Of all of my greatest regrets from my first visit to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, my not taking the time to experience the many unique attractions that were at the park during its opening year is the hardest to bear. Several opening day attractions that debuted with the park were quickly altered or closed within the first year of the park’s operation, making these missed opportunities losses that cannot be recouped. I had the chance to visit the park before its grand opening with the family of a friend from school whose father was heavily involved in the Universal Escape project overall (a short-lived branding attempt launched in conjunction with the construction of the new park). But at that point in my life, I was terrified of most amusement rides and wouldn’t dare set foot in any experience that put me in a situation out of my control… which forced me to skip the Triceratops Encounter, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and – most upsettingly – Poseidon’s Fury.
You may be wondering why I’d share such disappointment over missing an attraction that is still taking guests on enchanted tours daily. That is purely because the Poseidon’s Fury: Escape from The Lost City that we can experience today is very much a different show than the one that operated within the park’s first year of operation. Despite the radical changes in story, tone, and character presented between iterations, Poseidon’s Fury as it stands today serves as a link between both shows, with borrowed elements, subtle remnants and misdirection, and altered lighting used to mask the remaining story elements left over from the the original concept that Universal Creative first built for the park’s opening in 1999.
The Lost Continent shocked and amazed industry observers with Universal’s uber-themed realm of the rediscovered lost city of Atlantis. Crumbled and worn, yet towering and castle-like, the facade and queue for Poseidon’s Fury continue to stand out as an incredible thematic overdose. Fallen about the semi-submerged paths leading up to the temple arches guests pass the scattered ligaments of Poseidon himself. The God of the Sea’s head lays on its side while his arm props itself upright as if not letting go of his treasured trident. Moving further in, guests will see the gigantic feet of this fallen god, supported by a beautifully aged temple ruin that inexplicably beckons guests further inwards.
Once inside guests walk through the same halls of the temple as they have since 1999, until they reach the first chamber. Present day tour guests are introduced to Taylor, the nervously bumbling assistant of the recently-disappeared Professor Baxter. Small talk and some cleverly timed gags break the ice between guests and their live guide while helping to establish the story at hand. But it as at this very same point that in the previous version of the attraction, a bearded tunic-wearing man emerged from the side of the chamber to introduce himself as the “Keeper,” a follower of sorts of the gods, setting up the background for this unique experience. Much like in today’s show, the initial chamber was locked by a mischievous being, though back then, the show’s antagonist was Poseidon himself, whereas today’s version sees Poseidon as the hero and a new character, Lord Darkanon, as the villain.
Along with the difference in guide and character for the experience, you can find another sign of the former Poseidon’s Fury simply by looking up inside of the first chamber. The skillfully painted story murals are sadly shadowed these days by creative lighting, drawing your attention to the clearer image (one that was added on during the transition between shows) of Lord Darkenon. But hidden amid each panel (each one depicts another scene of the villainy of Poseidon himself) is an appearance of the evil one.
After present-day Taylor awakens Darkennon in the first chamber, guests are led into a second chamber where they are forced to retrieve Poseidon’s trident, or take his secrets to the grave as poisonous gas fills the room. Taylor picks up the trident, which awakens “The Goddess.” The Goddess aids the tourists by opening a passage way through the sea, bringing guests deeper into the mysterious temple.
Traveling through the infamous water vortex after the spinning door is aligned and opened magically, guests arrive in another sealed chamber looking very much like the one they had just left. In the original version of the show, a sea nymph (seen above) took the place of the goddess and spoke to the group via impressive projection technology.
After unlocking the door into the water vortex, guests would arrive directly in the main chamber where the climactic finale of both versions of the show takes place. Turning the order of the current show around, the chamber is immediately visible upon guests’ arrival at the end of the water tunnel, where today the reveal takes place with a bright flash and a fade-in moment in which a giant squid swims away from the sea-base’s windows.
The current show features all of the same fire, water, and projection effects as the previous version, albeit in different order of presentation. Once inside the temple’s main chamber, Taylor is confronted by Lord Darkennon, and it is revealed that Poseidon has been revived. A climactic battle ensues between the two gods, ending in Darkennon’s fiery vanquishing. Rewinding to the beginning of this same Act 3, the Keeper is quickly confronted by the villainous, serpentine Poseidon, and after a few words, it is revealed that the Keeper is actually the god Zeus hiding in plain sight. While not as fleshed out of a battle as the current iteration, a quick feud follows with Poseidon being blasted away into the background of Atlantis.
Both the current battle and the previous one trigger an explosive destruction of the lost city, a backdrop of animation that was used between both versions of the show, with only the addition of the current show’s Poseidon in front to differentiate. Previously Zeus would hold back the destruction with enough time to transport the guests back into the chamber they were in before they passed through the water vortex (not physically, but thematically it is identical). Currently it is Poseidon who performs that task, with guests emerging from a bright flash to black to see themselves back in the chamber that had disappeared before the main chamber room was revealed. In effect, the original show saw the main chamber transform just once, but the current sees it morph twice.
One final, unaltered remnant of the original Poseidon’s Fury lays in plain sight and provides the clearest of views of the the former antagonist Poseidon. The Treasures of Poseidon shop’s marquee is held up by a bronzed representation of the god, complete with his tail, which can be seen inside of the shop. Oddly enough, the merman-esque creature seen in the former show features such a tail, contrasting the feet from the crumbled statue at the entrance of the attraction.
Poseidon’s Fury is easily the attraction with the richest history in Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and we are fortunate enough to be able to see much of that history still present if we look hard enough!
I’ve included some additional footage courtesy of Barts Goovaerts and NicksVideo on Youtube that gives you a great idea of what the former attraction was like.