Vote of the week: Anticipation builds at Universal Studios Florida

July 14, 2012, 8:32 AM · Construction cranes are transforming the Universal Studios Florida skyline, as the park's new attractions are beginning to take shape. The cranes went up within the last few days, and you can see photos and updates via the Orlando Sentinel and via Parkscope.

Universal Studios Florida

For those of you who haven't been following this closely, Universal closed its Jaws ride - and the surrounding Amity land - last January to make way for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley, which will feature a Gringotts-themed indoor roller coaster ride, as well as expanded Ollivander's Wand Shop and a Hogwarts Express train connecting the new Harry Potter land with the original over in Universal's Islands of Adventure. (BTW, I love how the Sentinel is calling this "The-Project-That-Must-Not-Be-Named.")

In addition, Universal's torn down the Soundstage 44, the empty building between Mel's and Twister that once housed the Murder, She Wrote and Xena attractions. That's going to be the home of the Orlando version of the Transformers 3D motion-base ride that recently debuted in Hollywood and Singapore.

Universal hasn't announced either of these developments, but we've seen the blueprints of the new Harry Potter land, and the public building permits for the Soundstage 44 replacement are consistent with the size and layout of the Transformers show building, and we've heard from at least two sources in Orlando who tells us that it's Transformers.

So I think we can move beyond speculation at the point and jump straight to anticipation. Let's make that our vote of the week. Which new attraction are you looking forward to most: Harry Potter, or Transformers? (And I'll throw in a couple of other options to cover readers who want another choice.)

Harry Potter. Transformers. Revenge of the Mummy. Despicable Me. The Simpsons Ride. Men in Black. That's a pretty formidable A-list of rides for a theme park, don't ya think? Tell us in the comments what you think about all the work going on at Universal Studios Florida.

Replies (40)

July 14, 2012 at 8:39 AM · in five years universal studios may very well be the best park in orlando imo...huge expansion is coming to universal
July 14, 2012 at 8:42 AM · Harry Potter expansion. I am looking forward the seeing the Gringotts coaster and Hogwarts Express in particular. Transformers might make a good addition, but I'm not as excited because we already know what the ride entails.
July 14, 2012 at 8:42 AM · I'm glad no one has voted for the last option yet. That will change soon I'm sure. Looking forward to Potter 2.0 the most, although Transformers comes in at a really close second. I am dying to see how they dress up the building for Transformers since its right smack dab in the middle of the park and will be visible from all sides.
July 14, 2012 at 8:45 AM · Brian,

I couldn't help myself. I just had to put that bait on the line, to see if anyone bit. ;^)

July 14, 2012 at 8:47 AM · Well, someone voted for it. SMH

Anyway, Diagon Alley probably wins out by a hair over Transformers since it's a whole land. But both will be amazing additions to UOR/USF.

And truly, this is just the beginning of the USF changes. This is going to be a brand new park in 5 years.

July 14, 2012 at 8:56 AM · Robert, it's really disingenuous of you to post polls like this to continue misleading people. Certainly you know as well as I do that the Murder She Wrote building was torn down for a new Murder, She Wrote attraction that's going to tie in with the new movie starring Channing Tatum.
July 14, 2012 at 9:25 AM · Universal, under it's new parent company Comcast, is certainly being aggressive concerning the Universal theme park experience. We spent 12 days of our spring vacation on site there this year and enjoyed every moment. There is so much to do at the hotel resorts, the theme parks and citiwalk. Everything is close and the vacation experience is relaxing. And if it's Gringotts & Transformers, WOW. I know that we are in the tourist minority, but we now spend equal time at Universal & Disney. Universal Resort is excellent for adults, especially with hotel express. We're excited about the future expansions and hope Disney will wake up from their big sleep to match Universal's innovations and new attractions. Competition is what makes capitalism work well. Now that Disney fixed their white elephant park, perhaps they will spend some money for new E ticket Orlando attractions.We are looking forward to the Disney Fantasyland expansion. It will look great, but the attractions are certainly not E ticket level.
July 14, 2012 at 9:34 AM · Looking forward to seeing Transformers more than HP.

IMO Potter should stay over at IOA and take up the remaining areas of the Lost Continent but I can see the reasons why Universal are spreading it over two parks as it'll boost attendance in both areas.

July 14, 2012 at 10:24 AM · you could also argue that Universal studios will have 7 legit e ticket attractions..not many parks in the world can make that claim
July 14, 2012 at 10:40 AM · OK, steve made me laugh.
July 14, 2012 at 11:05 AM · Diagon Alley is a whole new land, so of course I voted for it. While Transformers looks great, I hate the Micheal Bay movies.
July 14, 2012 at 11:25 AM · @robert, so is that a TPI confirmation that its Transformers and not a 365 haunted house walk thru?

To balance out the park "transforming" T2 into Wicked would help increase the family aspect along with the already in place Superstar Parade.

Also include the 100 years Night Show as another great addition

July 14, 2012 at 11:25 AM · Well I'm going to CA next year and will ride Transformers at USH. So give me more Potter.
July 14, 2012 at 11:59 AM · While when this is done with IOA having 7.5 legit E-tickets and USF having after expansion having 6.5 legit E-tickets (split Hogsmeade Express between each park)

The greater challenge is creating depth for these parks as to limit guest frustration with .

Ideas for each park

IOA: Finish Seuss Landing, as discussed earlier movie franchises are the new catalyst for theme park expansion and Dr. Seuss properties are close to 800 million domestic (with alot of reduced kids tickets in that #)and with exception to Marvel maybe the deepest remaining catalog of material.

So Lorax & Horton dark rides and create a seasonal stage show: Grinch=Winter, Sneetches=Summer, Lorax=Spring, & Mulberry Street=Fall

Port of Entry:

Create a stage overlooking and seating along the lagoon with regular shows featuring: Sword Swallowers, Jugglers and such

Toon Lagoon: Demolish ampitheater and add a family Scooby Doo haunted house ride (shooting element option)

Build a gangplank over Popeye and Bluto into the Lagoon from My Ship the Olive and expand the Playground

Jurassic Park: Move Dino's from Triceratops Trail to the walking paths for old boat launch and add other varieties and make it a walking trail.

Triceratops Trail becomes the expansion area for Camp Jurassic and two additional tracks for The Flyers circling it therefore increasing capacity and allowing more guest to enjoy its unique expansion, also add a kiddie version water slide "junior river adventure" and of course more ropes and caves

Paint the river adventure's building with the InGen logo and "Don't Spare any Expense" they wouldn't, why should one of the most visible builings from I-4 be that vanilla

Day Time Water Show on the Lagoon: All those walkways along the lagoon, need to be used and since a parade is not realistic a daytime water show is the best option for a nice distraction


July 14, 2012 at 11:49 AM · USF:

If Transformers is in fact going to Soundstage 44, then Dreamworks Land with entrance between Simpsons and MIB with Curious George as a casuality.

Madgascar & How to train a Dragon rides & room for a future third and Kung Fu Panda demonstration stage

T2 = Wicked

Fear Factor = Bourne Stunt Show (pending Bourne Legacy's success)

July 14, 2012 at 11:57 AM · For Universal Resort:

Build Water Park on old Delta Resort property across Kirkman

Since all hotels in immediate Kirkman area(Doubletree, both Holiday Inns, Hyatt Place, Fairfield, Laquinta & Best Western are all partner hotels) re-tier them above current partners and invest in upgrading the landscape and create a "Downtown Universal" district hotels

for a minimal investment you've added 25% to your perceived scope to your guest and also added over 1500 rooms to your direct reservation system.

Also a Water Park that's visible from both the Florida Turnpike and I-4 would be its own advertising


July 14, 2012 at 12:57 PM · I'm thankful, as an annual pass holder, that the park keeps pouring money back into itself. In a good year, I'll get down to Orlando 3 or 4 times, and now there's always something either opening or being built.

A year ago, USF felt like a dying park next to IOA. Now we have Despicable: Me, which is 300x better than Jimmy Neutron; a cool parade and an amazing night show; and Transformers and Diagon Alley on the way.

How long until it's IOA that needs to build to keep up? Will Universal even allow that to happen?

LOVE the ideas of making the Lost Continent a place to revive Kong,a Lorax ride in Seuss Landing, and a Scooby Doo ride in Toon Lagoon.

I strongly disagree that Toon Lagoon is the weakest area of the park. Dudley Do-Right and Popeye are two of the best rides in Orlando. Popeye especially puts all other raft rides to shame. But a Scooby Doo dark ride would give the area something enjoyable even on a cold/rainy day.

July 14, 2012 at 2:26 PM · @ Anyone who asked-Transformers is not confirmed. In fact, Screamscape (and I know it's not the most reliable source), reported this week that all signs point to something NOT transformers related.
July 14, 2012 at 2:30 PM · That all sounds great I really really want to visit but am waiting for the WWOHP phase 2 to be opened as i'd be gutted to miss it and it's a once in a life time trip.

well stay at the new resort as I'm sure it will be cheaper i think its good that its not got fast pass as 1800 more fast passes can't be good for the concept.

My thoughts are that Marvel Island will see only Hulk ride change it makes sense for Universal to sell back the marvel rights before there contract runs out as disney may not renew and a retheme with no money(from not selling) is going to cost a fortune. HOWEVER at the present time the only films Disney has rights/costs/profits to are the current marvel studio ones XMen/spiderman/F4/Daredevil are all out there and it makes more sense for Disney to license those to Universal thus making money for no outlay.

SO what would hulk become I think a Green Goblin ride.

Possibly a Lorax ride or some thing kiddie friendly between Sues land and lost continent

2014 is clearly a big year as the new fantasyland will be finished and Universal need to combat that

July 14, 2012 at 2:34 PM · I'm not really a fan of the Harry Potter books or movies, but I'm a huge fan of WWOHP. Looking forward to another land so beautifully themed.
July 14, 2012 at 2:45 PM · @ everyone thinking Universal Hotel guest get "free" express passes

If you are paying $300 a night for a room the passes are not free they are included in the room rate

So if your at the value resort: Pay $100 plus however many passes you need in the hotel lobby instead of at the park entrance and you can think they are "free" too

July 14, 2012 at 3:49 PM · I have been going to Universal since I was there for the first time in 2007, and I love it, IOA is the best theme park. And I love it so much that I have a annual pass, and I live in DENMARK. :-)

I have also been to Disneyworld/land but I get really angry when I get there, why should I stay in line for so lang for rides that is not as good as Universal. That is one of Disneys biggest problem, old rides and to long lines. When Harry Potter opened I was in line for 2 hours 2 weeks after the opening day, and 2 months later for about 1 hour and then the last time I was there for 20 min. Now that is how it should be. :-)

I am defiantly looking forward to Harry Potter, part 2. I fallowed the construction of IOAs Harry Potter, and it will be good to see the new construction.

I am going this september and again in April next year.

And last, has anyone considering that the "transformer" ride could be built like transformer, but with another theme?

July 14, 2012 at 4:40 PM · Too bad there's not an all of the above option. But, seeing as how many people are only visiting IOA, clogging up the lines to some of my favorite rides, I went with Potter. Diagon Alley can not come soon enough.
July 14, 2012 at 6:45 PM · I don't understand why so much secrecy from Universal. Disney broke the news of Avatar Land before they knew what the rides will be like.

Bringing Transformers and building Diagon Alley is a no-brainer as would give a boost to the studios.

July 14, 2012 at 7:22 PM · I chose to hold out hope for something different. I'd say Universal should not copy an attraction that another universal park already has. They already did that with T2, Revenge of the Mummy, Shrek 4D and the Simpsons. Let USH have something that USF doesn't need to have because USF already has rides that USH doesn't have.....i.e. every ride at IOA(minus Jurassic Park) as well as Twister, Disaster, Men In Black, HRRR, E.T., get the point? So what if USH has Transformers, USF has the exact same ride at IOA, just themed to Spider-Man(Is Spidey not good enough?). As for HP expansion, that will be a nice addition, but I feel the excitement will be short lived as the area's hype will not last too long after its done and opened. Now I'm more excited for the expansion of Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom to be completed because it will be a few attractions themed to "DIFFERENT" characters.....not just one(Yes, I'm referring to Harry Potter). So again, I'm holding out hope that Universal Orlando will come up with something more original than a simple copy of an already existing attraction.
July 14, 2012 at 8:23 PM · I'll be experiencing Transformers at Universal Hollywood in October, so I'm most looking forward to the Potter expansion.
July 14, 2012 at 10:35 PM · I love the wizarding world but I'm starting to hate Harry potter with all my heart for replacing jaws. So I'm going with transformers . Perfect universal : DreamWorks land replaces woodpecker , fear factor becomes glee show, mummy becomes kong 360, titanic takes over twister, and e.t is relocated at disaster
July 15, 2012 at 12:39 AM · Hahahaha wow I love the last option because there are actually quite a few people out there who ONLY love Disney and that's it. I'm thinking those are the same people who are afraid of tower of terror and think that WDW doesn't need anything new. So signs are pointing that Avatarland is only getting one E Ticket attraction. REALLY disney.... I tell ya, I think WDW is just there to make the money for the expansions in the other parks. I can't wait for harry potter, but I know studio 44's replacment will probably open first so I'm pretty excited for that one right now. All of this plus a new hotel at the same time. Damn!!! Universal is going for the throat of WDW right now. I love it
July 15, 2012 at 7:33 AM · I know the question specified "most", however I'm equally looking forward to both the Transformer and Gringotts & Hogwarts Express. Universal has done an outstanding job with regards to new attractions and has set the standard.
July 15, 2012 at 8:07 AM · I went with harry potter 2 cause is a new land but transformers comes in a close second
July 15, 2012 at 8:13 PM · I just hope that the Transformers ride at USO is different. If it were an identical copy, I'd be very disappointed. I'm cool with similar/same rides at parks around the world, but I like a little diversity between them.
July 16, 2012 at 9:07 AM · If Universal Florida wants to compete with Disney World, they should build the longer version of "Pirates of the Caribbean"
July 16, 2012 at 10:02 AM · Ya to this this day nothing has been built in a theme park that rivals the original pirates of the Caribbean. This is a 15 minute ride with spectacular detail, story, and detail put in every scene. And it had one of the greatest openings I've ever seen on a ride. The pitch black tunnel with the talking skull before the first drop is pure genius. Its sad cause this ride was made way back in 67 and you'd think they would have equalled it by now. But its cool too because it shows grandeur walt Disney was aspiring for.
I definitely see that universal as of presently is building better attractions then Disney at least in the US. Transformers is an excellent ride and would be a huge additition to any park. But Disney's lull is mostly because they're pouring so much resources into Asia right now. Its simple if you want more from them don't visit their park as often. Your dollar is your vote. Look at CA adventure. They got the point real quick and built great new attractions there.
July 16, 2012 at 10:34 AM · I am a avid visitor to Florida and have been returning for the last 20 years and have seen the parks through the eyes of a twenties something to 40's something with 2 children in tow. The recent 5 years have without doubt been the best with new and exiting rides and experiences hitting the parks. I am certainly not one of those people that sits in a "Park" camp and have most often broken the bank and credit card to try and expereince all the Florda parks have to offer. So the universal news is one of great interest, normally we only assign 2 days to universal. I do hope that the current expansion does not mean that universal forget about some of the basics. What I mean by that is compared to Disney Universal does tend too look tired in places especially in IOW which I feel is a bit lost and lacking in direction. Juraasic park looks very run down. Running a theme park is very expensive and in the quest for alway trying to get the next big thing its important to look at a ride or attraction that will stand the test of time. In my opinion I have always felt that the orginal Universal Studios park is far superior to IOW, IOW feels like any generic theme park a bit soul less were as Univeral Studios still has that magic of being in the movies. I am a huge movie fan so riding a movie is the nearest I am ever going to get to being in one. So back to my point if Universal is too attract more visitors and look at grabbing more holiday time it needs to make sure it really pulls us into the movie world. Im not a big harry potter fan never read any of the books or seen a movie but I must admit the depth of detail in the harry potter land is amazing. So heres the point of my comment, I found the ride itself quite forgettable for all the hype it was the pre-ride that was them most memorable if Universal are to get it right it needs to make sure it does not cut corners, having a big headline ride is great but there are many theme parks but if you want to be the best its just about the white knuckle, I certainly think its an interesting and exciting time for park goers as the choice and quality is improving, like i said im not a die hard disney fan as we prefer Aquatica over any of the disney parks. Universal has all the potential of being alot better just hope it doesnt get hung up on trying to compete with disney. Its not disney or six flags, it never will be but it can be something different a amazing place to allow yourself to ride the movies. It needs rides that you will still want to ride 10 years later not just hope that they will repalce one with something bigger and better.
July 16, 2012 at 10:49 AM · ^ LOL
July 16, 2012 at 11:19 AM · My hope is they come up with new ideas. Besides Harry Potter, they need something else in the fantasy realm. I can think of the Hobbits and Lord of the Rings.

So far, I'm sorely disappointed with how Universal is handling its animation properties. There is no coherent way they are depicting their various assets like Shrek, Madagascar, and Despicable Me. Unlike Disney with a common land or a common theme, their properties are hit or misses and mostly 3D presentations. They have a temporary feel to them unlike Disney, which is timeless.

Oh, Dreamworks is getting into the theme park business. You might want to have an article about this. Perhaps Dreamworks can be Universal Orlando's third park. Just a thought.

July 16, 2012 at 6:26 PM · I voted for Transformers just because I'm a huge scaredy cat when it comes to roller coasters, but I know I'll make an exception to ride the Gringott's coaster just as I do for Revenge of the Mummy! But Potter 2.0 is a close 2nd. I'm glad to see Universal is putting the pedal to the medal and building new and creative attractions at it's flag-ship resort. I know it's sad to see old attractions go e.g. Jaws, Kongfrontation, Back to the Future, but without the room to expand, the older attractions get destroyed to make way for new ones. IMO as long as the new ride is close in enjoyment level to the old one, I'm okay with it. It still doesn't make it easy to see a classic go, but new fun experiences can help ease the pain.
I can't wait until all of this new stuff opens up in the next few years!
July 16, 2012 at 11:26 PM · I love the idea of more Potter, largely because the biggest issue, while being the source of a ton of its charm, is how small the original land at IOA is. Having more room for more people might mean I'll actually get to shop next time I go.
July 17, 2012 at 9:59 AM · for 'lack of a better option" i choose the disney fan one. while i still love Universal(although Disney is still better on my list), i dont like any of these new projects. i loved WWOHP, but I think replacing Jaws for potter is becoming overkill, and quite honestly, I HATE the transformer moviesd. If Universal was getting a new Kongfrontation or something different and unique, i'd prob be on the first flight down to Orlando
July 17, 2012 at 10:44 AM · I ABSOLUTLY can not wait for these to open!! I usually go back and forth between WDW and Unversal season passes, but It looks like Universal will be the place to be for the next few years! And as to the FOTL passes not being free with the Universal Hotels, well of course it is not. Pay $300. and you get 2 days FOTL passes for 2 people worth approx. $300. So you get to stay in a 4 star Lowes Hotel for minimal. It works out.

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