Saturday, June 25, 2016

Amity 6 to Base: A Jaws Ride History Book Review




In this third and last post of my unofficial "Jaws in June" series, I'll be reviewing Amity 6 to Base: A Jaws Ride History (a.k.a. The Sharks are Not Working) by Mick Jones. This is the only book to date that's completely devoted to the theme park side of the Jaws franchise--namely, the Jaws Ride in the Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida that recently closed in 2012. Read on for my complete review.

Jones organizes his book in a way that gives readers a contextual perspective of the Florida Jaws Ride. He opens with a brief history of Universal providing backlot tours to visitors as far back as 1915, followed by the arrival of Jaws-themed stop on the official Universal Studios Tour in 1975. He then chronicles the troubled opening of the Universal Studios Theme Park in Florida in 1990, along with an overview of the original version of that park's Jaws Ride and its propensity for malfunctions. The rest of the book focuses on the second version of the Florida Jaws Ride (e.g., how it compared and contrasted to its predecessor, the looping WJWS video that played for visitors who waited in line, etc.), from its opening in 1993 to its closing in 2012. The book is well-written for the most part, although it could have used a more thorough proofread and edit before publication.




Jaws fans should be pleased with this book because it provides so many interesting details about the Jaws Ride. Jones even mentions how one of the mechanical sharks that was used in Jaws: The Revenge wound up on display at the theme park, although he doesn't provide an explanation as to why Universal didn't make this prop part of the Jaws Ride itself or do more to take care of it. (You can order your own replica of this particular shark here from Shark City Ozark.) I've been reading about the Jaws Ride in various publications for years and I rode it once in 2003, but even I learned things about it that I never knew before thanks to the Amity 6 book. For example, I knew that the Jaws Ride had a replica of the Orca from Jaws as part of its recreation of Amity Island, but I didn't know that two of the boats that were used during the filming of Revenge were also put on display near the ride’s entrance.


Neptune's Folly from Jaws: The Revenge, on display in front of the Jaws Ride in Florida.


The book's biggest shortcoming is that for as exhaustive as it is, it only provides a surface-level view of the Jaws Ride. It doesn't feature interviews with anyone who would have an in-depth understanding of either version of the Florida Jaws Ride; it also doesn't include interviews with anyone who worked on the mechanical sharks at the Universal Studios Tour in Los Angeles or on the Jaws Ride in the Universal Studios Theme Park in Japan. Plenty of black and white pictures of Jaws Ride merchandise, advertisements and other paraphernalia appear within the book, but it doesn't have many clear pictures of the ride's sharks or of the ride itself (e.g., blueprints, diagrams, concept art, etc.). Curiously, there's a complex diagram on page 37 that might represent an important component of the ride, but it has no caption to specify exactly what it is.

To be fair, Jones wrote and published his book as an unauthorized account of the Jaws Ride. If you get a copy of the book, you'll notice the word "unofficial" in big, bold letters on the rear cover. I'd wager that had Universal thrown its support behind Jones' effort to chronicle this part of the Jaws franchise, this could have easily grown into a glossy, full-color coffee table book on par with Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard.

In spite of its flaws, Jaws fans and theme park enthusiasts would enjoy Amity 6 to Base: A Jaws Ride History. Additional information about the Jaws Ride can be found on sites such as AmityBoatTours.com, JawsRide.net, and ThemeParkTourist.com. Furthermore, dozens of videos of each Jaws-themed, mechanical shark-based attraction can be found on YouTube, including a handful that documented the original Florida ride.




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