FOUND: Mechanical Shark from Universal Jaws Theme Park Ride




When the Universal Studios Theme Park in Florida shut down its Jaws ride back in January 2012, Jaws fans everywhere were devastated. Yet even though this part of the Jaws franchise is no longer operational, some of its sharks are swimming around out there … including places such as Frederick, Maryland.

A few days ago, I was contacted by a fellow Jaws fan named John Ryan, asking me if I knew anything specific regarding the sharks from the Universal Jaws ride. He was asking because he thought he found one and is trying to verify its authenticity. We spoke on the phone and exchanged a few emails, and here’s what he told me about his find:

“I've been collecting Jaws memorabilia for decades and when I found this incredibly rare gem sitting in a backyard in Frederick, Maryland, I wondered about its connection to the state. The current homeowners said the shark was already there when they purchased the property. They also told me it had been the subject of neighborhood rumor for years. Local people believed it to be one of the original mechanical sharks from the 1974 Jaws production. Unfortunately, the three sharks used in the original Jaws were heavily damaged by the Martha's Vineyard sea water and later discarded. A fourth shark, not seen on camera but made with the original mold, was later discovered hanging in Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking in Sun Valley, California. It has since been moved to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.

“So, the mystery remained. If this wasn't an original Bruce from the movie production, where did it come from and why is it in Maryland? After some research, I discovered the following story from the February 28, 1992 edition of The Baltimore Sun: ‘Jaws is no fish story for Eastport International Md. company makes sharks for park.’ I sent pics to my friend, a Jaws expert, and he also believes that it’s the Eastport shark.”

Here are a few pictures of John Ryan’s catch of a lifetime:




















The Baltimore Sun photo of the Eastport International Inc. Jaws shark.


I personally cannot verify the authenticity of the shark Ryan found, but it looks like something from the Florida theme park ride. I’ve ogled many behind-the-scenes pics for the ride that fans have been posting for years, and I think that Ryan’s shark and the shark photographed below is the same thing.






I’ve been on the ride and it appeared to use two kinds of sharks: a shark with only a top half for parts of the ride where the shark looks like it’s “swimming” towards the ride’s passenger boat, and a shark head for part of the ride where the shark “lunges” at the boat. Ryan’s shark fits into the previous category; if any of the sharks from the latter category are still in existence, they have yet to be found. Furthermore, these sharks were from the second version of the Florida ride. The first version was designed by Ride and Show Engineering, Inc., and it was shut down and replaced due to numerous malfunctions. The current fate of the original ride sharks also remains unknown.






Comments

  1. It is completely authentic. The reason why, is because when the jaws ride closed, they sent a few sharks back and auctioned them off. One sold for 3k and was listed on ebay for $3,500. There was thought to be one shark left from the ride, and it was buried beneath the fountain in the park. This shark was most likely left to rot in Maryland for some reason that I can't disclose. However, the tail fin is missing I can see. I hope this helps out, and I hope we find more information about it soon!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ben:

      Its John Ryan (who found the shark.) You are indeed correct in your assertion that the shark is authentic.
      Though the ride was demolished in 2012, it seems at least two of the original mechanical sharks were spared destruction. (I did see an expired auction listing for the burned shark and then there's mine.)
      After Universal fired the first company that was contracted to build the sharks (and subsequently successfully sued them for their inability to deliver properly working sharks), they hired a Maryland company named Eastport. The firm specialized in underwater robotics and even recovered parts of the Challenger space shuttle. In 1992, the Baltimore Sun ran an article entitled "JAWS is no fish story for Eastport International Md. company makes sharks for park." It shows the mechanical shark sitting in the lot of the Maryland company. Well, I found the shark masquerading as a pool decoration in a backyard in Frederick Maryland. After doing some research (including conferring with fellow JAWS collector, Chris Kiszka , I discovered the home was formerly owned by Micheal Hightower . Mr. Hightower was the V.P., Executive Project Director at Universal Parks and Resorts. I've tried to reach Mr. Hightower by email and phone but have yet to receive a response.
      Nevertheless, my brother and I have plans to display the shark in our restaurant in Staten Island. Stay tuned...


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    2. When I went in 2017 with my daughter there was a nice view behind Disaster while waiting in line I seen the chard version of jaws just basking in the sun

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    3. Scratch that it was 2015 sorry

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