This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Top Six Gift Shops at Universal Studios Florida. Until recently, gift shops were seen as a necessary evil at our favorite theme parks – annoyances that many people either dreaded being herded through or mocked the existence of outright. One of the best gags in The Simpsons Ride involves the alien Kodos saying, “Foolish Earthlings, don’t you know all rides must end near the gift shop?”
Thankfully, over the past several years gift shops at Universal have become better themed and well merchandised, and several have even started to incorporate interactive features for their guests. It’s almost unbelievable to say it, but just as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey became possibly the first attraction in the history of theme parks to have a queue guests wanted to spend more time in, gift stores themselves are becoming features of attractions that guests can look forward to experiencing. Here now, a look at 6 of the best gift shops at Universal Studios Florida.
“Thank you, come again!”
# 6 - Kwik-E-Mart
Despite the great joke mentioned above, the Simpsons Ride is one of the few attractions at USF that doesn’t exit into a gift shop. The Kwik-E-Mart, the ride’s merchandise location, is right next to the attraction and is filled with the high level of self-deprecating humor that is found throughout Springfield USA. Signs above the merchandise include sales pitches like, “Today’s merchandise at tomorrow’s prices!,” “These items won’t buy themselves!,” and “C’mon! If you owned a store we’d buy your junk!” There’s even a sign at the registers that has a call back to an episode of the Simpsons television show as it warns the cashiers not to take checks from various people including Chief Wiggum, Homer J Simpson, and Homer J Fong.
The walls and outside windows of the Kwik-E-Mart are laden with ads for fake products including Farmer Billy’s Choco-Bacon-Bars (“It’s like chocolate and bacon had a baby in your mouth!”) while the variety of actual Simpsons related products inside includes t-shirts, hats, plush, comic books and more.
Outside the store there is a photo-op available with Milhouse sitting on a bench and one of USF’s most hidden gems, the Simpsons pay phone. On the side of the Kwik-E-Mart closest to the Simpsons ride, there is pay phone mounted on a wall with the character Nelson next to it with a word balloon saying, “Answer the phone dingus…it’s for you.” Walking by this phone will trigger it to ring, and picking up the receiver will treat you to a gag line by one of the various Simpsons characters including Chief Wiggum, Moe Szyslak, and Bart Simpson.
With a pressed penny machine, the Big Pink donut, and lithographs of the hilarious attraction posters such as Captain Dinosaur’s Pirate Rip-Off (a jab at Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride), the Kwik-E-Mart is a must-do for any Simpsons fan.
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Welcome to The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! This month we’re going to look at Universal’s Uni-Minis.
Similar in size to Disney’s popular Vinylmation, Uni-Minis differ in a couple ways. While the vast majority of Vinylmations are repainted versions of the classic Mickey mold, almost all of the Uni-Minis are more in line with Disney’s Park Starz series, which eschews the traditional Mickey form and instead lets the artists create whatever they want. The Uni-Minis do have their version of the Mickey mold, and it is in the form of a generic looking bear. These figures are usually limited editions and produced for specific events like Grad Bash or Mardi Gras.
Haunted Mansion Bride from Disney’s Park Starz next to Minion from Universal’s Uni-Minis
The heft of a Uni-Mini is also slightly less than a Vinylmation. At $12.95 per figure (same as a standard Vinylmation), the Uni-Minis feel flimsier than their Disney counterpart, although the style of each figure is closer to the $18.95 Park Starz series. There is articulation in both the head and arms of almost all the Uni-Minis.
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