Universal confirms Epic Universe details

January 30, 2024, 9:03 AM · Universal Orlando this morning officially confirmed a ton of details about its upcoming Epic Universe theme park.

We've known a lot of these names already, thanks to Universal's trademark applications. (You can see the full line-up on our Epic Universe page, linked above.) But Universal today also shared some concept art and videos for the park.

One is a flythough video for the park's central land, Celestial Park.

"In our story, Chronos is this giant machine used to harness the energy of the Universe that powers all of Celestial Park, allowing us to open the portals to other worlds," Adam Rivest, Universal Creative executive producer for Celestial Park, said.

The "other worlds" in Epic Universe will be its four opening-day lands: Super Nintendo World, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Ministry of Magic, How to Train Your Dragon - Isle of Berk, and the Universal Classic Monsters-themed Dark Universe.

"Never before have guests been able to immerse themselves in these stories as deeply as they do when crossing the thresholds of the four portals," Epic Universe Executive Creative Director Steve Tatham said. "They'll come face-to-face with scary monsters, they’ll tame dragons and encounter new magical eras."

Universal did not confirm the attractions in the four lands today, but from trademark applications and planning records, we know that they will be:

Super Nintendo World

Super Nintendo World
Concept art courtesy Universal Orlando

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - The Ministry of Magic

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - The Ministry of Magic

How to Train Your Dragon - Isle of Berk

How to Train Your Dragon - Isle of Berk

Dark Universe

Dark Universe

Universal today did detail what guests will find inside Celestial Park, however.

Constellation Carousel

Constellation Carousel

Celestial Park's icon will be a carousel unlike any other in any theme park. The carousel will include creatures that rotate 360 degrees as they spin around the carousel's hub, all to evoke a celestial journey among the constellations of the night sky.

Starfall Racers

Starfall Racers

This dual-launching racing coaster will reach a top speed of 62 mph and a maximum height of 133 feet.

"On Starfall Racers you’re physically riding the embodiment of a comet,” says Rivest said. "While it’s giant and looks really intimidating at first, it's designed to feel like an old wooden coaster, but smooth as a button. So, you'll rise up in your seat and get those zero G feels."

"Although there are a couple signature moves in there, most of the 1.8-mile track is a side-by-side race between two comets to see who gets to the end first."

Celestial Park also will include Astronomica, a splash play area that will offer a special lighting package at night.

Atlantic Restaurant

Atlantic Restaurant

This seafood restaurant will be surrounded by Neptune's pool, which diners will be able to see through floor-to-ceiling Victorian glass walls.

"It gives our guests the illusion of dining in an 'out of this world' glass aquarium," says Universal Orlando Executive Chef Robert Martinez Jr. said.

The Blue Dragon Pan-Asian Restaurant

The Blue Dragon Pan-Asian Restaurant

In addition to the eponymous dragon out front, electric neon dragons will snake through this restaurant's interior dining rooms.

"Our guests will have the chance to enjoy flavors from China, Southeast Asia and Japan, all while dining under the constellations, as lanterns dance overhead in this beautiful indoor courtyard," Martinez said.

Universal Helios Grand Hotel

Universal Helios Grand Hotel

Universal Orlando also dropped official concept art for its top hotel in the Southern Campus expansion.

"Named after the God of the Sun, Helios is where the heavens and earth unite," Universal said in its press release. "It’s adorned with celestial patterns and constellation details in the decor and has a casual, elegant Mediterranean-inspired feel throughout."

Universal's hotel partner Loews Hotels previously announced Epic Universe's other two hotels, Universal Stella Nova Resort and Universal Terra Luna Resort, which will open January 21 and February 25, 2025, respectively: Reservations now open for two Universal Epic Universe hotels.

Tatham summed up the feelings that Universal Creative is hoping to elicit from visitors when Epic Universe opens next year.

"That's what's really at the emotional core of it: our desire to belong, to connect, to meet new people, to discover new places, to have experiences. That's what sets off great explorers, why people climb mountains, why they go on adventures. And also why they go through these portals," he said.

"We're telling stories that resonate with our guests, immersing them right from the front gate," Tatham said. "Universal redefined theme-park entertainment forever. We're setting a new standard, and that’s what it means to be a modern theme park."

Update: I got something "Epic" in the mail today from Universal Orlando, too.

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Replies (49)

January 30, 2024 at 9:34 AM

Concept art looks beautiful. Everything looks very open and green. Like if Naboo from Star Wars had a theme park. Very intrigued to learn more about all of the rides, especially what Dark Universe might have in store for us.

Also, geeking out about the possibilities of the HP:MoM ride. Could the story involve a Time Turner?

January 30, 2024 at 9:50 AM

I really thought Universal might hold off on this until later this summer, but I guess they wanted to take advantage of this slow period in theme park news. I wouldn't be surprised if they run a Super Bowl ad and start running teasers during EPL coverage on NBC/USA/Peacock in the coming months.

I find the architectural choices in Celestial Park very interesting, a mix of Victorian Steam-punk with classic Mediterranean/Atlantean along with some Verne-esque sci-fi style. It's very European, but still fantastical, and very unlike any current American theme park. Obviously, the most interesting reveal here is the clear use of portals to get into each themed land. This has long been rumored for Epic Universe, but what still has yet to be answered is whether Universal will utilize tiered admission or reservations to enter each of the individual lands. Universal really put guests on tilt when they forced people to buy park hopper tickets to ride the Hogwart's Express, so they would be pushing the envelope even further by creating tiered admissions or reservations that would limit what portals guests could go through and when they could enter. We don't yet see whether the individual lands are interconnected (only see portals from Celestial Park), but given these deliberate choke points, Universal could force guests to scan tickets in order to enter each of the themed lands. I don't see why you would design these portals like this if you weren't going to somehow limit entry, so we'll have to see what's in store.

I guess the biggest downer of this announcement is that we're still nearly a year and a half away from the park's opening, such a tease.

Also, when did Spielberg get an official title (Creative Consultant) within the Universal Destinations and Experiences division??? I suppose it's like an EP credit on a movie, but still, that's a massive get for this park, especially since he's not connected directly to any of the IPs being used in this park (Dreamworks did HtTYD, but he's not even credited as a producer on that series). Spielberg was the driving force behind USF, so it's notable to see him directly involved with Epic Universe despite not contributing any IP.

January 30, 2024 at 10:01 AM


My understanding is the portals are, in part, to allow for the "open hub" concept that was talked about many years ago. This gives Universal the ability to allow paying guests into portals while free guests (who would enter in the evening) are sequestered to Celestial Park. This is part of the reason facial recognition technology (widely used at Universal Beijing) has been a big(ish) talking point around this park.

Now, I think that's also a very bad idea, but we'll see what happens.

January 30, 2024 at 10:19 AM

The lands are not inter-connected, the only way to access them is via the portals. I still doubt they end up tiering the lands or anything like that, but I wouldn't put it past them. I do think the Celestial Park-as-Citywalk idea is very much in play.

The leading rumor on the Harry Potter ride is a next-gen SCOOP vehicle attraction themed to the enchanted elevators that can move side-to-side as well as up and down. Supposedly this will have more practical effects than the two existing SCOOP rides in Orlando, more like the Jurassic Park ride in Beijing, but with an additional motion component to match the theme. Umbridge will be the main villain. I think it has a chance to be the park's second-best attraction after Starfall Racers, though I'm also very excited for the KUKA-arm Haunted Mansion For Adults coming to Dark Universe.

January 30, 2024 at 10:27 AM

@Jacob - That's kind of my point that if there is going to be any sort of limit on where and when guests can go within Epic Universe, it's going to be a massive change, and not necessarily for the better. Whether they use facial recognition or not isn't an issue for me, it's the inability of guests to roam freely within the park itself. I understand the need and desire for better crowd control and flow to avoid the issues that have occurred with PtWoA, WWoHP, and Galaxy's Edge, but I'm not sure how guests will adapt to being told when they can visit individual lands/rides. Disney has gotten so much backlash on Genie/Genie+ (and FP/FP+/MaxPass before that), I just don't see how Universal would want to apply a similar system, particularly if they're going to charge guests based on the number of lands they want to visit in a given day. There were some stories when Volcano Bay opened analyzing how Tapu Tapu could be applied to a "real" theme park, and while Universal could use Starfall Racers, Constellation Carousel, and the splash pad like the wave pool and TeAwa (raging river) are used at Volcano Bay, I still think there will be issues and frustration from guests not wanting to sit around and wait for their opportunity to enter the themed lands.

However, I think the biggest fear for me is that Universal creates a tiered admission system for this park that limits the number of lands you can enter on a given day (increasing price depending on how many lands you want to visit in a day), essentially eliminating any spontaneity in your visit and preventing guests from adjusting their itinerary based on crowds/lines unless you pay up the nose for a top tier/all-access ticket. Again, I can see the advantages for Universal in controlling crowds and optimizing revenue, but it seems like a step backwards in the theme park experience to limit guest freedom within the park.

January 30, 2024 at 10:29 AM

I wonder if the Portal thing could be used to have progressive closing times. Rather than the entire park closing at 6pm (like IOA and USF do at quiet times of year), they could close lands at different times, keeping some (or even just the Celestial Park) open later, but reducing their staffing costs and allowing end-of-day stuff to start earlier on the closed lands?

January 30, 2024 at 10:30 AM

Spielberg has had a title with the parks for quite a while. Reportedly, he gets a cut of every ticket sold.

January 30, 2024 at 10:48 AM

For people who want more information, a quick youtube search will turn up drone fly-throughs that are updated weekly and detail EVERYTHING in the park. Unfortunately most of the IP isn't for me, but the rides and theming are amazing and will definitely set the bar once it opens.

January 30, 2024 at 10:49 AM

The portal as a separate cost of entry point is very intriguing to me. It’s almost like the Epcot after four pass on steroids. Could you buy an annual pass for just one portal for example? If you bought admission to a portal, would you be allowed admission for the entire day? There are definite pros I can see to this theory, but also many cons as well,
some of which have already been brought forth. And if celestial Park is indeed available as a free walkable area to the general public, then what better way to entice people to come to your parks by having them that much closer to lands that they aren’t able to enter? I imagine if something like the lost continent area at IoA was a free walkable area but then once you got to the entrance archway at H:WoHp you can go to further, unless you bought a ticket…

January 30, 2024 at 10:50 AM

I don't see a tiered system being implemented. How would that translate to us passholders ? Why should I as a premier passholder get to visit more areas than someone on a lower tier? That is just not right, or fair.

As long as I get early access, I'll be happy.

Still gotta work out how I'm going to be there on opening day ... LOL. Hell on earth won't even come close

January 30, 2024 at 10:57 AM

I concur with Russell. This seems like a VERY EARLY drop. When TPI reported that the company had experienced "lower revenue at Universal Orlando" during the final three months of 2023, Russell noted "You have to wonder if the lower revenue in Orlando is a result of guests holding off or reducing trips in anticipation of Epic Universe".

I mean, the video is astounding, and the park will certainly be counted among the best ever built. But will this sort of promotion cause vacationers to put-off a Central Florida vacation until mid/late 2025? This seems like a viable concern since USF and IOA have no major attractions scheduled to open before the new park begins its operation.

And make no mistake, the prospect of that scenario should make Disney worry as well.

January 30, 2024 at 10:57 AM

from what i understand, guest tickets will be scanned at the main turnstiles utilizing the facial recognition that is currently in use at IOA and USF. Since the guest face will now be "in the system", they can move freely about and into any of the 4 land portals at will. For those guests who just want to enter Celestial Park, they will not have a facial recognition and therefore, cannot enter the portals. now it remains to be seen how it will all work and i'm sure there will be bugs to be worked out.

January 30, 2024 at 11:00 AM

I had been waiting to see if there would be a tiered system but I do NOT think we will be getting an open hub specifically because they've put a rollercoaster in it. Can't imagine them offering that for free and it seems like a lot of work to scan tickets at the entrance to an attraction. I guess they could find other ways to tier it besides a fully publicly accessible hub but it's looking less likely than ever

January 30, 2024 at 11:06 AM

@makorider/fattyackin - Again, it's all just speculation at this point, but I could definitely see a system that would limit the number of lands guests can visit in a single day (base ticket gets you into Celestial Park and 2 other lands with additional tiers to enter the 2 other lands for additional cost). This would more or less encourage guests to make Epic Universe a 2-day park, which gets UO visits up to a full week that Woodbury mentioned in the video (5 days for the current parks, resorts, and CityWalk).

Even if you're an AP, passes could be tiered in a way that would limit the number of lands you can enter each day you visit (value APs could get through 2 portals, while the top tier AP would have no daily restrictions but at a higher price point). Who knows if they actually would do this, but I can't see any other reason why they would create the portals. However, I highly doubt they would make admissions/passes specific to individual IP (buying a Harry Potter only ticket/pass), that would be taking this concept too far.

January 30, 2024 at 11:41 AM

Next up, on-ride tiered admission!!! Starchaser climbs initial lift hill then pauses for lower-tiered passengers to disembark and head back down the stairs (with an added exit bonus upcharge of taking the Super Happy Fun Slide down instead of the stairs)

… maybe I needn’t to be giving them any ideas lol

January 30, 2024 at 11:33 AM

It looks great but the cynic in me burned so many times before by epic theme park announcements that never comes true will hold off until it opens.

January 30, 2024 at 11:50 AM

Looks amazing and I can't wait to visit this place. I really hope that the front gate works like any other theme park. I'm not a fan of potentially having non paying guests in the hub. If they do that it will make the hub Disney level busy and totally unenjoyable.

I wonder when they will announce UOAP upgrades to include Epic and how much more it will be. Also curious when we can book VIP tours!

January 30, 2024 at 1:40 PM

I am tagging along with my wife to her conference next January and I am hoping that Epic Universe based attendance softness will lead to some aggressive discounting. The summer before Potter we spend 5 nights at Universal Orlando and benefited from some amazing deals, including $146 per night at the Royal Pacific Hotel and a free 7 night multi park ticket via the Super Bowl promotion.

January 30, 2024 at 2:28 PM

>>Next up, on-ride tiered admission!!!

Don't laugh, but the theatre used to give you a discount if you skipped act 1....

January 30, 2024 at 3:11 PM

@chad H:

So if we skip the Rey / BB-8 and shuttle attack portion of RotR maybe we can get cheaper ILL’s? I’m in! Not that I dislike them or anything, but savings are savings…

January 30, 2024 at 4:31 PM

@francis 24 .... as a UOAP, I'm budgeting for a $300-$350 a year increase for my premier pass. It went up significantly last year, so hopefully that was an increase to soften the blow for the Epic addition ??

January 30, 2024 at 4:45 PM

@Makorider - I was thinking $350 increase as well so glad to hear someone else expects around that number too. Will have to do some serious math when the prices come out to see if it will be worth it since we live in Canada and don't go that often.

We bought our passes when they were doing that 15 month promo so was a no brainer. Figured can cover 2 years worth of trips in one go so made sense.

January 30, 2024 at 4:58 PM

As exciting as EU has been looking for the past few months, I'm just not convinced that there are enough attractions to warrant a tier system for each land.

January 30, 2024 at 6:08 PM

Seems creative and next gen of theme parks - meanwhile Disney will be replacing a ghost at the haunted mansion and re- painting the castle again

January 30, 2024 at 6:09 PM

@sxcymike - Woodbury noted that there would be over 50 "experiences" in the park. While that doesn't necessarily mean 50 rides/attractions, but it does seem like there will be 2 "big" attractions in each land with 2-3 smaller attractions/shows/character experiences. I think it would be more than appropriate for them to sell a base admission that would grant admission to Celesital Park and 2 other lands in a given day with the option for guests to visit 3/4 lands for an upcharge. Given that there are going to be must-see attractions in each land, guests will either want to spread their visit across 2 days (visiting 2 lands each day), or trying to clear the entire park in a single day for a higher admission price.

There are going to be 8 must see day 1 attractions in this park (Starfall Racers, WWoHP attraction, Monsters Coaster, Dark Unvierse dark ride, Mario Cart, Donkey Kong Coaster, and HtTYD coasters), which puts it up there with Disneyland in terms of the number of major e-ticket level attractions in a single gate. That only includes attractions that have been confirmed, so who knows what lesser attractions and experiences may become big hits or just haven't been figured out yet - I have to think Ministry of Magic is going to have more than 1 ride.

I also think a tiered system would help to control crowds, and make lines more manageable across the park.

January 30, 2024 at 6:53 PM

@francis 24 .... it's a scary number, but I certainly don't see it being less than $300.

If it is $300+ then that will be pushing it beyond my annual for Disney .... but, I only have the Pirates pass, so it'll still be cheaper than incredi.

Gotta' wonder if they'll have valet at Epic ?? ... and when/if HHN ends up there too.

January 30, 2024 at 7:33 PM

This is definitely a unique concept for a theme park, and I could see it being anything from a tremendous success to a colossal failure depending on how well the public receives it. Instead of one contiguous environment that flows together, this feels more like a collection of mini-parks with a loose overarching theme to tie them together without being too awkward about it. Without that connection, though, this place is clearly about IP first and foremost, so it could definitely suffer if the attractions aren't designed well enough to appeal to those who aren't fans of each individual IP. I'm certainly looking forward to checking it out and I'm sure it will be really cool, but I wouldn't be surprised if I still overall prefer IOA.

As for the ticket system, what I was told as the most recent plan is that all tickets would allow access to all portals, but you would only have one guaranteed portal that you selected at the time of purchase (passholders could make one portal reservation per day in advance). For entrance to the others, you'd use a virtual queue and/or standby queue similar to what USH and USJ have used for Super Nintendo World, though you'd only be able to queue virtually for one portal at a time. The expectation was that while you could theoretically see all portals in one day (especially on a less busy day), most guests would likely only visit two or three as they are designed to be fully immersive beyond just the rides present in each. As such, to really see everything there is in the park two days would be required even though there are less than twenty traditional theme park attractions. There's also likely to be no reentry to the portals...you can spend as long as you want in each land while you're there, but once you leave it you can't return the same day. The only exception would be for guests of the three Epic Universe hotels, who would have guaranteed access to each portal each day with reentry privileges. As for the "free hub" concept, that would only be available on select dates (aka the less busy times of the year) and those guests could dine and shop but wouldn't be able to ride the rides in Celestial Park.

January 30, 2024 at 11:00 PM

I disagree with the people saying this is an early drop. The park has been under construction for five years and opens next year. People plan their Orlando vacations far in advance.

January 31, 2024 at 7:02 AM

Epic has the potential to make a powerful impact on the Central Florida market. But outside of HHN and maybe Mardi Gras, it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to predict that IOA and USF are gonna be ghost towns over the next couple of years.

January 31, 2024 at 9:18 AM

@AJ - I think you're probably on the right track, and you're absolutely on target in terms of this park being an immense hit or colossal failure. As Universal did with Volcano Bay, it seems like they're trying to completely change the way guests view and visit a theme park. How guests adapt to these changes is going to be critical in whether this concept actually works. I do think Universal is going to need to build some flexibility in their plan, because I feel guests (particular APs) are going to get frustrated if their days are being dictated by reservation systems, reentry policies, and the potential of upcharges to gain desired flexibility. I wonder if Universal understands how much of the "anti-Disney" crowd they attract, and how many guests come to UO explicitly because they don't have to plan out their days and restrict themselves to some predetermined itinerary. If I enter Dark Universe and one of the rides has a massive line, I want to be able to decide whether it's worth it to walk to Ministry of Magic to ride the HP attraction with a shorter line and come back to Dark Universe when lines die down. I don't want Universal to force me to stay in a land and wait hours on line just because of a no reentry policy for individual theme park lands. That's not how I want to visit a theme park, but I'm not sure how many other guests will feel similarly to the point where it undermines Universal's basic premise for Epic Universe.

I think the other issue I see with this is that because Universal is relying so much on IP that the expectation is that each of the four (4) IPs will be equally popular to evenly distribute crowds around the park. Obviously the popularity of individual attractions and experiences will determine how much people will stay in each land, but it appears that Universal anticipates that each of the lands will be able to pull crowds evenly. While I think that Super Nintendo World and WWoHP will be evergreen enough to maintain similar draws for at least 5-8 years, the other 2 IPs are going to be heavily reliant on the quality of their attractions to be able to draw interest equivalent to HP and Nintendo. I think Universal Monsters are pretty evergreen, and HtTYD has some lasting appeal, but neither of those IPs can match the draw of the other 2.

Also, the word is that Universal has developed a next generation interactive wand for Epic Universe (and will be exporting those upgrades into IOA and USF), and obviously there will be the Power Up bands in Super Nintendo World. However, if you're not willing to invest the extra $$$ into those experiences, what are you supposed to do in those lands beyond the rides if you're not drawn to those IPs? Also, will Universal be including other upcharge interactive elements to Dark Universe and/or HtTYD to give guests non-ride experiences to pass the time they spend in those lands?

While I think this portal concept can probably work for most folks, I think there is going to be a steep learning curve for guests, and there is going to be some pushback, particularly when the initial popularity starts to wane and individual attraction lines and overall demand get to a point where it's easier to fully experience a land within 2-3 hours.

Also, what is Universal's plan for expansion, and how quickly can those additions be executed if it looks like the EU needs additional experiences to better balance the park. It's pretty clear from the concept drawings that Universal has deliberately left areas (at least 2 additional portals) undeveloped for future expansion. Having lands so reliant on IP, does Universal have the ability to pivot if the current IPs don't connect? It's a massive risk, especially the way this park is set up. It's one thing for parts of IOA and USF to be vacant (like Lost Continent, Comic Strip Theater, and Fear Factor Theater), because guests can just walk past those on their way to other experience. With each portal being a dead end, if a major experience in one of the portals fails, it will make guests feel trapped if they enter that land and unable to escape to another portal. I think Universal is taking a huge risk with this concept, particularly with the Dark Universe and HtTYD lands.

January 31, 2024 at 9:20 AM

After visiting Animal Kingdom while attending a work conference last year my Disney loving wife returned complaining about Genie +,the stress of spending her day checking her phone for ride availability and paying for upcharges on top of upcharges. When I join her next year we are hitting up UO for that very reason.

Kabletown would be wise not to mimic the Mouse's failures in customer service by adding unnecessary complexity to the guest experience in addition to reduced resort walkability.

January 31, 2024 at 9:34 AM

@ AJ, agree it's risky to mess with the tried and true and fingers crossed it's successful, but i'm thinking if a dark universe attraction has super long lines, the logical step is to head to nintendo since it's the shorter walk. i will probably attack the park as nintendo/monsters side vs. potter/dragon side. that said, i am probably most excited about the 10 floor roof top bar at grand helios!

January 31, 2024 at 12:50 PM

Hey gang! If anyone’s interested in a spinoff discussion of this I started a new thread about what excites you the most so far about EU in the Discussion Forum

January 31, 2024 at 5:30 PM

Russell and mbrussmco, that's not how this type of park is likely to work. Unlike a normal theme park where guests move around somewhat randomly, here you'll have distributed concentrated clusters of relatively uniform density so lines shouldn't vary too much between each of the areas. For example, in Super Nintendo World it is frequently a 90-120 minute wait for Mario Kart, but it's pretty rare for the line to be significantly longer or significantly shorter than that because the number of people present is kept relatively constant by controlling access to the land. I suspect each area of Epic Universe will be managed similarly given their layouts and capacity constraints, negating the option to bounce around the park hunting for short lines, which also would not be feasible even with reentry if you had to queue just to enter the land before joining the second queue specifically for the ride. It's a park designed for immersion in themed environments, not for cramming in a ton of rides.

And yes, I would expect interactive elements in both Berk and Dark Universe as well. Whether they'll require an upcharge interactive such as a wand or Power-Up Band or whether they'll be free to play remains to be seen, but things like that are vital to maintaining the immersion and keeping guests entertained beyond just the rides. We'll also probably see a lot of characters and streetmosphere in this park.

As for expansion, they have at least one additional attraction queued up for each of the four portals as well as sufficient space for two additional portals, so they should be set for a while. The longevity of the IPs is definitely something I question...if a portal isn't strong enough to pull guests for at least a couple decades, the turnover required to keep visitors coming would be astronomically expensive. I suppose they hope things like the game elements of Super Nintendo World will drive repeat business without requiring as many new attractions, but that's definitely a departure from the strategy most theme parks employ and adds great risk to the project as well.

January 31, 2024 at 8:53 PM

TH Creative - "Epic has the potential to make a powerful impact on the Central Florida market. But outside of HHN and maybe Mardi Gras, it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to predict that IOA and USF are gonna be ghost towns over the next couple of years."

I respond: That would be a perfect scenario for our family. As much as we love the idea of Epic Universe, we have no plans to visit the first couple years. We would like to have the other parks be much less crowded (purely selfish reasons).

Universal loves to expand in stages, so I would imagine we would see a CityWalk of some type and a sister park and more hotels announced and planned for completion within a decade of Epic Universe opening.

February 1, 2024 at 9:30 AM

Regarding Epic Universe cannibalizing attendance from USF and IOA, NB writes: "That would be a perfect scenario for our family ... We would like to have the other parks be much less crowded (purely selfish reasons)".

Me: After last quarter's lackluster UO financial performance, I'm not sure Comcast or the original parks' team members are pleased with your enthusiasm.

February 1, 2024 at 11:12 AM

@AJ - While I think there are a few different ways Universal could conceivably operate EU, I generally agree that what you've outlined is the most likely. However, I do think if they are going to go about it in this way, it's going to create a pretty steep learning curve for guests, particularly those who frequent Universal Parks and are generally used to the freedom enjoyed when touring their American parks. I do think the popularity of this park and its individual IPs will create crowding issues that will need to be mitigated with some type of reservation system and/or virtual queue. However, I do think that doing this is going to create other issues with guests becoming frustrated when they're left sitting around waiting to enter one of the 2 higher-demand lands (WWoHP and SNW). In one way, Universal will be able to encourage guests to enter the 2 "lesser" portals (Dark Universe and HtTYD) with either immediate entry or a shorter wait in the virtual queue, but what guests do after that is where it gets tricky (hence the likely no-reentry policy for each portal). It will really come down to how crowded the park as a whole is allowed to get, and how desperate people are to get into the higher demand IP lands versus the lower-demand lands. Will people readily accept going into Dark Universe and/or HtTYD lands if there are long waits to enter WWoHP and/or SNW? Again, it's going to probably come down to how good the attractions are in each land (further supporting our boom or bust assessment of the park as a whole), but we've seen that theme park guests don't always necessarily do what operators want them to do, which could put this entire concept on its ear.

I fear that Universal could be creating a ton of enemies, particularly from guests who purposely visit Universal because they don't want to visit WDW and the lack of spontaneity allowed there. If there are hours-long queues just to enter WWoHP and SNW, it's going to create ripple effects that will create a very frustrating experience. There are tons of guests who go to IOA/USF just for WWoHP (and Velocicoaster/Hulk), and couldn't care less about the rest of the attractions in the parks. While setting up lands in this way is probably great for these people, it will create issues for more casual guests and those who like to see the entire park. Personally, I still have a hard time getting past the possibility that guests won't be able to walk through the entire park in a single day, which is very likely under this concept. It's one think to not experience every attraction in a theme park in a single day, it's another when there are entire lands of a park that you might not be able to walk through in a day.

@TH - I think Universal (and Disney to a lesser extent) are really going to have to work hard to figure out how to keep their parks full over the next couple of years. I could see Universal offering steep discounts later this year, and then ticket packages that separate Epic Universe days from IOA/USF/VB days when the new park opens. I will be really interested to see how Universal Express works in EU and if the current free privilege will be extended to guests staying at RPR, HRH, and PB or just guests of the Helios Grand (and whether Helios Grand guests get UE at IOA and USF). While guests can currently buy park to park tickets to visit IOA/USF, I wouldn't be surprised if those multi-day tickets specifically limit the number of days can be used at EU (i.e. 5-day tickets only allow for a maximum of 2 days at EU). I also think WDW might make some adjustments to their tickets and promotions to account for the likelihood of guests wanting to spend 1-2 days at EU - I still see people thinking HP is at WDW, and how they are shocked when they have to buy different tickets to go to IOA/USF. With nothing new on the horizon (save for Tiana), WDW probably needs to go with the flow, and leverage interest in EU to get guests to do split stays instead of trying to force guests into an either/or proposition (more like what Universal and SW/BGT do now). That doesn't mean WDW has to play second fiddle, but they should at least recognize that EU is going to draw lots of interest to the market, and take advantage of that by offering packages that are complimentary to a prospective EU guest, and not competing directly with the new park. Epic Universe is ultimately a plus for the entire Orlando theme park market, and the companies, while competitors, should be working together to help guests maximize their time while allowing each other to maximize their revenue from the interest the new park will generate.

February 1, 2024 at 12:19 PM

@Russell: Bull's eye! Specifically regarding the Universal resort guest benefits, my wife and I are saving for our first visit to EU (estimated September 2026). While we live just 20 minutes from the new park, if UO is offering Universal Express benefits to guests staying at Helios Grand, we will gladly drop $2K for a couple of room nights -- walk to the park and tear through everything in two days

February 2, 2024 at 10:07 AM

Only thing I don't love is that there's ANOTHER Harry Potter land. Smh.

February 2, 2024 at 10:07 AM

Only thing I don't love is that there's ANOTHER Harry Potter land. Smh.

February 2, 2024 at 10:07 AM

Only thing I don't love is that there's ANOTHER Harry Potter land. Smh.

February 2, 2024 at 3:24 PM

@Formula40: Not a fan huh?

February 3, 2024 at 12:42 AM

I don't know about a tier admission system for Epic but maybe for pass holders. I would be intrested in an à la carte admission system where you purchase lower more reasonable priced admission for the diffrent lands. Any purchase (or heleios hotel stay) would give you access to celestial park and it's attractions. I would be ok with a $30-40 dollar ticket if I only had time or intrest in just one area versus paying $150 to only get to do a fraction of the things offered. Obviously bundling deals can be implemented.

February 4, 2024 at 1:54 AM

My thoughts:
1. I find absolutely nothing innovative about this whole plaza and portal thing. It's basically Disneyland (and all MK parks), which opened in 1955, but worse because there are no connections between the lands. Definitely should have put the portals between the lands as well.

2. If it's actually true they are going to try this whole separate entrance gate for each land that is an absolutely asinine idea and going to be a giant cluster****. Anybody who knows anything about controlling events with tens of thousands of people knows you want to spread people out, not push them all into each other.

February 4, 2024 at 9:05 AM

I think the separated lands is a brilliant idea. Not idea how it will actually be used, but hypothetically if a guest is only interested in 1 or some of the lands, and lets say tickets cost $60 per land or $200 for the entire park, then its a win win. Universal can maximize its profits per land and guests will potentially save substantially, increasing Universals already strong reputation for value.

February 4, 2024 at 11:09 AM

@Russell, you say you can't see any reason why they would create portals other than for tiered or controlled admission, but what about just for theming?

I truly believe the reason for the portals and one-way-in, one-way-out is mostly, if not entirely, for theming and story purposes. Celestial Park is described as "allowing us to open the portals to other worlds." It thematically serves as a hub somewhere in space, or maybe even outside space and time, that allows you to travel to these very different universes and time periods. I imagine it kind of like The Watcher in Marvel's "What If" who sits at the center of the multiverse and has portals to all different universes.

From a thematic point of view, it makes sense that you have to go back into Celestial Park to access any other land, and the portals act as that method of travel/access, as opposed to being able to walk from land to land in a circle like you do at most theme parks. the_man4's suggestion of portals between the lands doesn't make sense according to the Celestial Park story they've created.

This is why this will be the best themed park in the world- they have figured out a way to eliminate the awkward thematic transition of being able to walk from Jurassic Park in Costa Rica right into Hogsmeade in Scotland, or New York right into San Fransisco. And when you're in Celestial Park, all you will be able to see is the portal entrances, not the lands themselves, adding to the realism of Celestial Park being this cosmic gateway to different lands.

February 4, 2024 at 11:21 AM

Yea, and the creative people who made Animal Kingdom did not want the park to have maps because they viewed getting lost in the park as a rewarding experience. Also Joe Rohde didn't allow the people working in the animal trails to tell the visitors anything about the animals, since they were "villagers" and not animal people. People would ask questions and the cast members had ridiculous answers that totally confused the GP and the whole thing was ridiculous.

I'm all for creativity (i've been very critical of both Disney and Universal in the past decade for the execs telling the creative people what to create instead of letting the creative people come up with new ideas). But point being some ideas are just not practical or just flat out bad.

February 5, 2024 at 8:39 PM

If they are selling tickets just to specific lands, it would open up multi-day pass possibilities that could also serve to spread people out through the three parks. I could imagine a "Harry Potter pass" across all three HP lands for fans of the franchise, a "kids play pass" that highlights Berk and Mario and could connect it with the new kidzone and the rumored Pokemon attraction at IOA, a thrill pass with access to the best coasters across the properties, etc.

February 6, 2024 at 8:52 AM

@Jonah - I certainly think that's a possibility within Epic Universe, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them market multi-day/park tickets leveraging the existing attraction in USF and IOA to sell admission that would just access certain portals at EU. However, the current parks don't have the capability to limit guest access to individual lands/attractions, so while Universal could theoretically sell a "Harry Potter Pass", guests would still be able to walk through the rest of IOA and USF to reach the WWoHP areas in those parks.

@ThemeParkFanatic25 - I do think that theming is a key consideration in the utilization of portals at Epic Universe. However, if the portals are merely a thematic device, why wouldn't they also create portals that can transport guests from land to land instead of having to return to Celestial Park. By utilizing singular portals as the lone entry/exit point to each land, it creates artificial choke points and dead ends that are operational headaches. While I do think there are some thematic considerations here by utilizing portals, there has to be some other factors at play to force guests in and out of individual lands through the portals to Celestial Park.

Again, I see the thematic benefits of utilizing portals, but to use just one entry/exit to each land indicates to me that there is more at play than just a clever plot device, and that they're either going to use the portals to control crowds in each land (reservations/virtual queues) and/or to create tiered admission products to optimize revenue.

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