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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?