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Live Active Cultures

Former skippers of Universal Orlando's Jaws ride embark on one last voyage

Photo: , License: N/A

Which brings us to last Saturday’s unofficial old-school skipper reunion. It was assembled via Facebook by Tom Croom, who started as a Jaws skipper in 1994 and worked for the park until 2001. We met about 15 years ago while I was working for Universal’s entertainment department, and we bonded over a shared appreciation for the original Transformers cartoon. Today he’s an anime fan-convention producer and prolific blogger based in Vero Beach.

Croom’s plan to pop into the park with a few friends quickly spread into a gathering of more than 20 ex-skippers, including half a dozen from 1993’s original crew. Someone distributed customized “Jaws: The Final Voyage” lanyards as attendees reunited for the first time in a decade.

If Disney deep-sixed the Jungle Cruise, you can bet their marketeers would be all over a skipper farewell. Sadly, the only name tag-wearing employees I saw snapping pictures were from Universal’s VIP tours, whose Bret Hyler and Carla Young both served on the water. I’m glad one department at Universal still values institutional memory. Soon it was time to board a boat – we got one all to ourselves through the back door – for an ebullient final face-off, filled with more audience participation than a Rocky Horror screening. (Visit blogs.orlando weekly.com/culture2go for a link to the video.)

Soon you’ll have to fly all the way to Osaka (home of Universal Japan) just to see an Orlando original. After Jaws jumps for the last time, I fear E.T. will inevitably fly home. That would mark the obliteration of Universal Studios Florida as I knew it less than two decades ago.

Now if they’d only transplant the shark to menace the swan boats in Lake Eola.

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