Universal’s Epic Universe
NBC Universal / Comcast
Estimated Opening in 2023
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(10/27/19) Universal's Epic Universe - Opening Year Confirmed By Comcast Exec
(10/18/19) Behinds the Scenes Technology Thoughts
(10/1/19) Universal's Epic Universe Construction Update
(8/12/19) Lets Dig A Little Deeper
New Park - (10/27/19) We now have a confirmation from a Comcast exec who mentioned during an earnings conference call that they would open their “fourth gate in Orlando in 2023”. This matches up with my earlier guesses as well, with construction on the site already beginning to move full steam ahead.
(10/18/19) In our last post about how Epic Universe will function by allowed everyone into the park’s hub area, while only those with paid admission into the individual lands we were told that Universal was going to put some new ‘tech’ to use to handle these potential bottlenecks and make them function problem free. So how do you avoid having long lines to enter each of the lands? I believe the answer to this problem was just announced as being on the way for the new Universal Studios Beijing theme park.
According to new articles it was confirmed that Universal is working with the Chinese company, Alibaba, which will allow guests an easy electronic payment system to use for meals, express passes and even locker rental through their Alipay service. In addition it was confirmed that guests will be allowed into the theme park without being asked to show a ticket through the use of an Alipay and facial recognition technology. Guest faces are scanned by cameras as they pass into the park and the system will determine if they have purchased a ticket or not. This sure sounds like something that would come in handy and be just what Universal would want to handle their new Epic Universe theme park… after a shakedown of the tech is complete in China of course.
(10/1/19) If anyone is curious to see the status of Universal’s Epic Universe property, I was fortunate enough to pass right over it on my flight home from Halloween Horror Nights about three weeks ago. While there isn’t much to see in terms of the new park, you do get a good look at the entire new expansion property and how it is being shaped for future use.
(8/12/19) Now that a little time has passed since the announcement of Universal’s Epic Universe theme park, I’ve also had some time to do a little more digging into this amazing new project and uncover even more great details about what is to come.
For starters, you may have seen a post about some interesting new tower dark ride concepts patented by Universal. While one of these could eventually create an amazing new ride concept for one of their parks… Screamscape has been told that none of these design ideas are part of the immediate plans for Epic Universe, so you can just put those ideas on the backburner for now. ‘
I’ve also been told a bit more information about how Epic Universe will function, and as the one rumor suggested, access to the central “hub” area will indeed be free to everyone, as it will serve as both a hub for the park, as well as a sort of CityWalk style food and retail environment for everyone. You may recall that I pointed out a large seating area around a giant fountain on the far end of the hub (close to the hotel) that looks set for a show to take place in, and this is all very true. The amazing thing is that at night, they are planning to put on a fountain & fireworks show in this area that will be free for everyone to watch and not just the park guests, though I would expect that paying guests may be given access to prime seating areas.
Speaking of attractions… not all of the park’s attractions will be contained within the four lands. There will be three rides that guests will access via the hub area that are not part of the themeing for the other lands. This includes a large carousel attraction that will existing under the large domed structure jutting out into the water in the water area just below the fountain show arena. The other two rides are part of a combo attraction we spotted in our original scanning of the art… namely the two coasters that will make up that large racing coaster that I originally assumed was part of the How To Train Your Dragon land. A reader pointed out that it appeared odd that the entrance to the racing coaster was seen just above the coaster in the artwork, and that there did not seem to be access to the huge structure from within the “Dragon” land, and this is true.
Guests will be given access to these rides from the hub in the same manor that they are given access to the four themed lands. I’m not going to get into the “tech” of it all just yet, but suffice to say that they are confident that there will be no bottleneck and long-lines to deal with at this land-entry portals during your visit to Epic Universe. Universal has a new concept of park access already covered that will be rolled out here that should take care of things just fine.
I imagine that everyone’s next question is about the Dragons land once again. After all, if the big racing coasters are not part of this land, then what will it include? We a;ready covered most of it before as well, with the list to include that smaller family coaster we spotted, the climbing structure area, that flat ride I spotted which looks like a Gerstlauer Sky-Fly, but there is still more to see. A reader sent in another version of the park graphic sent out to the media in another press release that actually includes a look at more of the Dragons land that was cropped out of the first image we use. From here we can see what looks like a Splash Battle style water ride, possibly another attraction or two as well as a large show/attraction building at the bottom. It is nice to see that this land is even bigger than we had previously thought.
(8/3/19) On the morning of August 1st, Universal Orlando held a press conference at the Orange County Convention Center to confirm their plans for the new expansion property they’ve been working on near the convention center. The anchor of this new Universal Orlando campus expansion will be a brand new theme park to be called Universal’s Epic Universe.
“Universal’s Epic Universe will take guests on a journey where beloved stories expand into vibrant lands – and where that journey is as much a part of their adventure as the ultimate destination.”
“Our new park represents the single-largest investment Comcast NBCUniversal has made in its theme park business and in Florida overall,” said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Comcast Corporation. “It reflects the tremendous excitement we have for the future of our theme park business and for our entire company’s future in Florida.”
In addition the new theme park development will also feature a new entertainment center with hotels, new shops, restaurants and much more. This is the start of the build up of this new 750+ acre site that will nearly double the Universal’s total available acreage in Central Florida.
The expansion will allow Universal Orlando to hire an additional 14,000 team members to staff this Epic Universe expansion, in addition to the 25,000 team members they currently have. In addition to this huge expansion, it was revealed by Universal and the city that the previously announced Kirkman road extension that will run through this new resort area and connect to Universal’s Blvd near the convention center will be a 50/50 public-private construction project in which Universal itself is investing $160 million to help fund this new and very important transportation project. As someone who once lived in the area, I can see how this Kirkman road extension will be a great benefit to traffic in the area by providing an high-throughput roadway bypass around the Lockheed-Martin complex, and away from the congested International Drive area.
Now beyond this, very little was announced in terms of detail about the new park, not even a timeline as to when this will be ready to open. They did release a great graphic showing off the entire new park complex, which will include an on-site hotel, which by itself only shows so much to the naked eye. However, based on rumors and special information from confidential Screamscape sources, we can zoom in on this artwork and break it all down for you as best as we can at this time.
For starters, let’s talk about the timeline. This is rumor only, but based on what Screamscape has been told, we should expect to see Epic Universe ready to open the gates to the first guests sometime in mid 2023. A lot can happen over the next four years however, so this time-table could very well slide up to six months in either direction, so don’t try to buy your plane tickets just yet. Also when you view this artwork, keep in mind that you are not seeing any infrastructure, like major access roads, back of park areas, or even parking lots and structures that will all be part of the final build out.
In the first close-up image I’ve zoomed in on the main entrance area to the Epic Universe resort project. We can clearly see a very “Universal” style set of curved-archway portals that will define this new entrance plaza and set the mood. Just inside it looks like a series of retail or park infrastructure buildings on the south side (Strollers, Guest Relations, etc) and on the north side there is a huge building structure that could house the primary gift shop for Epic Universe, and maybe even a few places to grab a coffee or a quick bite to eat.
Just beyond here to come to a central “hub” area for the development, with gateways to four different themed lands all around, plus an entrance into a huge hotel set at the opposite end from the entrance plaza. We see many circular pathways, winding around lush green spots and a central waterway. There are various structures set alongside the water, including a large curious blue/aqua dome structure in the middle, plus lots of various smaller buildings everywhere that will likely house various shops and restaurants. On the north end of things we also see a large circular pool with a series of very large fountains set in the middle. But this is no ordinary fountain, as you can also see that they have set up colosseum style seating in a circle all around the entire fountain structure, with the exception of the north side where there appears to be a small waterfall flowing down the hill from the hotel to feed into the fountain. It is very clear that they are planning to use this space for some kind of show going forward. It may simply be what it looks like, and be some kind of fountain show in the day and maybe something like a next-gen version of the Cinemagic Celebration night show that takes place in the lagoon at Universal Studios Florida down the road. Doing more thinking however, wouldn’t it also be fascinating if they could incorporate some kind of rising-stage structure into the center of the fountains where they could also host concerts and other performance events.
Beyond here is the first hotel to be part of Epic Universe. I say “first” because while you can only see the one hotel, Universal’s own press release clearly says “hotels”, plural. Plus we’ve seen how they’ve been building new hotels like mad at the existing resort complex, so you can imagine that more hotels will pop-up before too long. In the meantime, we know nothing at all about this first hotel, other than what we can see in the artwork, showing off a very grand style semi-curved building structure that should be between 8-10 stories in height. The exterior also appears highly themed, as it should be, as it will be seen in the background constantly by guests as they enter the resort and stroll through the central hub area. From here, guests will then choose which one of the four themed lands in the park they wish to visit. This is where things get a little weird and different, as we’ve heard a few theories on how this will all work.
On the one hand, this could work out like a typical theme park, where guests pay to get in at the entrance plaza, journey to the hub where they will enter and exit each land, with on-site hotel guests also having their own dedicated entrance into the park from the backside. On the other hand… we’ve also heard that Universal may be considering doing something very different from the norm.
This alternate plan would allow all guests (ticketed and non-ticketed) to enter the central hub as an open access area to all, much like Universal’s CityWalk, and then only those will tickets will be allowed access into the four themed lands. I can see how this would work from the layout, but I also see this potentially becoming a huge pain in the butt as guests bottleneck and lineup to get into the lands. The lines can be bad enough just to get into the park once at the start of your day, as there are always those who can’t find their tickets, or don’t have the right tickets, or are just generally having difficulties of some kind getting their act together just to get into the park. Now imagine if you had to endure this kind of congestion and mass of confusion every time you want to enter a land, or switch to another land throughout the day.
Personally I enjoy the standard one-wait/one-gate idea, getting it over at the start of the day when you visit the existing Universal Orlando parks. Even better, if you have a two-park pass, this is where the beauty of the Hogwarts Express comes into play, as switching between the two existing parks is a breeze because you can avoid the larger crowds at the main gates. By treating each “land” as if they were a separate gated park, I just see this as a needless complication of things. The only benefit I can see is if Universal were to also offer separate pricing for each of the lands, allowing guests to buy cheaper passes to experience 1 Land, 2 Lands, 3 Lands or all 4 Land passes. This could allow those only interested in one land to visit just what they want to see for less, or also allow the hub and lands to be used as a part-day attraction for those with limited time who maybe just want to come down to have dinner at a restaurant in the hub and enough leftover time to enjoy only one of the lands for a little evening entertainment. In a weird way, this kind of setup would also put the various lands in a sort of competition with each other, with very clear numbers to reveal which land pulls in the most guests. But what happens to the weakest land that isn’t performing as well? Does it get new rides added to bring up the numbers, or if it just doesn’t seem popular with the guests at all, it could be marked for closure and replaced by something new. Just something to think about, and we’ve heard rumors claiming that it could go either way, but as I said before, a lot can happen between now and when it opens. That said, let’s take a nice close-up look at the four lands!
Keep in mind that not a single new land was actually announced or confirmed by Universal Orlando as being part of the Epic Universe theme park. So consider all of the information to come as being unofficial, mostly based on information from anonymous Screamscape sources. However, the one land that Universal has confirmed that they intend to build somewhere in Orlando is Super Nintendo World. The first one is under construction to open in Japan in 2020, with a second one appearing to be under construction already for the Hollywood park as well. It is also fairly well known that the original site for Orlando’s version was intended to go into Universal Studios Florida, but construction never started there and the rumors quickly spread that it would be held off a few years to fit into a new park planned for the area.
A quick zoom into the artwork for the first land on the left side of Epic Universe it becomes very clear that this is indeed Super Nintendo World. In fact, much of the layout and building themes not only match up with some of the early artwork for the land, but they also perfectly match the leaked photos of the scale model created for the project. The entrance to the land is a little vague from the angle show, but could very well use a ‘warp pipe’ style entrance theme to take guests through a structure and into a plaza with a large Mushroom Kingdom style emblem embedded into a large circle on the ground overlooking a square-shaped land area of blocky themed building structures. Follow this along to the left and you see a huge attraction building where the entrance is being hidden from view by the angle shown. Based on the images and model, the entrance to this massive attraction should be themed to Bowser’s castle and serve as the entrance to the most anticipated attraction here: MarioKart. A quick look to the north from the MarioKart building and the theme of the land has changed from the city stylings of the Mushroom Kingdom to what appears to be Donkey Kong Country, complete with the wreckage of a crashed white cargo plane, which will be home to an amazing new indoor/outdoor coaster concept. We’ve discussed this before, but the rumor is that the coaster cars will be themed to mine-train style cars on a traditional rail system, but the real rail system for the ride will be hidden from view below the faux-tracks, allow for the coaster cars to appear as if they are jumping over broken bridges and such along the path through the jungle world of Donkey Kong. According to long standing rumors, and still in those leaked photos from the model, there is also a third attraction that is expected to be a dark ride or omni-mover style attraction called Yoshi’s Adventure that is expected to feature indoor and outdoor ride sections.
Next up on the list of lands is also the most mysterious of the bunch… a rumored land themed around the world of Universal Monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman and more. As you might expect this land is also one that has the fewest details to be seen in the artwork, depicting a very dark world, shaded in purple light, featuring a number of old decrepit looking building structures and narrow pathways, creating the perfect hunting ground for these monsters. While there are many buildings and pathways to be seen, unfortunately the artwork does not reveal any large scale attraction buildings hidden behind the themed facades. Perhaps they are being vague because the design of the land is still in development, or perhaps the land will have a number of smaller attractions, but one prominent and somewhat odd feature of this new land is the creation of a large outdoor performance amphitheater at the back end. From the artwork shown, this amphitheater kind of sticks out like a sore-thumb as not the kind of thing you would expect to see compared to the rest of the land. This also makes me wonder if Universal is planning to bring back a new version of the “Beetlejuice Graveyard Review” show or perhaps something else more dark and sinister… and less musical. While the Beetlejuice show was hugely popular in Orlando until they needed to demolish the theater a couple of years ago to make room for the Fast & Furious attraction, the show did not find the same kind of audience when performed at the Hollywood park, where another famous Universal Monster themed show (Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical) opened in 2009 and closed down about 9 months later.
Across the hub from the Monsters land is where it looks like the next Wizarding World themed land will be going, which is rumored to be themed more to the locations and places shown in the Fantastic Beasts movie series. The design here appears similar in concept to what Universal did with Diagon Alley, featuring city street facades on all sides, leading down to the split path that leads up to another massive attraction building. This may be the single largest attraction building in the entire park, but given the lack of other visible attractions in this new land, I’ve got a feeling that the split pathways going towards this same building may be a clue that it may contain two entirely separate dark ride experiences. If this land is indeed themed around the world of Fantastic Beasts, I would expect there to be ‘beasts’ aplenty represented within one or both of these attractions. Beyond this… we know very little right now about what is going on here.
And finally our last land is perhaps one that almost seems the oddest choice at first glance… a land rumored to be entirely themed around the world of the ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ animated film series from Dreamworks Animation. While Mario and friends will appeal to the smaller kids, the Monsters and Fantastic Beasts may frighten them, so your first assumption about this land of Dragons is that might be the designated “kiddie land” of Epic Universe. Until you see the concept artwork for it and realize that this is where the park’s biggest roller coasters are going to be placed. While the entire land appears to be hidden from view here, the primary feature shown here is a very long building that will serve as a coaster station for what appears to be a pair of racing/dueling coaster tracks… and themed to Dragons no less! In short, it looks like Universal is giving us a spiritual successor to the lost Dueling Dragons coasters from Islands of Adventure. In this case the artwork is somewhat confusing, as we can see two sets of tracks enter this long structure in a few different locations, and the lack of a clear lift hill, leads me to believe it will feature magnetic launch moments in one or more locations along the layout. While the tracks appears white you do see Blue and Gold colored trains running around the track leaving a color-trail behind them in various spots, especially along the left side of the image where the two appears to be heading for a head-to-head fly-by moment near the entrance of the land. There also appears to be a third, more family friendly, roller coaster also in the image, with the station set in the lower right end of the picture which leads out to a small lift hill to the left, dives and travels through a rocky canyon structure between the land and the big coaster’s station building, then out into a spiral near the front of the park and a dive through an underwater tunnel under a pathway bridge and begins to head back towards the direction of the station once again.
Zooming in elsewhere in the land I can see structures that also look more like an adventure fortress set of rope bridges and pathways through some small themed structures, and just to the left of the family coaster station I can see what looks like a large steel arm going out to a series of small pod like structures attached to the end of this arm. If I had to guess, this looks exactly like a Gerstlauer Sky-Fly attraction. South of here, across the waterway, there are also pathways winding past several circular looking attraction pads that could be home to any number of themed round-about kiddie or family friendly rides.
So there you have it… our first early peek at Universal’s EPIC UNIVERSE theme park. Or at least at the design and scope of the project as of mid-2019. But site clearly and early infrastructure work has already begun on the site, so this isn’t just a dream, this is something that is definitely happening. One thing is for sure, this is a great time to theme a theme park fan!
(7/17/19) OrlandoParkStop has posted an interesting article about the proposed Yoshi themed omnimover dark ride expected to go into Super Nintendo World, based on the photos of that model found a bit ago. The interesting thing about this Yoshi ride is that it appears as if it will run both indoor and outdoor, which seems a bit strange given the crazy weather than can happen in Orlando. But they also have a satellite photo of Super Nintendo World in Japan where you can see the same track layout already built at the park there.
(7/9/19) I’m not sure how accurate or real this is, but OrlandoParkStop has posted a few pictures of a model that looks to represent what Super Nintendo World might look like when they build it. Of course this may be an early model, or perhaps even a model of the version going into Japan which may not look like how they do it in Hollywood or Orlando. The model seems to feature a MarioKart ride, a Yoshi themed attraction and the Donkey Kong Country area, complete with coaster track.
Early concept or not, the land does look fantastic and should bring a smile to the faces of Nintendo fans everywhere.
(4/10/19) We’ve talked about Universal upcoming secret new theme park in Orlando for some time, but we’ve never really gone into detail about what it will be like. After all… for the longest time as soon as I’d heard a rumor about one thing, another rumor would come up claiming something else entirely, so everything seemed very much in flux for the longest time. This is as it should be, considering how much money it costs to build a brand new from-scratch theme park, you know Universal isn’t just going to take the first idea and run with it, they’re going to work all the angles, all the possibilities, try out all the various mixtures of IP that could be used for the possible theming.
While I don’t know if they’ve finalized the design yet myself, this week ThemeParkUniversity has opted to post their own prediction on what the forth park may be like. This includes a strange idea I had not really heard much about which would see the center of the new park with a free-to-enter public hub space that would also serve a similar purpose to Citywalk at the existing resort. From there you would then pass through entry gates into each of the themed-lands, where you would be forced back into the central public space to transition from one land to another.
I’m not sold on this concept, and personally I’d got a hunch it could be axed before the park opens, as it seems like a giant logistical, staffing and security bottleneck just waiting to happen that will cause more problems than give advantages. This also sounds more like a “leftover” idea from one of the original concepts I had first heard about the project before being dropped, where the idea was to build it up with separate lands, where guests would arrive and stay in an on-site hotel and visit each land entirely by itself in the same way guests on a cruise-ship opt for various experiences as they arrive at each port-of-call along the way.
Speaking of hotels… you know there is going to be one, and they claim it will be a large and tall one at the backside of the entire new park, allowing guests to have room views down into the park itself, much like how guests staying in Cabana Bay’s end-towers get an incredible view down into Volcano Bay.
As for the lands… according to their report, the park will open with four and have room for at least two more to add as expansions, which they list as being themed to: Fantastic Beasts, Super Nintendo World, How to Train Your Dragon and Universal Classic Monsters. The first two have been fairly locked in for some time now, as well as the Dragons… though I had heard rumors of other plans that could combine the various Dreamworks Animation properties into one land, or give several Dreamworks Animation properties their own lands… but some of those could be for future expansions. To be honest, I find it odd they would limit their Dreamworks presence to just one film property, especially one that just released its final chapter.
The Universal Classic Monsters is an interesting choice, not because it doesn’t have a place at a Universal park, but more so because the Orlando parks have mostly chosen to ignore this part of Universal’s film history over the years outside of Halloween Horror Nights season. Previous rumors however had indicated they might have been looking at a land themed to the new ‘Dark Universe” reboot versions of the monsters, but since Dark Universe has been on-hold since the last Mummy film failed to find big box-office, I’ve got to wonder if they might be better off putting this on hold for a future expansion when they have more solid studio plans.
Meanwhile of all the other rumors… I can see how they may have opted not to try and go with anything Lord of the Rings/Hobbit related, though I’m surprised we’re not seeing anything more SciFi oriented, like all those rumors of trying to include Star Trek into the park just as the franchise is working itself back from a lull. Still… anything can happen between now and when they choose to announce it, so stay tuned!
(2/21/19) While there still isn’t much to be seen, some revised plans have been filed for Universal’s expansion site showing off how all the roads will be placed, along with some water drainage systems. As for the park site itself, while you can't see any buildings or structures, you can make out what looks like a backstage perimeter road system with various branches that venture in towards the center.
According to various sources, this new park is also supposed to be laid out more like Disney’s Magic Kingdom with the lands laid out like a giant wheel around a central hub district in the center and this backstage road system seems to back that concept up.
(2/13/19) The local news has posted a few more images from the infrastructure plans being made for Universal Orlando’s expansion site to the south based on revised filings. According to the article they confirm plans for a large surface parking lot that will offer around 16,200 standard parking spots plus 172 handicap accessible spots on the property.
(1/22/19) Remember we saw Universal file some potentially new trademarks that could be used for their future theme park? It appears as if Warner Bros. may be planning to object to the use of the “Fantastic Worlds”, as they are said to have filed for two extensions of “Time to Oppose for Good Cause”. Now Warner Bros. clearly does not own a trademark for “Fantastic Worlds”, so the thought process is that they must feel that their “Fantastic Beasts” trademark could possibly be confused for “Fantastic Worlds”, especially inside of a Universal Orlando theme park which is known for having the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions. Still… that be a bit of a stretch, but the long-standing rumor was that Universal’s next theme park would likely have a third ‘Wizarding World’ themed land, likely one themed to the “Fantastic Beasts” spin-off series of movies. Clearly WB is concerned about any possible name confusion, so this almost seems to confirm that we will see some kind of Fantastic Beasts attraction in the new park.
My guess is that if the ruling goes in favor of Warner Bros, Universal will have a couple of back-up names waiting in the wings. Unfortunately, of all the names I’ve seen so far, I kind of dig “Fantastic Worlds” the most, so it would be a shame for WB to block this, and even worse, if Universal were forced to fight them for the rights to use it, it would likely cause some bad blood between the two studios who have been working well together for years.
(7/25/18) Universal has filed a few interesting new trademarks this month that could possibly be for their next Orlando theme park, or perhaps even the name of a land or two within. Earlier this month they put in one filing for the name "Fantastic Worlds", but just a few days ago they put in for a new trademark for "Universal's Epic Universe" as well as just plain "Epic Universe"... and not just for one use, but they filed for seven different uses for version of the name for things beyond theme park or attraction use, but to use on all kinds of merchandise.
Or one possible other thought... both of these could also be used as some kind of new copyrighted tagline to represent the entire resort and all the parks in Orlando. Anyone else remember the failed, "Universal Studios Escape"? Maybe this is another thing like that... but both would work fine as the name of the new park as well, though I'm thinking Universal's Epic Universe fits that role better simply because it put Universal's name at the front in much the same fashion as Universal's Islands of Adventure.