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For the majority of the 13 years that I've lived in the state of Florida, I've been the proud owner of a Universal Studios Annual Pass.  Even before moving to Florida in 1997, I've visited Universal quite frequently on family vacations from Ohio, with the first time being approximately 20 years ago, not too long after the park first opened.  I was 10 years old at the time and I remember being really excited getting to check out Nickelodeon Studios for the first time and seeing all of the other amazing attractions that Universal had to offer.  I've been to the theme park well over 100 times since then and have watched the park progressively change over the years with new attractions coming in and old ones going out.  Because of this I've decided to do a blog, discussing the old Universal from 1990 and some of the attractions that have since met their demise.

The Bates Motel

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'Psycho IV: The Beginning' Bates Motel Film Set
The first movie ever shot at Universal Studios Florida was Mick Garris' 'Psycho IV: The Beginning', a made for TV sequel/prequel that premiered on cable TV in November of 1990.  Universal Studios Florida first opened their doors on June 7th of that year, so if you were an early visitor to the park you might have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the film being made!
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Original 1990 Map showing the location of the Bates Hotel
The Bates Motel set remained intact for approximately 8 years in the Expo Center area, back behind the "E.T. Adventure" and the "Animal Actors Stage".  Unfortunately the set was demolished in 1998 to make room for the "Curious George Goes to Town" water park.  Being a fan of horror films and especially 'Psycho', this is one of the things I miss the most about the old theme park.  Granted you couldn't actually walk up to the house and could only view it from a distance...however this Bates Motel film set was a part of the "Psycho" legacy and it was sad to see it destroyed for an attraction as stupid as a Curious George water park of all things!
The one thing that I vividly remember about the Bates Motel set was that they originally painted both the house and motel yellow to give it that clean "new" look for the flashback sequences with young Norman in 'Psycho IV'...later they repainted the house, dirtying it up to make it look old and weathered for the present day scenes in the film.  Well the old HardRock Cafe was located just behind the Bates motel and I remember coming out of the restaurant and being able to see the back of the house still having the fresh yellow paint, where as the rest of the house was aged badly.  I guess since they never filmed the back of the house during the production of 'Psycho 4', they figured it wasn't necessary to repaint it.
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The former spot of the Bates Motel, now 'Curious George Goes To Town'

Alfred Hitchcock:
The Art of Making Movies

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Original entrance to the Alfred Hitchcock attraction
The Bates Motel set wasn't the only Hitchcock themed attraction at Universal Studios Florida.  "Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies" was the ultimate tribute to the legendary filmmaker, located near the park entrance, close to the old Nickelodeon Studios.
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Original 1990 map showing the location of 'The Art of Making Movies'
When you first walk in, you were greeted by a Hitchock aficionado who would give everyone a brief introduction on Alfred Hitchcock and some of the films he shot for Universal Studios.  From there you'd pick up a pair of 3D glasses and make your way into a large auditorium to watch a 9 minute film presentation featuring clips from some of Hitch's most popular movies.  Towards the end of the presentation you are instructed to put on your 3D glasses in order to watch a scene from the popular film 'Dial M For Murder' in 3D as it was originally intended...nearing the end of the scene (in a cheap 3D gag), the theatre screen is torn to shreds by an angry flock of 3 dimensional birds that fly around the theatre, destroying everything.  Fortunately YouTube user "idrion" was kind enough to film and upload the 9 minute presentation on his YouTube channel for people to check out.  The quality isn't the best, but since the attraction no longer exists, this is likely the only way you're ever going to see it.  Take a look!
After the movie is finished, you make your way into another room featuring a scaled down model of The Bates family mansion and a full size replica of the actual motel from the movie 'Psycho'.
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Bates Motel sound stage in 'Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies'
After you come in and take your seats, you are presented with a video introduction from 'Psycho' star Anthony Perkins, discussing some behind the scenes info.  You are also treated to a shot-for-shot recreation of the infamous "shower scene" using a hired actress and a member of the studio audience playing the role of Mrs. Bates/Norman.  This was a pretty impressive set featuring a state of the art sound system and lighting effects.  Quite often "Mother" would chime in, threatening the stage hands.
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Recreating the shower scene from 'Psycho'
Below is a press video from 1990 giving a brief demo of what this portion of the attraction was like, although I have to admit, the video makes it seem a lot cheesier than it really was.  After this "shower scene" demonstration you would exit to your left, into an interactive area where they would show you how scenes from other Hitchcock films were made, such as the Statue of Liberty sequence from the 1942 film 'Saboteur'.  There was also a scaled down replica of the apartment complex from 'Rear Window' where you'd attempt to locate the killer while peeping into windows with a pair of binoculars.  In this interactive area you were free to roam around and do whatever you wanted.  There was even a sitting area where you could watch old episodes of the 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' television show.  Some of this is also shown in the following press video towards the end.  Give it a watch.
Whenever you got tired of the interactive area you would exit directly into the gift shop of course.  Here in the "Bates Motel Store" you were able to purchase over-priced VHS tapes of various Hitchcock films, as well as t-shirts, hats and Bates Motel shower curtains and bath towels.  I can remember the first time going to the park, I made my father buy me a 'Psycho' t-shirt and a butcher knife gag prop that you'd wear on top of your head to make it look like a butcher knife was sticking through it.  For whatever reason I've managed to hang on to my 'Psycho' shirt for the past 20 years, even though it's a size small and I could never fit into it again, no matter how much dieting I do LoL. 
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My 20 year old Psycho t-shirt from Universal Studios
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Outside entrance to the old Bates Motel Store
Like Janet Leigh's character in 'Psycho', "The Art of Making Movies" attraction also met it's demise in 2003 when it was replaced by "Shrek 4-D"...an interactive 3D movie experience featuring Shrek, Donkey and others, while also incorporating a new dimension of "touch" and "smell".  What always bothered me the most about this switch is that "Shrek" isn't even a property owned by Universal, but rather DreamWorks.  If Shrek is owned by DreamWorks then what is it doing at Universal Studios?  I guess that question could be asked about many of their attractions these days however.
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Former entrance to 'Alfred Hitchcock', the new entrance to 'Shrek 4D'


Part 2: Ghostbusters



Special thanks to: YouTuber idrion, ThePsychoMovies.com, ThemeParkBrochures.net and SeptemberEntertainment.com for supplying information and/or content.

 


Brian
06/21/2010 9:28pm

great article adam. i had no idea that they tore down the bates motel set from part 4! what a bunch of idiots! love the vid clips. the hitchcock tribute was realy well done.

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Linda Horst
06/15/2013 12:29pm

Excellent article, I agree with you I have been there many times myself!

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07/22/2010 9:51pm

I used to work at Universal Orlando from 1991-1993. I was friends with a lot of the cast, Frankenstein, Groucho Marx, Beetlejuice, Arethea Franklin, The blues Brothers, W.C. Fields and my good friend Marilyn Monroe. I M.C'd. all the Rides and Shows except for the final Lagoon show. I was the best speiler in Ride & Show at the time, so when the new Japanese owners(Matsushita) of USF came, I was called to give a VIP speil for them at 'BTTF'. I was the first of a very limited group known as 'Fireman', I would go to any R & S that needed help filling in the cast, on short notice. This program was discontinued when one of my co-workers was spotted hitching a ride on the outside of a Studio Guide's golf cart. I settled in for a year at 'BTTF' and a year at 'Hitch'. I too was slightly saddened at the demise of these two. I could relate many a tale about USF. Like the bra found behind the movie screen at Hitch. And the gorgeous blond twins at Hanna Barbera. I also went to the best cast parties on earth, till 5AM, only to return to work 3 hours later! BTW, that's Wayne Brady getting his start as an actor in the Ghostbusters and their street show. I may have some vintage 1989-93 USF maps and brochures somewhere. If I find 'em I'll let you know.

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Layla Alvar
08/19/2010 10:36am

Thank you so much for posting this! It certainly refreshed my memory. I believe I was there in the late 90s.....and boy do I regret not buying anything from that gift shop! (shaking my head in disappointment)

RIP Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies (You are greatly missed)!

Thanks again! :) REALLY appreciate it you sharing this!

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Backman
02/11/2011 2:04pm

There was also a movie clip you could pay extra to make where you were shown falling from the Statue of Liberty(Movie Vertigo?). You sat in a hidden chair that would lower you down 15-20 feet along side a full scale SoL arm, that from the the camera angle made it look like you were falling. You would flail your arms and legs as you were lowered-LOL

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Billy
09/15/2011 4:30am

i was 14 when I saw it half way painted sux it's gone

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Dawn
11/16/2011 12:28pm

Thank you for writing this article, we were there just over the weekend for the 'Wizarding World of Harry Potter" and its cool to see how the park once was. I wish they would have kept the Bates Motel and made it a walk through ride or a haunted house. Sometimes progress really sucks. Thanks again.

Dawn

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MovieMassacre
05/08/2012 7:17pm

Thanks Dawn! I think they actually utilized the Bates Motel set one year during Halloween Horror Nights and let people go through it. I agree it would've been really cool had they decided turn it into an actual attraction of some sort.

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MovieMassacre
05/08/2012 7:19pm

Haha, yeah I actually remember that!

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Jeffrey S
10/25/2012 4:26pm

I wish I could find some of the old items they use to sell in the store there. I had a couple of the "BATES MOTEL" Polo shirts. I received a lot of comments on it.

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11/13/2012 4:32pm

Very actual information for me! Thanks alot!

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Tom Chiki
03/08/2013 9:47pm

Hi! What size t-shirt do you wear? I actually have a size Medium Psycho shirt with the house and logo from USF. I'd gladly trade for your size small as I am a huge fan of Psycho but the medium is a bit too big. If you're interested, e-mail me at tc252305@ohio.edu

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Chad
03/18/2013 11:21pm

During Halloween horror nights they would actually turn the motel into a haunted house and you could walk through.... It was pretty cool!

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Laura
05/30/2013 10:51pm

I didn't realize they closed the Alfred Hitchcock attraction until 6 years after and my excitment to go to Universal wasn't so exciting anymore. I am lucky to still have the shirt my dad bought me. It says "Rinse lifes worries down the drain". I don't want to wash it anymore! I also still have a Bates Motel wash cloth. I always wanted one of those shower curtains but the last time You did make a cool website so thank you for that =)

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Brian
06/08/2013 6:08pm

Thank you so much for posting this. It was the Alfred Hitchcock The Art of Making Movies exhibit that made me fall in love with the idea of being a filmmaker and gave me a great idol to look up to in Hitchcock.

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gina
07/10/2013 10:45pm

I thoroughly enjoyed this- thanks so much for documenting it. I miss the attraction & the facade of the house so much. Was actually kind of devastated when they did away with both! Again, that was years ago, I know, but it was a major attraction for me & my folks, both Hitch fans who passed that ardent & avid fandom down to me!

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Bruno Pinheiro Lopes de Figueiredo
09/10/2013 5:05pm

Hi, i loved to see those things again. I was in Universal Studios for the last time in the summer of 2000. I went in the Hitchcock ride twice. Its a shame the replaced with shereck 4d.

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Doug Clark
10/03/2013 5:43pm

Too bad this is gone. I was lucky enough to be pulled from the line one year and invited to play the role of Norman, wig, fake knife and all! It was a highlight of the trip. They also permitted us to take pictures of the inside, which others weren't allowed to do. We are making a trip back this fall and am disappointed to not be able to see it again.

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Adam
11/14/2013 7:16pm

The Bates motel was located where a day in the park with barney is now. The Bates mansion was located where curious george goes to town is now.

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Scott
02/13/2014 10:52pm

Wish they bought back Bates Motel

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carol
04/05/2014 2:56pm

my brother and I was the Hitchcock attraction and loved it. even the bates motel in the back lot. wish they would bring it back

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Tom
03/21/2014 12:20pm

Interesting thanks. Just so I'm clear, does Florida not have the old house and bates motel anymore at all?

Also, do they still have the house and motel in the hollywood universal studios? If so, is it the original they used in the first movie?

Am disappointed they have got rid of the hitchcock ride.

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info@moviemassacre.com
03/21/2014 3:03pm

Yes, the Bates Motel set in Orlando (where they shot Psycho 4) was demolished. The film set in Hollywood (where they shot the first 3 movies) is still standing but is in dire need of repairs from what I've heard. There is a petition right now asking for Universal to save the set. It's basically just been sitting for close to 30 years with very little maintenance being done to preserve it.

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tom
03/21/2014 3:56pm

OK thanks for the response. I appreciate it.

I'm from England but visited the Orlando many years ago when I was a kid. That's where my love of Psycho started. Sad to know it has gone.

Thanks again.

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Ronald Barry
08/06/2014 7:05am

Only a death squad of psychopaths, with a Hitchcockian murder of crows in tow, could or would have sacrificed Norman's/Norma's imposing estate--notwithstanding that the demolished house in Orlando was a knockoff of the original that remains intact in California--for ephemeral fly-by-night rides, shows, and exhibits that purportedly consist of Barney on Crystal Ice and the Super Friends with Benefits (including guest appearances by Transgendered Post-"Special"-Op Bat-Person) where modernday sociopaths now thrive.

I am only kidding, of course. I visited Universal Studios in Orlando in May, 1995, and August, 2000. Both times, I attended the Hitchcock live studio presentation and then the 3-D Hitchcock Psycho theater.

On my second visit, I managed to skirt the rules and ascend the steps to the front porch of the now-razed Psycho house, and had lunch with Norman and his pallid, scaly mother, Norma. Naturally, I then rented a room at the Bates Motel until arrested by Universal Studios armed officers. Subsequently, I found myself committed to a mental health hospital ... until I finally escaped only this morning. Joke! Poor attempt at levity. Ha, ha, ha ... or not.

Stay well,
Ron Barry,
Northern Virginia/ Washington, D.C.

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