What's next for Universal's theme parks?
Theme park fans have an insatiable appetite for the next big thing. While we love going on our favorite rides and shows, we also can't wait to get our first look at the attractions that will become our new favorites. That's why we keep coming to sites like this, searching for news about what's coming next to our favorite theme parks.
While we are proud of our track record here at Theme Park Insider in breaking and confirming unannounced news about new theme park attractions, we also know that many fans won't really believe a new ride or show is coming until the park makes it official with an announcement. (FYI: Here is our 10-step process to help you better judge theme park rumors.)
Disney came through big for its fans last month at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, confirming that it will be bringing a slew of new attractions to its theme parks in Orlando, Anaheim, and elsewhere around the world. While that reveal allowed us to move many Disney projects from the "rumor" pile to "confirmed," theme park fans are a still waiting for a similar dump of new attraction confirmations from Disney's biggest rival.
Here's what we know, officially, is coming to Universal's theme parks around the world:
- A DreamWorks Animation Theater to Universal Studios Hollywood in 2018
- Fast & Furious Supercharged to Universal Studios Florida in 2018
- Aventura Hotel to Universal Orlando in 2018
- A replacement for the Dragon Challenge coaster in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade in 2019
- Super Nintendo World to Universal Studios Japan in 2020
And we know that Universal is in the process of developing:
While the Beijing park is now supposed to open in 2020, the latest from the construction site shows that Universal and its development partner have a long way to go to hit that deadline. Three years out from Shanghai Disneyland's opening date, we heard a lot more from inside Disney about mobilizing creative and planning personnel to that project than we've heard at this point from Universal with Beijing. Whatever the status of the project, Universal's hype machine has yet to fire up for it.
As for PR misfires, remember Universal's Secret Life of Pets attraction announcement? Last summer, CEO Steve Burke told Wall Street analysts that the company would build attractions based on Illumination Entertainment movie, but since then it's been the secret life of crickets. No follow-up announcements on locations or dates, and a suspicious lack of rumors about the project, too.
Universal also announced that it would bring Super Nintendo World to its parks in Orlando and Hollywood, but there's been no follow up with dates on those projects, either. Nor has Universal said what it plans to do with the 400-some acres it has bought near the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.
Universal officials over the past few years have played along with coy non-denials of suggestions that it will expand its Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands and develop new attraction based on its recently acquired DreamWorks Animation franchises. But that's all they've offered, and there's zilch serious chatter in the development community about any such projects at this point. (No one seems to be working on, or planning to work on, the much-rumored demolition of the Fear Factor theater at Universal Studios Florida, for example.) So is anything else coming to Universal?
There is some wisdom in not announcing projects too early. Universal discovered in the late 2000s that attendance tanks when fans decide to postpone their trips until the next big thing opens (for example, in that case, the original Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure in 2010). Some analysts suspect that Disney might already be seeing softening attendance as fans await the opening of the Star Wars Galaxy's Edge lands in 2019. The whole point of hype is to grow your business — not cannibalize it. So why spill before you feel it provides a business advantage to reveal your plans?
But the last thing that Universal should want is for theme park fans to ignore Universal Orlando as they start saving for Walt Disney World trips in 2019, 2020, and beyond. As theme park vacations become more expensive — and many fans need longer to save and plan for their trips — at some point, parks need to give those fans a reason to start saving... or they will lose those fans to competing destinations.
Universal has spoiled its fans (and created many new ones) by flooding its parks with new attractions over the past eight years. But that's the thing. Now, we're spoiled. We want more. We want to know, officially... what's coming next to Universal's theme parks?
Hype can backfire. A big thing about the Kong Skull Island ride is that it's good but not quite worth the five years of waiting and talk of it being the next hot new ride. Also, Universal has far less space than Disney so have to be careful using what they have to build on. Right now, they're doing well with updates but with WDW expecting a major uptick once the Star Wars and Pixar lands are complete, Universal will need to step it up.
I mean Universal does have 400+ acres for a new park(s) too. They may even be researching into getting more land. So it's not like Universal doesn't have any cards left to play.
There's nothing Universal can counter the Star Wars hype and soon the Avatar hype as the sequels are released. Best thing is Universal should take advantage of their Marvel properties, but I haven't seen any new advertisements that mentions Spider-Man so that's a lost opportunity.
Man, that "Dark Universe" is turning into a real embarrassment for Universal. They announce it with a cast photo of future installment stars, give it its own logo and theme, plans set and then the Mummy is a disaster. Good thing they didn't try to remake the "Revenge of Mummy" ride to link to that as it would be a mess. They can still find something as they have Despicable Me, Jurassic Park/World and others but could use another hit to bost park ideas.
I wonder whether Universal has taken note of all the "too many screen-based rides" discussions and is reevaluating its upcoming offerings.
"Best thing is Universal should take advantage of their Marvel properties, but I haven't seen any new advertisements that mentions Spider-Man so that's a lost opportunity."
Unversal will be OK with the fourth park on the land acquired Dec 15 on I-drive, their twin hotels on Wet n Wild will be spectacular, the addition of Nintendo to USF, the likely replacement of Toon Lagoon at IoA and the expansion of Potter at all parks will keep the momentum going.
I'm thinking Disney is in panic mode because they are scared to death about what Universal is working on. To attempt to get ahead of the game, Disney announced 5 years worth of theme park improvements. But, if you pull back from the hype just a bit, you notice that Disney is mostly making improvements on their half day parks...trying to get them up to full day parks, but since they are closing rides and attractions to put the new ones in, once the lines settle back down, I think Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom will still be half day parks.
Mike, it might be a slight overstatement to say that a movie that cost $125M to make and grossed around $400M worldwide is a "disaster." While the Mummy may have been a domestic disappointment, it was received well overseas, and Universal may try to use the IP in their parks in Asia.
". Honestly, Universal is best to see what Disney is willing to pay to get the license on the east coast back, and use that money to redo that part of IOA. Trying to leverage Spiderman might do more harm than good since that franchise is in a bit of limbo seeing as Marvel managed to wave their magic wand for Sony/Columbia for Homecoming, but the future of the web-crawler is very much in doubt."
All of this talk about Florida, but what about the West Coast? Sure, USH is riding the high of the WWoHP, but once Disneyland opends Galaxys Edge and California Adventure opens Marvel Land and Pixar Pier, not to mention the 4th hotel with the rumored Star Wars Wing, I just dont see how Universal can compete. USH still feels small, its a small park that still lacks an official Universal hotel. I think that if Universal wants to survive let alone win the battle on the West Coast, theyre gonna need something big and more to do so
Jeff, wouldn't two full day parks and a Citywalk type of entertainment area with associated on-site hotels be on the scale of $10B? That's a lot of up-front investment. I'm not sure that even "all-in" Comcast can afford to foot that bill all at once.
@Jeff - Ready Player One is a WB production, so Universal, even though they house Amblin on their Hollywood lot, would have to pony up for the IP rights to that.
They have enough acres on I-drive to open a fourth park, another CityWalk complex and several hotels and still have room for other entertainment at a later date. The land on I-drive is absolutely pivotal for the coming decade. And they may take SeaWorld's parks if they are at the right price in the future, too.
I hope they make attractions based on classic movies, James Bond, The Wizard of Oz, Star Trek, Top Gun, etc. And I think Nintendo should go into the 4th park. The 4th park could be about video games, with Sonic and Halo as 3rd party licenses to go with Nintendo as well as a pinball Ride. Nintendo in my opinion doesn't fit the Movie and TV based Studios park. You can't cram all of those properti s into one tiny space. It wouldn't be worth it even if they did. They have 400 plus acres of land they just purchased.
I heard Universal is eyeing up a deal with Hasbro to gain exclusive theme park rights. Since the Transformers Ride was a success. I think Universal could build attractions based on the G.I. Joe film series or My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
Jeff - Two parks? Does Universal have enough material/IPs for two more parks? Naturally, you are talking one new park soon with infrastructure in place for another park 10 years down the line, right?
@Jeff-- Are you implying Universal/NBC licensed themeparkin rights for "Lord of the Rings/Hobbit, Lionsgate"?
Honestly, does anyone really have any desire for a LOTR themed land at this point? Be honest with yourselves.
La, la, la ... Ha, ha ha ...
The area over by Universal is a real nightmare as far as getting around is concerned. During our recent WDW trip, we stayed at an Embassy Suites near Universal for a night (we went to SeaWorld one day), and the traffic was awful congested. It took ten minutes just to get from the highway to our hotel and it was only a couple miles away!
There creative department has been woeful these past few years with screen attraction after screen attraction.
As a massive LOTR fan, and as much as I'd like to see it happen, I just can't see the family licensing it to anyone, so I doubt that is an option. The monster reboot was a massive flop, regardless of how well it was received. It was foolish to try to reboot them as high budget action film when they should be lower budget gothic horror back to their roots. All that being said, there are things they could do that would be game changers. One is to license Game of Thrones and make that the park down the road. Certainly Jurassic Park is still a very viable option, but they would need to gut a few things like Dudley Do Right. Harry Potter is still very popular and can always be a further expansion, but not if the original actors will no longer be involved.
The truth is that Comcast's revenue from its theme parks is a small portion of their total income. Perhaps Comcast sees other areas of their company they'd rather spend their money developing rather than its theme parks.
I like the Harry Potter Lands, but I would love for them to bring new lands up to that quality over making a third land. I'm ok with them making a new coaster as that is just replacing existing rides, but I would hope they make a new land based off a new IP over a third Harry Potter land.
I would stay at a Jurassic Park (or Jurassic World) hotel if they built one. I am not a Universal fan, but I have dreamed about being able to visit Jurassic Park/World. If they built an immersive hotel that gave you the feeling of being at Jurassic Park/World as a guest, I would love it so much.
RE: Darron Holmes
I'm thinking Universal Orlando is probably waiting until closer to Walt Disney World's 50th before making any kind of big announcement. If the goal is indeed to steal thunder, they'd be best off waiting until just before Disney starts serious anniversary promotion before dropping anything game changing. That said, Universal Orlando isn't quite ready for a third park yet. They've been doing a lot of hotel projects in preparation for the future, but I don't see any serious work beginning on additional parks until after Nintendo opens (probably 2022...they don't want to go head to head with Disney). My best guess is that a big Nintendo announcement will come in 2019, then announcement of a third park will be a year or two after Nintendo opens. It doesn't really make much sense to announce something more than 2-3 years out...it only works for Disney because some things take that long to happen.
RE: AJ Hummel
As Universal expands hotel rooms, Disney expands DVC. The Coronado Springs and Riviera projects arrive around the same time as the opening of the Star Wars attractions at DHS, Guardians of the Galaxy at EPCOT and the new Main Street theatre/live show at Magic Kingdom.
The Golden Age of Universal is over (2010-2014). Now it is all Disney. How much would it cost for Comcast to listen to a serious offer from Disney to buy park the Universal Orlando site?
@TH Creative So what happened to Nintendo World? Or their HP Coaster? Or their 4th park? Those aren't going to be comparable to what disneys doing??
I think its really all in cycles. Universal is up, Universal is down. Their challenge is that they need to try and go "up" while it is Disney World's 50th. Based on WDW's 25th, this is going to be a tall order.
The thing that nobody seems to mention, or does so occasionally, is how terrible the ride reservation system and line lengths are at Disney. This, to my family, is the single factor that sets the parks apart. Prior to FP+ you could experience many more attractions per day at a Disney park than you can now. I suppose Disney has many first time visitors that never intend to step foot at Universal without a comparison and families that simply don't care about experiencing many attractions per day, but that one factor is huge. One a Thankgiving week I was able to ride Forbidden Journey six times on one day. Space Mountain once. I have always said that Disney will always be the market leader, and people will go there regardless of the conditions, but in the last 15 years, it is almost like they have stopped caring about the customer experience. This is why I am fine with the current status quo at Universal. I am afraid that with too many hotels and too many expansions, they will be in a situation where extreme overcrowding is the norm, and my family enjoys starting at Disney and finishing at Universal to have a break from the crowds.
"The announcements regarding new WDW attractions will draw more members into DVC's ranks. By offering ticket deals and other benefits, Disney will be able to keep thousands of those members on WDW property."
Tim Hillman, on the Mummy thing, it's saved from mega-flop status but reports are that Universal still stands to lose $90 million on it due to promotion and such so yeah, does still rank as a bad blow.
I know the hip thing to do is to go after the new IPs around like Nintendo, Harry Potter and Fast and the Furious but Universal has a back log of classic movies and IPs to develop from too. Disney and Universal act like no one can go back and watch old movies and/or TV shows and become fans. You could make a land based on the classic Universal monsters movies with gothic castles, moors, laboratories. Names like Dracula, Frankenstein and the wolfman are known world wide by all ages even if they never saw the movies. Heck I'm still in shock Universal hasn't made a family dark ride like Haunted Mansion using Hotel Transylvania. With today's technology, they could make an amazing Jaws ride that took up less space and be less costly than the old jaws ride. Why not develop a new Back to the Future ride that is more exciting and advanced than the old one. Maybe the teens won't come running but their parents probably will. As is said here many many times, a world class attraction or land transcends the IP. Ultimately the quality will dictate the success in the long run.
I think you've started to hit on something important Roy- the difference between making a good attraction and making one people will travel for. There's a reason Minions is probably the 2nd most marketed brand for Universal after Potter, even though the ride itself probably wouldn't make most visiters' Top 10 Universal favorites. On the opposite end, Popeyes and Dudley do Rights are probably the best raft and log flume, respectively, in Orlando, but are not even mentioned and treated like "filler" as far as marketing is concerned. You sure do need some filler and I agree that a dark ride monster house you mention would be great, but when in comes to investing $ and crucial space in a new attraction why invest in something that won't specifically bring in visitors from Day 1? Look at ET, a recognizable but old IP and a decent ride but draws zero interest on its own.
Thank you Roy D. How about a Forbidden Journey style dark ride at UO based on Delta House where you dodge kegs of beer and exploding toilets? I would so ride that.
That's a great point FloreanFortescue. Parks can't simply put up E-ticket rides every single year, not even with the seemingly bottomless resources that Disney has. It's important for parks to be balanced with top notch, must-see attractions alongside secondary attractions that are not only enjoyable, but can help mitigate crowds.
The thing people dont mention or didnt notice, Disney is not done announcing future plans. There is a Destination D event scheduled for the 35th anniversary of Epcot, which is a little over a month away. We will probably find out about a majority of the rest of the changes for Epcot at that point. We also have another D23 expo coming in 2019, if you think that Disney showed all their cards, your mistaken. They will have other plans to announce in 2 years. Universal needs to get on the ball and at least make an announcement for something soon. After next summer I see its all Disney for the next 5-6 years.
This seems pretty much like a typical TPI thread. Especially since the unprecedented announcements made at D23. The discussion about Universal is framed in hypotheticals which are juxtaposed against the actualities that are the developments at WDW. The Star Wars and Toy Story footprints are actually being developed at DHS. EPCOT is getting the outer space themed restaurant, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ratatouille and a new nighttime show. And I suspect there is more to come at EPCOT. Magic Kingdom will welcome the Tron coaster and the new live theater. Pandora is open at DAK -- and playing to stellar reviews. Disney Springs is thriving and adding Star Wars VR pay-to-plays, The Edison and the NBA Experience. Add in the two new signature resorts (Coronado Springs and Riviera), the almost complete "third venue" at ESPN (which will host everything from sports to live concerts), transportation and infrastructure improvements and the assurances that DVC membership will likely increase and continue to lock in visitors and Disney's table is set ... with, ya know, real stuff that's actually being built.
"Universal needs to get on the ball and at least make an announcement for something soon."
So... I know I'm kind of late for the party, but what I really hope for is a new gate in this 400 acres land. There's so much it could have... A Fantastic Beasts land, Nu=intendo Land, Middle-Earth land, Dreamworks stuff... What could the name of this new park be? What could its theming be like? I love speculating about that, and when talking about a new gate, there's so much burocracy and work to do, it would make sense for them to hhave remained silent about all that land.
@TH Creative, the reason why Disney seems to have more announcements/rides is because they dumped almost everything they had into one plate. Unlike Disney, Universal likes to announce things 2 years before they open, whereas Disney likes to announce it 6 years + out.
I'd love to see Middle Earth at Universal's theme parks. Visit Hobbiton to eat in The Green Dragon Inn, visit Rivendell and Minas Thirith. The possibilities are endless. There is a huge lore of spectacle for rides, objects and clothing for souvenirs and a slew of food enough to give Epcot's food court World Showcase a run for it's money.
LOL Brian Emery.
Those people suggesting a Game of Thrones IP franchise for Universal seem to me to be missing one important point. GOT is simply not theme park material. It's USP is sex and violence, albeit dressed up with dragons and politics, but sex and violence don't translate into family-friendly theme park experiences. Harry Potter was so successful precisely because it never pushed the darkness beyond what was acceptable to a family.
"DVC membership will likely increase"
TH Creative said "The discussion about Universal is framed in hypotheticals "
DBCooper said: "Disney can announce AS MANY attractions as they want, but Universal will continue to make BETTER attractions."
@ David Brown -- I don't go by TPI awards. I go by what me and my family enjoy the most. Flight of Passage is ok and adds some extra immersion elements for a screen-type ride. If we're talking about cutting edge attractions, it doesn't have the mix of real sets and screens like Forbidden Journey, or the visceral excitement of Escape from Gringotts.
DB Cooper pulls part of a quote from my post: "The discussion about Universal is framed in hypotheticals." That quote actually continues with me adding "which are juxtaposed against the actualities that are the developments at WDW."
The point of the "officially" was a way to prod Universal to formally announce a timeline beyond 2019 (through 2019 has already been formalized and announced), and initiate a discussion of what might be next. As has been noted, Universal has announced a partnership with Nintendo that will "officially" have a land in USJ opening in 2020 with a statement from UC that plans are in the works to apply the Nintendo IP in other parks as well, including Florida.
I'm not sure why Mr. Meyer has become so obsessed with me lately -- nor why he seems so angry here. But let's see if I can clarify my thoughts.
People are not obsessed with you TH. People are annoyed by you. You are this little gnat that buzzes around, never stopping the over saturated praise of Disney and discounting anything and anyone who would dare speak against them. Their grip is certainly tight on you. All anyone wants to do is swat you away but alas like a true gnat you are hard to kill.
Rather than trying to (ahem) "kill" me, why don't they just ignore me? Why don't they just stop reading and responding to my posts?
"It's actually the company's typical nomenclature for its resorts."
Ignoring TC is like ignoring a gnat, sadly, it makes neither just go away.
TH, it's a cycle. When Universal was redefining the entire industry with a succession of lands, rides and attractions Disney redefined a bracelet!
Wow ... I'm just gonna drop off man. If I am affecting someone at TPI at this level of intensity ... Well ... Just take care and best wishes.
DBCooper said: "Disney can announce AS MANY attractions as they want, but Universal will continue to make BETTER attractions."
TH. Come back! It's all about opinions. If everybody thought the same sites like this would be redundant. TPI needs you!
He'll come back after he takes his "one small step towards WDW's 50th anniversary" and returns from the loo. After all, someone's got to talk up critical theme park developments like an up-charge addition to a glorified outlet mall, extra rooms so current DVC owners can actually use the DVC points they spent tens of thousands of dollars for, high school sports venues, and an already failed restaurant concept. Nobody makes more mountains out of molehills than TH, and discussions here would be far less interesting without his special talent for Disney-spin.
Good riddance THC, you clearly set out to annoy Universal fans, your mission is blatant and negative and fairly depressing. Great site generally with lots of positive contributions from commenters.
I like you TH... Without your viewpoint, and a few others, TPI would be largely a Universal fansite. I like to get both perspectives.
I see where you're coming from James. Jimmy Fallon and Fast and Furious really don't excite me either, and the original notion of Harry Potter lands didn't necessarily excite me either in 2010. However, I think Universal is able to take moderately popular IPs and make them exciting and engaging even for those who aren't necessarily superfans or may even dislike those properties. I was far from a Harry Potter fan in 2010, and was befuddled by the 8-hour lines wrapping around IOA to experience WWoHP. I'm still not a huge HP fan (much more Star Wars and LOTR), but I enjoy being immersed in the world and appreciate the level of detail Universal brought to their creations. At some point, every attraction reaches the end of its useful life, and parks are wise to rebuild with new, fresher IPs than trying to rework an old IP into a new attraction. Obviously the Marvel attractions in IOA have special constraints, and if not for those, Universal would have done a much more dramatic makeover of Marvel Super Hero Island than simply upgrading Spiderman and re-tracking Hulk.
I agree, Russell, but when I have to make a choice between one ultra expensive vacation or the other (and as a fiscally responsible traveller I always do), I am going to choose the one that has the more compelling IPs.
I heard the Zelda "area" will have shops and a meet 'n' greet or show. No ride. But we'll see.
If you really think about it, from a rational point-of-view...
I'm more excited for Super Nintendo World than any theme park IP development ever. I can't wait to see what they do with those properties. I hope they follow the Potter blueprint and expand it to both parks.
I love how some people love to claim "rational thinking" and then do anything but. For the anonymous poster above, nothing you said is correct or rational, and using "caps" to support your position is silly. IOA and USF are full time parks loaded with "E-ticket" attractions. DHS and DAK have been half-day parks for years and even with the new additions barely come close to being full day parks even with the notorious Disney overcrowding.
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