Islands of Adventure isn’t exactly what Jay Stein and Universal Creative set out for it to be when they were in the planning stages for this park as early as 1992. Then again, no theme park project ends up with all the items on their wish list fulfilled on opening day. After long negotiations, DC Comics deciding to go in a different direction and ultimately decided not to be represented in Universal theme parks. Naturally, Universal turned to Marvel Comics to see if they wanted to ink a deal and the rest is theme park history, with Marvel Superhero Island opening with the rest of the park in 1999.
The reason Marvel was Universal’s second choice was simply due to popularity. At the time, Warner Brothers had produced several successful Superman films starring Christopher Reeve. In addition, they felt they had another hit franchise on their hands with Tim Burton’s new Batman films starring Michael Keaton, so at the time, it is possible they felt that getting into business with another rival studio wasn’t the best move for them.
Prior to the opening of Islands of Adventure, Marvel had barely been represented on the big screen and many of those films were flops. The list includes The Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren in 1989, The Fantastic Four, which was shot in 1994, but was never planned to be released, and even Howard the Duck, which needs to been seen to be believed.
It wasn’t until 2002 when Tobey Maguire was bit by the radioactive arachnid and Spider-Man became a huge box office success for Marvel and Sony Pictures. Thus, when creating The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, the designers pretty much had their pick of Spidey’s list of characters to be best represented in the ride since the vast majority of the public had never seen Spidey on the big screen. Just as with all comic book series, there are a ton of great villains to choose from. Originally in the sequence where your “scoop” vehicle gets thrown down the sewer, Hydro-Man was not the original character you’d encounter.
After being discovered by Doctor Octopus and the gang dismantling the Statue of Liberty, while trying to escape, the Scoop ride vehicle would be hurtled down a drain pipe into the New York City Sewer. Water would have dripped onto your from the dingy sewer as you stared out into the foreboding darkness.
As the vehicle settles down into the darkness, you would hear the slight scamper of little feet. A few seconds later, a sewer rat would come crawling up to your ride vehicle and take a sniff to check things out.
Turns out, this rat has dozens of friends who come charging towards your ride vehicle. On board audio would have made it sound like the rats had landed on the floor and were surrounding you, but not for long… they just keep running…. from something…
Between the rats pushing towards us and the current of the water in the sewer, the Scoop would have glided backwards and taken a turn into a side tunnel (a different 3D projection screen). Riders would have seen a brief shadow lurking in the darkness, then out of nowhere The Lizard would have jumped from the shadows right onto the hood of your car. His claws reaching at you and his teeth ready for action!
Just as soon as The Lizard lunges at us, we would have heard the familiar sound of Spider-Man spinning his web within inches of our 3D glasses as he comes hurtling down the sewer pipe to save us. Spidey tells us to get back to the city while he takes care of The Lizard and the Scoop drives out of the sewer and back to the docks of New York City’s harbor.
Keep in mind, this was 13 years before The Amazing Spider-Man reboot movie would appear in theaters and The Lizard would star as the main villain of the film. So do you think Gary Goddard and Universal Creative made the right decision in substituting Hydro-Man for The Lizard? It wouldn’t have drastically changed the story of the ride, but would have been a slight change to the final version we have now.