tower of London set (as an amusement park), Little Europe (unknown episodes)
Elm Street (as Industrial Street), Singapore Lake (Jaws Lake) appeared in the opening titles as Cabot Cove, Maine.
"To Kill A Legend" (Season 11 Episode 3, October 1994) Circle Drive on Colonial Street is featured prominently as the location for the battle re-enactment. The Colonial Street Church is seen in many shots.
"Seal of the Confessional" - Season 6 Episode 2 (1989) - Colonial Street Church appears in the opening sequence. Jaws Lake appears as Cabot Cove.
Stage 20 [pilot], Stage 22, Stage 25 (interior Jessica Fletcher's house), Stage 29, the backlot Train Station appeared in one episode.
Episode The Murder Channel (Season 11, Episode 6) features Brownstone Street and New York Street prominently. (1994)
"Judge Not" (Season 8 Episode 6) Shot in 1991 - featured the Embassy buildings in the Square of Warriors and Little Europe on the backlot.
Mallrats [Feature Film]1995Kevin SmithIMDB Database page about Mallrats
Singapore Lake / Jaws attraction (Studio Tour)

Jaws sharks occasional sightings elsewhere on tour or USH property

Once in awhile you may spot a Jaws Lake shark that has been removed for maintenance. Out of the water you can really appreciate the size of the things, and get a better view of how they are constructed.It is not known at this time just how many sharks are in rotation for the attraction.

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Behind the Scenes

Technology

The shark is lifted out of the water each night for checks and to allow the mechanism to be tested and maintained, and occasionally it can be spotted during the day..

The tank is regularly drained for refurbishments.

A tank of fake blood for the George the Diver ‘death’ effect can be found in one of the Amity buildings so it can be easily topped-up and maintained. The tank is labelled ‘Shark Blood’.

More Information

Check out our sister site www.jawsride.net for more about this classic attraction and it’s companion in Florida and Japan.

See also Jaws: The Ride at Universal Studios Florida

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