Universal Studios Florida in January, as Universal Orlando prepares to reimagine its Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone land.Three kids' attractions will close at
Universal announced this evening that January 15, 2023 will be the final day of operation for Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster, the Fievel's Playland playground, and the Curious George Goes to Town sprayground. The DreamWorks Destination and Shrek and Donkey's Meet & Greet areas also will close on that day.
However, not everything in the KidZone is closing. Universal Orlando confirmed that the Animal Actors on Location show, SpongeBob StorePants retail location, and the KidZone Pizza Company food window will remain open, as will The E.T. Adventure - one of the few remaining opening-day attractions at Universal Studios Florida, and the last remaining installation of the attraction perhaps most associated with Universal's creative leader Steven Spielberg.
"Universal Orlando Resort will soon begin work on bringing exciting new family entertainment to Universal Studios Florida that will immerse guests in the adventures of beloved animated characters," the resort said in its announcement tonight.
Universal Studios Florida most recently closed its Shrek 4-D show in Production Central to make way for a still-yet-to-be-announced Minions-themed attraction. Dreamworks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon is slated for Universal Orlando's Epic Universe theme park, but Universal has plenty of other animation franchises that it could deploy on the soon-to-be-vacated KidZone site, including Illumination's The Secret Life of Pets and Sing!, as well as Dreamworks Animation's Trolls, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and of course, Shrek.
Oh, and yeah, there's that whole Nintendo/Pokemon thing, too.
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Gotta love how a Shrek & Donkey meet and greet location is closing yet again, this time only lasting a few months.
Wherever they go, new attractions follow. I vote for putting them over by the old Fear Factor Live stage this time.
First ever Illumination land?
Given the wording of the announcement and the assumption that this is intended to open before Epic Universe, I think we can rule out anything Nintendo (plus I have it on very good authority Universal doesn't have any rights to use Pokemon). That leaves two obvious options to me: DreamWorks or Illumination.
DreamWorks is probably the more obvious option. DreamWorks Destination could be replaced with the DreamWorks Theater from California (Kung Fu Panda), Woody Woodpecker could be rethemed as Enchanted Airways (Shrek), a couple other IPs could be used for the play areas (probably Madagascar and either Boss Baby or Croods...How to Train Your Dragon is definitely out), and perhaps a flat ride or two could be added, along with a restaurant and shop as required by pretty much every land. While this would be a decent option, I feel like it's not the best option as Kung Fu Panda is really the only IP here that's particularly relevant (Shrek and Madagascar are both pretty dated at this point, and the other DreamWorks properties aren't really popular enough for theme park attractions IMO).
A better option in my mind would be to go with Illumination. While it might seem like overkill, Illumination's three main franchises (Despicable Me, Secret Life of Pets, and Sing) are all just as popular as anything DreamWorks has (Despicable Me probably even more so), and two of them have films currently in development. Going this route, I envision the whole land to be given an overlay as Super Silly Fun Land, with a rethemed Woody Woodpecker and a few new flat rides, as well as possibly retaining one of the play areas. The theater can be integrated to bring another IP in, either as a live performance based on Sing (themed to the group being on tour) or a clone of USH's Secret Life of Pets ride (with a carnival dark ride facade). It may be a bit of an overload of one IP in the park given the Despicable Me attraction opening next year, but I think it's a solid and unique enough concept that it would work alongside that and Minion Mayhem.
Exciting news! It reminds me of how USF welcomed MIBAA after the opening of IOA.
I'm also guessing it will be DreamWorks, and similar to how AJ has laid it out. "Reimagining" (is that Universal's word?) would suggest not razing it to the ground and starting from scratch. Retheming and adding in a flat ride or two would be a good improvement. Maybe that could be done for a 2024 opening?
Too bad they'd be limited to DreamWorks Animation. DreamWorks Pictures gave us classics like Anchorman, and I would die for a Ron Burgundy meet-and-greet.
Ummm considering I've been making it to HHR every year for at least the past 10 yrs, not to mention at least 4 visits to the parks outside of that HHN season, I completely forgot ET was still open.
UO is lacking in little kid attractions. as much as i hated to see dueling dragons go, they did replace with a coaster that younger kids could ride. that's a great start but they really need more for the even younger set and hopefully something more than just a glorified playground with a splash pad.
Here's a wild theory....What if the closure of the KidZone attractions is not intended to build a replacement family land? What if instead, Universal intends to market the rumored Minions attraction(s) being installed in the old Shrek building (perhaps an indoor version of Super Silly Fun Land) as the replacement for the lost KidZone attractions.
That would leave the old KidZone area open to be redeveloped as UC sees fit. I've always thought KidZone was a poorly designed and laid out area that also cuts into backstage areas that have become essential for HHN and other support functions. The entire area could be razed to make room for a massive e-ticket attraction while still ceding some space to backstage areas that could use some more room (particularly if backstage areas behind the Fear Factor theater are lost for the long-rumored WWoHP expansion).
On a potential bigger-picture possibility, KidZone is also adjacent to the Simpsons Ride, which could meet its fate in 2028 when Universal's current license ends. It's possible that redevelopment of the KidZone area (and eventually the Animal Actors stage) could be the first phase of a full park reconfiguration plan that aims to move on from the Simpsons IP. Having more appealing attractions in the KidZone area would make the pain of losing the Simpson Ride (and Springfield) more tolerable, and allow Universal to rework the pathways and overall shape of the park in the NW corner of USF.
So 2026 - 2027.
KidZone is a terrible area of the park because it’s a dead end. Which made sense when there was just a restaurant and a movie set.
It sounds like they will retheme the KidZone attractions to DreamWorks but not a big enough investment that it could be demolished and annexed for a Simpsons replacement.
If universal does have the Nintendo IP's ( sans Pokemon as noted), perhaps they should go for a KIRBY big ride, a Pikimin or Animal crosing play ground. Those have great appeal with the smaller Kids, and are uber popular with Nintendo fans in general. A lot of potencial there without touching Mario, Zelda or Metroid.
I’m excited Kidzone is leaving but I’m keeping my expectations in check. I really think they’re just going to go with a simple Dreamworks or Illumination retheme for all the buildings and rides in the land. Maybe some new flats in the Curious George area. I’m assuming they’d want this thing open in 2024.
I'm thinking Illumination( a bit more than Dreamworks). Like AJ mentioned, they are the hot IP right now (with upcoming films in the DM & Pets franchises...as well as Super Mario Bro with will be at Epic) is seems like that would be the safer bet.
Russell, I like your theory, but I unfortunately think it's ruled out by the text in Universal's announcement, which reads:
"Universal Orlando Resort will soon begin work on bringing exciting new family entertainment to Universal Studios Florida that will immerse guests in the adventures of beloved animated characters. To make way for these new additions, Fievel's Playland, Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster, Curious George Goes to Town, DreamWorks Destination and Shrek & Donkey's Meet & Greet will close on January 16, 2023."
To me, that says whatever they're working on is a new project that will occupy the same space as the closed attractions, and it will definitely be a family area themed to animated properties. What's up for debate is which properties and what scale the project will have. It's also been unofficially confirmed the Shrek replacement is some sort of interactive walk-through attraction, which would be a pretty big downgrade from KidZone.
What I do think is possible however, particularly if this winds up being a simple budget overlay rather than adding new attractions, is that it could be a filler project that is intended for replacement at some point in the future.
Again, I look forward to 2026 - 2027.
I think my kids will be happy.
It's about bloody time but remember we have seen construction walls before.
If it happens I hope for an immersive animation town with a small mainstreet. Beside shops and restaurants we should see Secret life of pets and the Sing theater. Than a JapanTown for Kung Fu Panda and a fairytale forest with a mini Shrek land and a Trolls Mountain logflume ride. I can dream...
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Give me Far, Far Away from Singapore, but with a dark ride in the castle, and I would be a very, very happy Universal fan.