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Is Universal Rolling Out Attractions With Terrible Intellectual Properties?

Theme Park University reader Adam writes in, “Hey! Love your website. All of your attraction information on Universal is really interesting. I personally think that a show based on the Bourne franchise and Nintendo attractions are terrible ideas. Bourne isn’t that popular and Nintendo is kind of dated. It just seems like a terrible decision. Why are they using them?”

Great question, Adam! You bring up a sentiment I hear echoed a lot within the fan community. Let’s take a look at other intellectual properties at other theme parks first. Many people have echoed the same concerns as Adam. I’m sure he won’t be the last either.

When Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout was announced for Disney California Adventure, fans were livid. Taking what had become an iconic attraction, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and morphing it into anything different seemed like straight up blasphemy.

The announcement video was being shared all over social media. Even today, the amount of who “likes” versus “dislikes” the change is roughly only 20 percent on YouTube. That’s a huge margin. There were all kinds of fans looking to petition and letters were sent. However, at the end of the day, once the new ride opened, it’s been heralded as one of the best attractions at the Disneyland Resort. Disney Chairman of Parks Bob Chapek even mentioned at the last D23 event in Anaheim in 2017 that it was the highest rated attraction on property at the time.

Then you’ve got “Avatar” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The amount of rage Disney fans felt over the new land when it was announced was insane. Theme park enthusiasts were once again livid. Many threatened to never visit the park again because of how “dumb” Disney was for acquiring the rights to a movie that had a highly profitable, but short-lived shelf life.

Now here we are in 2019. Pandora is, without question, the gate-buster land that 90 percent of guests rush to as soon as the park opens. Wait times for Flight of Passage are the highest compared to virtually any other attraction at Walt Disney World. Yet, it gets the highest ratings from what I hear over any other attraction at the resort.

Then you’ve got Fast & Furious: Supercharged at Universal Studios Florida. Make no mistake about it, we think this attraction is a dumpster fire. However, on paper, this made sense when they announced that the attraction was replacing the Earthquake attraction.

Most younger guests weren’t familiar with the “Earthquake” movie even when the park opened. Yet, the “Fast & Furious” franchise is still cranking out films. In total, all eight “Fast & Furious” movies have grossed over $5 billion at the box office worldwide. It’s a slam dunk of a decision, right?

Universal Studios Florida’s newest attraction is also it’s worst rated. Not only is it panned online, but I’m told that in-park surveys show it consistently in the bottom three of all attractions at Universal Orlando. I’m told that internally, Universal is working on ideas on how to “fix” the attraction. Anything from small modifications to complete overhauls. While none of it may come to fruition, we are closely following it.

Then you’ve got the WaterWorld Stunt Show at Universal Studios Hollywood, Japan and soon to be at Universal Studios Beijing. Many of you reading this article may not even be familiar with the 1995 Kevin Costner film that inspired the attraction.

It is regarded as one of the biggest bombs in Hollywood’s history. It had a budget of $175 million (which for 1995 was a lot of dough to spend on a film) and only brought in $88 million domestic. Since then, it has made some money via home movie and distribution sales. However, it’s not widely known. My guess is the majority of the guests visiting Universal Studios Hollywood have never seen the movie, but may have heard of it.

Why is it still around? I promise I am not making this up. Consistently, the WaterWorld Stunt Show at Universal Studios Hollywood is in the top three attractions according to guest surveys every week. Sometimes it even ranks as the number one attraction. Wrap your head around that for a moment. It competes with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Forbidden Journey ride. Yet, it sometimes even comes out ahead! It really is incredible and makes sense why they are duplicating it yet again for Universal Studios Beijing.

Make no mistake about it Adam, Disney and Universal aren’t going to pour millions of dollars into any attraction without an intellectual property attached to it moving forward. That’s just not going to happen. However, the IP doesn’t have to be popular or even make a lot of money to be a well-received and successful attraction.

In the end, that name recognition goes a long way. Maybe some guests have never picked up a Nintendo game controller in their life. Yet, they are familiar with what Mario looks like. They see an add for a Mario Kart attraction and it looks fun. And that is often enough to buy a ticket. It really is that simple. Time will tell if these attractions featuring Bourne Identity, Nintendo and others are well-received by the masses. Until then, just keep in mind, online fans have been wrong about new IP attractions opening in the past. And without question, they’ll be wrong again.

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One Comment

  1. fan51
    Posted May 5, 2019 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Biggest problem is Universal doesn’t have many popular franchises except for horror. They either need to produce more family friendly IP or buy out a studio. Warner Bros?

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