The newly opened Tribute Store at Universal Studios Florida celebrates 30 years since the release of “Jurassic Park” and is heaven for any super fan of the movies — probably because it was designed by a “Jurassic Park” super fan.
Philip Daley is a project supervisor with the visual merchandise department at Universal Orlando Resort, and he and the Visual Merchandise Project Team have lived up to this immersive shopping experience, paying tribute to the movie and its legacy.
“I was really excited to be able to head a project like this,” Phil says. “Excited, but also a little stressed as well because it’s easy to do a store where there’s no backstory behind it — if the color on the wall is purple, it’s not a big deal. But in ‘Jurassic Park,’ if we paint the kitchen wall purple, people are going to know.”
Phil and team put in an incredible amount of work to create the final product guests can see — from ideation to design (both of which started while last season’s Mardi Gras Tribute Store was still open) to construction (which began the day after Mardi Gras closed in mid-April). The team’s involvement in every aspect of the store’s creation gives them the opportunity to go wild and do things like, “drop a freakin T.rex in the room,” as Phil puts it.
Harkening back to the vibes of Universal Studios Florida when it first opened, this summer’s Tribute Store is not a recreation of the iconic theme park, but of the moviemaking process behind its big-screen debut. In fact, the store is divided by three rooms representing different parts of the filmmaking process, from pre-production storyboards and blueprints, to production soundstages and sets, then onto post-production advertising and legacy building.
Sara Hollars, a project manager with visual merchandise who also worked on creating the store, says, “Phil, drew us in with his design of a ‘making of ‘Jurassic Park” retail concept. It’s a glimpse behind the scenes, a backstage tour of the sets, and then we end with the legacy of what ‘Jurassic Park’ has meant to people for 30 years.”
The Jurassic Park experience starts even before you walk into the store. You won’t be able to miss the huge Triceratops right by the entrance. The dinosaur was dropped in via forklift at 5 a.m. on opening day of the Tribute Store and has a storied history with Universal. Originally owned by the park, it was donated to Give Kids the World over two decades ago. “I had heard about that story, so when we decided to dedicate this Tribute Store to the 30th anniversary of ‘Jurassic Park,’ I reached out and asked if we could borrow her back for the summer,” Phil says. After extensive refurbishment, it’s now on full display, beckoning guests into an immersive look behind the cinematic hit.
Guests enter the store into the pre-production room, and will immediately notice the giant dinosaur skeleton in the center. Once you’re done gawking at this display of creative genius, you should absolutely walk around and check out the little nooks and corners throughout the first room. Not only is it full of fantastic movie merch, but you may find some fun “Jurassic Park” and Tribute Store Easter eggs if you pay attention!
The second room is a recreation of the famous Universal Studios Hollywood Soundstage 28. In here, designers were meticulous in making sure every set piece — built to be exact replicas of the film sets — was precisely what was depicted on screen. This came down to things like the makes and models of kitchen utensils, and the exact sizes of windows.
“There’s a running standard within the team that holds everyone accountable to the highest quality. We often joke ‘No, that’s not screen accurate,’” which means, “it’s not finished yet”. Hollars says. “[Phil] knows the colors of the jeeps and what’s the wrong red, and what’s the right beige, and so I think that gives us a pretty good advantage when we have those team members that very much appreciate a brand or an intellectual property for what it is and want to do right by it.”
In fact, both the soundstage and the previous pre-production room are so detailed that polaroid’s of the Tribute Store team building the store’s sets and structures are displayed throughout, replicating the polaroid’s used on movie sets to ensure consistency from one shoot to the next.
The intricate lighting design and special effects work that went into the store are on full display throughout the building, but are particularly impressive in this second room. There is one rain display that especially stands out, setting the tone and offering a fun kinetic energy to the scene. You truly feel as though you’re in a rainy environment, and could be attacked by dinosaurs when you turn any corner!
Throughout the soundstage, there are several photo opportunities with iconic recreations of movie moments. You can sit on the toilet while being attacked by a T.rex, explore the kitchen set from the movie, brave a maintenance shed of Raptors, and so much more. “People love silly stuff,” Phil says. “A lot of our team was like, ‘why do we need this toilet?’ But fans love it and it’s just the best photo op. They’ve gone bonkers over sitting on a toilet taking a picture with a T.rex. It’s great.”
The final room of the store is about the legacy of “Jurassic Park” after its release, from vintage toys to comics to memorabilia to its larger place in today’s culture. Its fan base remains strong, even 30 years after the original debut of the movie. As such, fans are getting excited about the new experience. “What sets it apart is that it’s not just a store, it’s an experience,” Hollars says.
Part of the experience, beyond the immersive sets and scenes, is the merchandise sold. From dinosaur plushies and movie-quote-T-shirts, to toys and trinkets, any “Jurassic Park” fan looking to spruce up their collection will have a field day.
You can even bring home a reminder of all you saw at the store itself, with special anniversary merch celebrating the movie’s 30th birthday. With these items, fans can keep the celebration going even after leaving the experience, and will have a fun story to share for years to come.
The store will be entertaining guests all summer, and it’s something you won’t want to miss.
Have you had a chance to explore the “Jurassic Park” Tribute Store? If you have, what was your favorite part? If not, what are you most excited to check out? Share with us on social media or in the comments below.