Theme Park Insider

What the heck is Universal up to??

November 27, 2017, 1:49 PM · So. My sources differ with what Robert Niles sources say.

According to my sources...Universal Studios is NOT getting Super Mario...
...or a Mario Kart ride...
...or Zelda Land...
...or a Donkey Kong land/ride...

So let's clear up what is going on...

Yes, the original design showed that the land behind the Simpson's Ride is getting the ax...that has not changed...

The ET Ride stays exactly where it is...

The Terminator Ride also stays, but is being rethemed to the Jason Bourne franchise

Fivel, Barney, and George are out and their land is getting leveled...

to become...

Pokemon Land!

So where are the rest of the Nintendo characters going???

Zelda is going to Islands of Adventure, presumably replacing Sunday Comic Land. It is still up in the air what happens to the two water rides.

Mario, Donkey Kong, and their subsequent rides that are being developed for USJ are slated for the new theme park Universal is actively designing.

As always, these plans are definitely subject to change, but as of a couple of months ago, these are the current plans.

Thoughts?

Replies (12)

November 27, 2017, 2:25 PM · It wouldn’t shock me if Universal saved Mario for the third park. There is so much material to draw from, you could do an entire park dedicated to Mario rides and attractions. Pokemon has also felt kind of it own thing outside of the Nintendo classic game worlds so putting it in the Kidszone would make sense. If they were going to put Nintendo in Islands of Adventure, I think Zelda taking over the rest of Lost Continent would themearically be better. A retheme for the Sunday comics land would probably be a better fit for Madagascar I think. Water rides are needed. Popeye could be rethemed as a raft ride with the main animal cast and Dudley’s could get a Penguins theme fairly easily.
November 27, 2017, 2:30 PM · Hmm. Not sure it makes sense to fragment the Nintendo all over the place, but those places are certainly areas that need repurposing. The Atlantis show needs to go as well (but I would rather see more Harry Potter in that area). I wonder if recent negotiations have made some of this come out as smoke and mirrors to hide a change of plans?

I will say it would be foolish to make a theme park completely devoted to Nintendo. Prior to the Switch they were in trouble with the Wii U, and it is always possible that those games could fall out of favor, but you never know.

November 27, 2017, 2:45 PM · I have been asking UO for a Jason Bourn attraction for years now.... But I want a real ride/attraction, not some Terminator live action crap....
November 27, 2017, 3:00 PM · Although I'd like to see that, I believe that Nintendo don't directly own the Pokemon rights - those are within the Pokemon Company. I'm not sure the Nintendo-Universal deal covers it.
Edited: November 27, 2017, 4:55 PM · While I have heard that Pokemon is under consideration, almost everything points to it being an anchor area for the third park. I've heard from multiple sources that contractually Mario must feature prominently in Nintendo Land, so while it's possible some plans have changed I'm pretty confident it won't be an 8 acre Pokemon paradise. The latest I've heard is the following:

-Jason Bourne is indeed under serious consideration for the Terminator replacement, but that has not been set in stone yet. This will be a 2019 attraction. Exactly what it will be is unknown.
-Nintendo at USF will include a Mushroom Kingdom area, a Mario Kart ride, and a Donkey Kong area. It will occupy the same area as the previous plans showed, but the layout will not be identical. Supposedly each Nintendo area will get two main attractions: Mario Kart in all three and a second ride unique to that park (it's supposedly some type of Donkey Kong ride in Florida). Construction on this area will begin after the holidays, with the goal of having it open in spring 2021. It will be the second of the three Nintendo Lands to open.
-A Zelda area is being developed for Islands of Adventure and will open a year or two after Nintendo Land. It's location, size, and content is unknown, but it will start construction after the Forbidden Forest ride opens. It is possible (though not definite) that the signature ride in this area may be the second ride in Nintendo Land for California, and in that case it cannot open in Florida until after it has premiered in California.
-The third park will contain two or three areas dedicated to Nintendo properties not featured in USF or IOA. Pokemon will reportedly be one of these (there are more rights issues that need to be worked out here...at least that's what I was told), and the other(s) is TBD. This park will supposedly be similar to Islands of Adventure, but with each area themed to a specific IP and built to the immersion level of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. No timeline has been finalized on the project yet, but it is "about 10 years out."
-Nintendo is being spread out in order to create smaller areas with thematic continuity rather than cramming a bunch of unrelated franchises together. The goal is to make visitors feel as if they've stepped into the world of the video game, not just create attractions based on the characters. Supposedly, Nintendo also mandated minimal screen usage, so the rides will be a combination of practical sets and AR technology.

As always, all of the above is completely unofficial, but it does sound highly plausible. From this, it also sounds like Universal is planning to go all out on Nintendo...if anything can push their numbers ahead of Disney (or at least the secondary Disney parks...they'll never surpass Magic Kingdom), this is what will do it.

November 27, 2017, 6:17 PM · While I think Pokemon would make a better replacement for Kid Zone (just based on target demos), I'm pretty sure it might be part of a separate contract. Even though Pokemon is closely associated with Nintendo (Pikachu, etc. have been in every Smash Bros. game) The Pokemon Company is only partially owned by Nintendo (30%?). Man, I'm dying to know what's going where and when we'll get it. Nintendo's popularity waxes and wanes, but I'm pretty confident it's one of the precious few IP that has strong cross-generational appeal. My kids love Mario and Pikachu and they don't even play video games. My big question is behind the aforementioned properties, which Nintendo franchise has enough clout to make a Universal attraction. I would put my money on Metroid (but wouldn't that be a bit scary for kids)?
November 27, 2017, 9:02 PM · Absolutely none of this sounds appealing at all to me. A Ninetendo area makes sense but does anyone really want two Nintendo areas in two different parks? To me that seems excessive. I mean seriously does anybody even play Zelda or Donkey Kong anymore?

And a whole Pokemon theme park?? Is Pokemon anywhere near as popular as it was 20 years ago? And it being 10 years away means it will be even less appealing. That just seems stupid to me and a huge waste of money. Star Wars and Harry Potter to me are much bigger and have more multi-generational properties and they are not even getting their own parks.

The direction UO is heading is just really unappealing to me. While I don't necessarily have a problem with making it a weeabo paradise, does it really have to have a presence in both parks AND a whole new park? That's just totally excessive and will definitely affect the cohesion of the parks.

November 27, 2017, 10:35 PM · the_man, Nobody said that Nintendo is getting a whole park. It is getting lands. And yes, Zelda has tons of staying power. Just google the number of copies that Breath of the Wild sold. More copies of the game were sold than Nintendo switch units. While I can see how you might question the continued popularity of Pokemon, the anime may have waned, but the games continue to sell like hotcakes. Even the anime continues some degree of popularity (They're at 20 movies, not counting the upcoming Detective Pikachu film being made for American audiences. So, yes, while Nintendo may not be your cup of tea, I'm confident that it definitely had plenty of continued domestic and global appeal. And, hey, if you don't like it, I'm sure we'll get plenty more Harry Potter attractions on the UO resort and the third park, with immersive lands (crammed pathways and gift shops) and amazing queues that lead to rides full of screenz. I enjoy Potter well enough, but my point is one man's treasure is another man's trash.
Edited: November 27, 2017, 10:46 PM · I don't think that there is space (on visitors agenda) for a third Universal Park. Most people come to Orlando for a period between one week and 10 days. And few people can do 9 days of park in a row.

So you have 5 to 7 days of park per vacation. If you gone to visit 3 Universal Parks you will need to skip one Disney Park. Up to now there was not a direct confrontation between the two. Universal grew its attendance over Sea World, Bush Gardens and Cape Canaveral. If any of them decided to add another park, it will be war, and the business will be hurt. They will be less profitable.

That said, if Universal decides to add another gate, it make total sense to be focused on video games.
The first park was originally based on movies, the second on written media, so the third could be videogame.

Edited: November 28, 2017, 6:30 AM · >>>I mean seriously does anybody even play Zelda...
Breath of the Wild was one of the biggest hits of the last 12 months.

To the rest of your point, a Nintendo Land itself is what doesn't make sense. The Nintendo Characters do not exist in the same universes. Putting Mario with Pikachu and Link in one place because they're all owned by the same people makes no sense, thematically.

That is the difference between a Universal style wizarding world, and a cheap-IP-Land ala Six Flags.

Edited: November 28, 2017, 9:52 AM · There's certainly nothing implausible here, but a lot of this speculation hinges on the mysterious 3rd (or 4th if you count Volcano Bay) Universal theme park. I just don't think Universal is anywhere close to being ready to develop another Orlando gate right now, and certainly the investments you're talking about to create one would represent over $3 billion on top of what they're already spending to update their existing parks and building new hotels. That's just a HUGE amount of investment that does not seem feasible in such a short timeframe. Perhaps on the back end of the 10 years mentioned above, but nothing sooner.

I really think Universal would be better served trying to consolidate the land they've acquired to create contiguous properties with the ability to better manage transportation between resorts and parks. As it stands right now, the Wet and Wild hotels are going to be the test case, and if I were managing future projects, I'd want to see some reactions and opinions after those open before developing even further away from the core of the resort. Unlike Disney, Universal doesn't have a deeply rooted transportation department. They have the water taxis and the Hogwart's Express, and currently subcontract their Cabana Bay bus/shuttle service. Going further away from the core resort will represent a decision point for Universal. Do they create their own surface transportation system or continue to subcontract buses to service the new off-site hotels? Those decisions are far more critical than what IPs are going to be in this imaginary 3rd theme park. Remember, Universal is now going after Disney, and if they want a piece of that pie, it's not just about rides and themed lands, it's about an entire experience and demonstrating that a week-long vacation to Universal is as good, if not better, than a week at Disney. That's a tough nut to crack when Disney has established such a high bar in the service department, with long-standing customer loyalty, and DVC.

November 28, 2017, 1:40 PM · Reading this is a relief for me, because all I want is another Universal Orlando park! Of course, until that happens, it'll take a while, but I'm already excited with the possibilities. Of course, none of this is confirmed and can change at any time, but I'm still excited.


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