public documents make clear that Universal is working on it. So instead of waiting for Universal to tell us its plans for its fourth gate in Orlando, let's try to figure what we can expect to find in the park when it opens... whenever.Universal is building a new theme park in Orlando. No, the company hasn't officially announced that project yet, but
Rather than pulling ideas from our imaginations, let's ground this exercise in some practical assumptions. First, let's limit our speculation to franchises for which Universal already owns the theme park rights. And second, let's assume that the more valuable the franchise — in terms of box office income — the more likely it is that Universal will consider it important enough to include in a theme park.
Granted, not every franchise lends itself to a successful theme park attraction. But franchise value provides an excellent starting point for evaluating the feasibility of potential theme park lands. So let's start with Universal Parks' top 20 movie franchises, as ranked by BoxOfficeMojo.com. These are franchises either owned by Universal or its subsidiaries, or currently licensed by Universal Parks and Resorts.
Universal already uses nine of these franchises in attractions at the Universal Orlando Resort. Now there's no reason why Universal could not reuse these franchises at its fourth gate in addition to their existing installations elsewhere in the resort. Heck, Universal already has two Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter and could easily make the business case for a third. But I think the best way to ensure the success of Universal's fourth gate in Orlando to start by defining the unique elements that it would bring to the table, rather than focusing on what it duplicates from Universal Orlando's current parks.
So let's strike these from our list:
Of the remaining 11 franchises, three are easy cuts as they are unlikely to lend themselves to attractions that would be popular with the families that Universal Orlando covets.
I wonder if you called the concierge at Universal Orlando's Hard Rock Hotel, if they'd have a totally unpublicized, don't-tell-anyone-about-this "Fifty Shades" hotel package that they could hook you up with. But that's about the only way I could see any of these franchises working at the resort.
Now we are down to eight. Sorry, long-time Universal fans, but two of our remaining franchises are "been there, done that":
I'm not ready to totally discount some role for those still-popular franchises in the new park. But nostalgia for closed attractions isn't going to drive the market share Universal is looking for here. If they make it in, it will be in a supporting role.
So our prime candidates for franchises to lead Universal Orlando's next theme park are:
Two of these are not like the others, are they? Bourne is widely tapped to go into Universal Studios Florida within the next couple of years. That leaves us with Pitch Perfect. It's the weakest of all these franchises, and while a vocal music show within one of the parks might be nice, let's face it, that's not the real appeal of this franchise. Imagine if you remade a Minions movie with twenty-something women instead of giant yellow Tic Tacs. That's Pitch Perfect. It's the same slapstick, sight gags, and insults.
That gives us four animated franchises to drive this park. Will Universal use all four in its next park? Maybe, maybe not. But the fact that Universal's best bets for its next theme park are all animation franchises suggests that animation might provide the best unifying theme for that gate.
I've not mentioned yet Universal's other huge licensed franchise, because it is not a movie. But Super Nintendo World has to go someplace in Orlando, and since video games are essentially a form of animation, why not place it here? Then throw in a land aimed at toddlers themed to animation shows from the Universal Kids cable channel, and we're almost there.
Universal previously announced that it would develop a theme park attraction based on The Secret Life of Pets, but with its New York City setting, I think that franchise would work better thematically taking the place of the Shrek 4D show in Universal Studios Florida than starting fresh in the new park. Of course, that then frees Shrek to get a reboot with an entire land in the new gate, including a long-awaited (at least in my family) Shrek dark ride.
So imagine this: An animation-themed park featuring lands based on How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and Shrek, along with Super Nintendo World, and a toddlers' land from Universal Kids. Now those are the bones of a compelling new theme park.
I can't wait for it to open. Now what are you hoping to see in Universal Orlando's next theme park?Tweet
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