- 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.Tweet
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
the plot of land next to simpsons is huge.....so something grand could go there as well
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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}
7. Lord of the Rings
I think the Avengers have made their mark, don't you think.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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!
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...
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.
And it doesn't need to be for Transformers.
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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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But as I also said, this could very well be a tactic to spread out the crowds when Potter opens in the Studios.