Feeling a little let down from this morning’s press conference at the Orange County Convention Center? I did my best to warn you! What we learned yesterday shouldn’t be news to Theme Park University readers. This is stuff we have been covering for years here at TPU. In case you missed it, here’s the rundown of what was announced.
The park will be called Universal’s Epic Universe… and that’s it. Sure, you heard a lot about how new jobs were going to be created and a lot of road work is being done. Exciting stuff, eh?
What was the point of that if everyone pretty much knew all of that anyway, you ask? Well, you know that uncle at Thanksgiving that knows you like theme parks? The one that doesn’t understand that websites like Theme Park University and others exist? The one who asks things like, “Hey, I hear Universal just opened a new Star Wars land! I need to check that out next time I’m in town!” Yea, that press conference was for that guy. Like it or not, there are a lot of them out there. They make up the majority of the population. They deserve to know! I digress.
Now you’re probably wondering, what else is there? You’re looking to dig a little deeper, aren’t you? Well, we are here to spill the beans on what we know. Legal note: As always, nothing is official until Universal says it is. As we are all painfully aware, plans can definitely change over time. That said, we think we have a pretty good handle on how things are shaping up over at Universal’s massive new Orlando expansion. Let’s dive in!
For starters, when is Universal’s Epic Universe expected to open? The answer is tentatively 2023. Yes, I know that’s four years from now. Could it open any sooner? Highly doubtful. The thing to remember about these parcels of land is they need a lot of work. Universal is prepping this property for not only Universal’s Epic Universe, the new hotel and another version of CityWalk, but also all the future expansions it can handle.
Meaning, it needs to be prepped for utilities like a new small city. Everything from sewer lines to electricity to running water all needs to flow underground. Not to mention trees need to be moved, chopped down and sometimes relocated. I wouldn’t expect anything exciting to go vertical along Destination Parkway or Universal Boulevard for quite some time.
Next, let’s talk about the theme of Universal’s Epic Universe. Before we begin, I just want to take a step back and ask that you don’t over analyze it too much. Think of it this way: Erase your memory for a moment. If I told you that Universal is building a new theme park called Islands of Adventure, your brain might run wild thinking it had some sort of overreaching tropical theme, right? As we all know, “islands” is just another way of saying “theme park land” and that’s going to be the case with Universal’s Epic Universe as well.
In this case “Universe” refers to, well… the Universe. And think of each land as individual planets within that universe. Don’t worry, they are theme park lands. Think of the overall theme to be a mix between steampunk, outer space and a little bit of art deco.
However, as we have stated before here at TPU, the entrance and exit of those lands should be fairly unique. Remember how we noted Universal Studios Florida’s Diagon Alley sets a design precedent on how these lands will be structured? It’s absolutely true!
Think about it. Diagon Alley has one entry and one exit point. Once you are inside the land, you can’t really see the rest of Universal Studios Florida. You’re in a unique little “bubble” surrounded by the theming of shops, attractions, and architecture. The same will be true of the lands at Universal’s Epic Universe.
Now, what lands will those be? Well, we are sticking to our guns here: Nintendo, Fantastic Beasts, How to Train Your Dragon and Universal Classic Monsters.
It’s easiest to start with Nintendo. It’s been announced that Nintendo will have a presence at Universal Orlando for some time now. We have covered how Mario and the gang have been shuffled around the parks during the design phase of the project for years now. The good news is, Orlando will be getting a pretty similar clone to what’s opening at Universal Studios Japan in 2020. This includes a Mario Kart attraction, a Yoshi themed dark ride and a Donkey Kong roller coaster.
Next up? Fantastic Beasts is a total no-brainer for Universal Epic Universe. Universal Parks wouldn’t be where they are today without Harry Potter, so adding the offspring of that epic (sorry I had to) series of movies and books to the new park is a no-brainer. Much like Potter, I expect there to be some rides with brand-new technology being used as well as a totally immersive interactive land. While I think the new land will “wink” at the Harry Potter series (much like the films do), I don’t expect there to be any cross-over of Harry, Ron or Hermione beyond a cameo.
Universal Classic Monsters makes a lot of sense and it’s kind of amazing there hasn’t been a land dedicated to the oldest IP’s in Universal’s vault. To give you an idea of how long this has been in development, the way I understand it, this section of Universal Epic Universe goes back several years. Remember when Universal wanted to reboot their classic monster franchise? “The Mummy” starring Tom Cruise in 2017 was an epic (somebody stop me) failure. Thus, the team went back to the drawing board after that film tanked and tweaked the plans to represent the Universal Classic Monsters instead after the other reboot films were also scrapped. No doubt, we will all be better off for it.
Finally, and yes, I know this one leaves a lot of people scratching their heads: “How To Train Your Dragon.” I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is: Universal doesn’t have any family-friendly “flying” attractions… yet. Also, this park does indeed have room for expansion. So we very well could see another DreamWorks property represented in the future that gets a dedicated land in the future. I’m not saying it will, I am saying it can happen.
While there’s plenty more to share, we will do so in the future. For now, this should be enough to hold you over at Thanksgiving when that uncle tries to dazzle you with his theme park knowledge. For now, what are your thoughts? Are you excited about these new lands? A new park? What Universal can do to push theme parks into the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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