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How Much of Universal Orlando is Owned by Universal Studios?

With the recent opening of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, I got to wondering, “How much of Universal Orlando is licensed properties and how much does Universal Studios actually own?” Considering “Jaws” was a Universal Studios film and it’s been replaced with a franchise owned by Warner Brothers, I decided to do some investigating on just how much of Universal Orlando is licensed out from other companies.

Copyright Universal Orlando Resort

Copyright Universal Orlando Resort

It’s important to understand that when a theme park licenses a brand from another company, each deal is unique and can be quite complicated. Some deals require a flat fee be paid to the movie studio they are licensing from each year. Others take a percentage of merchandise sales. There are even some deals that pay the actor yearly for use of their face or a film that they helped created for the park. Even more complicated is the music, which if lifted directly from a film, can also go back to the studio and even the composer.

Copyright Universal Orlando Resort

Copyright Universal Orlando Resort

If your attraction is a huge draw for the park, you can even request to receive a percentage of each ticket purchase at the gate, a piece of the merchandise or food and beverage sales and even have a flat fee paid to you every year. Each deal is complicated; it can be messy and confidential. If you’re expecting me to tell you who gets paid what in this article, you’ve lost your mind as I can’t afford the legal fees.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

Let’s start off by looking at the attractions Universal Studios directly owns and doesn’t have to pay any licensing fees. Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoons Blast (which was not owned by Universal, Nickelodeon is under Viacom) was replaced by Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Not only does Universal Studios own the Despicable Me franchise, “Despicable Me 2” was the highest grossing film of all time for Universal Studios.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

In addition the E.T. Adventure, Revenge of the Mummy, Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular, Fievel’s Playland and Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster are all completely owned by Universal Studios.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

Then there are those attractions that were designed specifically for Universal Orlando, but don’t necessarily have a direct movie or character tie in, such as Disaster!, Animal Actors on Location and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. They are also completely owned by Universal Orlando, regardless of the lack of movie tie-ins. For example, most of the tracks you can choose from on Rip Ride Rockit are part of the Universal Music Group’s library. In addition, the movies featured in the Horror Makeup Show like “An American Werewolf in London” are also Universal Studios films.

Copyright Universal Orlando Resort

Copyright Universal Orlando Resort

Next up we have mash up attractions at Universal Studios Florida. These contain some properties that are owned by Universal Studios and some that aren’t. For example Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Mashup‘s main character was from a Warner Brothers film. However, the supporting characters like Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy are all part of Universal’s classic movie monsters that are completely owned by them.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

In addition, Universal’s Superstar Parade contains floats and characters from “Hop” and “Despicable Me” (both Universal films), but the other half are not. Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer are through a licensing agreement with Nickelodeon’s parent company Viacom.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

Then you have those attractions that have nothing to do with Universal Studios at all. Twister… Ride It Out borrows its theme from a Warner Brothers film. Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures produced the “Transformers” films, thus their ride is licensed through them and Hasbro toys. Dreamworks also produced all the Shrek films and thus, Universal had to sign a licensing agreement for Shrek 4-D.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

The Simpsons Ride and Kang and Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl are both 20th Century Fox properties. For that matter, so is everything else in that land of the park, from Moe’s Tavern to Duff Beer.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

Terminator 2: 3D? Nope. The film was actually produced by Tristar Pictures, which is now known as Columbia Entertainment. How about Men In Black Alien Attack then? Also, a big fat no. “MIB” was a movie released by Sony Pictures.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

Needless to say, all of Diagon Alley is licensed through Warner Brothers as well as J.K. Rowling. That goes for everything from Escape From Gringotts, to the Leaky Cauldron restaurant to the Hogwarts Express. Which is a perfect time to hop over to Islands of Adventure and check out what Universal Studios owns over there!

Copyright Universal Orlando Resort

Copyright Universal Orlando Resort

Clearly we can start by cancelling out the entire land of Hogsmeade because, just like Diagon Alley, it’s licensed through WB and Rowling. The good news is, everything in the Lost Continent section (The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad and Poseidon’s Fury) in IOA is an original Universal Creative attraction that doesn’t borrow any licenses from any movies, but it also doesn’t have to pay them out either.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

Even though Universal Studios did produce all the Dr. Seuss films to date, these were done after they struck a deal with the Doctor’s widow for rights to a theme park land. Meaning, the entire land is based on the books and not the films. The one exception is Grinchmas, which is based on the film produced by Universal.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

Then we have Marvel Superhero Island. By now, I am sure you all know that Disney owns that particular piece of cinematic gold. However, when Islands of Adventure first opened, Marvel was its own comic book powerhouse before the Mouse bought them out.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

Moving on to Toon Lagoon, the majority of the characters featured here are courtesy of a deal Universal Creative struck with King Features who own a majority of the comic strip universe. Anyone from Betty Boop to Hagar to Popeye and beyond are all thanks to King licensing their characters to Universal. However, as noted in my previous article about Islands of Adventure, Universal bought out the Jay Ward characters just as Islands of Adventure was going into development, so those require no licensing.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

Finally, we have Jurassic Park. The only land and attraction devoted to a true Universal Studios film in Islands of Adventure. Strangely enough, the decision to add this land to the park was a last minute one and the ride was originally slated to go where Men In Black Alien Attack is now. However, that’s another story for another time.

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

Next time you find yourself wandering around Universal Orlando, just know that while you may be riding some of the greatest attractions in the world, they aren’t all reflective of actual Universal Studios films. Your thoughts?

Copyright Universal Orlando

Copyright Universal Orlando

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5 Comments

  1. Lon Smart
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Good artical! My thoughts? The reality is, almost everyone thinks it’s all Disney anyhow. I was recently at a theme park event in California and overheard “In Florida… Disney has 2 Universal Studios!” And my head exploded. It definatly drags away from gaining any kind of Umbrella Recognition. If thats important to them the only thing they can do is promote themself better at the start of any Universal media propperty. Perhaps even a 15 second highlight reel. Media Flood.
    Im happy to see we are in the theme park generation these days. With China and Dubai putting in massive efforts to be theme park media masters. The films definatly need to promote the parks better. Disney does it with every film. The Park Castle is the Disney Icon. But I digress.
    If you dont believe in yourself and support what you do, nobody else will really care either. Just my $0.02

  2. jedited
    Posted July 18, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    this has ALWAYS been my complaint with everyone BUT Disney (and one of my many complaints about Avatar at Disney).
    Disney owns 99% of the properties at Disney parks (it used to be a bit smaller before they bought Lucasfilm, but not by much), so they reap ALL the profits and benefits. Universal on the other hand owns MAYBE 50% of the properties.
    Theme parks are a GREAT way to market your properties. After my kids and I went to Universal Studios Hollywood, my kids wanted to see EVERY movie that was associated with an attraction there (granted Uni’s ownership is a MUCH greater % in Hollywood, although MOST of their current building is on non-Uni properties).
    This doesn’t have to be the case in Universal’s case. They have a RICH library that is over 100 years old. Universal should take a page from Disney’s playbook and re-focus on NBC/Universal owned properties.
    By using non-owned properties, you are limited to what you can do with them (see Marvel Superhero Island) and if the property dies on the vine (see Toon Lagoon), you are limited in your ability (and desire) to bring those properties to greater awareness.
    This is just another example of why Disney is #1 and one of the best in the world at synergy and execution.

  3. fan51
    Posted July 19, 2014 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    Via box office mojo, Disney (Buena Vista) is ranked #4, and Universal is ranked #5 for top movies for 2014. It is clearly evident why Universal can’t develop more theme park attraction using only their properties. #1 FOX and #2 Warner Bros have the most theme park ready movies in their slate.

    http://boxofficemojo.com/studio/

    Universal needs to pick up the pace. Do more action and animated movies. Do less movies that I never heard about.

  4. Posted July 20, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    You all bring up excellent points!

    Now you’ve got me thinking. I wonder what properties Disney doesn’t own.
    -winnie the pooh
    -avatar

    …is that it?

  5. jedited
    Posted July 24, 2014 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Winnie the Pooh has a VERY complicated ownership and I know that there were many, many court cases related to this issue.
    Outside of Avatar, being a west coaster, isn’t there some non-Disney stuff still at Disney Hollywood studios? Aerosmith for sure. Is the Great Movie Ride still in operation? Wasn’t there some non-Disney stuff in there?


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