Is Universal becoming less eclectic ?

Edited: May 23, 2023, 6:56 AM

I know this will be a contentious issue but I'm asking if a Park can ever devote too much to just a couple of themes ?.
Universal have already , imho, concentrated too much on Harry Potter and are continuing to expand that brief. So too with the Minions now expanding.
I don't dispute that they are both very popular concepts right now. I like them both in moderation but when to stop ?
I prefer a more diverse approach to the theming of attractions. A more eclectic approach where there's something different around every corner.
Is there a danger that Universal could morph into Harry Potter World at the expense of anything else ?
So should they put a cap on the number of attractions dedicated to one theme ?

Replies (34)

May 23, 2023, 9:52 AM

I mean, it doesn't really feel that way to me. Thinking about Islands of Adventure specifically, where you go from Toon Lagoon to Skull Island to Jurassic Park to Harry Potter and then out to Seuss Landing (with, perhaps, a new IP in between some day) ... it seems like a pretty diverse lineup of themes and vibes.

Regardless, I think we're about capped on Harry Potter in the two existing parks. You'll see another in Epic Universe, but that park also seems relatively well balanced — even including properties that wouldn't be at the top of my list (How to Train Your Dragon).

May 23, 2023, 11:12 AM

I also don't think we are there yet. I think there's a good balance right now at both parks and I'm a big fan of Harry Potter so really looking forward to the new land at Epic. All though I wouldn't be against either lands expending at IOA or USF I do hope they come up with something else.

I want a brand new land for IOA and not a HP expansion and I definitely don't want the theatre in USF to be replaced by another HP ride. I doubt they would do this but my #1 hope for the theatre is that they bring the Waterworld show! :)

May 23, 2023, 12:07 PM

I don't think Universal is becoming less eclectic. There is still a ton of different experiences and IP represented.

However, the move to have entire lands built around an IP could start to move things away from the variety we are used to. Rather than a broad themed area like Fantasyland or New York where multiple characters and IPs can reside we now have large swaths of the park dominated by Star Wars or Harry Potter or Minions. It seems like that has to make a park have less of the "something for everyone" appeal. I'm also interested to see what happens in 15-20 years when some of this IP starts to get stale. It won't be as simple as re-doing a single ride but now we're looking at a huge chunk of a park going down for a very expensive renovation.

Edited: May 24, 2023, 3:24 PM

@Gary, that's true. I do think some IP's have longevity (i.e Nintendo) but in Universal's case...I've always felt that many of their IP's had somewhat of a shelf life. That was just the nature of having a theme park based on movies.

There was a time when Dreamworks was the top, now Illumination has taken over. There are rumors The Simpsons could be coming to an end (before that its Back To The Future)

Universal can sometimes seem like its presenting the "flavor of the decade", but I will say they seem up to the challenge of progressing when they need to.

Edited: May 24, 2023, 5:05 PM

>> but in Universal's case...I've always felt that many of their IP's had somewhat of a shelf life.

That’s the weird thing about universal. They do have rides on IP that are either stale, or nobody ever cared about to begin with (MIB and Waterworld), yet those experiences arguably eclipse the original IP.

Im not convinced by the Simpsons rumours. I think Disney will find that IP like power rangers when they owned that IP, it doesn’t really work with who Disney is, and their presence was token at best. Makes more sense to keep universals money IMO then try to figure out how a Simpsons works in any of their parks.

May 25, 2023, 1:07 AM

I think what you're most likely feeling is the result of IP themed lands rather than IP themed attractions as was more common until about two decades ago. When entire lands are themed to IPs, it can feel like there is less variety because instead of having a couple dozen IPs you've got five or six IPs with three or four attractions each. However, in my opinion, this doesn't make a park feel any less complete or make the park feel like it offers less in terms of variety as long as the IPs are chosen appropriately. Universal does a great job with this as a wide variety of genres are represented by the IPs they've chosen, and as such you can fill a full day without feeling like you're getting the same thing over and over. Now, if a park only chose IPs from one or two genres, or one IP covered a quarter (or more) of the park's attractions, then the issue of not enough variety starts to arise.

May 25, 2023, 8:22 AM

Chad H: "They do have rides on IP that are either stale, or nobody ever cared about to begin with (MIB and Waterworld) ..."

Me: The 'Men in Black Films generated over $1.7 billion worldwide.

Why limit the question to IP? Why not also look at UO's "Big Ass Creatures Syndrome" (dragons, apes, big bugs and dinosaurs)? They're everywhere in the Orlando parks.

Edited: May 25, 2023, 10:26 AM

>>Me: The 'Men in Black Films generated over $1.7 billion worldwide.

Yes, a decade to two decades ago, putting it in the "Stale" category. MIB international was a flop. Yet the ride holds up despite the IP being stale.

May 25, 2023, 2:50 PM

I think this is one of the hidden strengths of the Universal parks: the lack of reverence for nostalgia. Certainly they'll slap old logos & aesthetics on merchandise, but apart from maybe ET, they're not afraid to demo and replace old rides just because they are "classics."

Disney on the other hand IS nostalgia. Parents want their kids to experience the exact same rides they rode as kids. Imagineers can't even tweak Small World without receiving death threats! I think sooner or later Disney will have to grapple with updating old ride systems with newer technology while maintaining the essence of what makes those rides classics. For instance the Shanghai Peter Pan's Flight could be rolled out to all the parks, provided the budget and downtime are acceptable to Disney.

Is there a risk of Universal oversaturating IP? Maybe. They lack the breadth and depth of IP Disney has internally, & licensing seems to be the way to go for now (HP, Nintendo). But if guests develop a sense of "Harry Potter fatigue" I have no doubt Universal will be willing to retheme or design something new. But that day is probably a generation away.

Edited: May 25, 2023, 4:21 PM

"It's More Than IP. It's Screens."

Edited: May 25, 2023, 5:01 PM

ChadH: Dude, you went from "... nobody ever cared about ..." to "Well yeah, they cared about them, but that was awhile ago."

I mean, come on!

May 27, 2023, 7:01 PM

Oh lord, Universal is killing it with regard to profit in the theme park arena. Interactive wand and Butterbeer revenue alone will pay for the new park. Simpsons will be gone soon, so that whole area is getting new IP.

Not sure what they are doing with Poseidon yet, but Universal doesn't skimp on anything now that they have a machine that literally prints money (HP).

MIB is still super popular, and that franchise is worth a couple billion alone. One of my favorite rides of all time.

May 28, 2023, 8:57 AM

While I can appreciate NB's optimism, I wouldn't hold my breath about new attractions suddenly blooming at both USF and IOA. Just because there's a hole doesn't mean Universal Creative will be filling it any time soon.

No new attractions have been announced for the now closed KidsZone. There has been no announcements about using the 'Fear Factor Live' (closed) space and the theater at Toon Lagoon. More recently another hole was created when they closed 'Poseidon’s Fury'.

With so many dead zones in a park whose attendance could be cannibalized by UEU, I would find it difficult to believe that Universal would let the Simpsons attractions slip away.

Of course I could be wrong.

I have no doubt that Universal will soon announce another E-Ticket attraction in at least one of the existing parks. But, as of right now, I find it hard to believe we would see it welcome its first guests before 2025.

Note to NB: Send an email to R. Niles that he can forward to me. If I get your contact info I can DM you. It would be great to meet-up face to face someday.

Edited: May 30, 2023, 7:28 AM

Nintendo, Dreamworks, Illuminations and Harry Potter will undoubtedly be the driving force of expansion at all Universal theme parks worldwide. Most if not all of USJ’s future additions will be Nintendo, Nintendo, Nintendo. In the not too distant future, expect Universal to expand its Nintendo presence at UOR with a Legends of Zelda land in place of Poseidon/Lost Continent and a TBD (closely guarded secret) Nintendo land in place of The Simpsons. Outside of Nintendo, over the next 10 years, USF will receive the bulk of new theme park additions with an expansion of Minions Land (to include Super Silly Fun Land with a couple of flat rides and a retheme of Rip Ride Rockit), the Secret Life of Pets dark ride, a Sing stage show and a redo of Fast and Furious (change into a “drifting” roller coaster like at USH) in addition to the Dreamworks land already in the construction phase.
UEU is expected to add a Creature from the Black Lagoon attraction and another HP attraction in the 3-5 years after it opens in 2025, and if all goes well a new land after 2030.
Word is all of these future expansions have been planned out with most designs already completed by UC. All that’s needed to proceed is capital, favorable conditions and the green light.

Edited: May 28, 2023, 3:19 PM

KS: "UEU is expected to add a Creature from the Black Lagoon attraction and another HP attraction in the 3-5 years after it opens in 2024 ..."

Me: On December 5th, 2022 Universal announced that Universal's Epic Universe (UEU) will open in the summer of 2025.

May 28, 2023, 10:21 PM

My bad, corrected.

Edited: May 29, 2023, 7:52 AM

@ KS: Thank you.

Now does that correction mean you will be bumping your imaginary "future expansions" that "have been planned out with most designs already completed by UC" to 2031?

May 29, 2023, 9:35 AM

Lord of The Rings should help.

May 29, 2023, 9:56 AM

@ Matt R: LOTR? Oh great. More dragons.

May 29, 2023, 9:56 AM

Just watch how it plays out TH. Universal is on the rise and its future expansions keep coming. You chose the wrong side.

May 29, 2023, 10:09 AM

@KS: So "2030", "2031"? Where did you end up landing on this?

May 29, 2023, 10:21 AM

Ah, TH is threatened by others with inside info, especially when it’s good for Universal and not Disney? Egotistical pr!ck.

May 29, 2023, 10:39 AM


May 29, 2023, 12:31 PM

While I've had no direct communication with connected insiders working with Universal Creative, I have no doubt that we will see new attractions open at both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. I couldn't begin to guess whether they will be based on some other studio's/company's intellectual property. I have no such information. I will be surprised if they do close The Simpsons' footprint before opening something else. 'Men in Black: Alien Attack' will be awfully lonely by itself in the north corner of the park.

I only hope that whatever new attraction opens it's something more exciting than 'Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon', 'Fast and Furious: Supercharged', or 'Kong Skull: Island'.

By the way, KS, you wrote: "... expect Universal to expand its Nintendo presence at USF with a Legends of Zelda land in place of Poseidon/Lost Continent ..." Just so no one is confused, Poseidon/Lost Continent is at IOA, not USF.

Just sayin'.

May 29, 2023, 6:13 PM

Corrected, again.

Hey TH, how’s that gate crasher Harmonious doing? Still packing them in? Can’t wait for the PLAY Pavilion to open up soon. How’s that coming along? I’m sure the blue sky transformation of diversity beyond BTM in MK (because Frontierland is not diverse enough) will be happening soon too. That’ll be expensive. Will Disney have enough money left after they purchase Hulu? I guess all of Disney’s tentpole summer blockbusters will help fund these projects. Oh, and all those taxes WDW pays to RCID/themselves will help too.


May 29, 2023, 7:25 PM

I'll back up Keith a bit and say that my connections at Universal have indeed hinted at similar projects in a similar timeline, so I feel confident what he's saying is likely to be the current plan. That's not to say that plans can't change (especially on projects that are still 4+ years away), but I think it's a good indicator of the general direction things are likely to head.

Unlike Disney, which tends to lay all their cards out on the table, Universal has a rule of only announcing one project at a time so visitors are less likely to postpone their visits for a future attraction. Epic Universe was a bit of an exception to that due to the scale of the project, but otherwise we'll probably see it hold. I'd expect DreamWorks to be announced this fall, then Epic Universe's full attraction lineup in late 2024, and whatever is next post-Epic (probably Zelda based on timelines I've heard) announced in 2026 or so. They've got a project at least every other year for at at least the next decade, so unless Epic bombs or Florida kills their tourism industry I think they're very much going to be the chain to watch now that all of Walt Disney World's known noteworthy projects have been completed.

Edited: May 30, 2023, 2:25 AM

@AJ: So you agree with KS that UEU will open in 2024 and that Poseidon/Lost Continent is located in USF?


Seriously though, I don't think what I have posted differentiates much from what both you and KS have offered up. I have said that I believe that there will be new major attractions added to USF and IOA by COB 2026. They have to add stuff otherwise, in 2025, UEU will draw crowds from the existing parks. This is why MIBAA was added to USF a year after IOA opened.

Beyond that, track record aside, I think there is no real indication that anything is in the works. To speculate on IP and creatures in lagoons is nothing more than a parlor game. Even YOU hedge your bet. After rushing to boldly back up KS, you turn tail and note "That's not to say that plans can't change" and then add the caveat "They've got a project at least every other year for at at least the next decade, so unless Epic bombs or Florida kills their tourism industry".

Way to take a stand, sir.

May 30, 2023, 2:44 AM

Okay, TH, provided tourism conditions in Florida do not change significantly over the next decade, here is specifically what I will stand behind...

-A DreamWorks redo of KidZone is opening next year, and it will be announced in Fall 2023 or Winter 2024.
-Epic Universe will open in summer 2025. There will not be anything noteworthy opening at either of the other parks that year.
-The first post-Epic addition of note will be a Legend of Zelda land replacing Lost Continent in either 2026 or 2027. Following that, the next major project at IOA will be a redo of Toon Lagoon, but I'm not going to put a timeline on that.
-At USF, the next three major new attractions will come in the form of replacements for Fallon, Fast & Furious, and Simpsons (not necessarily in that order). Fallon's replacement will be a clone of Secret Life of Pets timed to debut with the third film in the franchise. I won't commit to anything specific for the other two projects, but will say that the Simpsons replacement will likely be identical in both California and Florida.
-UEU has two major projects planned to open within its first decade, one of which will be an expansion to an existing land and one of which will be a fifth IP-themed land. Which specifically will be chosen depends on the relative strengths of the IPs.
-Walt Disney World's next new E-ticket level ride (aka not a retheme or show) will not be opening until 2028, and the one after that not until 2031. Any other new rides coming before 2031 will be a C-ticket or below. Not counting Epic Universe's opening day lineup, we will see five rides of D/E-ticket caliber debut across the Universal Orlando Resort by 2031 compared to WDW's two.

Edited: May 30, 2023, 5:15 AM

AJ: "... provided tourism conditions in Florida do not change significantly over the next decade, here is specifically what I will stand behind...?"

Me: "Tourism conditions"? What does that mean? Construction costs have increased dramatically. The shortage of qualified construction workers in Central Florida will likely be exacerbated by the new immigration legislation that takes effect in July. Meanwhile, further expansions at OIA (a massive project that is already taking bids) is a Davis-Bacon project meaning the workers will be paid a prevailing wage of close to $40 per hour. That's going to suck up hundreds and hundreds of workers who won't make the same dough building theme park stuff. That will drive up labor costs and, in turn, construction costs.

Are you including those considerations when you refer to "tourism conditions"?

TPI reported that Pandora cost $1.3 billion to complete, and that was seven years ago. How much does a Zelda land cost to complete in 2024? Hell, how much do you think they're dropping on UEU?

Then of course you have to hire people to operate the new attractions. UEU is going to require close to 1,000 new hires. UO just raised their hourly rate to $17. Meanwhile, down the street, shortly after UEU opens in 2026, WDW CMs will be making $20 per hour? If Universal has to bump its pay to attract workers after UEU opens, does that cost calculate into your "tourism conditions"?

Of course I don't see where you and I actually conflict on anything. New attraction at USF by 2026? Absolutely. New attraction at IOA by 2026? You betcha.

But beyond that there is nothing guaranteed. And, for the record, the same goes for Disney. "2031"? I wonder if anyone's "inside sources" will still be working in themed entertainment development in 2031 -- eight years from now.

May 30, 2023, 7:36 AM

Typical TH, it’s all about protecting his brand (Disney). When Disney is on a boom, build baby build no matter the conditions, but when Universal is on a boom, this can’t continue the sky is falling.

May 31, 2023, 12:14 PM

I love the fact that the competition between Disney and Universal drives them to improve.
I also love the fact that TH , Keith and AJ are not only well informed but demonstrate just how much they truly care.
The future of the Parks is bright because of guys like you. Thanks.

June 1, 2023, 9:35 AM

I may not comment much on the posts, but I love reading everybody's comments and posts and thoughts and opinions. Keep it up everybody! And that goes for all the topics and all the posters

June 1, 2023, 11:30 AM

Speaking for myself, I find posting content on the TPI discussion boat to be quite therapeutic. It's actually covered by my group medical. No copayment.

Edited: June 4, 2023, 4:23 PM

There’s a TPI discussion boat? A boat. Did you just get off the boat?


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