Let's decode the clues Universal has provided and combine that with what we already know about Universal's plans. Here is what the resort said it will be announcing this year:
- The previously-announced ride replacing Dragon Challenge in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade
- An additional projection mapping experience at Hogwarts castle
- Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular being replaced
- Something new going in where Terminator 2: 3D was
- A new venue coming to Universal CityWalk where Element was
- Our expanding hotel collection
- The continued global expansion of our partnership with Nintendo. Our sister park in Japan has already broken ground on Super Mario World; I’m sure you can’t wait to hear what’s next.
Of those teases, only the announcement of an additional projection show on Hogwarts Castle is new. But it doesn't take much imagination to speculate that Islands of Adventure will get a version of the Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle show that Universal Studios Hollywood ran last summer. Now that Orlando has installed the mapping projectors that Hollywood already had, it can run as many different shows as Universal Creative cares to program. Hollywood and Japan (which had the public projection mapping shows on Hogwarts first) already have run summer shows, so it makes sense for Orlando to get one, too.
Universal previously said that the Dragon Challenge replacement would be a "coaster experience", but nothing substantial has leaked beyond that. Everyone seems to think that the setting of the new ride will be the Forbidden Forest, so let's spitball a couple of ideas: How about a terrain coaster themed to Aragog and the spiders? Or a ride with the centaur herd? We will find out more this year. Whatever it is, we know that the new ride will open in 2019.
The T2 replacement is supposed to be a live-action show based on a "high energy" Universal franchise, which should have ruled out the baseless online speculation about a James Bond show in that space. (Bond is a Sony franchise now.) "Live-action" and the reference to "Universal" seem to rule out any of the Illumination franchises, such as Sing and Secret Life of Pets (though the whole Louis C.K. thing probably has buried that franchise for now.) So what about Jason Bourne? Pitch Perfect? Or The Voice?
Universal's already spilled a lot about the new budget-priced hotels it will be building on the old Wet n' Wild site, and perhaps we just will be getting the names and opening dates for those. But at some point, Insiders suspect Universal will make a new play for the ultra-luxury hotel market, too.
Finally, the Nintendo tease suggests that this will be the year that Universal Orlando officially announces the development of its version of Super Nintendo World. Universal has said that it will build Nintendo attractions in Orlando and Hollywood as well as in Japan, but hasn't yet provided any sites, dates, or details for those projects as it has for the Japan land. But we know from public documents filed by Universal that it plans to build Orlando's Nintendo land on the current site of the Woody Woodpecker KidZone in Universal Studios Florida. Given a three-year development, perhaps this means a 2021 open for that land?
Those are our conclusions about what's next at the Universal Orlando Resort. What would you like to see the resort announce this year?
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