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Update on the Universal Orlando/Transformers rumors

Written by
Published: June 18, 2012 at 10:00 AM
A big deal is brewing in Orlando. Here's what we know:

- Universal appears to be demolishing Soundstage 44 at Universal Studios Florida, the former home of the Xena and Murder, She Wrote attractions. Sources on the ground in Orlando report having seen height-test balloons on that site last week, rising to or above the height of the tallest New York area facades.

- Universal has filed multiple building permits for a new attraction facility in the Universal Studios Florida theme park, apparently on the Soundstage 44 site.

- Whatever this project is, it has happened *fast*, with a swift selection of contractor and a fast-track mandate from Universal.

- Halloween Horror Nights had planned to use Soundstage 44, and would have to change its designs at this late date if Soundstage 44 were unavailable, as it looks to be.

- The size of the Soundstage 44 lot in Universal Studios Florida, at the heights flown by the test balloons, appears to roughly match the dimensions of the Transformers building at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Singapore.

- Universal Creative's Thierry Coup last December in Singapore denied plans to bring Transformers to Orlando, saying that Orlando already had a motion-base ride in Spider-Man, and that Universal wanted to build different types of experiences with new rides at each resort, not duplicative ones.

- Universal just launched an high-def upgrade to the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction, using the same project system as on Transformers.

I offer the next two facts as potentially relevant context:

- Disney had a huge, huge hit with Avengers, and is accelerating plans to get attractions based on Marvel characters in its theme parks.

- Disney can't use Marvel characters inside the Walt Disney World theme parks - its most popular, flagship resort - due to Universal owning the exclusive theme park rights to the Marvel characters within several hundred miles of Central Florida.

And now, please keep your hands and arms inside the blog post at all times, and buckle your seat belts, because we're going for a ride through the Wonderful World of Speculation.

The situation with Halloween Horror Nights convinces me that something big happened here very suddenly. If Universal had had plans to tear down Soundstage 44 this summer, it never would have green-lit a HHN facility in that space. That suggests that the decision to do something else with 44 came after HHN had been given the go-ahead to use it.

I'm fully aware that theme park designers and spokespersons can be, shall we say, less than forthcoming about their theme parks' future plans. But Coup's didn't simply dodge the question about Transformers in Orlando. He offered a well-reasoned explanation why they wouldn't do that.

So I'm going to assume that, as of last December, Universal really didn't have any plans to bring Transformers to Orlando. And that it was planning to have Spider-Man be its motion-base ride in Orlando for years to come, investing in a big upgrade. And that, as of last fall, Universal didn't have any plans to tear down Soundstage 44, either.

Setting aside Transformers for a moment, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to assume that whatever Universal's planning for the 44 space, it's facing a hard deadline to get it built, one that pre-empts the need to use the space for HHN. And that that hard deadline was set recently, perhaps within the last few weeks and certainly within the last few months.

What could have happened to create this hard deadline so suddenly? That's the interesting question I want to explore.

Rereading what Coup told me from another perspective, I see a heartfelt argument for including a motion-base 3D ride at each of Universal's theme park resorts. Orlando and Japan had Spier-Man. So Singapore and Hollywood needed one, too, and got Transformers. But what if something were to happen that would force Universal to remove one of those rides? Coup just spoke of how important they were. Wouldn't Universal want to replace it?

Fans long have speculated that if Universal were to sell the Marvel theme park rights to Disney, it would simply convert Spider-Man to Transformers. But Transformers plays in a much different show building than Spider-Man. And a replacement would require an extended downtime, especially considering the need to reconstruct the show building to fit Transformers' vertical orientation. Universal wouldn't want to be without its signature ride system at its flagship resort for more than a year, possibly two, while that changeover took place.

So if Universal ever were to bring Transformers to Orlando, it wouldn't go in Spider-Man's place. It would go in someplace else at the resort. And if Transformers were to replace Spider-Man, instead of just supplementing it, Universal would want Transformers open before Spider-Man closed.

At this point, based on what I've seen from multiple sources, I believe that Transformers *is* coming to Orlando. But why the rush?

Here's where I'm much less confident, but see an explanation that makes logical sense. What if Disney, flush with cash from Avengers and desperate to bring Marvel into its Orlando theme parks, made Universal a massive offer - so large that Universal couldn't afford to refuse? Universal would want Transformers at the Universal Orlando Resort to replace Spider-Man ASAP, even if that meant blowing up existing operational plans.

Disney executives have said that they are accelerating plans to get Marvel in their theme parks. Universal is rushing now to build something that sure looks like Transformers in Orlando.

Maybe there's another explanation for Universal's haste on the Soundstage 44 project. As I said, while I believe Transformers is coming to Orlando, I'm less confident about the Disney/Marvel angle. The apparent decision to put Transformers in USF instead of IOA could suggest that Universal intends Transformers as a supplement to Spider-Man in the other park. But if that's the case, why the rush? Why not wait until November to begin construction, after HHN and the busy summer season? I don't have explanation for that. Maybe someone else will.

The confluence of events here fits together so well logically that I think it's worth bringing up for discussion, in the hope that knowledgeable sources on the ground in Orlando might see fit to show/tell/leak us some additional information that provides us a definitive explanation.

Readers' Opinions

From Sean Huckel on June 18, 2012 at 10:13 AM
As we talked about on Twitter, the reasoning is sound. I can't say this doesn't make sense.

But as I also said, this could very well be a tactic to spread out the crowds when Potter opens in the Studios.

From 65.31.2.40 on June 18, 2012 at 10:13 AM
Personally, I wonder how long it will be before Disney, flush with cash from Avengers, makes an offer large enough to make this post disappear...
From Neil Trama on June 18, 2012 at 10:19 AM
That's certainly an interesting theory and it definitely makes sense. But if Disney really is rushing to put Marvel somewhere in Walt Disney World, my question is where? I guess Hollywood Studios is the logical place, but then where in Hollywood Studios? And Disney is already sinking boatloads of money into Fantasyland with Avatar on the horizon after that. I get that Avengers was a huge success, but why rush to secure the rights now if you probably can't even build for a decade? It's not like they're capitalizing on a new hot franchise by building a new attraction in 2020.

Moreover, Marvel doesn't even fit in to Walt Disney World anyway...at least without increasing the size of Hollywood Studios by about 30% to build a new land. You can't really stick superheros into the Magic Kingdom, they don't fit into the themes of Epcot or Animal Kingdom, so DHS is the logical place to go.

I guess we'll know "for sure" if we see Disney mysteriously clearing land behind the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular sometime in the next 6 months.

From 209.213.170.4 on June 18, 2012 at 10:33 AM
What would become of IOA then? They certainly can't keep all the superhero attractions then. I saw on twitter a thought of Universal claiming the rights of DC comics but the Six Flags franchise has its hold on them. Lord of the Rings possibly?? I know its a constant speculation always turned down by many but a nerd like me can only wish
From Jorge Arnoldson on June 18, 2012 at 10:52 AM
Paramount released "The Avengers", not Disney. It was a great movie, yet I'm sure Disney won't do as good of a job as Universal does now with Marvel.
From Anon Mouse on June 18, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Things don't just change that quickly. Disney might be flush with money from Avengers and I'm sure they want an attraction at WDW, but the price they have to pay to Universal might just be too high. I would wonder if it would cost anywhere from half a billion to a billion for the rights to revert back to Disney.

There could be something else brewing. I can't speculate since we really don't know. New attractions takes time to design and build. All the money in the world can't magically create new attractions from dust.

From Jeff Elliott on June 18, 2012 at 11:02 AM
There is some problems with this logic……….Disney at the moment is interested in the characters that were just in the Avengers. Only one of which is in IOA – The Hulk. Renaming and rebranding the Hulk coaster is no big deal and could be done very quickly with little downtime, the interior queue being the hardest part to retheme to something else. For the Avengers 2 movie there are some early rumors that Spiderman will be in it. Thus this sounds almost like a confirmation that Spidey will be in the second Avengers movie and Disney wants to yank that character out of IOA as well. The X-Men characters would then be the only ones left with no tentpole attractions around them….so those could go as well.

Interestingly, what we are not hearing about is Disney starting plans of their own to find a home for the Marvel characters. The only place that makes much sense is Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The only reasonable places for the placement of a Marvel Section would be directly south of the park with a road cutting between Star Tours and the Muppets or north of the park with a path cutting between Tower of Terror and Rock n Roller Coaster. Since both of those areas are far away from guests I would have thought that we would have started hearing about construction equipment and land clearing going on.

Something interesting that I read the other day was talking about the money that Disney just recently spend on the new Cars land and how expensive it was and they made it sound like they are going sit back for a little while and collect money instead of spending more money on big rides. But with Avatar looming on the horizon and now what appears to be work quickly moving forward on getting the Marvel characters onto the Disney lot, it doesn’t make sense that Disney would claim that they are going to sit back for a little bit…..as that is the last thing that the Disneyphiles want to hear.

From 174.237.128.7 on June 18, 2012 at 11:04 AM
I think the disney theory is realistic but unlikely . I think universal creative simply has dollar signs in their eyes . They're trying to make studios as popular as ioa. I believe about halfway through potter construction , they'll close down unpopular attractions like disaster . Then when potter and transformers open, build DreamWorks land and kong. At least that's what I'd do if I was them. Anyone else agree ?
From Jason McLaughlin on June 18, 2012 at 11:05 AM
Paramount's name may be on the front of The Avengers but it's distrubuted by Disney as they bought out the distribution rights for The Avengers and Iron Man 3 from Paramount last year. Both these films are affectively Disney movies, they just have the Paramount logo as part of the deal. From Thor 2 in November 2013 all Marvel movies will have the Disney castle logo, not the Paramount mountain.
From 216.199.174.82 on June 18, 2012 at 11:25 AM
They need to build Space Fantasy here, from the Osaka park. That's a great ride!
From Dominick D on June 18, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Yep, Thor 2 will be the first Marvel movie with the Disney logo, but the first Disney Marvel movie was Avengers. I'm thinking SS44 will become Transformers due to the fact it can fit in that area. Oh and Jorge, I don't think it's wise to say Disney can't do anything better then Universal.
From Anon Mouse on June 18, 2012 at 11:42 AM
I wonder if Marvel will burn out in popularity. It only take one bad movie.
From Russell Meyer on June 18, 2012 at 12:04 PM
"Avengers" was distributed by Paramount, not Disney. However, Disney owns Marvel Studios, which produced the film. Paramount only makes money on the distribution, while Disney reaps all of the remaining profits from the film. For large movies like this, movie studios often go in together to share the costs of releasing such a large scale picture on multiple platforms (3-D, IMAX, digital, and standard), especially when the films are synchronized world-wide releases.

By owning Marvel Studios, Disney owns the intellectual property, and hence the rights to create, produce and distribute that property. Paramount's role in "Avengers" was merely providing financial backing and a conduit for Disney/Marvel to release the film to the masses. There are some movies that will be "produced" by three or even four of the "big 6" studios (Fox, Universal, Paramount, Sony/Columbia, Warner Brothers, and Disney), but ultimately the studio that owns the intellectual property gets the biggest chunk of the profits.

Disney has been pretty smart about their role so far with Marvel. They have taken a back seat (aside from some recent cheerleading about the success of "Avengers") in regards to their working relationship with Marvel. However, if Disney is looking to exploit the property, which could create a slight backlash within Marvel and some of their hard-core fans, it would indicate a change in Disney's role in owning the fledgling studio. Will Disney treat Marvel like they've handled Pixar as a pseudo-autonomous studio, or will they drive Marvel to produce content and products that may not jive with Marvel's best interests or business plan? If Disney is making a move, it could dramatically change not only US theme parks, but could trigger a dramatic change in the balance of power within Hollywood.

From Dan McNeely on June 18, 2012 at 12:05 PM
@Robert

Interesting post. I had a few thoughts and questions.

1.) If Disney did buy the rights back, do you think there's any possibility that Universal would sell them the 'Ride' included in the deal? I know they had a patent on the 3D technology in Spiderman, but I'm unsure when the patent will expire

2.) Any thoughts on other franchises to incorporate into the Spiderman ride if Universal does sell it?

3.) If they are building Transformer's in USO, I'm guessing it will open a year or two before the Potter expansion?

4.) Now having been on RSR, does it replace Transformers as your second favorite theme park ride?

IMO, I still like Transformers better. I think RSR is an incredible addition for Disney but even though the theming is better than Test Track, the ride isn't as fast or thrilling.

I know people will say Transformers is an updated Spiderman, but Spiderman was and still is one of the best and most immersive theme park attractions I've ever been on.

From N B on June 18, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I wish I would have captured a screenshot from one of the surveys I took for Universal... I got the impression Transformers was coming to Orlando, I just don't remember the exact wording.

Two days and counting....

This is just my opinion, but I think Universal is pulling out all the stops to bring the park up to IOA's attendance numbers. Transformers and Potter phase 2 would definitely do the trick.

From Rob Pastor on June 18, 2012 at 12:23 PM
I would speculate that Universal's controlling owner, Comcast, sees an excellent opportunity to greatly expand Universal Orlando's attendance & presence in the theme park industry. Comcast is probably looking at the excellent Universal financial gains of the past 24 months and is poised to seize the moment. It looks like a new hotel resort is on the horizon also. When Thierry made his comment the Comcast hierarchy wasn't yet fully entrenched. The excellent success of the two Transformers has turned it into a property too strong to not use. Not to take advantage would be poor business. Anyone who has followed Comcast from their beginnings as a fairly small corporation knows that they are a very aggressive, willing to roll the dice, corporation. In my opinion, rapid expansion decisions are coming from Comcast executives who are convinced they have a winner that was previously under utilized. It's only my opinion, but the success of the Avengers & Marvel makes it even more important for Universal/Comcast to hold onto it's rights.
From Matthew Malin on June 18, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Ok so Ive heard multiple rumors of A new attraction being placed in between MIB and the Simpson's, someone shed some light please? And also the kidzone project??? Any word?
From 68.205.244.91 on June 18, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Stranger things have happened, but if the "Transformers Replaces Spiderman" theory rings true, what then becomes of Spiderman? I love Potter, but the park would really loose a lot of ground if Spiderman was closed for a year or two for a remodel, unless they got serious about fixing some of the other islands in the park (Toon, JP).
From Anon Mouse on June 18, 2012 at 1:15 PM
I'd like to point out that Madagascar 3 is at the top of the box office. Could they be thinking of importing the Singapore ride into USO?
From Tony Webb on June 18, 2012 at 1:22 PM
i think the bottom line is they want to get something somewhat big in place before HP 2.0...something to draw crowds before 2014

the plot of land next to simpsons is huge.....so something grand could go there as well

From Dominick D on June 18, 2012 at 1:38 PM
Anon, if they were to put Madagascar in Florida they would have to do a circus afro at every corner XD
From Robert Niles on June 18, 2012 at 2:05 PM
Dan:

1) No way in hell. That's UC's baby.
2) DC? (A Warner Communications company. Gee, what else have Universal and Warner worked on lately?)
3) Yes. I'm guessing late 2013 to mid-2014, based on the speed with which they're pursuing this.
4) No

As for Madagascar, I think that would make an excellent addition on the far side of the lagoon, maybe next to MiB. But it's far too large to fit on the Soundstage 44 space, and I haven't heard any buzz on the ground in Orlando about it yet.

From Robert Niles on June 18, 2012 at 2:10 PM
Personally, I hope Universal holds on to Marvel. But if they don't, I hope that they go get DC as the replacement. From what I'm hearing about the DC/Six Flags deal, if Universal really wants DC, it can have DC, and possibly could even get it on an exclusive basis.
From Jack Curley on June 18, 2012 at 2:40 PM
@Jeff -

Spider-Man will NOT be in or anywhere near Avengers 2. Sony has the film rights to Spider-Man, and is quite intent on keeping them. That's why there's a reboot of the Spider-Man franchise coming to theaters this summer despite the old franchise being, what, 11 years old? They have to keep making Spider-Man movies to keep the rights to Spidey (as well as all of the associated characters like Mary Jane, Gwen, Norman Osborn, and Spidey's rogues gallery). Disney still would have the rights to build a Spider-Man ride at any of their parks, but Spidey isn't going to be in Avengers 2 or 3 or however high it goes.

From M. Ryan Traylor on June 18, 2012 at 2:46 PM
Universal is just trying to confuse with something big, but all they're really doing is moving "Jaws". ;D
From Json Son on June 18, 2012 at 2:46 PM
I expect Universal going to be quite on this one. Announcing Transformers this early would interfere with the YearToBeHere campaign. They just updated Spiderman so I don't think that's going anywhere. Also how does this factor in with the Jaws/HPPhase2?

Conversely, Avengers is coming to Disney Parks, this is not speculation this is fact. It's the long-awaited answer to WWoHP and it's going to happen sooner rather than later. Where's my source? Look at the numbers!!

From Anon Mouse on June 18, 2012 at 3:05 PM
I think Spiderman won't be part of Avengers. They left off Ant Man and Wasp from Avengers. What's with that?

I wonder where Avengers will go in Disneyland Resort. I can think of the area next to Carsland and behind Tower of Terror, but it is a stretch. Of course, they could put it in Tomorrowland in the Innoventions building as Stark Expo. The rumors of a reboot of Autopia can have Avengers implications for the entire area. However, Hollywood-Land (formerly Backlot) still needs to have its makeover starting with the Hyperion Theater and the empty restaurants.

It might be best to pine for the third theme park with Marvel and Star Wars (hint) as the anchors.

From Dominick D on June 18, 2012 at 3:10 PM
Remember, Bob Iger said that their extremely limited in Florida, limited in Cali, but free overseas.
From Matthew Malin on June 18, 2012 at 3:41 PM
Capital Spending is being cut by a good deal with Disney (State-Wide). WDW has become nothing but a real estate project at this point and is only there for money to be pounded in. No renovations, nothing is planned extra outside of the "Avatar" land in 2016. Disney is flopping and Universal sees it. Kudos
From 204.128.192.33 on June 18, 2012 at 3:42 PM
Russell -- not to start a scuffle here, but Avengers (real name: "Marvel's The Avengers") was distributed by Disney, not Paramount. My information comes directly from Kevin Feige (head of Marvel and Avenger's producer) and Disney Communications Department. Paramount got to maintain a "producer's credit," but that was just part of the deal when Disney bought them out. It was a pretty smart move on Paramount's part, because they made a BUCKETLOAD of cash from Avengers even though they had nothing to do with its production or distribution.

That being said, director Joss Whedon actually did try to insert an "easter egg" (secret scene) into Avengers that featured the Oscorp building that is being featured in the upcoming Spider-Man film. That would have been a nice piece of cross-polination, but the agreement came about too late to insert it into the already-created skyline of Manhattan.

One more thing: Disney is aggressively and strategically looking to reclaim Spider Man, the character. Note: *This information did not come from Feige, so I don't want to imply that it did; however, this information DID come staight from the horses mouth (imply what you want).

From 72.177.18.196 on June 18, 2012 at 3:49 PM
Universal is very unlikely to give up their rights to the Marvel characters in Orlando and any speculation that they will is really just pure nonsense.

Transformers would be a nice addition to USF. If completed in late 2013 it would keep up the hyper at Universal Orlando Resort at a time when Disney will be showcasing their new Fantasyland. I really think Comcast sees the power of the theme parks, just as the Walt Disney Company has in recent years.

Just because Disney saw success at the box-office with Avengers doesn't mean it will instantly become a theme park attraction. Disney can expedite the inclusion of Marvel characters in some of their parks by adding shows, parades, costumed characters and merchandise.

I also believe that the third theme park in Anaheim will become a reality in the next decade and Marvel could very well drive the theme.

From Matthew Malin on June 18, 2012 at 3:52 PM
Also anyone notice that E.T. is no longer listed above it's building on Google maps? May not be anything just thought that was strange
From Eric G on June 18, 2012 at 3:56 PM
Avengers is the long awaited answer to Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Please, don't make me laugh.

Avengers isn't one of the Top 100 film franchises of all-time. Harry Potter would easily be Top 5.

Matthew, Disney is investing major cash into their parks in Florida. Fantasyland expansion and renovation? That's a giant upgrade.

From Matthew Malin on June 18, 2012 at 4:05 PM
Oh for sure, but that came from a statement that one of the leaders of Disney made. After Fantasyland and Avatar are done there is nothing else nor will there be for WDW in the mix for a long time. Sorry I didn;t clarify lol
From 108.73.78.62 on June 18, 2012 at 5:24 PM
@ Eric G
"Avengers isn't one of the Top 100 film franchises of all-time. Harry Potter would easily be Top 5."

Please don't make ME laugh.

The Top 10 film franchises of all-time, according to box office gross, are:

1. Harry Potter
2. James Bond
3. Star Wars
4. Pirates of the Caribbean
5. The Avengers (Iron Man films, 2008 Hulk film, Thor films, Captain America films}
6. Shrek
7. Lord of the Rings
8. Transformers
9. Batman
10. Twilight

I think the Avengers have made their mark, don't you think.

From 124.191.153.165 on June 18, 2012 at 6:25 PM
Maybe this was the plan all along? I think it would be awesome to have HHN maze go through a recently deconstructed building. Sure it's a one year thing, but it would be interesting (as long as you could do it safely)!
From 184.1.33.219 on June 18, 2012 at 6:41 PM
I heard rumors about a Fast And Furious land coming. Could this be Marvel Super Hero land Replacement. I could see a new Dark ride that takes up Spiderman, but your in Fast Moving Cars like Test Track at Epcot. Keep the Hulk Coaster because it's still one unique Coaster Of B&M. Maybe redesign it with a Fast and Furious theme.
From 50.88.105.236 on June 18, 2012 at 8:08 PM
It's neat to see all the activity over at Universal, the construction park this year. Wish Disney would pick things up a bit in General besides the Fantasyland update. Pleasure Island is still sitting there unused nearly 4 years later, and there hasn't been any news about that (other than hyperion which seemed to dry up)
From Dominick D on June 18, 2012 at 8:14 PM
^^^That's when counting all the Bond films together. When not together, Star Wars is number 2.
From David L. on June 18, 2012 at 8:30 PM
Eric, to bolster the Anon's comment above, The Harry Potter movies have stopped. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has 8+ more films to make...and considering how well the Avengers is doing, it will likely become THE top movie franchise in the world, surpassing Harry Potter. Also, if the box office shows anything, the super hero franchise has just as much appeal to girls, young, and old as Harry Potter does. The Avengers could easily become the biggest answer to Harry Potter. However, we already have one answer(just as impressive in my opinion) under construction: Fantasyland. The theme seems just a amazing(dare I say more than Harry Potter World?) and it will add more than Harry Potter world did. Avatar, yet another answer, is on its way too.

I love Universal adding like this (and Sea World too) because it will prevent Disney from slowing down and we get the occasional great ride out of it. Bring Transformers, I'd love to ride a different take on the Spidey-type ride closer to home.

From 207.190.56.1 on June 18, 2012 at 8:34 PM
I think Nintendo would fit nicely to replace marvel, you have popular characters. Hulk could be rainbow road. Spidey as super mario, storm as perhaps a mushroom spin or pokemon, and dr doom as zelda. plus many other properties for new rides? like a toy story mania like ride with mario party?
From 173.168.9.152 on June 18, 2012 at 8:50 PM
REVENGE OF JAWS:THE RIDE!
From Robert Niles on June 18, 2012 at 9:13 PM
I don't typically approve anonymous comments in all caps, but c'mon, that's COTD material. Had to make an exception there. Well played.
From steve lee on June 18, 2012 at 9:24 PM
Here's the question that really answers it all. How much does Universal charge Disney for Marvel? The Mouse paid 4 billion for the company - what's the pricetag for the rights to the characters they bought? How much money is Disney willing to give Universal to build the land that will replace MSHI?

If any of this is panning out, it's going to get extremely interesting down in Florida over the next few years. Exciting times, people.

From Richard Faraci on June 18, 2012 at 9:33 PM
I don't see this happening, while Disney might be itching hard to get the Marvel franchise back, I don't see Universal giving it up for any reason considering that area is what kept IoA alive before potter. Losing Marvel would make IoA a one-trick pony.

I think what happened here is Comcast brass said that transformers is popular, USF has been floundering compared to IoA, and to bring transformers over to orlando. Every dollar Marvel makes for disney, is another dollar universal makes from people wanting to go to a marvel themed area.

That and I don't want this to be true at all, because spider-man is my favorite ride period.

Edit: It would also be easier to bring spider-man down for a few months to use the same track layout and alter the story for transformers slightly, than it would be to make an entire new building to house the new ride.

From Robert Niles on June 18, 2012 at 9:45 PM
Actually, I think it'd be easier to build a new building to the Transformers specs, than to recreate the all video angles, rebuild the video, and reprogram the vehicles to match a different ride building layout. (Which should tell you something about where the expense lies in theme park attractions these days!)

The only way I could see Universal Orlando making a deal with Disney over Marvel would be if Bob Iger called up Steve Burke and said "Give me a number - what would it take to get the Orlando theme park rights to Marvel?" Then Burke came up with a massive, pie-in-the-sky number just as a joke, only to have Iger respond, "Okay."

From Phil B. on June 18, 2012 at 9:50 PM
Pretty interesting turn of events. I love all the buzz when these types of rumors start flying around. I think half a billion may be enough to pry USO away from the Marvel deal. As it is now, aside from upgrading Spidey and slapping some paint on the Hulk, they're pretty much land locked and hog tied at Super Hero Island. Do you really see them investing the R&D into creating another Marvel based gate crasher at this point. Very, very unlikely. Also, if Universal has proven anything in the last few years, it's that any attraction, any theme, any franchise, any license, any section of a land or the whole entire section itself, are all fair game when it comes to tearing it down and replacing it with something new. Inevitably, Universal will part ways with the Marvel licensing rights. With Disney foaming at the mouth to fast track Avenger inspired attractions into all of their parks, and the insane success of The Avengers movie, this may be Universals best chance to get the absolute best dollar value for the rights they own. There already has to be constant chatter between Disney and Universal attorney's since day one of the Marvel purchase, about re-acquiring the theme park rights. Marvel leaving IOA will seem strange for a spell, but people will get over it. Same thing happened with Back to the Future, and now Jaws. Both Universal classics, if there is such a thing any more. I like Roberts deductions, so I'm riding with him until something solid can prove him otherwise.
From Richard Faraci on June 18, 2012 at 9:59 PM
Robert, that seems like the only thing I can think of regarding USO getting rid of Marvel; but even so, it seems so foreign that they would get rid of the only other reason people visit IoA for any amount of money.

I work Parking and Transportation at Universal, and the number two question I get (after "This is where Harry Potter is, right?") is "This is where spider-man is, right?". It seems utterly absurd to me that Universal would get rid of that attraction, when they can simply add Transformers and people will be happy; especially when they are making so many improvements and adding so many new attractions, taking away what has been their most consistently popular attraction seems idiotic.

From 75.89.239.165 on June 18, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Maybe they are building the Twilight Tunnel of Love..... or The Hunger Games Laser Tag arena.
From 184.96.148.212 on June 19, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Calling it now. The long rumored human centipede dark ride, complete with simulated stair climbs.
From 74.82.68.144 on June 19, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Okay honestly people, we are all looking FARRRR too much into this. Okay case number one: wdw hates spending money on attractions (please don't hold your breath on Avatar) its just how wdw is treated. Its a cash cow and that is all. Case number 2: Universal just spent wayyyyyyyy too much money on refoing spider man. Trust me, I REALLY think that Universal has the rights to Marval attractions for at least 50 years... End of story. And last point is: I TOTALLY agree that all Universal is doing is making the studios just as popular as IOA so they can make people spend two days with them instead of just the one day to go see harry potter. I love how when we compare Transformers to Harry Potter, we consider it a secondary ride lmbo. Please remember that transformers is indeed a E ticket attraction. I can't wait for them to build it (if that's what it is...). All I know is if walt disney was still alive today, he would like Universal Orlando a lot more that WDW. Universal lives more by his values than WDW (WDW only... Dland is a very different story ;) ). Have a magical day everyone
From Kevin C on June 19, 2012 at 1:10 AM
Watching Universal over the past couple of years has been amazing. Post-Harry Potter, they seem to be determined to challenge Disney for the top spot, and they're willing to invest the necessary capital to do so.

Logically, the best way to do this is to build their brand. Universal Studios is now synonymous with Harry Potter, so they're putting him in Hollywood and Japan. If they're willing to do that, which is a much bigger investment, it's a no-brainer to bring their other new flagship property to their main resort.

It seems they want people to get the as full a Universal experience as possible at each of their parks, but also want to keep the Florida resort as the ultimate Universal destination. It can't be the ultimate resort without Transformers.

From Bob Liebe on June 19, 2012 at 3:03 AM
@Phil
I have no idea what price would pry Marvel from Universal, but I'd think it might have to be more than half of a billion. If Universal were to make a deal I would think they would want more for a few reasons;
1.) If Universal looses Marvel they are going to have to find a replacement which might not be from a franchise that they own. For instance, if they would look into DC like Robert said, they would have to buy those rights and invest in ride re-development to convert the exsiting rides to DC. Or more expensively start from scratch and level most of the rides! Cars land itself cost $1 billion so Universal wouldn't really be coming out ahead if they only got $500 million from Disney.
2.) Universal just stuck a chunk of their own money into the Spider-Man upgrades, so I'd assume they aren't crazy about throwing that away this soon.
3.) And last but not least, any buisness/company isn't going to want to just hand over a popular franchise to their arch rival. They are going to try to exploit them and get an insane return for it and make Disney pay through the nose! A half a billion dollars would be letting it go for a discounted price. With the Avengers making money hand over fist, Universal has the bargaining chip to ask for a lot! And Disney is at a disadvantage for negotiating since they have been publicly stating how bad they want to have Marvel in their parks.

If it were me selling a hot commodity I'd get enough money for it to pay for a replacement and then some otherwise it wouldn't be worth my while. I'd imagine Universal would want the same.

I'm just hoping that whatever goes in place of Stage 44 will be a great addition and that when Universal looses the rights to Marvel, there will be a great replacement!

From Tim Odom on June 19, 2012 at 7:24 AM
I believe that Universal is unlikely to give up Marvel for anything less than a bajillion dollars, and that Disney just does not have the motivation to go after Marvel for said bajillion dollars. Economically, it just does not make sense. Why would Disney pay their chief regional competitor something akin to Scrooge McDuck's vault of gold for the right to spend money to build a set of attractions and take the risks inherent in running them? And, since theme parks are generally about selling merchandise, why would Disney pay said chief regional competitor to force them to stop selling their merchandise?

Simply put, I cannot see why Disney would pay Universal. Yes, Disney wants Marvel in their parks, but where would they fit? I cannot see how this works for Disney at all. Disney right now is having their cake and eating it too, they are reaping the tons of cash from Avengers AND from the merchandise sold at Universal. Really, when you go to Islands of Adventure, Disney loves it when you spend time in the Marvel area. That's a little slice of Disney IN Islands of Adventure.

As for what is going in this studio, my first guess would be Transformers. It makes sense. Now, I don't know what is happening (I have not been to USO in years), but it seems that news from Potter v2 has dried up. What if their plan ran into a snag, and they know they need something in USO to take some of the crowd away from IOA as soon as they can. Yes, Transformers will take time to build, but a new Harry Potter land (and connecting railroad) will take a lot more time. Maybe this is a stopgap measure. That is my own speculation.

Or it could just be a Battleship ride. I hear that movie killed it in the theaters...

From David Kirby on June 19, 2012 at 6:56 AM
At this moment, I don't think it's even in Disney's best interest to have the rights to build Marvel atractions in its US theme parks. In the US, at least on the east coast, Marvel is tied too closely to Universal in people's minds, especially considering how Hulk and Spiderman are 2 of the most popular rides at the resort. If in 2 years or so, Disney suddenly started advertising Marvel attractions in their theme parks, it would create a branding nightmare and ultimtely confuse customers.
From Russell Meyer on June 19, 2012 at 7:04 AM
I think the future of Spiderman lies with the success of the latest reboot "The Amazing Spiderman." If it's successful, I doubt anyone would be able to pry that franchise out of Sony/Columbia's hands. If it flops, I think it's anyone's property at the right price. However, I think they would probably charge Marvel/Disney a premium to buy it back, because that's what Hollywood suits do.

You might be correct annonymous, but what I have been reading about "Avengers" is that Paramount was in from the beginning with the financial backing of the picture and Disney piggybacked on their superior world-wide distribution to ensure a synchronized release, which is why the Paramount title card appears in front of the Marvel card on the film. As usual (similar to when Disney releases a film on its Touchstone label), the Disney name does not appear anywhere aside from the soundtrack and very end credits of the film. Disney does try to separate itself from its "adult" subsidiaries to avoid confusion with families that associate "Disney" with family-friendly fare.

From David L. on June 19, 2012 at 8:16 AM
I have another tidbit of news that may not be anything at all, but on Universal's website, the Monster's cafe is not listed on the park map. Now, I never have been sure of the location of soundstage 44, but I believe it's right behind the cafe. Maybe the cafe is never listed on the online park map, but the April 29-May 5 map given out at the park had the monster's cafe listed. Could the Monster's cafe also be going to help make room for Transformers?
From Sean Huckel on June 19, 2012 at 8:28 AM
Universal has been quoted as saying Monsters Cafe will not be demolished for this project.

And it doesn't need to be for Transformers.

From 68.205.244.91 on June 19, 2012 at 9:43 AM
I think you guys have this all wrong. Universal can't add much to Marvel, or take advantage of the Avengers films (or any other films right now, for that matter). MSHI is themed only on the comic representations of the Marvel universe (and late 90's-era, anyway). Even though Universal can sell toys and merch based on the movies, they can't make the Spider-Man ride look more like the movie, or make the Hulk ride's queue video use Avengers footage.

Compared to Disney, who would probably look at building lands and rides around the movies, since they have the most representation out there. So that right there could be a motivator for why Disney would want the rights.

From Eric G on June 19, 2012 at 9:50 AM
It takes more than box office grosses to make a great movie franchise. I also don't associate all of those different movies as one franchise. It may be, but I don't.

I didn't bother to watch the latest film (Avengers) - no interest. Never seen or heard of Thor. I saw the original Iron Man and I liked it, but it wasn't enough to get me to watch Iron Man 2. Wasn't Hulk (2008) a flop? I know the one several years earlier was.

From Russell Meyer on June 19, 2012 at 10:20 AM
"The Incredible Hulk" starring Edward Norton made $256 million worldwide on a $150 million budget. By no means a blockbuster, but not a "flop" in the strictest sense of the term. It grossed $55 million in its US opening weekend, which is in line with most of the other Avenger solo films aside from Iron Man.

Ang Lee's "Hulk" starring Eric Bana made $245 million worldwide on a $137 million budget. It had a $62 million opening in the US, which was pretty good, and it was lauded by critics for its unique look and comic-booky style. It just never connected with audiences because of the poorly written script.

The next "Hulk" movie that will be produced by Marvel, and will likely star Mark Ruffalo, will almost certainly be a "smash" based on the popularity and audience reaction to the character in "Avengers." You can bet another "Hulk" movie will tickle "Iron Man" success if it gets a good release slot in 2014 ("Iron Man 3" is slotted for early summer 2013)

From Mark Fairleigh on June 19, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Was reading on another site about the demolition and related permit. The site points out that all past permits issued simply for "house keeping" or HHN-related activities were permitted through Universal Studios. The intersting thing about the Bldg 44 demolition permit is that it's been issued to Universal Creative. Creative handles new rides, so Robert is definitely on the right track. Also the contractor handling the work is Hensel Phillips, a huge multi-billion dollar contractor. Given the site's limited footprint (30,000 sf compared to Cat-In-The-Hats 32,000) and the vertical, space-saving layout of Transformers...again, sounds like you're on the right trail, Robert.
From 69.108.118.3 on June 19, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Am I the only one who doesn't want anything related to the avengers at Disney theme parks? Movie was lame and it doesn't feel right in Disney parks. Ughh
From Sean Huckel on June 19, 2012 at 1:09 PM
This won't be Transformers. So time to speculate on what it will be.
From robert morris on June 19, 2012 at 1:44 PM
First I do like the Madgascar as it fits the area but would need the demo of the Monsters Cafe also, which isn't planned so therefore out.

Also good thing Universal put that one fake door in with Tony Stark's name on it for MSHI as I always understood that was part of the basis for no Iron Man ride possible for DHS.

I do still consider a theater for Wicked an option that could be open by 2013 and if facing the New York portion and not Mel's or Shreks exit, Could easily themed for Broadway and easily fit the theme.

Since while transformers would fit the area? Would the associated retail fit also?

I'm thinking MIB & Simpsons area makes more sense if the project was absolutly fast track property as no demo is needed.

But another crazy re-theme idea is Jurassic Park for LOTR/The Hobbit

River Adventure = Long Lake and T-Rex becomes the Dragon

Dicovery Center = Demo and beomes Rivendale

Tricertops Trail = New Family Ride thru the Shire

Camp Jurassic = Stays a play area and rethemed for ruins of Gondor

The Flyers = Get a second track and become the Eagles

From 64.107.38.128 on June 19, 2012 at 4:23 PM
Im Starting to feel like we are even throwing the kitchen sink in this rumor pool. One thing is a sure thing now.... because of Universal doing this with SS 44, it will be a little while before we get details about phase 2 of Harry Potter. Maybe we are getting this because for some odd reason Harry Potter part 2 was pushed back by a year or so.
From 69.141.65.207 on June 19, 2012 at 6:47 PM
Potter hasn't been pushed back. The two projects have no bearing on each other.
From 71.226.87.42 on June 19, 2012 at 9:41 PM
How about a House of Horrors...
From Sylvain Comeau on June 20, 2012 at 12:10 AM
I wouldn't mind if they brought Transformers to Orlando, but I would mind A LOT if they got rid of Spider-Man. And if Disney was responsible for that, a lot of people would be very mad at both companies for needlessly axing a great ride. By the way, Spider-Man (the character) wasn't even in The Avengers!
From Tim Odom on June 20, 2012 at 5:53 AM
A couple things on the Universal/Marvel contract:

1 - Universal owns the exclusive theme park rights, East of the Mississippi, to all of the characters they use in their second gate (ie, Islands of Adventure) AND their family. Thus, they since they have a Hulk ride, and have a costumed Captain America running about, they own the Florida theme park rights to ALL of the Avengers. And since nearly all notable Marvel characters have been a member of the Avengers, that presumably claims pretty much all characters of note.

2 - If Disney were to buy those rights back, then presumably all Marvel rides and theming in Islands of Adventure would have to go away.

So, if Disney wishes to get back the Florida theme park rights to the Avengers, that would almost certainly effect the entirety of Marvel Superhero Island. In other words, if you want to see Disney get an Avengers ride, then Spider-Man and Hulk will both need to be closed and re-themed.

From Don Neal on June 20, 2012 at 8:47 AM
Re-theming the Hulk coaster, Storm Accelerator, and Doctor Doom drop tower won't take much effort. A new sign and some fresh paint and you have an all new ride. Nothing there is heavily themed. Same goes for the Island itself. They could go with a futuristic (TF or otherwise) theme easily. Spider-man on the other hand will obviously be a real challenge. Although it could easily work as a Batman ride IMO if they were able to secure DC rights. That obviously makes the most sense from a strategy standpoint so Universal could compete directly against Disney in the Super Hero area.

As for which park Marvel fits in. I think it would fit in Tomorrowland (although I wouldn't want them to change anything) or Hollywood Studios. On the other hand, they would be a great start to a fifth gate that had more thrill rides if they were considering a more adult/teen oriented park.

From 70.119.108.185 on June 20, 2012 at 8:36 PM
AND thats why people should let Universal know what they want and dont want while you are at the park instead of brushing off the people who are asking you to do surveys. They do them for a reason you know!
From 68.7.181.69 on June 20, 2012 at 9:27 PM
universal house of horrors is coming to florida in soundstage 44, not transformers.
From Skipper Adam on June 22, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I know Robert thinks it would be too costly to change Spider to Transformers, but I think if it comes to Florida, that's where it will go. I mostly just want a ride that doesn't depend on screens, much less 3D.
From Eric G on June 23, 2012 at 3:26 PM
Why does Disney need Marvel in Florida? They don't.

Attendance at the four Disney theme parks far exceed that of Universal's parks and that's not going to change. Universal is successful in Central Florida as well, but they don't really pose a threat to Disney's dominance. It's a fact that the alternate name for Orlando is "Walt Disney World" and most tourists would say they're going to Walt Disney World, not Orlando.

Disney has plenty of creative franchises to keep their Florida parks fresh with new attractions, shows and characters for decades to come. WDI also has the talent and resources to come up with original attractions, not based on movie franchises.

It's also true that Disney benefits from Universal's inclusion of the Marvel characters at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Universal does a fine job of showcasing and promoting that creative.

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