Part 3 of a continuing series examining the original proposal for Universal Studio’s Florida’s Islands of Adventure theme park.
When last we met, we had just taken a mouth-watering, eye-popping and mind-blowing journey through the proposed food establishments at Universal Studios Florida’s Islands of Adventure Gotham City Island.
This time we’ll do some shopping and check out the many stores and boutiques in the great city. Since there are so many, it may take awhile so it’s a good thing we’ve had something to eat.
First up is the simply named “Dark Knight Gifts” which offers the largest selection of Batman merchandise in the world. The store is a gloomy cathedral-like building with tall rectangular windows and a heavy steel appearance (think the original Burton film for inspiration). Inside there’s more of the same with large stone carvings, metal beams and large store fixtures that tower over and dominate the landscape. Some of the overhead lights are actually Bat-Signals that cast the iconic symbol up onto the ceiling.
Everywhere you look you can see television monitors of every shape and size that play every incarnation of the Caped Crusader from his early serial days, to the Adam West television and Keaton movie versions to his many animated versions. Themed floor displays made from used turbine engines and stainless steel sculptures draw your eyes to the multitude of Bat-merchandise for sale from character dolls and towels to costumes and comic books and everything in between. There’s so much Batman merchandise on display you’ll think it’s the summer of 1989 all over again…everyday.
Across the street is what the proposal describes as a “bizarre palace” with stone steps leading up to a black and gold-trimmed entrance dominated by two large panther statues. This is “Catwoman’s Lair.” and inside is an eclectic mixture of overstuffed couches, gold candelabras & chandeliers, velvet wall coverings, exotic plants and fake fur rugs. Featuring a Las Vegas meets old Hollywood motif, this store sells costume jewelry, handbags, shoes, day planners, high fashion hats, belts and everything else for the woman of the ’90s (I bet someone along the line would have suggested “Gotham Lady Perfume” which is perfect for impressing the boss).
Right next door is “The Joker’s Magic and Novelty Co.,” which features a façade that twists and leans forward to create an optical illusion that will “mesmerize guests and have them entranced” to enter and peruse the many elaborate displays inside. Instead of bland boring shelves, items for sale are displayed on giant jack-in-the-boxes, jacks and other everyday objects in immense form. Here you’ll find joy buzzers (thankfully not the kind that did in ol’ Antoine “It’ll be a hot time in the ol’ town tonight!” Rotelli), exploding cigars, squirting flowers, whoopee cushions, Joker masks and “Bang” Guns.
The Joker and Catwoman are not the only villains to get their own shops here in Gotham. Around the corner lies “The Riddler’s Universe — Riddle Me This!”
Not that you need any hint as to who runs this particular shop. The front of the building is adorned with a giant jack-in-the-box that plays ominous organ music and pops out a giant likeness of Edward Nygma every half hour. The store windows are all in the shape of question marks and the large entrance doors appear as if they are pages torn out of a joke book with riddles and answers etched into the glass. Inside, the color-coded flooring squares are covered with riddles while the ceiling tiles above have the answers on them! Look down for the puzzle and up for the answer! Around the shop are giant prop souvenirs from The Riddler’s past crimes such as oversized puzzle pieces, posters of him attacking Batman and Robin and even a display of his signature costume and question-mark gun. Here you’ll find puzzles, Rubik’s cubes and brain teasers of all shapes and sizes. Some of the merchandise has even been wrapped in green paper adorned with question marks as sort of a “grab bag” mystery hunt. On the front of the package you’ll find a riddle that will solve the mystery of what’s inside. All sales are final so make sure you’ve solved it correctly! To spur sales there’s a handful of valuable mystery prizes just waiting to be discovered!
Located just off the decks by The Penguin’s Pizza joint is the supermarket of sinister, “Lex Luthor’s Super Villain Store.” Housed inside a LexCorp Warehouse, the store uses sawhorses and crates to display items appealing to the dark side in all of us. Just below the wanted posters and barred windows you’ll find time bomb alarm clocks, sparking laser guns, breakaway handcuffs, Penguin trick umbrellas, Two-Face trademark coins, Sinestro’s Yellow Power Ring, glowing Kryptonite rocks and even The Ocean Master’s Power Scepter. It’s a makeshift store meant to look as if Lex could pick up and take off at the first sign of Batman.
There’s only time for one more major stop and what comic-themed amusement park would be complete without an actual comic-book store? Just cast your eye down the boulevard and check out the tall curved retro designed 1930s spaceship that sits gleaming in the sun. That’s “Brainaic’s Bookstore” and it just might be the coolest comic shop you’ve ever entered. Rounded windows encircle a domed roof and observation platform complete with telescopes masquerading as Kryptonite laser guns that allow guests a full circle view of the entire park.
You enter the shop via the rocket booster that has an escalated ramp. Once inside you’ll find the entire store is themed to look like a spaceship as well. The main counter is the ship’s control panel, and mechanical gizmos and astronomy equipment dazzle the eye. Light is provided by the alien star system that hangs from the ceiling; bizarre worlds rotate around an undiscovered sun and provide illumination all around. Metal racks that resemble spaceship railings display all the latest DC comics and magazines. There are also original art collectibles and limited-edition prints for the high-end collector. Everything the discerning comic fan needs to feel right at home. Since that’s right where we belong let’s take a break before we journey out into the park and finally try some of the rides. Did a Batwing just fly by the outside of the store?
The following is a list of store ideas that are just simply one-line blurbs with nowhere near the detail as the above ones. Enjoy!
“The Bat Lab,” a Sharper Image clone that sells high end electronic gadgets (this one got a permanent ink “NO” in the notes).
“The Fiddler’s Sing-A-Long,” where you can record your own tape of a top-40 song (another “NO”).
“The Justice League Gallery,” a DC Universe store with original art, collectibles and other limited-edition items for serious collectors (This one could have been possibly combined with another store, the mighty pen says and not nearly as cool as Brainiac’s establishment says I).
“The Flash Messenger Service,” a place to buy custom postcards and posters of guests as superheroes that can be mailed directly from the store itself! (Another idea not quite big enough for a store of its own but possible as an inclusion in another bigger retail outlet).
“The Atom,” a miniature store with dollhouse collectibles, Matchbox vehicles, and hand-painted tin soldiers (Very doubtful says the notes. Very odd if you ask me).
“Paradise Island,” custom-made jewelry and accessories for men and women (Paradise was lost since the notes indicate a flat NO on this one).
“Hawkworld,” a store devoted to flying that sells model airplanes, aviation books and anything else related to soaring through the skies (This one didn’t fly at all and was not pursued any further).
“Mr. Miracle’s Magic Shop,”, a place that sells what else…magic tricks (The notes indicate a big NO and also a plea to put an end to any more magic shops in the park. Anyone who has visited Las Vegas can attest to this quick-fix retail solution — any space big enough for a guy to do the linking rings illusion is turned into a “Houdini’s Magic Shoppe”).
“Toy Master’s Toy Store,” your purveyor of unique toys from around the world. (Does it look like every DC villain no matter how obscure was on the verge of getting their own store? Guess they have something to fall back on if that life of crime doesn’t work out.)
“Swamp Things” sells gifts from nature, fossils, nature books, world maps and educational toys (Remember that store from the mall a few years back called “Natural Wonders”? Neither do I but this proposal gets points just for that cool title).
Until next time…
Jeff Tucker works in the theme park industry. His magical book series, “The Sixth Key,” is available on Amazon.com. He also hosts his own Podcast, “91 Reasons,” available on iTunes.