Remembering Alfred Hitchcock at the Universal Orlando Resort

Written by Tracey Mallaby. Posted in Features

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Published on March 30, 2013 at 3:55 am with 4 Comments

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

During a 1987 press conference announcing the opening of Universal Studios Florida, a video of Back to the Future’s Doc Brown, who was time traveling to the opening of the park, showed Alfred Hitchcock speaking about his movies while standing in the Bates Mansion. This was the first time that Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies was revealed to the public.

The park opened on June 7th 1990 and, along with it, was this attraction. Guests entered soundstage 40, joining a queue line that kept them amused with film posters depicting Hitchcock classics such as 1954′s Rear Window, 1960′s Psycho and 1963′s The Birds. Clips from the films were also shown. Once guests were through the queue and into the pre-show, they were handed a pair of 3D glasses to wear at a later stage.

A team member gave an introduction before the guests were herded into the next room to view a pre-show video which was projected onto a large screen; the movie was a montage of Hitchcock-narrated clips. Towards the end of this showing guests were told to put on the glasses and a clip from 1954′s Dial M For Murder was shown in 3D. Suddenly the film seemed to stop and the screen appeared to be torn apart from behind. The “screen” then burst open and an angry flock of birds began flying over and around the guests heads, throwing objects at them. The 3D effects ended with the birds setting off explosives and fireworks. A shadow-bird lands on a perch and then morphed into the shadow of Alfred Hitchcock.

Lights came up and guests were led into the main theatre where they were seated. A large set depicting the Psycho house, the Bates Motel and a shower scene just like in the movie Psycho lay before them. Anthony Perkins appeared on the screens positioned to the left and right of the theatre stage and began acting out a scene from Psycho. A voice cries ‘Cut!’ and Mr Perkins starts to explain the reasons for the lighting and other effects used in the making of Hitchcock’s Psycho. It is then explained that during the infamous shower scene, Hitchcock decided that by using the camera in place of Norman Bates’ knife the scene would be much less graphic, but far more effective.

Once again the lights came on and the team member, using the shower set-up on the stage, would show how the scene was filmed, shot-for-shot, using an actress and a member of the audience to portray Mrs Bates/Norman. Anthony Perkins appears again announcing that ‘maybe the best thing to show you more about the shower scene is to just show the scene itself’ and the scene appears on the screens. Finally there is a crackle of lightning and Anthony Perkins comes back on the screen and thanks the audience for coming.

Leaving the theatre, visitors were let loose in an indoor pavilion where the sets and props from many of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies were on display.

The Statue of Liberty from 1942′s Saboteur.

The miniature for the carousel from 1951′s Strangers on a Train.

Once in this post-show area, guests were able to look at props and sets such as a set of the Statue of Liberty from 1942′s Saboteur; part of a carousel from 1951′s Strangers on a Train; a pair of binoculars facing a set of 1954’s Rear Window that you could look through to find the killer and a hotel set model from 1958′s Vertigo. There was also a wax mannequin of Alfred Hitchcock. For guests wishing to linger further there were directors chairs positioned to watch clips of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Once done guests exited into The Bates Motel Gift Shop where they could purchase souvenirs such as t-shirts, hats, authentic prop replicas, DVDs and VHS cassettes of Hitchcock’s movies and shower curtains (of course!).

This attraction closed on January 3rd, 2003 to make way for Shrek 4D but several homages remain. Firstly, in the Shrek pre-show, there are props from Hitchcock films hanging on the walls; during the main show, Princess Fiona screams so loudly a large amount of ravens explode and finally in the gift shop pictures of Alfred Hitchcock and the Bates Motel adorn the walls. A piece of hotel set from Vertigo can also be found within the building and a spiral staircase original to the attraction is located between the buildings. Whether you love or hate it or never even experienced Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies, there is no denying the nostalgic pull of this attraction that means it will remain a firm favourite in the annals of many a park-goers memory forevermore.

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About Tracey Mallaby

Tracey Mallaby is co-host of the acclaimed Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast. She invites you to listen along on the madcap journey through the Universal Orlando Resort twice a month right here on the MicePod Network.

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4 Comments

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  1. Great article Tracey, thank you. And wonderful podcast as well!

  2. A big Hitchcock fan, this was my favorite attraction when the park opened. I could tell it was done by the same people who did previous shows/exibits at the actual Universal Studios in the past, like the Bionic Man, 2010 and Battlestar Gallactica FX shows. There was nothing more fun than using those binoculars to check out the windows. Its a shame that these type of educational shows/exhibits(once serving as a break on the tram tour) aren’t done anymore. They would be great to spice up dull lines like at the Tram Tour or Transformers.

  3. I remember seeing this attraction back in 1993 and loving it. It created a real interest in Hitchcock’s films and upon returning home from vacation, I rented a bunch of his movies to watch. I also remember the Bates Motel and house set they had at the Orlando park back in the day. I would stand there looking at it, totally mesmerized and creeped out. I remember taking a photo of it at dusk and it came out so good it looked like a postcard. I wish that set was still there.

  4. I remember seeing this this show (in an altered form) at Universal Studios Hollywood, it was fun and interesting, sad that it closed in Florida and then in CA.

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