Some way, some how Pokemon will find its way into a Universal Studios Park. If what we are hearing is correct, Pikachu and the gang are going to evict Peter Parker from their NYC digs at Universal Studios Japan.
Wasn’t there supposed to be another Pokemon attraction opening at a Universal Park? Yes, many have been pitched between Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Japan. However, we think this one is going to actually move forward. First, let’s look at how we got here.
You’ll recall that the original Nintendo land for Universal Studios Florida was slated for the Kids Zone section of the park. The idea was to bulldoze from the Animal Actors theater back to Curious George Goes To Town.
As plans for a third theme park became possible (thanks to several land acquisitions), the plans for a Mario-centric Nintendo land were shifted to what is now known Universal Epic Universe down the road. This is what has recently opened at Universal Studios Japan, will still open at Universal’s Epic Universe and a neutered version will open at Universal Studios Hollywood most likely next year.
So what happened to the plans for Kids Zone? You’d think since Mario and Luigi got moved down the street, Woody and Barney and friends were safe. Not exactly. Universal initially thought that Nintendo was going to be an intellectual property that was worth expanding on.
Thus, work immediately began on placing a Zelda land at Islands of Adventure and Pokemon would take over the Kids Zone at Universal Studios Florida. That Pokemon new land went through several iterations behind-the-scenes.
Known internally as Project 130, originally the land consisted of a boat ride and a family coaster. Then the boat ride was cut and it became two coasters. One of which was for a Mack coaster. Believe it or not, a purchase order/contract was made with Mack for that coaster. Oh yes, that Pokemon coaster will open in Orlando, but without a Pokemon theme.
Then Universal gets cold feet. Maybe Pokemon and Zelda are too much to invest in Nintendo and Orlando before the first land even opens? Perhaps the best route is to wait and see the reaction to the Mario-themed land at Universal Epic Universe. Thus, Pokemon plans were scrapped in Orlando. However, Universal Studios Japan? They love Pikachu in Osaka. Thus, Project 130 became 130J and pivoted to Japan.
However, just because the project pivots, doesn’t mean the rides designed for Orlando necessarily come with it. Keep in mind, not every park has the same space constraints. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got. Thus in Japan, the focus becomes a first-of-its-kind drop ride with projectors above the heads of the riders. This mini-land along with a Pokemon gym, merchandise shop and quick service location would have been the next major add at USJ. Then the pandemic hit and Project 130J gets shelved.
Now here we are in 2021 and Universal Creative has two problems on their hands. The first is Nintendo knows about all of these attractions and lands that got shelved. They have been involved with the plans every step of the way. Believe me, Nintendo is ready to build Pokemon attractions and has wanted this to happen for years now as Universal continues to play the Pokemon Hokey Pokey.
Second, while Islands of Adventure has a deal with Marvel in perpetuity, Universal Studios Japan does not. Their contract with Marvel and the use of Spider-Man for their Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction is coming up. Guess what? Disney isn’t interested in renewing the deal. Shocking, eh?
Thus, Spider-Man is going to be evicted in the next few years. What could take his place? You guessed it: Pikachu and friends. Now the reason I think this Pokemon attraction is going to stick is frankly: budget.
In all the other iterations of Pokemon entering a Universal Park, we are talking some major ground clearing and building nearly everything from the ground up. That’s an extremely expensive endeavor.
In this case, not only does the building already exist, so does the ride system and the queue.
If these plans do end up becoming a reality, expect the Oceaneering System “Scoops” to be retrofitted with… anyone have a guess? Want to take a stab?
That’s right: it will use augmented reality. See if this sounds familiar. Before sitting down in your ride vehicle, you’ll be asked to put on a special helmet. These helmets hook up to a special visor that allows the rider to see a small screen in front of their eyes that make it look like Pokemon characters are within the environment.
Now you’d think that an attraction’s objective like this would be to “catch” Pokemon. Eeehhhh… not exactly. At least currently, the plan is to be able to “toss” berries and power ups to the Pokemon who are fighting you.
The current track layout for The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man would remain exactly the same. This includes the screens that are currently in the attraction. The new Pokemon ride would even utilize the projectors currently in the building.
I think that’s all the details I can give you for now. Keep in mind, nothing is official until Universal says differently. I know I skirted past a lot of important details in this story. What Mack coaster? How does a Pokemon gym work? What about this drop tower? So many stories for another time.
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