What's next for Universal's theme parks?

August 21, 2017, 11:41 AM · 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:

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?

Replies (76)

August 21, 2017 at 12:00 PM · 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.

And poor Sea World once again finds itself crushed by the two big juggernauts.

August 21, 2017 at 12:03 PM · 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.
August 21, 2017 at 12:16 PM · 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.

Universal lacks good franchises. The Fast and Furious is as good as any Disney property, but Monsters fell flat when The Mummy tanked. The other franchises are mostly horror movies. Whatever happened to Steven Spielberg's franchises? Faded away. Didn't age well. Only Jurassic Park has some life. E.T. is barely hanging on in Orlando.

Universal should either merge with Warner Bros or just focus on family friendly franchises to win the theme park battle.

August 21, 2017 at 12:29 PM · 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.
August 21, 2017 at 12:41 PM · I wonder whether Universal has taken note of all the "too many screen-based rides" discussions and is reevaluating its upcoming offerings.
August 21, 2017 at 12:52 PM ·
I heard Universal will be teaming up Game of Thrones to create a world so immersive, Disney will have to close their parks due to lack of interest… (OK, I made that up.)

August 21, 2017 at 12:59 PM · "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."

They can't. While they hold the theme park rights, it's a very slippery slope with Universal and their Marvel license. 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.

Jurassic Park has a lot of life (Jurassic World is the #4 worldwide grossing movie of ALL TIME behind Avatar, Titanic, and Force Awakens) with another sequel due next summer (Fallen Kingdom).

Universal has appeared to have made some huge missteps in trying to reboot their Classic Monsters franchises as Tom Cruise's Mummy was one of the biggest disappointments of this year, causing ripples through all the parallel productions in their "Dark Universe" plan.

I think the future lies with their Nintendo and Harry Potter Licenses, but I feel that they've provided enough of a timeline of what's to come to keep me enthusiastic to make return visits. They have firm plans for the next 2 years, which is all Disney has really revealed, so expecting Universal to make any more detailed announcements for 2020 and beyond would be premature. I'm holding out hope that the 2020-21 announcement will be Nintendo, and that they're deliberately holding that development close to the vest because they're still working on the ride technologies to pull off a super-ambitious land.

August 21, 2017 at 1:00 PM · 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.
August 21, 2017 at 1:00 PM · 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.

This leads me back to the question of what is Universal up to. Since Universal purchased there new plot of land, things have been very quiet with the exception of extremely obvious things out of market and those items that were already ready to start construction on.

So why the silence?

Because they are planning on building not one but two parks...and that takes a ton of effort just getting the infrastructure in place. And Universal is not going to make the same errors of Disney in the past and will actually be developing 2 full day parks, instead of these half parks that pretend like we don't notice the dragon on the logo but can't find a dragon in the park.

So, again, why the silence?

It is because Universal doesn't want anyone to know what is going on until they are ready to drop the first shovels into the ground and get started. Universal's greatest fear is that Disney is going to turn around and steal their thunder by announcing a fifth park in Florida...built along the lines of Islands of Adventures and aiming at the tween/adult market. Universal hopes to be far enough down the path that they don't have to share the spotlight with Disney and at the same time discourage Disney from opening that additional park if it won't be ready until long after Universal's two new parks have opened and established themselves.

So this offers up the question of what do think we know about the new Universal parks...

Dreamworks, Lord of the Rings/Hobbit, LionsGate, Potter/Fantastic Beasts, Nintendo/Pokemon, and they could cheaply bring back Back to the Future and Ghostbusters...my guess would also be that they are eagerly awaiting what Ready Player One looks like, because quite a few of the properties used in that movie would be cheap to license and make a cohesive land. It would also appear that Start Trek, DC, TMNT, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wizard of Oz, and James Bond could be licensed for a song. Knowing Universal, they are also prone to taking poor movies and making great attraction out of them...

August 21, 2017 at 1:06 PM · 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.
August 21, 2017 at 1:12 PM · ". 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."

I would think otherwise. MSHI is a big chunk of IOA and selling the rights off to Disney would have to cost them a ton of $$$$$. I think Universal would benefit more from making more attractions...Like an Iron Man ride that has been spreading around for a while.

August 21, 2017 at 1:17 PM · 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
August 21, 2017 at 1:20 PM · 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.
August 21, 2017 at 1:30 PM · @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.

I do like where you're going with trying to explain the silence (my guess is that they still sting after getting upstaged by Eisner with MGM), but what you're suggesting is a level of investment that couldn'y be flying under the radar all this time. I do think the LOTR franchise is ripe for the picking, and perhaps once that's in place, something big might happen (HP flew under the radar for quite a while before Universal dropped the bombshell on the HP agreement). However, adding two full-day theme parks at the drop of a hat seems not only infeasible, but counter-productive.

August 21, 2017 at 1:41 PM · 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.

This may then stir Disney into a fifth park...??

August 21, 2017 at 1:58 PM · 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 also think they should do a quality refurb for Men in Black and add Star Trek in between simpsons. Keep Kid Zone as the best theme parks are the most well balanced. :)
August 21, 2017 at 2:13 PM · 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.
August 21, 2017 at 2:41 PM · 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?
August 21, 2017 at 2:45 PM · @Jeff-- Are you implying Universal/NBC licensed themeparkin rights for "Lord of the Rings/Hobbit, Lionsgate"?

At this time "Lord of the Rings/Hobbit" theme park rights are not licensed.

At this time "Lionsgate" has announced a license/partnership for Lionsgate Movie World, at South Korea's Jeju Shinhwa World. This compliments the Motiongate Dubai theme park license.

The DC domestic theme park rights are licensed to Six Flags. A WB Movie World exists, via license, in Queensland, Australia.

Wizard of OZ: Walt Disney, in 1954, bought 11 of the "Oz" novels and in 1958 the 12th, but the MGM version is most remembered despite Walt Disney Pictures repeated efforts.

James Bond theme park rights are also licensed internationally.

August 21, 2017 at 5:01 PM · Honestly, does anyone really have any desire for a LOTR themed land at this point? Be honest with yourselves.
August 21, 2017 at 5:12 PM · La, la, la ... Ha, ha ha ...
August 21, 2017 at 6:40 PM · 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!

One of the nice things about Universal's Orlando setup is that it is more like the Disneyland Resort with everything in walking distance - very convenient and simple for the onsite vacationer or even for the park-to-park visitor who is just staying for a day. If they try to add two more parks down the road, and a slew of hotels in the surrounding area, without adding the transportation infrastructure and "private roads" like Disney World already has in place.... I gotta be honest, even if Universal did remove the $55 upcharge for the Hogwart's Train, I still wouldn't visit. It would be a nightmare.

August 21, 2017 at 7:25 PM · There creative department has been woeful these past few years with screen attraction after screen attraction.
August 21, 2017 at 7:26 PM · 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.

I always loved the House of Horrors. It may have been my most fun in any theme park. I doubt they would go to the trouble again, but that was a blast. I do not understand how the studio that invented the horror genre does not have some semblance of a spook house, but I suppose one could argue that Forbidden Journey is an amazingly expensive spook house. I had hoped Crimson Peak would have made tons of money, and that could have been an attraction, but alas.

I will say I do not think they have to counter Disney. They do their thing, and Disney does theirs. I like them both, but I love that Universal does not have the crowds or long lines since I can use the Express Pass. If they keep the status quo, I will be fine with that.

August 21, 2017 at 8:27 PM · @AngryDuck
Honestly - yes. You may not be a fan, but a lot of people are. The
LOTR IP has tremendous appeal across a broad demographic.
August 21, 2017 at 8:33 PM · 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.
August 21, 2017 at 9:01 PM · 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.

The Nintendo deal opens up a lot of possibilities, but I dunno if there's anything beyond Mario, Pokemon and maybe Zelda that would be big enough to make a land of. I mean, a Metroid land would be awesome but I don't think that's too likely.

I'm surprised they haven't announced a Jurassic Park area overhaul considering how big Jurassic World was. Instead, they added a King Kong ride to the Jurassic Park area when Jurassic Park is "Theirs" and made so much money. Weird

August 21, 2017 at 10:12 PM · 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.
August 21, 2017 at 10:14 PM · RE: Darron Holmes

Universal had already committed itself to Kong: Skull Island attraction before Jurassic World was released. JW was never going to bomb at the box office but no one expected it to be such as blockbuster. If they knew, well, who knows?

RE: Anton M
Unless the AT&T/Time Warner Merger completely falls apart, don't expect Comcast to be interested anytime soon.

Getting government approval to buy time warner would be very difficult for Comcast.

People seem to forget that even when Six Flags was in bankruptcy protection, they still made sure to make their annual payments to Time Warner to retain the theme park rights to DC/Looney Tunes.

RE: Jeff Elliot
Star Trek (paramount pictures), and James Bond (Sony) are doing well as movie franchises so their theme park rights are not going to come cheap.

"I'm thinking Disney is in panic mode because they are scared to death about what Universal is working on." I agree which is why Universal is keeping its cards close to its chest.

Disney knows that something big is planned for Universal's SITE B. If nothing happens there by 2021, they other obvious option for universal is to open Super Nintendo World by 2021 in Orlando to steal some thunder from WDW 50th anniversary.

People seem to underestimate the family friendly theme park value that Dreamworks animation brings to the table for Universal otherwise they would not have paid 3.8 billion for it.

Now all they have to do is acquire the theme park rights for Sanrio Characters (Hello Kitty and Company) =)

August 21, 2017 at 10:57 PM · 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.

In California, I strongly suspect Nintendo will be the biggest component of the Lower Lot expansion, with one or two additional attractions as well (hopefully a Dreamworks ride on the site cleared for Secret Life of Pets). In the Upper Lot, the next major project will probably be a clone of whatever replaces Dragon Challenge. Beyond that, who knows? With the Olympics coming to Los Angeles in 2028, I definitely think there's going to be some massive changes to the park over the next decade.

August 21, 2017 at 11:24 PM · RE: AJ Hummel

I do agree that they are not ready for a third gate because they still have to figure out how to connect their current parks to SITE B as they lack right of way along I-Drive.

Perhaps they are waiting for Seaworld's stock price to crater and acquire it on the cheap.

As for not wanting to go head to head with Disney? I disagree.

Why would they want to expand their hotel room inventory and acquire more land if they did not want to compete more directly with Disney??

We all know what new attractions they are bringing to Orlando in 2018 and 2019 but not 2020/21.

I do not see the third park opening until after 2021 but I do see Nintendo kidzone by then.

They might not be able to steal the thunder from WDW in 2021 but they also won't sit idly by. They will respond with something by then.

August 22, 2017 at 2:20 AM · 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.

DVC is a subscription. An investment. It's members have skin in the game. 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.

Perhaps Universal Orlando will announce more details about the IOA Potter thing in the near future. Maybe they are waiting until they manage to get Volcano Bay fully operational. But regardless, Disney's (very big) WDW wave is cresting and DVC is likely to magnify its impact in Central Florida. Nothing comparable seems to be happening down the road.

August 22, 2017 at 3:36 AM · 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?
August 22, 2017 at 4:29 AM · @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??
August 22, 2017 at 4:53 AM · 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.

From another perspective, the largest conference in my industry, Pittcon, is going to be at the Orlando Convention Center next year. I looked at the offical hotel map yesterday and they metioned Universal and Sea World (not Disney). Perhaps Universal is building up their convention base to try and stick it to Disney.

Of course, Seaworld is the loser in all of this

August 22, 2017 at 5:52 AM · 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.
August 22, 2017 at 7:11 AM · "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."

Attraction announcements don't draw more members to DVC. I would argue that DVC membership has reached critical mass, and that the additional rooms that have been/are being added are to address complaints and concerns from existing DVC owners and not necessarily to woo new members. A few of the DVC owners that I know have been frustrated recently over the costs of taking annual trips to WDW (and other Disney properties), and the lack of availability without planning a year or more in advance. Disney does not push DVC nearly as hard as they used to because of the multitude of complaints about booking restrictions and availability issues. Disney has been advertising the new towers and DVC resort wings to current owners to satisfy their concerns that DVC ownership is no longer valuable. While DVC members have "skin in the game", it's important that they be kept happy, and continuing to increase the number of DVC members at a rate faster than new rooms are added to the resort, which is what they've done over the past 3-5 years, is counter to that basic need. While Disney has been investing significant capital in expanding DVC offerings, those investments have not necessarily been to significantly increase the DVC membership base.

August 22, 2017 at 9:56 AM · 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.
August 22, 2017 at 11:11 AM · 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.
August 22, 2017 at 12:21 PM · 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.
August 22, 2017 at 12:24 PM · 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.
August 22, 2017 at 1:21 PM · 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 idea of A, B, C, D, and E ticket attractions has fallen by the wayside in the scramble for IP supremacy. Parks are building one cornerstone attraction expecting gift shops, wand waving windows, and an hourly stage show to satisfy guests' hunger. While it works for a while, the returning guests need other stuff to do. Disney tried to do this with Pandora by creating essentially 3 "attractions" (FOP, Navi'i River Journey, and Valley of Mo'ora walk through). While the boat ride and walking tour are nice, it's not enough to balance the overwhelming crowds for FOP. The same goes over at USF where wand waving, gift shops, hourly stage show, and upcharge train ride have to balance against Gringott's. What you end up with are a bunch of guests milling around looking for something to do while the real "fans" check the place out and stand in line for the one big ride. Similarly, if you have an entire park full of just headliners, some of those headliners, that may have huge price tags associated with rights and/or development, take a back seat to the newest attraction.

Parks get crucified all the time for adding lightly themed, off-the-shelf spinners and flat rides along with rotating movies and kiddie coasters, but a successful park needs to have balance. For every blockbuster attraction, you need to have a stable of lesser rides and attractions to keep guests coming back and to keep daily wait times manageable. If a park can't build all of the needed attractions in a single phase, they should let guests know more is on the way. Disney said so when they announced the plans for Pandora, but nothing has been announced in terms of more coming to DAK from Cameron's world. Universal has more coming for the WWoHP, but they appear to be shifting to the all E-ticket approach, which may end up costing them in the end.

August 22, 2017 at 1:36 PM · 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.
August 22, 2017 at 1:42 PM · 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.

The 50th anniversary of WDW will likely be a monster success.

We can play armchair designers and post our blue-sky concepts for Universal to our hearts' desire. But while Disney's pushing dirt and pouring concrete, Universal is ... well, (as the article kind of asserts) we're not exactly sure what they will do that's of the same scale.

But hey, in the Orlando market even sitting in a distant second place assures a company of having a reasonably successful business model.


August 22, 2017 at 1:58 PM · "Universal needs to get on the ball and at least make an announcement for something soon."

Did you miss something? They've firmly announced Aventura to open in 2018. They have firmly announced Fast and Furious to open in 2018. The have firmly announced the removal of Dragon Challenge at the end of the month to be replaced by a new HP attraction in 2019. The firmly announced plans to build 2 new resort hotels on the W&W property. That's 2 year's worth of development, about the same lead time that Disney announced at D23. I don't know why Universal has to "get on the ball". Their plate is pretty full for the next 2 years. Maybe in a the coming months they'll be ready to tease Nintendo or other developments beyond 2019, but why jump the gun when Disney is only firm through 2019?

August 22, 2017 at 3:56 PM · 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.
August 22, 2017 at 4:29 PM · @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.

"get on the ball"- You say that as if Adventura isnt coming, their new hotels replacing WnW, HP Coaster, 4th theme park (It will happen..) with CW 2.0, more hotels included, MoM ride, Nintendo Land, F&F, VB expansion.

I don't get why some like to be oblivious to Universal's development,

August 22, 2017 at 5:06 PM · 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.

But I also would like to see the Illumination and Dreamworks animation ip's getting a representation in the parks. Universal is underutilized Despicable Me and the could be done a lot with How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Foo Panda and the other properties that get a reboot are continuation. Lots of good stuff to look forward to.

August 22, 2017 at 7:06 PM · LOL Brian Emery.
August 23, 2017 at 1:19 AM · 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.
August 23, 2017 at 6:03 AM · "DVC membership will likely increase"

Well, membership can't decrease since even those who signed up in 1991 don't start phasing out until 2041.

I agree that Disney dropped a lot on people's plates at D23, and there's likely another wave of announcements coming soon to cover the resort through 2022. However, Universal is not short on projects, and with half as many parks to develop (currently), they only need half as many individual projects to match what Disney has in the pipeline. Certainly announcing a new theme park (the first truly new theme park in Orlando since IOA - Legoland was a rework of Cypress Gardens and Volcano Bay is still a water park in my view) would steal a lot of Disney's current thunder, and might be the only way Universal could combat Disney's WDW50 plans.

August 23, 2017 at 6:06 AM · TH Creative said "The discussion about Universal is framed in hypotheticals "

Did you miss the title and tone of the article? This whole point here is to imagine what might be next for Universal. Or, were you just doing your normal Disney Fanboy humping?

We already know that Nintendo Land, a new Harry Potter attraction, Fast and the Furious, and some new hotels are in the works. Disney can announce AS MANY attractions as they want, but Universal will continue to make BETTER attractions.

August 23, 2017 at 6:52 AM · DBCooper said: "Disney can announce AS MANY attractions as they want, but Universal will continue to make BETTER attractions."

Can I just ask what attraction won the Theme Park Insider best new attraction award this year? Remind me... was it 'Flight of Passage' by any chance?

Disney AND Universal have produced strong new attractions. Universal may have had the edge for a while but it appears that that situation is evolving.

August 23, 2017 at 7:03 AM · @ 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.

If you go by internet "best of" lists and don't think for yourself, you are sorely missing out in life. I've eaten at restaurants that I loved that were not well rated on yelp, and I've watched great movies that were not well received on Rotten Tomatoes.

August 23, 2017 at 9:08 AM · 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."

After regarding that part of my post DB Cooper asks: "Did you miss the title and tone of the article? This whole point here is to imagine what might be next for Universal. Or, were you just doing your normal Disney Fanboy humping?"

I Respond: First of all my quote wasn't referencing the article it was referring to the "discussion" related to the article.

However, let's take a look at the last line in the article: "We want to know, officially... what's coming next to Universal's theme parks?"

I am not sure how your assertion that the "whole point here is to imagine what might be next for Universal" has any credibility when Mr. Niles uses the word "officially."

Throughout this thread the TPI All Stars toss out a number of great intellectual properties that could do very well in themed entertainment: Lord of the Rings, Pokemon, Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Star Trek, Willy Wonka, the Wizard of Oz, James Bond, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Zelda, Metroid, etc.

But postulating on what could be a winner for Universal is not in step with the question Mr. Niles poses in his article ("We want to know, officially... what's coming next to Universal's theme parks?").

So -- speaking "officially" -- it sure seems like I did pick up on the point of the article.

August 23, 2017 at 9:23 AM · 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.

While TH is bashing postulating, why don't we criticize Disney for not putting dates on Guardians and Ratatoille at EPCOT, and Tron and the live theater in MK. Heck, Disney didn't even give any hints at a ride system for Guardians or what type of live show will be staged in the new MK theater. So, while we're being "official" here, let's not apply a double standard. Both resorts have outlined firm plans through 2019 with some announced developments in the years beyond along with rumored additions like "EPCOT is getting...a new nighttime show" that is conspicuously absent from any "official" Disney release along with the "signature" moniker TH is espousing to the Coronado Springs renovation and DVC Rivera resort. Maybe TH is using this forum to "officially" announce that he's going to put his "signature" on papers giving Disney direct access to his bank accounts.

August 23, 2017 at 9:54 AM · 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.

Mr. Meyer writes: "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."

I Respond: And how is that meant to draw out hypothetical concepts in thread posts? DB Cooper said that the point of the article was to (his words) "imagine what might be next for Universal." And incidently, your position really doesn't change my assessment of the thread -- that hypothetical Universal concepts are being presented alongside WDW projects that are all currently under contract and/or construction.

Mr. Meyer writes: "While TH is bashing postulating ..."

I Respond: Where exactly did I "bash" postulating? In my last post I indicated that the concepts posters have advanced all have potential. I am saying the article discusses projects that have been announced in one degree or another. Postulate to your heart's content.

Mr. Meyer writes: "...why don't we criticize Disney for not putting dates on Guardians and Ratatoille at EPCOT, and Tron and the live theater in MK."

I Respond: Who do you mean by "we?" And I don't know why either Disney or Universal shouldd be criticized for announcing a concept without including an opening date? Is that really worthy of critcism?

Mr. Meyer writes: "EPCOT is getting...a new nighttime show" that is conspicuously absent from any "official" Disney release ..."

I Respond: My mistake. I had thought it had been announced. But stay tuned. ;o)

Mr. Meyer writes "… along with the "signature" moniker TH is espousing to the Coronado Springs renovation and DVC Rivera resort. Maybe TH is using this forum to "officially" announce that he's going to put his "signature" on papers giving Disney direct access to his bank accounts.

I Respond: No. It's actually the company's typical nomenclature for its resorts. The Caribbean’s official name was 'Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort.' The Corando's official name is 'Disney's Coronado Springs Resort.' The Contemporary's official name is 'Disney's Contemporary resort. The use of the name "Disney's" is why I used the phrase. Nothing to do with my checking account.

August 23, 2017 at 10:27 AM · 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.
August 23, 2017 at 10:50 AM · 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?

I mean if you take a look at this thread, it was Mr. Meyer who responded to my post on DVC. He could have just ignored it, but chose not to.

Additionally, when I made a direct response to DB Cooper (who was challenging another one of my posts), Mr. Meyer elected to jump into the fray and address what I had written. Not sure why he felt so compelled to toss DB Cooper a lifeline.

Ah well.


August 23, 2017 at 11:05 AM · "It's actually the company's typical nomenclature for its resorts."

Show me where Disney refers to any of it's resorts as "signature" resorts. I've never seen All Stars or Pop Century or even Grand Floridian accompanied by the term "signature" ("Disney's" yes, but "signature", no). You've created your own class of Disney resort TH. Perhaps you should ask Mr. Iger for a kickback or an extra employer contribution to your 401k for your fantastical marketing mumbo jumbo. Let's be clear, Coronado Springs, ahem, Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, has been in desperate need of a full refurb for some time (they did a room modernization 10 years ago), and is the last of the moderates to get a serious update. The resort is the primary on-site convention hotel, and adding the tower will help to accommodate the demand and address the predominant criticism of the sprawling resort (it's too sprawling). Rivera is another DVC resort that will be deliberately undersold (like Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek) to address the availability issues across the entire WDW DVC resort portfolio.

I'm not angry, just frequently perturbed with your hyperbole and spin. Everything the Mouse does is not coated in pixie dust, nor is it all part of some master plan leading to WDW50. If I wanted to listen to a Disney marketing pitch, I'd sit through a DVC presentation. I'm merely pointing out the snake oil when I see it so those less educated to your charms are not drawn like moths to the flame.

In terms of the original topic. Let's just leave it at this...Both park operators have announced firm additions through 2019. Disney has announced some additional developments beyond, but have not been firm with details or expected completion dates. Universal has laid out their plans through 2019, and have made announcements that more is coming in the years beyond, but similarly have left specifics and completion dates deliberately nebulous. Disney's beyond 2019 projects certainly seem more definitive, but as they've shown over the past decade plus, the theme park behemoth needs a lot more lead time to complete projects than the younger, nimbler Universal. So really what Robert is suggesting here is that Universal should act more like Disney, when in reality they've been able to compete head to head with Disney because of their quick turnaround projects and constant flow of new attractions over the past decade. Disney was on cruise control after DL50 and their "park sharing" initiative until the recession followed by Universal's Expecto Patronum to Mickey's backside poked the bear. Now Universal needs to step up their game even further, while still keeping the edge that got them to the place they are today as a worthy competitor to the undisputed king of the theme park kingdom.

August 23, 2017 at 11:16 AM · Ignoring TC is like ignoring a gnat, sadly, it makes neither just go away.
August 23, 2017 at 11:21 AM · TH, it's a cycle. When Universal was redefining the entire industry with a succession of lands, rides and attractions Disney redefined a bracelet!
August 23, 2017 at 11:20 AM ·
August 23, 2017 at 11:24 AM · 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.
August 23, 2017 at 11:38 AM · DBCooper said: "Disney can announce AS MANY attractions as they want, but Universal will continue to make BETTER attractions."

Can I just ask what attraction won the Theme Park Insider best new attraction award this year? Remind me... was it 'Flight of Passage' by any chance?

Disney AND Universal have produced strong new attractions. Universal may have had the edge for a while but it appears that that situation is evolving.

August 23, 2017 at 12:16 PM · TH. Come back! It's all about opinions. If everybody thought the same sites like this would be redundant. TPI needs you!
August 23, 2017 at 1:47 PM · 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.

All in fun TH, and the spirit of intellectual debate. Maybe we can meet up for a brew at "The Springs" when I'm down there in October.

August 23, 2017 at 2:50 PM · 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.
August 24, 2017 at 4:49 AM · I like you TH... Without your viewpoint, and a few others, TPI would be largely a Universal fansite. I like to get both perspectives.

However, this thread is about Universal and what they are doing next -
and nothing they have "officially" in the pipeline is compelling to me. More and more, all Universal does is tear down attractions I once loved and replace them with IPs for which I simply do not care. I know I am in the minority, and I am comfortable with that fact, but Harry Potter, Fast and Furious, and pretty much all of the Dreamworks properties are "meh" to me. And the only thing Nintendo has ever done that moves the needle for the Rao Family is Zelda, which probably is not getting an attraction in the new land. So Universal can build and build, but until they build something that compels me and mine, I am not paying the Disney-style prices Universal charges to visit their parks. I only have one "Orlando Vacation" budget, and it cannot be squandered on parks filled with IPs that are not "in my wheelhouse" - no matter how great the attractions themselves may be.

August 24, 2017 at 7:07 AM · 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 think a well designed theme park land/attraction can supersede the IP it's based upon. Avatar appears to be proving that, and the long-standing popularity of WWoHP has further proved that. Just because you don't care for an IP doesn't mean park designers can't create an exciting, engaging attraction.

August 24, 2017 at 12:23 PM · 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.

And for the record, I really like Avatar and do find it to be a compelling IP. I am anxious for more movies (if they ever come out!). Furthermore, the new Pandora land, which I visited last week, is brilliant, and Flight of Passage has replaced Spider-Man as my all time favorite non-roller coaster attraction. Neither here nor there, but I am not ashamed to say I am indeed an Avatar fan!

August 24, 2017 at 2:26 PM · @James

I read elsewhere that Nintendo World will consist of Mario, Donkey kong, and Zelda themed areas all within the one land. I think Universal knows this is their next big thing, and if WWHP is any clue, my guess is they're sparing no expense with Nintendo and it'll be bigger than most people anticipate.

August 24, 2017 at 2:30 PM · I heard the Zelda "area" will have shops and a meet 'n' greet or show. No ride. But we'll see.
August 24, 2017 at 4:50 PM · If you really think about it, from a rational point-of-view...

Universal Studios Orlando and IOA are in the SAME POSITION as WDW's Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, turning half-day parks into full-day parks.

Universal Studios Orlando and IOA are also in the SAME POSITION as WDW's Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, lack of 'E' Ticket rides.

Universal Studios Orlando and IOA are also in the SAME POSITION as WDW's Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, still suffering with poorly received and out-dated attractions.

Universal Studios Orlando and IOA are in the SAME POSITION as WDW's Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, spending BILLIONS to fix previous years of not investing in their parks.

August 27, 2017 at 9:24 AM · 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.
August 28, 2017 at 6:01 AM · 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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