Update on the Universal Orlando/Transformers rumors
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.
As we talked about on Twitter, the reasoning is sound. I can't say this doesn't make sense.
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...
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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 ?
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.
They need to build Space Fantasy here, from the Osaka park. That's a great ride!
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.
I wonder if Marvel will burn out in popularity. It only take one bad movie.
"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.
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.
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.
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?
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).
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?
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
Anon, if they were to put Madagascar in Florida they would have to do a circus afro at every corner XD
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.
Universal is just trying to confuse with something big, but all they're really doing is moving "Jaws". ;D
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?
I think Spiderman won't be part of Avengers. They left off Ant Man and Wasp from Avengers. What's with that?
Remember, Bob Iger said that their extremely limited in Florida, limited in Cali, but free overseas.
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
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.
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.
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
Avengers is the long awaited answer to Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Please, don't make me laugh.
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
@ Eric G
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)!
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.
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)
^^^That's when counting all the Bond films together. When not together, Star Wars is number 2.
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 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?
REVENGE OF JAWS:THE RIDE!
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.
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?
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.
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!)
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.
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.
Maybe they are building the Twilight Tunnel of Love..... or The Hunger Games Laser Tag arena.
Calling it now. The long rumored human centipede dark ride, complete with simulated stair climbs.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
Universal has been quoted as saying Monsters Cafe will not be demolished for this project.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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
This won't be Transformers. So time to speculate on what it will be.
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.
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.
Potter hasn't been pushed back. The two projects have no bearing on each other.
How about a House of Horrors...
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!
A couple things on the Universal/Marvel contract:
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.
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!
universal house of horrors is coming to florida in soundstage 44, not transformers.
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.
Why does Disney need Marvel in Florida? They don't.
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