Why Shrek Deserves Better From Universal Orlando

January 9, 2022, 7:23 PM · Shrek 4-D is closing today at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando. That means, starting tomorrow, there no longer will be any Shrek-themed attractions at Universal's theme parks in the United States.

This iconic animation franchise deserves better than that. The original Shrek won the inaugural Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It remains the highest-grossing animation franchise in history, according to Box Office Mojo. When it opened in May 2003 at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Florida, it became the first modern animation franchise to hit big with audiences at a Universal theme park. Before that, Universal's big animated characters were Woody Woodpecker and Curious George - two characters that hadn't resonated with a mass market of fans in decades.

I reviewed Shrek 4-D's Hollywood opening for the Los Angeles Times. (The link remains available!) I noted that "(t)he original 'Shrek' ridiculed the shallowness of Disney’s animated fairy tales and the sterility of its theme parks. Shrek 4-D doesn’t directly attack Disney’s parks, but it does land its punch by being far more entertaining than anything a Disney park has opened in years."

While I loved the show, I am not writing today to argue that it should remain open. As Shrek 4-D served as a narrative bridge between the original Shrek and its 2004 sequel, Shrek 4-D also should have worked as a bridge between Shrek as a film franchise and a future as an enduring theme park blockbuster.

But a well-deserved Shrek dark ride never came. Well, at least not in a Universal Studios theme park. Motiongate Dubai built Shrek's Merry Fairy Tale Journey in its indoor DreamWorks land, but Universal's most extensive use of Shrek went into Universal Studios Singapore, which includes a Far, Far Away land inspired by the destination of the same name in Shrek 2. Yet the castle at the heart of that land still features the same Shrek 4-D show from Universal's other theme parks. A Vekoma Junior Coaster (Enchanted Airways) and a Zamperla Multidimensional Coaster (Puss In Boots' Giant Journey) complete the land, but neither star the star of the franchise - Shrek.

Universal originally obtained the theme park rights to Shrek under license from DreamWorks SKG. But NBCUniversal acquired DreamWorks Animation in 2016, which brought Shrek fully into the Universal family. Now there's no legal reason to limit Shrek's use at Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood. There's only a business case to be made for why Universal should invest in keeping this franchise active within its U.S. theme parks.

I think that Shrek's history and enduring fanbase make that case. Shrek deserves more within the parks than meet and greets and parade units. A witty, sharp and well-told Shrek dark ride or immersive experience could help NBCUniversal protect and expand the value of its top animation franchise, even as other DreamWorks and Illumination animated franchises continue to build value. This is not a zero-sum game. Universal's theme parks need a broad line-up of popular animated franchises to counter the ever-expanding Disney line-up. Universal should not send Shrek to the sidelines as it builds up the Minions and other franchises. It needs to keep Shrek in the game.

As for the Minions, they are slated to take Shrek's place in Universal Studios Florida. Universal Orlando has been tweeting photos of bananas in various places around the park this weekend, tipping an imminent announcement of the new Minions attraction that is expected to go in where Shrek 4-D now plays. As Universal Creative moves forward with that attraction, I hope that someone in the organization has been charged with envisioning the next chapter in Shrek's adventures at Universal Orlando.

Space remains available within both Universal Studios Florida and the upcoming Epic Universe theme parks that could provide Shrek with a new home in Florida. Yes, Shrek 4-D played for too long in the parks. And DreamWorks oversaturated the market for Shrek with too many sequels a decade years ago. But Shrek remains a beloved and important entertainment franchise. It is part of Universal's brand identity. As such, Shrek deserves a better and more prominent role at the Universal Orlando Resort.

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Replies (21)

January 9, 2022 at 8:22 PM

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend a lot of money on an attraction based on a franchise that has been dormant for ten years especially since Universal now has other under utilized IP.

It might be time for Shrek to ride the nostalgia reboot train but there was quite a girth between the excitement for Spider Man No Way Home and Matrix Resurrections.

January 9, 2022 at 8:31 PM

ANOTHER Minions attraction? Really?? I only did Shrek a couple of times at USO — mainly because I prefer actual rides to “4D” theatres—but it had much more sophisticated humor than the Minions. Aren’t they at least keeping the Shrek and Donkey meet-and-greet? I hope so, as standing to the side and watching that is a great and hilarious way to pass a few minutes. But I agree that Shrek deserves a real ride — maybe something along with the HTTYDragon stuff at Epic…

January 9, 2022 at 8:41 PM

There supposedly is a Puss in Boots movie on the docket and there is a Shrek reboot that’s been in the works since 2018 but Universal hasn’t set a release date for that, as far as I know. So the franchise hasn’t been abandoned.

January 9, 2022 at 9:20 PM

A highly themed and detailed Dreamworks Animation land at EU with at least 1 or 2 top level attractions is a tantalizing prospect

January 10, 2022 at 6:43 AM

Thankfully they keep the amazing meet and greet but with a reboot of Shrek in the works and a best selling classic in the past this ip needs an amazing and fun ride that is a smart and fun as the first movie.

January 10, 2022 at 7:21 AM

Universal has done a better job than Disney to not hold onto dated and somewhat mediocre rides and attractions. It’s part of the problem Disney has now - it might be attractive to adults who get excited about the nostalgia but not so much to anyone else who find many of their attractions underwhelming.

January 10, 2022 at 8:56 AM

I was initially thinking “isn’t it a bit stale?” But a lot of Universals IP is - Bourne is stale and it’s predecessor T2 existed many years after more recent sequels had not seems a great reception, MIB was stale a while, much of the cartoons are has beens, and waterworld is a never was… yet, that’s not kept them down from delivering, it’s almost as if the IP doesn’t matter as much as the attraction.

January 10, 2022 at 9:13 AM

From what I've read this is going to be a temporary placeholder minions walkthrough that will probably be changed to an actual good ride after Epic, Maybe? Not sure why Shrek couldn't just stay until then but must have reasons?

January 10, 2022 at 10:01 AM

So…at USF they’re putting in a Minions attraction right across the “street” from…a Minions attraction?

January 10, 2022 at 10:50 AM

Shrek deserved better than Shrek 4, the film that killed the franchise.

Unless the Shrek reboot sees the light of day, Universal should focus on bringing their other popular (and current) animated franchises to the parks, particularly Minions, Secret Life of Pets, and the rumored land for Epic Universe based upon How to Train Your Dragon (not a fan of that franchise, but it has three movies and a TV series, so it must be okay).

January 10, 2022 at 12:27 PM

First, let me say that I love Shrek. The character is adorable, the story is fun, the whole franchise has a ton of heart. I think Shrek 2 may be my favorite film to come out in the last decade. That being said, Shrek deserves better from Universal Orlando .

January 10, 2022 at 1:05 PM

I am rather bummed. Not having made my first trip to UO yet, this was an attraction I was looking forward to seeing. Ah well, it's my own fault for waiting so long.

January 10, 2022 at 2:23 PM

I liked the attraction and Shrek always interesting.

One of the most fascinating things reading Dreamworks histories is how Katzenberg tried to "out Disney Disney" in animation but couldn't make it work. So the irony that the one movie he doesn't micromanage turned into the company's biggest hit franchise.

Yet it has been a while since the last movie and kids' attention spans are a bit less these days. I think Universal was noticing attendance for the ride dropping and such and the franchise itself lower in popularity. Yet I am surprised never a big dark ride or more for it given how massively popular the movies were and having its one big attraction end with a whimper doesn't seem right.

January 10, 2022 at 2:25 PM

Ain't gonna happen.

January 10, 2022 at 4:23 PM

@ Chad H -- I think you're exactly right. The IP DOESN'T matter if the attraction is good. MIB has consistently rated at the top of shooter rides and has a tremendous re-ride factor. And my favorite things at Disney have always been non-IP things -- Haunted Mansion, Pirates (before the stupid movies), Big Thunder, etc. Popular IP's are fine, but sometimes original ideas are more fun... and an IP doesn't have to be current to have a fan base.

January 10, 2022 at 5:58 PM

If this is a Minions ride (and it looks very likely that it will be judging by the social media teases put out by Universal as well as the construction walls), perhaps we can hope that they'll re-dress the front of the park to be a little more appealing with a unifying theme?

January 10, 2022 at 7:32 PM

Wow! I really am sad to see Shrek Go! YESSS The Shrek franchise playing fun with "the shallowness of Disney’s animated fairy tales and the sterility of its theme parks" is (or was) ICONIC. I don't know how Universal could let this go.

I found that re-visiting this ride was a better experience than what I have seen with the Minions ride. I love the minion franchise but the ride does not do it for me.....a tad bit chaotic and difficult to follow.

Even the secret life of pets ride..... I have only seen it on video pov, but the secret life of pets, while very spectacular from a creative standpoint still seems to be dull to me in comparison to the Shrek experience......

January 12, 2022 at 11:52 AM

Wasn't sure what to expect now that the place is run by a Karen.
Mandatory vac's for employees!

January 12, 2022 at 11:52 AM

Wasn't sure what to expect now that the place is run by a Karen.
Mandatory vac's for employees!

January 12, 2022 at 5:56 PM

*sigh*

January 12, 2022 at 7:27 PM

What? Mandatory vaccines during an out of control, two-year pandemic? Heaven forfend!

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