Back in the early 1990s, there was a little girl who would ride one of those big-wheeled bikes through her home in Massachusetts, making a continuous circle from the living room into the kitchen and then through the dining room and back. It may have been a typical playtime occurrence for some families back then, but the difference you would notice quickly if you witnessed this scene would be the E.T. doll carefully taped to the front of the little girl’s bike.
“My earliest memory [of E.T.] from when I was kid was driving with my E.T. doll on the front of my bike and having the movie playing in the living room,” says Jamie Babineau. “The bike scene would come on with the music and I would ride my bike thinking I was in the movie. This is real. I’m in it.”
We all have that one movie from our childhood that stands out as our all-time favorite. For Jamie, that movie is “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”. For as long as she can remember, she has loved the movie.
“I don’t know what it is about it exactly, but it just makes me happy,” Jamie says with a shrug. “It’s the best 80s movie of all time. I still watch it today and cry every time. The music just gets me.”
Since those early days watching the movie as a child, Jamie has become a big fan of E.T. Throughout the years she has met the cast of the film, collected tons of merchandise, included him in school projects, and even brought one of her dolls to the hospital while she was recovering from a spinal fusion surgery in 2017.
Maybe it was because of the cute alien with a glowing finger or the idea that a group of kids can be heroes — whatever it was that made Jamie first love E.T. — it was a love that really took off when she went from riding her big-wheeled bike on the ground to a bike that actually flew in the sky.
Jamie’s family has been coming to Universal Orlando Resort her whole life. They would fly down from Massachusetts every summer to spend a few months enjoying Florida’s beaches and theme parks. It was during her family’s first visit to Universal Studios Florida back in 1990 when she first got to ride E.T. Adventure.
“I love rides now but I was very scared of rides when I was a kid,” shares Jamie. “E.T. was probably the only ride I went on, so that’s why it means so much to me. It made me love the movie even more.”
It may have been the only ride she went on, but she milked it for all it was worth. While her dad took her brothers to do the other rides, she kept riding E.T. Adventure over and over again with her mom. All good things must come to an end and for childhood Jamie that came at the end of her Universal vacation.
“My mom kept going on E.T. with me and as we exited for the last ride that day and E.T. said, ‘I’ll be right here,’ I collapsed bawling my eyes out,” says Jamie. “Maybe it was that thought that I’m gonna have to wait forever — like maybe a year or two years — until I can ride it again.”
Luckily for Jamie, her family would continue to visit the theme parks every summer for years and years.
“I just love remembering it from when I was a kid,” says Jamie. “That’s my generation of Universal, the ‘Ride the Movies’ era. That was my favorite thing about going and feeling like you were in a movie.”
Over 30 years have passed since Universal Studios opened and Jamie first helped E.T. get back home. With plenty of rides coming and going as the park has evolved, E.T. Adventure is the last original attraction standing and E.T. has kept flying the skies with park-goers. Jamie thinks it has endured for two reasons. First, it remains a great ride for kids, a ride that anyone can enjoy. And secondly…
“I think it’s nostalgia,” Jamie explains. “If I could time travel back to the old Universal one more time, that would be a dream come true. I guess you can say the ride is very old school, but that’s what people like about it. I think that’s what we all crave: remembering our childhoods.”
There is something comforting about being reminded of a simpler time. And although it pains me to think that things may be considered “old school” from the 1980s or 90s (I’m an 80s baby like Jamie), there’s a reason why those nostalgic favorites are coming back into trend. The ride itself has even remained popular, becoming a fan favorite with Universal Orlando’s Passholders. Jamie shared with me the hilarious memes and thoughts on the popular queue smell that are constantly posted in the Universal Orlando Annual Passholder Facebook Group.
“People who have never experienced it literally think I’m crazy when I say, ‘Wait till you smell the ride!’” Jamie exclaims. “I don’t know what that scent is and how Universal makes it, but it’s amazing. It’s so unique, but also with the trees, it really puts you in the environment.”
And then there’s when E.T. thanks you at the end — Jamie’s favorite part of the ride.
“I always give my name,” says Jamie. “There was one time I went on it and I had the whole bike to myself and he just said my name so that was cool. Oh! I almost forgot the little drumming E.T. Since I was a kid, he was always my favorite — just so cute.”
It’s been over a year since Jamie has been able to travel down to Orlando and visit the theme parks. Despite not being able to hit up the parks, she’s managed to stay connected in the Passholder Group and with her Florida friends. But after a year of uncertainty and challenges, Jamie is looking forward to coming back this summer to unwind in the place she thinks of as a second home.
“It’s so important to me and means so much,” Jamie says. “It just makes me happy, and I can’t wait to hear ‘welcome home’ next time I ride.”
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