You may have heard rumors of “Lord of The Rings” coming to Universal Orlando for literally decades now. For one reason or another, the trigger was never pulled to actually build a land or an attraction based on the popular film franchise and book series. However, it seems that Universal is once again kicking the tires to see if they can bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpieces to a theme park.
There have been a few rumblings here and there about Lord of The Rings headed to Universal Orlando in the last several months. We decided to do a little digging on our own and have pieced together the following information.
Believe it or not, we aren’t the first to break this story. There have been two other sources that have covered the Lord of the Rings coming to Universal Orlando. However, (and I’m not making this up) both of those stories have magically been deleted from the internet. Thus I can’t link you to them. However, as soon as I realized they were deleted, that only added more fuel to the fire to keep researching.
As it turns out, we think Universal very quietly acquired the theme park rights for Lord of the Rings several years ago. This lines up with why many media outlets believed it was going into Universal Epic Universe. However, it is our understanding that Lord of the Rings has never been seriously considered for that park’s master plan.
Before we go any further, we need to make a few things extremely clear. First, nothing is official until Universal says it is. Secondly, this is merely a concept that has a team of people working on it as I type. Just because a project is in development doesn’t mean it will see the light of day. We’ve talked about this before with the Nintendo Pokemon and Zelda projects that were very far along (Pokemon in particular) at Universal Orlando. Yet it was dropped pretty far along in development. You can read more about that here.
To give you some context, let’s talk when and where. At the moment, the slate is full when it comes to new attractions headed to Universal Orlando all the way through the opening of Universal Epic Universe in 2023. Meaning, any other major expansions (that would encompass an entire land) wouldn’t open until 2024, most likely 2025 or beyond.
Most likely the new land would take over Toon Lagoon at Islands of Adventure. Why? When it comes to IP, comic strips like Popeye and Rocky and Bullwinkle don’t exactly resonate with today’s audiences. Yet, Lord of the Rings is seen as more of a timeless brand.
Most importantly, some of the plans call for not only taking over some of the track layout for Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges at Toon Lagoon, but expanding it. As many of you know, Bluto’s was recently down for a refurbishment. Part of the reason was annual maintenance, the other was due to nearby construction going on for the upcoming Jurassic World coaster out in the lagoon.
However, very quietly a few tests were done in parts of the flume of Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges to bring a traditional raft flume experience to the next level. Imagine using magnets underneath the boat and in the flume in order to help control the movement. As opposed to the rapids controlling where the boat is moved in the flume, you could use magnets to help push to where you want it to go. Plus, you’d be able to point the raft in a particular direction for greater show control.
If you think that sounds kind of like what Shanghai’s Pirates of the Caribbean attraction moves their boats? You’re on the right track. The difference being that the patent for that attraction specifically addresses forward and backward movement. This new system covers other types of motion like pushing a raft from one side of the flume to another using reverse polarity.
Another option that was tested would be to slide that same raft onto a base that has a roller coaster track from above that could pick it up. This would allow a traditional raft ride to actually be combined with roller coaster elements. If this sounds ambitious? You’re correct. The current footprint of Bluto’s would be greatly expanded and Dudley Do-Right gets demolished entirely.
Now here is where the story gets far more interesting. Most likely, you’ve never heard of a French theme park named Poy du Fou. It’s the second most popular theme park in France behind Disneyland Paris. Think of it like a giant Renaissance Fair on steroids. No roller coasters or 4D theaters. Everything here is based on interactive experiences and shows. It’s interactive, immaculate and should absolutely be on your theme park bucket list.
Poy du Fou’s product not only lends itself in a similar time period as Lord of The Rings, their brand of interactive attraction could be the next big thing theme parks are looking for. Thus, Universal has approached PDF to help produce a Lord of the Rings interactive land. Keep in mind, Universal and Disney often use outside vendors to flesh out ideas they have for various lands, attractions and entire theme parks. It’s just rarely talked about.
Remember all the immersive theater parts of Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge that were eventually dropped by the time opening day rolled around? This would be a way for Universal to roll out their own version of that. With stunts and interactions that happen all around the land that give it a more personable feel.
What does all this mean? Well, at the moment nothing at all. Keep in mind, these are concepts being kicked around for 2025 at the absolute earliest, most likely even beyond that. I wouldn’t expect to see any wrecking balls at Toon Lagoon anytime soon. However, it’s an interesting development and one we will be keeping our ear to the ground over the next year or two to see if it ends up being green lit. Your thoughts?
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