Part 8 of a continuing series examining the original proposal for Universal Studios Florida’s Islands of Adventure theme park.
This journey through the never-before-seen Batman Theme Park has been incredible. We’ve shopped for trinkets in stores themed to the Riddler, dined with The Joker himself, thrilled to a live stage show and soared across the rooftops with The Dark Knight. As we bring our day in the park to a close there’s only one thing left to see — and it’s going to end the day with a bang. Read on as I pull back the curtain on the largest theme park show ever conceived. Don’t believe me? Read for yourself in this opening paragraph from the original proposal for the live outdoor stunt spectacle “The Batman & Robin Action Adventure Spectacular!”
“The biggest show in the world. Nothing less will do. Batman and Robin are pitted against their greatest villains in a non-stop action show that takes place on land, sea and air. The Joker, The Penguin and Catwoman plan to hold Gotham City hostage by stealing a nuclear missile.”
The passage at the beginning is underlined by the original author. It’s obvious from the beginning that the designers set out to create a truly immense show that would wow audiences and leave them panting for more. Originally conceived as a once-a-night spectacle for audience of 10,000-20,000 (!) the proposal also suggests that the show could be adapted for more showings per day with a seating capacity of 3,000. Show seating for 10,000-20,000 is almost unheard of for a theme-park show. This is a truly ambitious show proposal and the show that they had in mind does not disappoint! The Batman & Robin Action Adventure Spectacular is truly huge and would have been the perfect way to end a fun filled day in the park. Rest your tired feet, grab a Bat-soda and some Bat-popcorn and sit back as the Dynamic Duo save the day once again…
Seated in the amphitheater you can see the sprawling world of Gotham City laid out before you. Across an open lagoon is the city’s skyline, an impressive lineup of skyscrapers and structures that give off a feeling of shadow and light and the activity of a hustling, bustling city.
In the foreground sit two islands in the water while on the far shore sits the familiar, rust-eaten complex known as “Axis Chemicals.” Gotham City Police are present all around as GCPD patrol boats cruise the harbor, spotlights moving about everywhere.
Large television screens come alive with a live feed from Commissioner Gordon who warns the citizens of Gotham that The Joker has threatened to destroy the entire city unless his insane demands are met. Citizens are warned to stay inside until the danger is over!
Suddenly a massive tarp-covered barge floats into the area. The patrol boats order it to stop and prepare to be boarded. The barge continues to move forward, and when the patrol boats threaten to open fire, suddenly the tarp is removed and the barge is revealed as an evil laugh rings out! The barge is actually The Joker’s Gunship, and before anyone can react, missiles are fired from the Gunship and the police patrol boats are blown out of the water! The Joker’s Goons emerge all around and fire on the patrolling police officers. Gunfire rings out all around and the Goons blow the main doors of “Axis Chemicals” open. Sirens sound out and burglar alarms pierce the air. Floodlights illuminate the ominous chemical warehouse and within moments a railcar bearing a nuclear warhead is rolled out to the loading docks at the water’s edge. The nuclear warhead is loaded onto The Joker’s Gunship and floated out into the harbor as the floodlights go out. The danger is real, the police are powerless and there’s only one thing to do!
The Batsignal lights up the night — the beacon of hope in the darkest of times! Suddenly, Batman himself appears at the top of “Axis Chemicals” silhouetted by the chemical factory’s illuminated sign.
He orders The Joker to stop but the Clown Prince of Crime orders his men to open fire on the bat. The chemical sign explodes in a shower of sparks as the bullets rip through it. Batman shoots his grappling hook and does a slide for life to the ground below. As Batman nears the ground, The Joker’s Gunship emits a cloud of toxic green Smilex Gas! The Gunship floats away and escapes as Batman reaches the ground. The Smilex Gas clears and Batman finds the Joker behind the wheel of his fiendish Jokercar. He guns the engine and races straight for Batman, who jumps clear just in time. The Joker is poised to flee but before he can the Batmobile roars up with Robin behind the wheel. His way blocked, The Joker speeds up and actually leaps his car over the Batmobile!
Robin revs the engine and turns the car 180 degrees to face the opposite direction. Batman jumps into the Batmobile and they chase the Joker all along the perimeter of the arena. With the evil clown in sight, the Batmobile fires a missile towards the fleeing criminal. The missile connects with the Jokercar and it bursts into flames! The Jokercar swerves wildly and crashes into a garage, which explodes in a fiery wall of fire! Robin brings the Batmobile to a screeching halt and both Batman and Robin jump out just in time to see The Joker appear on top of the burning building.
He’s alive and unharmed! The Joker laughs loudly and points to the sky just as a garishly painted Joker Helicopter hovers into view and lowers a rope ladder. The Joker gives the Dynamic Duo a jaunty salute and grabs onto the waiting ladder. The Joker Helicopter banks away and carries The Joker far from the clutches of justice. Batman and Robin turn to each other just as the lights go out and plunge the entire arena into darkness.
The lights come back up and illuminate the Gotham cityscape, which splits in two to reveal the previously hidden Batcave! The Dark Knight’s base of operations is a honey-comb-like structure that contains his arsenal of weapons, vehicles and crime-fighting equipment including a massive bank of sophisticated computers. The Batmobile is safely parked on a turntable, the Batboat is in the waters below, the Batjet can be seen hanging from the highest chamber of the cave and Batman and Robin themselves are at the computer bank. They analyze the recent attack and robbery and realize that The Joker has a nuclear warhead with which to threaten the entire city! Suddenly, the computer screens are taken over by images of The Joker, The Penguin and Catwoman who announce their successful hijacking and they intend to level Gotham City unless the entire town is turned over to them!
The city is given one hour to reply. Batman and Robin use the computer to try and find the secret location of the stolen warhead. They deduce that the launch site is off-shore and presumably on one of the islands in the lagoon. They split up, the better to track down and stop the fiends! Batman roars out of the Batcave in a brand-new vehicle dubbed the Batamaran, which is a high-speed catamaran type boat. He makes for Penguin Island with the wind on his back. Robin jumps on the Batcycle and opens the throttle for Catwoman’s Lair, the other island. The next action takes place simultaneously on both islands — the idea is to create a two-ring circus of action with constant danger and stunts. The action on both islands is carefully choreographed to allow focus on the major points of each battle.
As Batman nears Penguin Island, the entire island opens up to reveal a battlement bristling with weapons and an arsenal of Penguin Boats! The island is designed as a tribute to the Penguin himself and is home to not only two Penguin Racing Boats, but a larger Penguin Flagship, all designed in his image though they are careful to point out that the boats are deadly and menacing and not comical in any way.
The Racing Boats pull out and race to engage Batman. There is a big water battle between the smaller boats and the larger Batamaran, with the Racing Boats meeting their doom at the hands of the Caped Crusader. The Penguin Racing Boats explode and sink to the bottom of the lagoon as the Penguin Flagship faces off against the Batamaran. With ramming the only option, the Penguin Flagship slams into the Batamaran and Batman’s watercraft bursts into flames! As black smoke rises up, Batman jumps into a small Bat-Racer boat and zooms to safety.
The Penguin Flagship, thinking that Batman has gone up in flames, returns to the battlement and docks next to a large pile of gasoline. Batman brings the Bat-Racer around and fires two torpedoes at the Penguin Flagship which explodes in a burst of flame! The flames spread to the gasoline barrels, which ignite and explode setting the entire Penguin Island on fire! After a few tense moments the entire island sinks into the water. Batman uses his Batcommunicator and informs Robin that there was no launch site on Penguin Island. There is no response from Robin so Batman steers the Bat-Racer to Catwoman’s Island to help his sidekick.
Meanwhile, Robin has activated the Batcycle’s turbojet engine and rockets over the water and onto the other island which has rotated to reveal the previously hidden lair of Catwoman herself. Catwoman emerges to find the Boy Wonder and immediately dispatches her armed Catmen to take him out (there is also talk of a number of large cats that roam the island as sentries but I have no idea what this would have been –perhaps puppets or audio-animatronics?). Catwoman’s Catmen ride out on Catcycles as Robin spins the Batcycle out to meet them (Catmen and Catycles? This seems a bit of a stretch but since there’s not much dialogue I doubt they would have had Catwoman calling them Catmen so perhaps it’s just the writer’s way of keeping track of the action). Robin fires missiles at the two lead Catmen and sends them careening into the waters below. The remaining Catmen are taken on knight-style as an impromptu jousting competition heats up –soon the evildoers are dispatched and Robin steers his Batcycle up a ramp and over the last of the bad guys as they fire where the Boy Wonder once was. Robin lands the bike perfectly, swerves around and fires a last missile at them which triggers a large explosion and blasts them into oblivion. Catwoman decides to take matters into her own claws and ignites a circle of flame that encircles Robin completely. He is trapped and spins the bike out looking for a way out. Just in time Batman arrives from Penguin Island! The Caped Crusader fires a Batcable that propels him up and over Robin who he grabs and pulls to safety just as the flames engulf the island. The Dynamic Duo slide on the cable to the Batboat as Catwoman Island sinks into the drink to join the Penguin’s lost hideaway in the briny blue.
The large television screens light up with the image of Commissioner Gordon who assures the city that everything is under control and implores the citizens not to panic. The broadcast is interrupted as The Joker, Penguin and Catwoman break in on the transmission’s signal and warn everyone that there is only 20 minutes left to meet their demands before they detonate the nuclear warhead. Batman and Robin watch from the Batboat and quickly surmise that the pirate signal must be coming from The Joker’s Hideout!
Suddenly the “Axis Chemicals” factory opens up and turns to reveal The Joker’s Hideout. The sinister place is decorated just like the Joker likes it with purple balloons, large jack-in-the-box figures and clown faces that leer all about. This is the anti-Batcave and the decorating has been done with a madman’s taste in mind. The Joker, Penguin and Catwoman are on hand finishing up their pirate broadcast. The Joker activates a large switch and the entire chamber opens up to reveal a large missile silo!
A gantry stretches out to the ominous weapon as steam and smoke spill out all about. A countdown starts and The Joker issues his final warning to the people of Gotham as the minutes until doom tick down behind him. Commissioner Gordon begs for more time but the villains hiss that time is up and that Armageddon is at hand! Meanwhile Batman and Robin have vanished leaving the citizens of Gotham to fend for themselves. The villains move to escape but suddenly a giant submarine rises out of the water. It is the Batmarine, Batman’s incredible submersible –and it’s heading straight for The Joker’s Hideout.
Warning bells sound and beacons flash as The Joker’s defense systems fire down on the Batmarine submarine. The Batmarine fires back and the Hideout is severely damaged. Bricks fall, smoke billows out and it is apparent The Joker is completely outgunned. Robin emerges from the hatch of the Batmarine and enters into The Joker’s crumbling hideout as flames rise all around.
From above comes Batman in the sleek Batcopter. He orders The Joker to stop but the evil clown defies him once more by activating the missile gantry which moves the giant warhead towards the center of the lagoon.
The countdown continues as the launch system illuminates from beneath the water. Batman fires on The Joker from the Batcopter –explosions rock the entire area and The Joker’s goons fall from everywhere into the water.
The Joker is infuriated and vows revenge! He activates one final switch and suddenly the entire control room of his Hideout separates and lifts into the air revealing a phalanx of guns and rocket launchers underneath its flooring. The Joker fires on the Batcopter and scores a direct hit! Batman leaps from the vehicle and slides down on a cable to the Hideout to face off with his arch-nemesis as above him the Batcopter explodes in a shower of fire and sparks! Batman and Robin join up and thrown down gas pellets to engulf the area with blue smoke. In the confusion they make their way into the Hideout and to the control room.
The Dynamic Duo corner Catwoman and Penguin and Robin holds them at bay as Batman advances on The Joker. The countdown continues to mark the time until destruction and now there’s only 60 seconds left! Batman reaches the top of the Hideout and commandeers one of The Joker’s gunneries. He wheels it around to fire at The Joker who has reached a height of 150 feet on the rising platform. Batman scores a hit and The Joker’s platform sparks and drops a bit, flames erupting from underneath. Batman climbs up to the highest tower on the Hideout and jumps out to the platform bringing the fight to The Joker at last. The two enemies square off on the fiery platform as the seconds continue to countdown.
At one point Batman is pushed from the platform but he uses a bungee cord to bounce back up to safety. He takes The Joker by surprise by his reappearance and Batman uses the shock to take him out once and for all. The Joker is dispatched and sent screaming to the water below.
At the last second of the countdown Batman pushes the abort button. The missile, alive with smoke and activity is on the brink of launch –suddenly, the abort order is announced and the missile implodes on itself in a fantastic spray of fire and sparks. The warhead sinks into the water below and instantly the entire lagoon is engulfed in flames that shoot up high into the air.
With a final explosion, the warhead is gone and smoke fills the air. The danger is over and Batman and Robin have once again saved the day! (Told you they would!) Robin uses his Batcable to swing his way onto the platform with Batman and the two of them use the elevated perch to move out and over to the audience to wave to them and let them know that all is well in the city of Gotham. They assure the city that crime will always be stopped and that the forces of justice are only a Batsignal away. Commissioner Gordon appears once again on the monitors to thank the Dynamic Duo and assure them that The Joker will be found and taken to Arkham once and for all.
Now that’s a theme park show! Stunts, fire, heroes, villains, boats, helicopters, motorcycles, fights, smoke and justice –all the ingredients for an incredible show experience. It’s a shame this show was never produced! What comic fan wouldn’t love to sit and watch this spectacle? Sure puts Waterworld at Universal Studios to shame. This proposal got really far in the planning process and is evident by the large amount of renderings that were created for it. This was the crown jewel of the proposal and I’m sure it wowed a lot of folks back in 1992 when it was presented. I hope you liked reading about this and all the other elements of the Batman Islands of Adventure proposal. This should about wrap it up here in ol’ Gotham City –I’ll see what else I can dig up and hopefully return with more articles to tantalize and tempt. I hope you had a great time reading these — I had a great time putting them together.
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.