Universal Orlando Resort first opened its gates on June 7, 1990, but not by that name. Since the opening in 1990 the name of the park has changed slightly. First as Universal City Florida, Universal Studios Florida, Universal Studios Orlando, and now Universal Orlando Resort.
An article published in the Orlando Sentinel on November 22, 1979 entitled “Hollywood studio park planned for site near Orlando, indicates that MCA, Inc. planned to coordinate the park’s opening with that of Disney’s EPCOT Center in 1982. The article also stated that unlike the California Universal Studios, the Orlando model would be “purely a tourist attraction.” Neither proved to be true by the time the plans for the park were complete. By the time the park opened in 1990, both turned out to be false.
The backlot production facilities opened a year before the theme park gates opened to the public.
Included in the backlot area behind Universal Studios was Century III Teleproductions. The Universal Studios Florida Production Facilities brochure explains all the resources available for video and filmmakers.
The website thestudiotour.com provides a great timeline on Universal Studios Florida from the beginning of construction in 1987 to the opening of Diagon Alley in 2012.
The timeline does not mention the Star Trek Experience but has great photos and video on another site. The Star Trek Experience allowed guests to don Star Trek uniforms and star in their own adventure with Star Trek regulars but the coolest part is that they sold Star Trek costumes and memorabilia!
1987 – MCA (Universal Studios’ parent company) begins construction on Universal Studios Florida
1990 – June 7- Universal Studios Florida opens in Orlando. A much larger area means larger versions of the Hollywood favorites are possible. Among the first attractions are versions of the Earthquake, Jaws and King Kong (‘Kongfrontation’) attractions at Hollywood that are single self-contained attractions rather than being parts of the tram tour.
1990 – Ghostbusters and The Futuristic World of Hanna Barbara are created by Landmark Entertainment.
1990 – “Fright Nights” debuts at Universal Studios Florida, beginning what will become Universal Orlando’s annual “Halloween Horror Nights” event
1991 – May 2 – Back to the Future: The Ride opens
1991 – Matsushita Electronics buys MCA
1991 – The Wild, Wild, Wild West Stunt Show opens at Universal Studios Florida
1992 – The Beetlejuice Graveyard Review opens at Universal Studios Florida
1992 – Landmark Entertainment develop concepts for Superhero Island and Toon Lagoon
1993 – Universal Studios Florida announces plans to open Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal City Walk.
1993 – Spiderman 3-D, Dr. Dooms Castle of Fear, X-Men Mindwarp, Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, Popeye’s Island, Silver Surfer Coaster, Avengers Stunt Show concepts developed for Islands of Adventure by Landmark Entertainment.
1993/4– Jaws Ride relaunches following a simplification of the ride mechanisms. (Soft opening in September 1993, official opening in 1994)
1995 – The Seagram Company, Ltd. purchases MCA
1995 – A Day In The Park With Barney opens at Universal Studios Florida
*Universal Studios Florida first tested celebration of Mardi Gras in April 1996. An article in the Orlando Sentinel published April 22, 1996 quotes the Executive VP of Marketing who rated it “12 on a scale of 10.” It’s hard to beat with floats built by the same company that builds the New Orleans floats, authentic Cajun cooking, Zydeco music and top musicians from today and yesterday, and lots of throws to catch.
1996 – Terminator 2: 3D opens at Universal Studios Florida and is named “Best New Attraction for 1996” by Themed Entertainment Association (Orlando, Florida)
1996 – MCA is renamed Universal Studios
1996 – Ghostbusters Spooktacular show closes
1997– Hercules & Xena: Wizards of the Screen opens at Universal Studios Florida in the former Murder She Wrote building (now named Stage 44).
1998 – Twister: Ride it Out opens in the former Ghostbusters show building.
1999 – Universal’s Islands of Adventure opens with The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman (created and designed by Landmark in concert with Universal Creative) Other Landmark concepts featured at Islands of Adventure include Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges, Comic Strip Lane, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls and Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall.
1999 – Universal CityWalk and the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel (the first of the on-site hotels) are unveiled. The whole complex is rebranded Universal Orlando.
Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone opens at Universal Studios Florida
2000 – Men In Black: Alien Attack opens at Universal Studios Florida
2000 – Flying Unicorn opens in Islands of Adventure’s Lost Continent
2000 – Storm Force Acceleratron opens in Islands of Adventure’s Marvel Super Hero Island
2000 – The Blackstone Group acquires a 50% interest in Universal Orlando
2000 – Vivendi merges with Seagram, including its interest in Universal Studios, Inc., creating the new Vivendi Universal
2000 – The Grinchmas “Who-liday” celebration debuts at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
2001 -The Loews Hard Rock Hotel opens as Universal Orlando’s second on-site hotel
2001 – Animal Planet Live! opens at Universal Studios Florida
2002 -The Loews Royal Pacific Resort opens as Universal Orlando’s third on-site hotel
2002 – Halloween Horror Nights XII moves to Universal’s Islands of Adventure for the first time
2002 – The annual Macy’s Holiday Parade debuts at Universal Studios Florida
2002 September – Kongfrontation ends
2003 – Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast opens at Universal Studios Florida, replacing “The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera”
2003 – Shrek 4-D opens at Universal Studios Florida, replacing “Alfred Hitchcock, the Art of Making Movies”
2004 – Revenge of The Mummy – The Ride opens at Universal Studios Florida, in the former “Kongfrontation” building
2004 – General Electric acquires Vivendi Universal’s interest in Vivendi Universal Entertainment, and merges the company with NBC to become NBC-Universal
2004 – Halloween Horror Nights XIV expands to include both Universal Studios Florida, and Universal’s Islands of Adventure
2005 – Fear Factor Live opens at Universal Studios Florida
2006 – June – The High In The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride opens at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
2006 – June – Red Coconut Club opens at Universal CityWalk
2006 – July – Universal 360: A Cinesphere Spectacular premieres at Universal Studios Florida
2006 – July – The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. opens at Universal CityWalk
2007 March 30 – Back to the Future: The Ride closes to make way for The Simpsons ride in Spring 2008
2007 – June – The Blue Man Group performances begin in the new Sharp Acquos Theatre between the two parks
2008 – January 17 – Earthquake is relaunched as Disaster! A Major Motion Picture Ride… Starring You! featuring ‘holographic’ projection technology.
2008 – The Simpsons Ride opens
2009 – Spring – Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit opens
2010 – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens
2011 – December – Expansion of Wizarding World of Harry Potter announced.
2012 – January: Jaws Ride to close, to be redeveloped, possibly into an expansion of Harry Potters’ world.
Despicable Me due to open in place of Jimmy Neutron.
Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man digital HD upgrade to debut.
Another important addition not found on the website…
2014 – July: Diagon Alley opens!
Oliver Peters worked for Century III (CIII - Century 3) Teleproductions from 1985 until he left in 2002 to form his own company. Over the course of seventeen years, Oliver held the positions of videotape editor, project manager and operations manager. CIII was first located in the old Bee Jay Recording Studios on Eggleston Avenue in Winter Park, Florida, but relocated in 1989 to Univeral Studios after being selected from many production houses to be the post production facility on the back lot at Universal Studios. During this time period, Orlando garnered the name "Hollywood East" due to the filming/taping and post production of films and television series in the Central Florida area.
Oliver is currently involved in production and post production of commercial and corporate projects; he is a writer for Videography and other industry magazines in print and online; he is a presenter at conventions around the country; a guest instructor at Valencia State College and Full Sail, and he shares his knowledge of editing systems and techniques as a consultant to television stations and production houses around the country. His web site is www.OliverPeters.com
The following interview took place in May 2011. The interviewer is his wife and Orlando Public Library staff member, Kim Peters.
INTERVIEWER: If you search Orlando Memory for the name Oliver Peters or Century III you'll find info on theme parks, tourist attractions, museums, Jimmy Buffet and motion pictures you may not have seen, but should. Oliver's involvement in most of these projects was as producer or videotape editor while employed at Century III Teleproductions - a video post production facility located on the back lot at Universal Studios Orlando.
Century III closed its doors many years ago, but Oliver is still editing video, teaching video production, conducting seminars, and writing for Videography magazine. Oliver is here today to tell us about Century III during the years Orlando was known as "Hollywood East."
Welcome Oliver. I appreciate your taking the time to share your memories with Orlando Memory.
OLIVER: Thanks. Glad to be a part of this.
INTERVIEWER: I understand that you were part of the original staff of Century III when the company relocated from Boston to Orlando in 1985. Give us a brief background on Century III and how it was chosen to be the post production facility on the back lot at Universal Studios.
OLIVER: Century III started out as a branch office of the Boston facility. It was a post production company doing commercials and corporate videos. When the Studios started opening up, both Universal Studios and Disney, we had the opportunity to become the resident facility at Universal Studios and that was a concession that they made available to a number of companies around the country. We happened to win the chance to be part of it, and were invovled in a number of shows and projects from the time they started until we moved off the lot.
INTERVIEWER: Who were the main people involved with Century III in the Boston facility and when you moved to Orlando?
OLIVER: Century III was owned by Ross Cibella and the company down here was managed by Miles Ptacek and both he and I answered to Rich Parent who was the head of engineering and operations in Boston. Rich and Miles were largely responsible for the original design and construction of the facility which was in the old Bee Jay Recording Studios.
INTERVIEWER: If people would like to find out more about Bee Jays Recording Studio we have a number of items on Orlando Memory that were given to us by Eric Schabacker who had been the owner of Bee Jays at one time.
During your time at Century III you were on the back lot at Universal Studios, and the Florida Governor, Jeb Bush at the time, was actively promoting the state as Hollywood East . Century III benefited from that, and at the time, Century III was involved in the post production for a number of television series, films, and theme park videos. That must have been an exciting time, probably pretty busy, but exciting all the same.
OLIVER: We had a lot of fun doing that. We were involved in quite a lot of different television shows that were being shot on the lot at Universal Studios as well as various feature films being done in and around the area. Some of those included on the TV show side, The Adventures of Super Boy, Swamp Thing, Fortune Hunter, and Super Force. There was also the first one that got us started which was the last season of The New Leave It To Beaver Show. So, it was fun watching some of those people as they came through the lot and I occasionally got to see some of the taping. The various feature films that we worked on, some of those included the First of May and the Michael Winslow film and we were also involved in some more non-traditional projects done for museums and theme parks. We did some of the work that was at Universal Studios itself, including some of the sound design for the original King Kong ride when it went up there. We also did videos for Margarittaville which is the Jimmy Buffet attraction at City Walk and also the Bob Marley restaurant.
INTERVIEWER: I understand ya'll also did some work for Madam Tussauds in New York and for the Smithsonian.
OLIVER: That's correct. The Madam Tussauds Wax Museum did a tour of New York that was sort of an animated virtual tour projected on a dome, and we produced the actual program including all the animation that included live actors, as well, and we did the whole production on that.
For the Smithsonian, we actually did the video for a museum called the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum which is in Memphis in the old Gibson guitar factory. And this was the Smithsonian's first effort in doing something outside of their normal environment, actually being involved in content for other museums both private and public. They had gone through a process of recording interviews with all of the iconic musicians and studio owners involved in creating the Memphis sound and we had the opportunity to work with a lot of the files which made for a really interesting program about the history about both the origins of rock and roll and soul music.
INTERVIEWER: Now, I know Century III was not just involved with editing. I know on your work that you did for Madam Toussads ya'll actually shot the video against green screens that you had set up in a studio in your facility. What other types of things did you do in addition to editing on some of the projects that you had there?
OLIVER: Well, Century III was a full service company, so we did, in addition to video editing, we also did extensive graphics work including 3-D animation. As you mentioned Madam Tussauds involved both live action and animation of the entire city of New York - 3D replicas of the buildings and so on. We also had an extensive audio department that did sound recording and mixing, obviously on the TV shows that I'd mentioned before but we also did films. For instance, one of the two Christopher Columbus films that played internationally around the world, we did all of the sound on one of the films. And that included everything from sound effects all the way through to a finished mix.
INTERVIEWER: I understand that CIII also did work for several of the theme parks here in the Orlando area. I know one of which was Splendid China and that has closed, but you worked on...had something special to do with the ET Ride that was there [at Universal Studios] and also at EPCOT. What can you tell us about those.
OLIVER: Well when the park opened up at Universal we did sound design for various attractions and that included ET. When the ET character says all the different names of the people going through the attraction [at the end of the ride], the recording of all the variations of those names was something we were involved in and also installing where the various sound effects occurred thoughout the ride.
Kim: The biggest project you worked on was Illuminations which is Reflections of Earth at EPCOT. Can you tell us a little about what role CIII played in that and you in particular, and how long it took to get to the final video we see on the large earth globe at EPCOT?
OLIVER: Right, that was designed and started in time for the Millennium Celebration, so it's been running over ten years at this point [debut was at EPCOT October 1, 1999]. And we produced the video content that you see projected on the earth globe which is a 30 foot tall structure and the images are actually shown on what amounts to LED signs. So, we produced that as video and worked on that for about a year. And that included a little bit of R&D (research and development) trying to figure out what kind of images would actually be recognizable as well as actually doing the content.
I was involved not only in organizing and editing but sort of working as the co-project manager on that. Any of these projects take a lot of different people and in that case we had a team on and off throughout the year of probably a dozen different people involved in the project including Craig Stickler who was an art director on the project and Fawn Trivette who was one of the lead artists and compositors. We also had live action. At the very end of the presentation there's a sequence of people handing off a torch and lamps and candles from one person to another, so the recording of those various actors was done by Jack Tinsley who is a director here in town.
INTERVIEWER: And this was all coordinated through Don Dorsey Productions?
OLIVER: Yes, Don was the show director which is a position that theme parks have for the person involved in designing the creative design of a show and seeing it through to its end. So Don was responsible for all creative aspects of the show. Not just our part, but also the music, the lasers, the fireworks and interfacing with the Disney management and getting the job done.
INTERVIEWER: And Orlando Memory is really happy that Don Dorsey provided us with some images of the trips to China to select the proper fireworks and also the recording of some of the music that was done at Abby Roads in London.
In all your years at Century III, there any experiences that stand out or any individuals that you met that you would like to tell us about?
OLIVER: Well, sure. During the time we were on the lot at Universal Studios a lot of interesting people passed through there. We had a chance to meet with Steven Spielberg. Of course we worked with a number of the actors on the various shows. We did a movie that included Ernest Borgnine (Hoover) and he's an interesting character. Of course, we also were involved in lots of different projects that really related to the start of a lot of production activity in the Central Florida area. For instance, that was the time period when Valencia College started up their film technology program and we were very actively involved in a number of the projects that they brought through in classes there. There was a very active high school video competition that Universal Studios was involved in and we met some folks like Jim Hensen and Robert Duval who came through at one point doing audio work in our studio.
INTERVIEWER: That sounds interesting! CIII closed around 2003 and you left in 2002 to start your own company. What type of activities are you involved in with your own company?
OLIVER: Well, I continue working in the post production field primarily as an editor and a colorist, but I'm also involved in overall post production supervision. I've worked on various projects for area clients; a lot for the Walt Disney World Company. In the last few years I've done projects such as a series of videos for the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina and other projects that include local documentaries and films as well as television commercials and training videos. I am also involved as a speaker and as a writer and I've been to various seminars and things like that giving instruction in post production processes and various aspects of the industry.
INTERVIEWER: Well, it seems that you really enjoy editing and all the aspects of post production. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.
Century III at Universal Studios had a listing and advertisement in the 1992 Florida Production Sourcebook. A copy can be found in the Florida History collection at the Orlando Public Library (call number FLORIDA COLLECTION 338.47791 FLO).
Century III's listing is as follows:
CENTURY III at Universal Studios - Film and Video - Pamela Lapp
2000 Universal Studios Plaza, Orlando, FL 32818 - 407-354-1000 FAX 407-352-8662
Complete on-line/off-line computer editing for video and film post production. Digital recording, audio editing and mixing available, Synclavier sound design and composition, SFX libraries, 2-D/3-D computer animation, 16/35mm film transfer, C/K-U Band Satellite Uplink/downlink, Duplication, all formats.
Excerpts from the June 30 - July 13, 2014 edition of Universal News - a Universal Orlando Team Member Communications Publication - focusing on the opening of Diagon Alley.
Excerpts from the July 14-28, 2014 edition of Universal News - a Universal Orlando Team Member Communications Publication - focusing on the opening of Diagon Alley.
Published in the Calendar section of the Orlando Sentinel on February 5, 1999 is a complete layout of the new CityWalk entertainment district scheduled for opening in the Spring including a full color center fold listing entertainment and dining venues.
Also included is a brief history on the many changes from the original plans to the complex as it opened in 1999.