Florida: 1990 –
Hollywood: 1991 – 2003
For many people, The E.T. Adventure had a very special place in their hearts. Kids (of all ages) loved the attraction. By the time it closed, it was getting more than a little creaky, and it was in need of an update, but it had a lot more than many other attractions – it had a heart, and it had a story.
The story was simple – get on a bike with E.T. in the basket, and help him get back to his home planet. Mirroring many of the iconic images from the movie, police officers with torches and lurching cars had to be avoided, along with mysterious space-suit clad figures. One of the highlights was the soaring flight above the city and across the moon. The ride went where the film didn’t go, though – due to an unexplained warp in space-time, the bike ended up actually landing on E.T.s planet, and seeing all his little friends, before dropping him off, then landing back on earth.
The “heart” was demonstrated by the simple device of every visitor telling their first name to a crew member as they entered the queue line. At the very end of the ride, an E.T. figure at the side of the ride vehicle said “goodbye” to every visitor, by name. Beautifully simple, but that personal touch made a massive difference. Of course, it also enabled teens to make E.T. say all sorts of unsavoury things by combining names together to make naughty words.
All that’s now left of the E.T. Adventure at Universal Studios Hollywood is the old painted-out logo on the roof of the show building now playing host to The Revenge of the Mummy. The “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” logo was added to the roof as part of the 20th Anniversary celebration of the film in 2001 (see photo, top left). It was painted over in 2003 when the ride was removed.
The E.T. Adventure can still be experienced at Universal Orlando in Florida.
Preshow Narration by Steven Spielberg:
Steven Spielberg: “Hello. I’m Steven Spielberg, and it’s my pleasure to welcome you to the E.T. Adventure. But I’m afraid we don’t have much time, so I’m going to cut right to the chase. E.T. needs your help. Now we’ve just received an urgent message from E.T.’s teacher, Botanicus, calling for E.T. to come home right away. You see a big problem has developed 3 million light years away on E.T.s home world the green planet. E.T.s friends are in danger because their planet is dying. Remember what E.T.s friends look like because it’s going to be up to you to help E.T. find them once we get him home. Because only E.T.’s magic healing touch can save his friends and bring his planet back to health. E.T. must go home, and only you can help him. ”
Steven: “Ah E.T.!”
Steven: “That’s right, E.T. So why don’t you show these people how we’re going to get you back to the green planet.
You and E.T. will be making your 3 million light year journey on these bikes. But don’t worry – you don’t have to pedal. But you will need an inter-planetary passport. So before you leave with E.T., tell your first name to one of our assistants, and they’ll give you your pass.
Sounds like E.T.’s ready to go, so good luck everyone, and remember E.T.s counting on you and so am I. It’s up to you to save his planet so that he may visit us again. ”
Although it looks like a soundstage, the building in which E.T. was housed was built especially for the attraction. The area before was an unloading and waiting area for trams while visitors were in the Special Effects Stages, and a small prop warehouse.
The ride vehicles were 9-seater platforms which were suspended under a track which ran around the attraction. The platforms were modelled on bicycles, with an E.T. figure in the basket on the front bike. The E.T. figure reacted to the goings on throughout the ride – when he was scared he hid, and at the end of the ride, when E.T. had returned to his home planet, the E.T. figure was not visibly in the basket any more.
Many of the animatronic figures in the preshow area and in the attraction were built by Sally Corp in Florida.
Birket Engineering developed the original concept for the E.T. goodbye system with Universal Studios Florida® project personnel, with Birket having complete responsibility for the design and implementation of the system. With the success of the attraction, Universal Studios® again contracted with Birket to provide the system with enhancements for the Hollywood and Osaka E.T projects.
Upon entering the attraction, guests are given a bar-coded passport containing the guest’s name. While boarding the ride vehicle, a host/hostess collects the passports from each of the passengers and passes them over a window scanner as the vehicle leaves. Birket’s goodbye system identifies the vehicle as it leaves by reading an RF tag mounted to the top of the vehicle. The vehicle now “knows” who is riding it. As the guests approach the end of the ride, an animated E.T. turns to greet the vehicle and speaks to each guest by name.
- June 1982 – E.T. The Extra Terrestrial movie opens
- 1989 -Prework starts on the ET: The Adventure ride design, after Steven Spielberg is impressed by the Earthquake attraction.
- ?1991 – E.T. – The Adventure opens in Florida
- March 1991 – A small fire in the E.T. Adventure show building in Hollywood is started by a welding torch. 5 are hurt.
- June 1991 – E.T. – The Adventure opens in Hollywood
- ?date – E.T. – The Adventure is refurbished in Florida (Demolition and reconfiguration of existing show ride, maintenance platforms, and queue ramp areas for a total of $594,000 – from www.jk2.com)
- March 31 2001 – E.T. – The Adventure opens in Osaka, Japan
- 2002 – 20th Anniversary of the movie’s release – a digitally enhanced version was released in cinemas with FBI agents’ guns replaced with walkie-talkies.
- 14 March 2003 – E.T. – The Adventure closes in Hollywood (but remains in Florida and Japan) to make room for Revenge of the Mummy.
- March 2007 – 4 years and 16 days after the ride closed, a section of the set dressing from the preshow ‘forest’ area and an animatronic police officer were recycled in Universal’s House of Horrors. The Wolfman’s Forest was entirely dressed with fake foliage from The E.T. Adventure, and the animatronic figure is now dressed as the Phantom of the Opera!
- The E.T. Adventure show building is now the home of the Revenge of the Mummy rollercoaster.
- For a short time, an unauthorised golden E.T. figure was placed by a crew member in the treasure room of the Revenge of the Mummy attraction as a tribute to the former tenant of the building. This didn’t last long, unfortunately.
- The ‘Botanicus’ figure is still in storage at Universal Studios Hollywood.