Universal’s Epic Universe
NBC Universal / Comcast
Opening in 2025
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(11/5/22) An Interesting Rumor About Curse of the Werewolf Coaster (MORE...)
(11/1/22) Current "Monsters" Attraction Names (MORE...)
(10/8/22) All About The Battle for the Ministry of Magic (MORE...)
(9/10/22) Two New Resort Names Trademarked For Universal's Epic Universe (MORE...)
(8/24/22) Everything You Want To Know About Donkey Kong (MORE...)
(8/13/22) Everything You Want To Know About The Monsters Land (MORE...)
New Park - (11/5/22) Screamscape has heard some interesting scuttlebut about the Curse of the Werewolf spinning coaster project coming to the Monsters land. While this was said to be a launched spinning coaster from Mack Rides, the early assumption was that would be part of Mack’s “Xtreme Spinning Coaster” line, which has some impressive looking beefy trains that would be easy to apply some very cool theming to, as we’ve seen already done with Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City and Ride to Happiness at Plopsaland De Panne.
(10/8/22) Today Screamscape is back with another special reveal about one of the major attractions under construction at Universal’s Epic Universe. Today we’re going to dive DEEP into Universal Orlando’s 3rd “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” themed land, and the key anchor attraction, which is tentatively named, “The Battle for the Ministry of Magic”. I’d expect some small tweaking of the name to take place before things are officially announced, but this title is pretty clear to the story being told within her.
Instead, we are hearing there is a chance that Universal might have opted to use an entirely different style train concept from Mack. Mack has a couple of spinning coaster styles under their belt and the concern is that Universal could have opted to use a system similar to the trains used on Cobra’s Curse at Busch Gardens Tampa, which I believe use a restraint system similar to Mack’s wild mouse cars which is a bit cramped for most adult riders and anyone with long legs. Personally, if they opt not to use the new style trains, I would hope that they opt to use Mack’s more comfortable style spinning coaster trains, which Universal actually has experience with, having used them on Space Fantasy at Universal Studios Japan. More on this as we find out.
(11/1/22) While things are always subject to change up until the last second, Screamscape sources have revealed to us the current attraction names from Epic Universe’s Monsters area. For starters, the European themed village itself will be named “Village of Darkmoor”. As for the rides, look for the big E-ticket dark ride to be called “Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment” and the new spinning coaster is expected to be named “The Curse of the Werewolf”.
But before we get to that, I’m going to talk about the land itself briefly, which is sure to cause more than a little confusion when it comes to the story being told within the attraction. As previously rumored, the land itself is supposed to be themed as if you are in the French version of the Wizarding World. Guests will enter the land and the surrounding streets and shops, which I believe is called “Place Cachée”, which roughly translates as “Hidden Place”. Fans of the Wizarding World films will have seen Place Cachée for a brief time in the second Fantastic Beasts film, and is essentially a more fancy and French version of Diagon Alley.
While a secondary attraction was once intended for this land (remember that VR Broomstick ride?) it has long since been canceled. Apparently not for budget reasons, but mainly it sounds like when the option came to move it to a new location in the main Studios park and they started to push ahead with building it sooner than later, they realized that it just wasn’t really going to be as good of an attraction as they thought, so they scrapped it. The land where this attraction was going to be placed however will still remain available to add an additional attraction onto the land in the future when the time is right. Otherwise, I think the only other attraction in the land will be some kind of show theater.
So anyway, guests will visit the French Wizarding World for the first time, so you can see how this can open up a lot of ways to sell all new merchandise and food options not already sold in the first two Wizarding World lands over at the main resort parks. Interactive Wands will also be in play here, and apparently the entire interactive wand play as seen throughout all three parks is said to be planned for a major upgrade where all new wands capable of more interactive elements will then be sold. We’ll discuss that more at another time… but just expect to see the wands able to do a lot more here in this newest land.
The entrance to the main attraction will be an interesting feature for this land, as guests will enter into what is essentially a giant public Floo Network station. So you’ll enter into a giant room full of fireplaces that will transport you BACK to the British Ministry of Magic. Yes… you read that last part right… while the entire land is themed as if you are in Parisian Wizarding World, the main attraction for the entire land take place in in the UK, and requires them to come up with an in-storyline method of transportation to get all the guests back to the British Wizarding World, and back again by the end of the experience.
You may find yourself asking… Why did they bother themeing the land to Paris at all then? Or why not come up with a new story involving the French Wizarding World? Both are good questions… and neither have a good answer. Apparently Universal Creative is just hoping that no one will really ask those kind of questions and just go along with the experience. OK then… and oh… don’t even try to bring up the time jump, as the Fantastic Beasts era (early 20th century) theming of Place Cachée will then give way, via Floo teleport, to a future timeline in the regular Harry Potter film series that takes place in the world following the events of the Deathly Hallows book/films but before the events that take place in The Cursed Child play.
All this aside, everyone is trying to get to the London Ministry of Magic to catch the end of the trial of Dolores Umbridge who is about to the sentenced to serve a life sentence in Azkaban prison for her crimes. To do this, guests will enter this magical public transportation station to get to the Ministry, which will actually be done through a very cool room stuffed with special effects.
Guests will then exit the Floo into the giant hallway of Floos as seen in the Ministry of Magic in the film series. Through design and some effects, this area will be a huge reveal and “Wow” moments for the guests as they move from here into the queue for the ride. Guests will move towards the center of the Ministry rotunda, which will include the huge statue at the center. The buildout of this massive round room has already been spotted in some of the aerial construction photos of the park. From here guests will travel down the various hallways within the Ministry, past various office doors and different Ministry departments, which includes the office of the Aurors. Aurors are essentially the highly trained enforcement arm of the Wizarding World. As I said previously, this all takes place after the Battle of Hogwarts (as seen in Deathly Hollows Pt 2) and before the events of The Cursed Child. In a quick little spoiler here, both Harry and Ron eventually become Aurors, which will be important later.
Working through the Ministry guests will eventually get to the magical elevator bays where they will board the ride vehicle. As I mentioned in the previous article, the originally vision for the attraction was to use sort of Elevator platform attached to an overhead track, not unlike the original Kong attraction at Universal Studios Florida when it first opened in 1990. Instead this idea was revised to use a next-gen Spider-Man style ride car system that will add a significant bit of “heave” movement to the platform. In the vocabulary of motion-base platform rides, “heave” would be described as vertical up and down motion, so essentially this ride platform will move like Spiderman through the dark ride, while being able to also provide lift and dropping sensations during the ride experience, to give it a true elevator motion style feel.
As guests come up into the loading station for the actual ride they will see it is laid out as a dual-side station just like Gringott’s or Revenge of the Mummy, which would be a first for Universal when building a Spider-Man / Transformers style dark ride system. Guests will board and be transported to the courtroom to see the trial of Umbridge. From here, in true Universal ride fashion, things go horribly wrong rather quickly. (Warning: Spoilers Ahead!)
Death Eaters arrive on the scene to free Umbridge, and the storyline will see the arrival of your three favorite Potter characters (Harry, Ron and Hermione) to battle the evil and stop their evil plans. It seems breaking Umbridge out of the Ministry isn’t enough, she is trying to get into a storage area for powerful magical artifacts to get her hands of a time travel device. If I understand things correctly, Umbridge wants to open a portal back in time to when Voldemort was all powerful and bring that version of Voldemort to the present in order to take over the Wizarding World.
Guests will ride along and enter various rooms in the Ministry and pass through the chaotic magical battlefield as shown through both projection and real-world animatronic effects. When I say Animatronics… apparently Universal is putting some new animatronic figures to use here that go by the codename Megabot. From what I’m told these are the most advanced animatronics ever put to use by Universal Creative ever and not only feature fluid human-like motion, but fully projection mapped animated faces.
While I’m not 100% up on all my Potter universe and magical creatures, you’ll not only encounter some kind of fire breathing chicken creature, but also a frightening encounter with Newt’s Erumpent. While trying to get away Umbridge apparently frees the Erumpent, which is sort of a massive magical creature with a rhinoceros style horn coming from the top of its head. From what I’m told, Universal is going to borrow the effect they created for the Jurassic World dark ride in China here, as the guests will come face to face and then look like they are trying to run away from the charging Erumpent.
It all comes to a head when Delores thinks she has the Time Turner she was seeking out in hand, only to realize that Hermione has done something to it. I’m not sure if she created a fake one, or put a curse on a real one, but in the end Delores Umbridge will see her plan fall to pieces and litterally slip through her fingers, and find her obnoxious pink garb transformed back into prison black & white stripes as she is apprehended once again. From here everyone is taken back to the court room for the final sentencing by Shacklebolt and as the finale scene for the ride.
I’m told that the actress who plays Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) has signed off to film footage for the ride. I know what you are thinking… and yes Universal has reached out to the actors who play Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) to see if they can lure them back to reprise their characters once again for the new ride. This can be done via full performance work, voice work, or give permission for some alternative GCI version of their likeness to be used.
Storywise, this is likely going to be one of the best attractions in the park, and a great example of having a Wizarding World attraction officially expand the universe through a new storyline that has been approved by Warner Bros and everyone involved to be considered as official cannon for the Wizarding World universe. This will include the use of all official characters from the films, and the introduction of some new characters and creatures we may not have seen before. One new character that will be introduced here via an Animatronic is the first female house elf character to be introduced, who I believe will be an assistant to Umbridge. This character may possibly be first shown in the queue as guests pass by Umbridge’s old and very pink office, full of those crazy animated cat plates on the walls.
Once the ride is over, guests will exit through a gift shop area and through another pass through the Floo network to get everyone back to early 20th century Paris once again. I’ve drew up a quick layout drawing of the actual attraction space, where the ride system itself seems to be entirely contained to the upper level of the attraction building. The queue will be contained in the shorter single story building in front of the main attraction building, as well as throughout sections of the first level under the attraction itself, not unlike how the original Forbidden Journey attraction is done.
While I’ve already described the basic overall story to be told during the ride experience, there is nothing in the layout that will really give away which scene is which, but there are a couple of stage areas you can see along with what look like areas where rear projection screens will be placed throughout the ride experience and other areas that appear as if they could use more practical real-world effects. There is also an area where the ride vehicles can be swapped in and out of a maintenance area just after leaving the station, with the maintenance area being in the upper front left section of the building. You can see this shown in a great aerial picture of the site posted by Bioreconstruct on Twitter below.
(9/10/22) Every so often I’ll search through the government's trademark database for new listings related to the industry and this week I discovered that Universal filed for two new trademark names for future Resort projects on Sept. 1st. We know that in addition to the already discovered Grand Helios Resort at the back of the park, Universal’s plans had marked off the locations for two additional resort projects to be located across the street from each other just to the south of the park. While these could be two entirely “separate” resort concepts, my feeling is that we could be seeing a pair of related resorts rise here, in mind the same fashion that Universal’s Endless Summer Resort is made up of two separate resorts, the Surfside Resort and the Dockside Resort.
The new names just trademarked would definitely work either as stand-alone resorts, but with perhaps a related overall theme, as they will be called “Universal’s Terra Luna Resort” and “Universal’s Stella Nova Resort”. These roughty translate from Latin as Universal’s “Earth Moon Resort” and the “New Star Resort” which definitely fits in with the “cosmic” theme they seem to be going with for the Epic Universe expansion property. Another fine example would be the rumored “Celestial Gardens” area for the center of the park that will include a large restaurant, an enclosed carousel under a dome structure and the pair of racing/dueling launched coasters.
Then there is also the “Helios Grand Hotel” project, where Helios was the name of the Greek Titan who represented the movement of the Sun across the sky. Each day Helios was believed to leave his golden palace to climb aboard a chariot pulled by four winged steeds and fly East to West across the entire sky wearing a bright glowing crown that created the blinding light of the sun in an aura around his head.
(8/24/22) Today Screamscape is going to take you into the colorful jungles of Donkey Kong Country for an in-depth look at what you can expect from the Donkey Kong mine kart coaster. For starters, if you missed any of our earlier reports, this has probably been one of the worst kept secrets about Super Nintendo World as Universal Creative filed patents for something they called the “Boom Coaster” ride system for this way back when it was first envisioned for Universal Studios Japan. In fact, the ride is already well under construction in Japan with an intended 2024 opening there, about a year ahead of the clone under construction in Epic Universe for 2025.
The Boom Coaster concept is essentially a small single-car roller coaster system where the vehicle (in this case themed as a mine cart) will essentially hover just over fake mine cart tracks. The real roller coaster track that makes this all work is hidden to the side and below the fake tracks (or scenery) and actually looks pretty like a regular roller coaster track, but installed at a 90º angle. The purpose of this is to hide the real track from easy viewing and instead fill the rider’s view with enough scenery and fake track that it will allow for the mine cart vehicle to appear as if it can perform some pretty nifty looking stunts. Riders will think the vehicle will jump over gaps in the track, be able to tilt and ride on 2-wheels (and 1 fake rail), dive out of the way in unpredictable fashion away from the faux track to avoid collisions and much more. If you check out the images I’ve attached here, you’ll find a series of crude sketches… hand drawn by myself, as a way to try and show off just what this ride system is capable of, or trying to show off what a few of the visual gags that lie ahead could look like. Don’t laugh too much, like I said, crude drawings.
Pretty much the whole of Donkey Kong Country is being built all around this coaster system, with the exception of an airplane themed food stand guests will first notice to the side upon entering the jungle landscape, with a view of a massive temple ahead of them. The temple will be decorated with assorted art of monkey and gorilla symbols, a waterfall falling from near the top, along with the occasional bits and pieces of odd debris, including a giant wooden barrel near the peak. (That barrel will be important later). Guests will enter the queue ahead to the left that will wind through part of the outdoor jungle scenery and past a couple of the lower tier track gags before venturing inside the temple itself for the indoor queue section that will eventually lead to the load/unload station.
Since we are dealing with the issue of unloading and loading a large number of 4-passenger vehicles, I’m assuming that Universal may try to use a continuously moving loading station concept, not unlike what they built for Hagrid and the Forbidden Journey attractions. It really is the best way to keep guests and vehicles moving. Once you board your kart you’ll slowly move outside where the fun will begin.
From here, I’m going to describe some of the basic scenes, gags and effects we expect you to encounter while on the attraction. Keep in mind that much of this information came to us some time ago, and some design revisions may have changes a thing or two between now and then, but you’ll still get the basic gist of what the ride experience is about. You can also follow along with a layout map I’ve created of the ride experience, with each area numbered starting with:
1 - After making a quick u-turn your cart will move up the first lift hill and towards that giant barrel we mentioned that was sitting at the top of the temple. Upon entering the barrel your cart will lurch forward at great speed and perform the first of several “jumps” over a gap in a broken section of track.
2 - Sticking the landing, your cart will head forward and towards an entrance into the temple, but watch out… Donkey Kong and son are riding head-on at you on another mine cart, speeding into view from around the corner up ahead to the left. Without warning your cart vears off the track to the right, diving down into darkness.
3 - Suddenly back on the tracks but at high speed your cart will suddenly climb a hill just as you venture back out into the sun to leap another gap in the tracks.
4 - After a quick straight away you’ll head towards what is either another jump effect or a small dip into a small bunny hop and then quickly bank right into a tight turn towards a cave entrance.
5 - Darkness here, and what I understand in the dim lighting you may see a pair of tracks ahead, each with some kind of construction disruption or a mine-character blocking the tracks so your cart will perform a couple of rapid track swaps to avoid these obstacles and head back towards the light ahead…
6 - Lift Hill 2 - Back into the sun and rising towards the waterfall…
7 - Passing under the waterfall, your view is obscured by mist as you approach what I call the corkscrew gag. The track ahead will appear to literally climb the walls of the temple into a corkscrew inversion. What you don’t see is that the true coaster track below the fog will instead take a steep dive and quickly bank to the right and back outside once again.
8 - Much like Scene 3, your fast moving cart will quickly climb and I believe perform another jump over some rocky terrain.
9 - Sticking the landing, again into another hard banked right turn, but I think you’ll simulate riding on a single rail as you navigate the turn through some kind of rocky section of broken track.
10 - Splashdown… and yes, real water. The true coaster track will dip below grade through the hidden slot while the bottom of your mine cart will bounce and splash across a small body of water, before rising up and going back inside the temple once again.
11 - Finale… you encounter a big animated figure of Donkey Kong celebrating your run with a Hi-5 as you approach a treasure room with Diddy Kong and a massive golden banana before slowly rolling back into the station.
And there you have it… you just took on the Golden Temple of Donkey Kong Country. From what sound of things, this could be an amazing roller coaster system, able to visually look like it is performing a number of incredible stunts all while maintaining a relatively friendly speed and pace, all while appearing to keep the cart (for the most part) on tracks along various surfaces rather than flying high into the sky. The end effect should be a ride that is thrilling to both young and old alike. Be sure to check out the picture below posted to Twitter by Bioreconstruct showing off the current status of Super Nintendo World at Epic Universe. The large attraction under construction on the bottom right is Donkey Kong, with the enclosed structure to be the temple, the L-shaped off-shoot at the top to be the enclosed dark cave section of the ride, and the basin below that for the splashdown area. The circular structure to the left of it all will be for the Yoshi themed omni-mover ride, and the large structure going up above that will be for the MarioKart ride.
(8/22/22) Bioreconstruct has posted an assortment of new aerial images of the Epic Universe theme park under construction this week. I’ve hand picked a few to share, starting with one showing off the massive attraction building under construction for the Wizarding World area that should be themed as a French Ministry of Magic building. From what I’m told this will be the only ‘ride’ in the land when the park opens, along with a live show theater, as all other options were canceled (VR Brookstick ride anyone?) or budget cut out.
There are also a couple of aerial shots of the Universal Monsters land, where the big structure is the Frankenstein Manor attraction, the one with the very low walls right now will be for the launched spinning coaster (you’ll see a few footers) and other items representing the entrance to the land or other random buildings that will serve as scenery, shops or restaurants.
Remember how I said the land will come alive after dark? One such structure will be of great interest to fans of the Universal Mosnters, as they will essentially be bringing to life the finale scene of the 1931 Frankenstein film by creating a massive Windmill building that will seem innocent enough during the daytime. After the sun goes down, just as seen in the film, the villagers will light the windmill on fire in order to destroy Frankenstein’s Monster. Or at least that is how it happens in the film. As for the theme park version, I’m not entirely sure if the plan is for the windmill just to spin on fire all night, or explosively erupt into flames every 15 minutes or so, or if they will try to put on some kind of performance with villagers chasing a monster into the windmill and then lighting it on fire at specific times. Either way, it is a damn cool touch.
Other pictures I’ll add below include a look at the How To Train Your Dragon land, which will feature a number of rides and a fun coaster for the whole family that will feature both lift hills and launch segments, plus a look at the yellow, green and black track stacked up for the Celestial Coaster project, which also will have a significant footprint.
(8/13/22) Ok, I teased it yesterday, but we do know a little more about what is supposed to be going on at the Universal Monsters area of the park. As I mentioned before, a second attraction is being added to the land in addition to the KUKA-arm ride. This new ride is said to be a last second addition to the plans after the show-venue was scraped from the park plans during COVID. From the sound of things, it is a shame that the show concept was scrapped, as it had earned the nickname of “Werewolf Waterworld” from many of the designers. In reality, the show venue would have been a sort of a mix between the Waterworld stunt show concept from the Hollywood park mixed with the technology and video wall of Florida’s “The Borne Stuntacular” show.
As a replacement I’m told that Universal has bought a launched spinning coaster from Mack Rides, not unlike Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City (2018) or Ride to Happiness at Plopsaland De Panne (2021). That said, this will be a MUCH smaller ride than those other coasters however. Look for the coaster to be mostly outdoors with the exception of one indoor show scene that will probably lead up to the launch. Two themes were said to have been proposed for the ride, one involving being chased by wolves through the woods (which is probably the final concept) though there was another concept themed around the idea of Dr Jeckle & Mr. Hyde, where the spinning cars would have likely been themed half and half to each personality.
Now if you are ready, I’ve got all the details you want to know about the land itself, the story they are telling with it and how it relates to the main attraction. Apparently the development teams struggled with this land concept more than any other for the park, but with good reason. The concept of the Universal Monsters is not one that was intended to be used as part of a “shared universe”, but rather was a concept of characters grouped together over time. Universal Studios itself struggled greatly with the “Dark Universe” concept where they wanted to create a rebooted and shared universe for new modern versions of these Monsters before eventually shelving the concept. In terms of the theme park land, it makes sense that they struggled with the concept of creating an overall theme that could represent the various characters in one setting, but there are just so mary variables to choose from, including the era of the setting itself (modern world, european village, black & white era, etc…).
What was selected after all this time was to build what will look like a classic European Village concept, but isn’t just any village, this will be the original village from the Frankenstein legends! You aren’t going back in time however, this will be today’s world, where the inhabitants have, of course, turned the village into a tourist trap to capitalize on the legend of the events that took place inside the creepy Frankenstein manor on the edge of town.
Enter into the picture, the great-great-great ancestor of Dr. Victor Frankenstein… who I’m hearing just might be named “Victoria”. Victoria, who apparently will have a sort of sexy “Elvira” vibe, has returned to reclaim the manor and convert it into the most epic of tourist attractions and something worthy of her family name! This has the rest of the villagers a little on edge as the abandoned and dormant castle has been showing new signs of life and activity.
As tourists you are invited to try out this new attraction of course, and meet Victoria Frankenstein in the flesh. Yes, apparently she will be fully present at one point (probably the pre-show) as an awesome animatronic figure. Victoria has been looking to up the ante in building the ultimate tourist attraction, and may have borrowed a page from the Jurassic World playbook. Monsters are not enough… and much like the VelociCoaster, she created something more thrilling… more edgy… or in the verbiage of Jurassic World… she is going to give you something with “more teeth”.
How so? Well, it turns out that old Dr. Frankenstein had apparently collected more monsters from around the world in his day, and had them chained up in an underground dungeon below the manor all those years ago. Upon this discovery, Victoria has “spared no expense” to update the old family manor, bringing in a security force and install the best modern containment systems to keep all those captured monsters in check
So after all the pre-show and security warnings are dealt with, you’ll be led towards the loading station to board your vehicle for the tour. The station will actually be a large rotating platform, not unlike what guests use to board the Popeye & Bluto rapids ride at Islands of Adventure. For those who ever got the chance to see any plans for the once proposed Van Helsing attraction Universal dreamt up first for the KUKA-arm ride concept before converting it use for Harry Potter, this should sound very familiar. From here guests will board their vehicle (where the KUKA-arm is mounted below the seats this time) and start your tour going past this collection of imprisoned creatures. This will lead you to an encounter with the original Frankenstein’s Monster, where as usual… something goes horribly wrong.
The fun of the Universal Monsters land doesn’t end with just the two rides however. Of course there will be gift shops and I’m expected a themed restaurant experience as well, but once the sun goes down, you will be in for a special treat. In the evenings, I’m told that the monsters will escape the manor and begin to hide and roam about the land, jumping out of the shadows to scare guests not paying attention. In essence, the entire land will become something more like a year-round Scare Zone at Halloween Horror Nights, with spooky music, fog and lighting effects and more. Now that’s a plan I can definitely get behind and makes this land sound so much more exciting!
(8/12/22) Back in July I mentioned that the main attraction in the Universal Monsters land at Epic Universe would be an upgraded version of the KUKA Arm ride technology used for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Islands of Adventure. Many have asked for more information about exactly what will be different, and to be honest, the difference isn’t going to sound like much on the surface.
When you look at what the Forbidden Journey ride vehicles look like, the rider’s seats are mounted to the massive KUKA robot arm, attached essentially just behind the spines of the riders. According to Screamscape source the main difference this time around is that the KUKA Arm will connect to the riders from below the seats, rather than in back of them. While the difference is subtle, the point of connection will allow for the ride vehicles to be able to SPIN the riders around far more quickly along the Z-Axis, allow for rapid turns and spins, possibly to better simulate combat moves and impacts. In the original ride vehicle, it appears that all Z-Axis movement was handled by a joint at the extreme furthest end of the arm, which required the entire arm and all the attached hardware to spin as well. Obviously moving that much extra mass takes a lot more time and energy, and moves a lot slower. In essence, think of how fast you can move your hand by rotating at the wrist, compared to how much more effort it takes to move your hand by only using your shoulder joint.
On a related note, we’ve been hearing a little more information about a second ride being added to the Universal Monsters land. This new ride will be taking the place of a previous concept for the land that was going to have a large show theater instead, but the theater has been canceled and this unknown new ride will appear instead. I have a few ideas about exactly what this new ride may be, but I’m not quite ready to reveal it just yet.
(8/5/22) According to the Orlando Business Journal, Universal’s new 500-room Grand Helios hotel at the back of the new Epic Universe theme park is slated to be completed by the end of 2023, over a year before the Epic Universe theme park is set to open sometime in 2025.
Universal has also filed permits to build a second hotel (750-rooms) down near the new Epic Universe park as well that will be located off Universal Blvd. With the addition of these two new hotels, this would bring Universal’s total number of rooms up to 10,250 across the ten different resort properties.
(7/10/22) A great collection of aerial images showing off the progress of things at Universal’s Epic Universe has been added below. As you can see various large steel building structures are now rising on site for some of the park’s major attractions. This includes a look at Super Nintendo World, including the Donkey Kong coaster which already has some track and supports in place, and supports up for the Yoshi’s Adventure family ride. There are also pictures of the massive show building going up for the Ministry of Magic attraction, a pit and footers in place for the high speed head-to-head near-miss u-turn at the front of the Celestial Gardens coaster project, ground work in the How to Train Your Dragon land, and a look at work starting in the Universal Monsters land, with the structure believed to be the entrance to the land’s signature dark ride, a new KUKA arm creation said to be a upgrade in concept to the ride system used for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. Much like with Forbidden Journey, and as one might expect from a Universal Monsters themed ride, it will have a very large indoor queue that is almost an attraction to itself. I wouldn’t be surprised if this particular attraction takes on an overall footprint similar to the original potter ride with a themed dark castle like structure up front serving the entrance, queue, exit and gift shop hiding the larger show building behind it, which will likely go up after they finish with the front section.
Now that we’ve seen construction taking place on all the lands around the park, is it too soon to talk about what will come next? We know the park will open with four lands themed to various IP, along with the Celestial Gardens central land, space is being left open in the park to add at least 3 or 4 more new lands over the years after it opens. Would it surprise you to know that Universal already has a very special IP in mind to serve as the first expansion land for Epic Universe?
Plans can always change of course, and often they do, as longtime readers may recall reading about a number of new themed attractions once planned for Universal’s Islands of Adventure that were never built. Keeping that in mind, Screamscape sources have told us that the first planned expansion for Epic Universe will be to bring the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth to the park. That is really all I’ve heard at this point, and we don’t have a clue if this will be inspired more from the Peter Jackson series of films (“The Hobbit” / “Lord of the Rings”) made for W.B./New Line Cinema or if they will take inspiration from the upcoming Amazon Prime series: “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”. Either way, this addition does seem definitely to be an “Epic” one.
(6/22/22) While the coaster track for the planned How To Train Your Dragon land ride was spotted last week, we now have pictures from Super Nintendo World where the unique Donkey Kong coaster has gone vertical. As you can see, the track system used here is unique, featuring a vertical orientation that will allow for some fun optical illusions to take place along the way, such as areas where the ride car will appear to be jumping over gaps.
A second picture posted also shows off vertical construction on some of the buildings intended for the Universal Monsters themed land, which will be anchored by a massive new dark ride featuring ride vehicles powered by Kuka robotic arms once again.
(6/19/22) The Coaster Crew reports that a load of what appears to be Intamin style roller coaster track has been delivered to Universal’s Epic Universe theme park. There are a few coasters slated to be installed for this park, including a Donkey Kong themed coaster, a pair of racing/dueling launched coasters (also from Intamin I believe) that will be part of the central Celestial Gardens area of the park, and then a How To Train Your Dragon coaster. The later will be an Intamin built terrain hugging coaster that should offer a ride experience not unlike Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at IOA. As I believe that the Celestial Gardens coasters are intended to be brightly colored, the plain grey track found on site now falls right in line with the design intent for the How To Train Your Dragon themed coaster experience.
(6/16/22) Today we’re going to talk a little bit about Universal’s Epic Universe theme park, in particular I’m going to discuss what we know about a few of the major rides, and how things have changed between now and what was originally intended before the pandemic.
For starters, let's jump into a land we haven't really discussed much before, which would be this park’s addition to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. A lot has changed here from what was originally intended, and there is still so much we still don’t know.
For starters, I’m still not sure exactly what the overall theme of this land will be. Before the pandemic struck, the story was that this would be our first look at the Wizarding World of France, which would include an attraction that would take us inside the French version of the Ministry of Magic in Paris, that long rumored VR Broomstick ride, a live show and possibly a smaller outdoor attraction of some kind.
Things have obviously changed since then, and while I don’t know if Parisian theme itself will even stick, the VR Broomstick ride up and moved itself to become a replacement for Fear Factor at USF, and then it got canceled entirely from both parks. This leaves us with the land’s primary thrill ride, and while the ride system has changed, I’m hearing that the overall storyline to take guests on an adventure inside the Ministry of Magic is likely to remain intact. What was canceled however was the ride system originally envisioned for this attraction, that was said to be a merger of a Spider-Man style dark ride vehicle, with the ceiling suspended ride system used for the old Kongfrontation ride, themed as taking a magic elevator ride around the Minsitry.
So to picture this, imagine taking a Spider-Man car, but flipping it upside down and mounting it to a track on the roof. The motion-base is still there, and attached to the top of the rider’s flying elevator vehicle to rotate and shake everyone about, while adding the Kong style ability to raise and lower the elevator in height as you move around the show-scenes, starting off with the Ministry’s trial of (Professor) Dolores Umbridge… aka that nasty woman in pink who made life hell for Potter and friends in the Order of the Phoenix film. The plot of the ride, which may still hold true in current form, is that Umbridge escapes during the trial, and is trying to obtain some kind of magic item that allows for time travel, so that she can go back and bring the Voledermort of the past into the present day, fully powered and ready to take over the Wizarding World.
Ok, got that?
Good… because the riders get involved in the effort to stop her before it is too late.
What’s changed now? It sounds like the story may essentially be the same, but rather than risk things things by creating a brand-new ride system, instead we are going to essentially get an slightly upgraded “Spider-Man” concept instead, where riders will climb aboard a ride platform not unlike what you are already experienced with on Spider-Man or Transformers, but will include one extra piece of added technology that will allow the riders to be raised and/or dropped about 5 feet along with all the regular motions you’ve come to expect from that ride system. The added vertical (heave) motion will help convey that same feeling that you are riding along in a floating elevator apparently. For comparison’s sake, the addition of “heave” motion is what also makes Disney’s Avatar: Flight of Passage ride system stand out as feeling more intense than the more gentle motion of “Soarin’”.
(2/13/22) While this is something of a no-brainer, early permits uncovered seem to confirm that planning for a second hotel is in the works for Universal’s Epic Universe expansion. Unlike the large planned “Helios” resort planned to go on site at the back of the new theme park itself, the permits for this latest plan (Project 912) show a site located south of the new theme park, along the north side of Universal Blvd.
Keep in mind that Universal owns a lot of land down here now, and master plans have been set to build several new hotels and developments here to support the new Epic Universe theme park since it is not connected physically to the main Universal Orlando resort property.
(1/29/22) In a Comcast earnings call this past week, Universal’s parent company confirmed that they are moving “full steam ahead” on the new Epic Universe theme park project, which is now slated to open in Summer 2025 based on the current rate of construction.
(7/11/21) An interesting report from Theme Park University this weekend mentions that Universal Creative was taken by surprise by the announcement that the Harry Potter New York retail location would have a pair of VR attractions, now set to open this week. It’s a good read, but the big thing is that the surprise comes as Universal Creative was working on their on VR based attraction that would place riders on Broomsticks.
I can confirm this as well, as Screamscape sources confirmed to us long ago that one of the intended attractions for the new Epic Universe theme park was to have a Ministry of Magic themed attraction as part of whole third Wizarding World land. The unannounced new land was expected to feature a live show, a major new dark ride experience and the Brookstick ride where riders would fly, aided with the use of VR style headgear. The early word at the time was that the concept in progress was looking pretty amazing and sure to be a guest favorite.
With the launch of Epic Universe delayed from late 2023 to 2025 right now, Theme Park University brought up the return of another rumor, that said Brookstick attraction might be going ahead as planned, but possibly in a new location as an expansion to the London/Diagon Alley land in Universal Studios Florida where it would take over the Fear Factor Live stadium site. This sort of brings the rumor home once again, as rumors of adding a Ministry of Magic themed attraction on this site started as soon as Diagon Alley opened in 2014.
Much like how the early plans for Orlando’s Super Nintendo World would have placed the new land in the Studios park as a replacement for the Kidzone area before being shifted to become a land in Epic Universe, the early plans for the Ministry of Magic attraction also made the jump to Epic Universe as the start of an entirely new land. I’m not sure how confirmed the plans are to bring it back to the Studios as TPU reports, but I don’t think that would harm the overall larger plan for the third Wizarding World land still intended for Epic Universe.
If anything, it might make the overall theme of the new land make even more sense as we had previously heard that the plan for the new land was to feature a look at the French version of the Wizarding World, with the dark ride to be themed around the French version of the Ministry of Magic located in the city of Paris, and possibly involving the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic in the storyline for either the ride or the live show. So moving the rumored Broomstick VR attraction along with a British Ministry of Magic theme from Epic Universe to a location next to Diagon Alley would possibly be for the best.
Of course with the delay added to the new park project, there could be many new changes made to the previous rumored designs.
(7/10/21) Remember those possible ride pieces spotted on side at the Epic Universe construction site? While there was debate on if they were actually ride pieces or not, we’re now leaning towards the possibility of them being ride pieces after all, but not for a roller coaster. MidwayMayhem got a few nice ground-level photos of the pieces, giving us a better look at the details.
It was pointed out that these look very similar to the ride track pieces for the Yoshi’s Adventure ride at Universal Studios Japan, built for Super Nintendo World. The ride system in question would be an omni-mover ride supplied by Japan’s Sansei Technologies (parent company of S&S-Sanesei, formerly known as S&S Power) and you can see some comparison photos posted by ThemeParkShark. Meanwhile InsideUniversal has also posted a screen capture showing that shipments from Sansei were delivered to Universal containing “catwalk” and various track joint, support and walkway pieces for a project “P904” which was rumored to be part of the Super Nintendo World land at Epic Universe.
(6/30/21) Screamscape sources have informed us that the collection of metal pieces unloaded at Universal’s Epic Universe may not be pieces of a ride at all. This makes sense, as the park’s estimated opening is still four years away, but then the question remains, what exactly is it they had delivered?
According to one theory, those may be supports for some kind of awning or shade canopy structure. While this may not be something for the park itself just yet, it could be something for a future temporary support structure on the way to the area as they prepare to bring more activity to the construction site. A good photo showing off one style of shade structure where the supports do share a similar look to ride supports can be found here.
Not saying that is exactly what it is, but just something to keep in mind for the time being, especially given the current timetable that has an anticipated opening four years away.
(6/29/21) A couple of new images posted to Twitter by Bioreconstruct show off what appears to be the first ride track pieces that have arrived on site at Universal’s Epic Universe site for one of the park’s future new attractions. What exactly it is for, I’m not sure, as this doesn’t look quite like anything I’ve seen before. There are support pieces that look like it could be for a roller coaster of some kind, but then the other track looking pieces seem to have a lot of other infrastructure attached to them. Perhaps this may be something for the Donkey Kong Country coaster planned for Super Nintendo World. I say this because the true “tracks” for the Donkey Kong ride system are supposed to be hidden below infrastructure and theming that will be designed to look like a false-track system just below the car, allowing the cars to appear as if they are bouncing and jumping off the fake tracks, while being safely attached to the hidden rails below.
Curiously, they’ve also set up a couple of large above-ground water tanks for something.
(6/19/21) While searching through the Trademark database I came across a new naming filing for the Universal Studios theme parks. This one wasn’t for a new attraction, but was instead clearly the intended name for their next hotel. The name “UNIVERSAL’s HELIOS GRAND HOTEL” was listed as being filed on April 6, 2021.
Universal has stayed away from building hotels at the California park and studio, so for now we can only assume this name is intended for use as their next Orlando area hotel. After building new resort hotels at a rapid pace in Orlando for the past several years, the company seems to be taking a brief break from it, but before the rise of COVID, the resorts next intended hotel was expected to be part of Universal’s Epic Universe new theme park project.
A new hotel is also clearly seen at the back of the aerial concept artwork for the new theme park. If we dig a little deeper into the name, HELIOS was a Greek Titan who represented the movement of the Sun across the sky. Each day Helios was believed to leave his golden palace to climb aboard a chariot pulled by four winged steeds and fly East to West across the entire sky wearing a bright glowing crown that created the blinding light of the sun in an aura around his head.
The interesting thing is that if you zoom in close to look at the hotel in the concept artwork for the park, you will see what appears to be a bright golden figure in the garden in front of the hotel, surrounded by a large golden halo of light, along with the front of the hotel structure also bathed in a golden light. Clearly it is also within the theme of a park named “Epic Universe” to have a celestial figure-head as the namesake for a resort hotel.
(6/17/21) The local news has posted a brief update about Universal’s Epic Universe theme park project. While work to build the park is ramping up again, Comcast / Universal execs mentioned at a conference that the new park would contain areas/attractions themed to Dreamworks IPs, Nintendo IPs as well as Illumination IPs. The latter of which seems to be a new addition to the park’s rumored mix of IPs that is mostly famous for the Despicable Me / Minions movies, as well as The Secret Life of Pets and Hop.
While the news also mentions that nothing was said about Harry Potter, information leaked to Screamscape previously did confirm that the park would have a rather sizeable new Harry Potter themed land with at least two major E-Ticket level attractions. Universal was just not ready to talk about this land at all when the first announcements were made regarding the park, and even went so far as to hide more of the the Potter themed land behind fireworks bursts in the air over the park artwork. It doesn’t sound like anything has changed at this point, though I suspect that we will see a few changes to the park’s attraction lineup by the time they are ready to make the big reveal ahead of the expected 2025 grand opening.
(3/6/21) Fantastic news for Universal Orlando fans came out the other day as Comcast confirmed that work is restarting on their new EPIC UNIVERSE theme park project that was put on hold last year. Currently they are working on restaffing their development teams for the park’s various projects, many of whom were let go when the project was suspended and may no longer be available to return due to new employment. I’m also a bit curious if the year-off has given Universal some time to re-think some of the previous plans for the project, and if we might see some newly evolved ideas and changes added to the project by the time on-site work begins again.
Oh, you’ll have to wait a little longer to visit however. According to the official post, the timeline to open EPIC UNIVERSE has been pushed back from 2023 to 2025.
(8/6/20) I have to admit I was starting to wonder about this very thing, but according to CinemaBlend the delay of building the new Epic Universe theme park may cause Universal to go back to their original plan, which would see Super Nintendo World built at Universal Studios Florida as a replacement for that park’s Kidz Zone area. There is some logic to this, depending on how long Epic Universe will continue to be “on hold”. If construction is not to begin again before the end of next year, it would better suit Universal to move the project back to open at the existing resort in a couple of years, rather than wait another 4-6 years.
(5/18/20) According to various reports the CFO of Comcast mentioned that construction on Universal’s new EPIC UNIVERSE theme park isn’t likely to resume until the economy begins to bounce back. They still have confidence in the project and want to see it through, they just need to be sure about the timing.
(4/30/20) According to the Orlando Sentinel, Universal Orlando has announced that they will temporarily stop construction work on their new Epic Universe theme park. The new park was not slated to open until 2023, though Screamscape’s own sources tell us that the 2023 timeline was based on a very aggressive construction schedule, so don’t be surprised if this pushes back the opening of the new park to 2024.
(2/15/20) While construction on Universal’s new Epic Universe theme park is now confirmed and well known about, there is another interesting secret project that is quietly coming to light. While we’ve all see the initial concept art showing off the four lands connected to a central plaza with a hotel at the back end… would you believe that there is supposedly a second hotel being planned?
Perhaps “hotel” may be a bit inappropriate a word to describe it, because if built this will most definitely fall into a new category… something I’ve chosen to label as “Ultra Themed Resorts”. So what exactly is an Ultra Themed Resort? The world will soon find out when the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser opens in 2021, allowing guests to enter a resort with 100% immersion into a living and breathing fictional universe for the duration of their stay.
Disney is banking on the Star Wars theme to carry this concept forward for them, but I’m told that Universal is already planning their own version of the concept… one that will be themed entirely to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And if it comes to be, it should be located somewhere within the nearby realm of Universal’s Epic Universe theme park.
I wouldn’t expect this to be open at the same time as the new park however, as Universal is likely to keep a careful eye on how things work out for Disney’s Star Wars concept before giving the final green light to go ahead with their own Harry Potter themed concept, but then again Comcast may feel so strongly about the concept that they could opt to just go all in right away. Either way, it should be very interesting to see how this plays out, as while Disney can keep their guests indoors and away from the real world through the story-concept that guests are aboard an interstellar cruise ship, I’m not sure a similar plot device is available here with the Potter IP, though perhaps one may not be needed, depending on the kind of experience being planned. After all the Wizarding World co-exists alongside the real world for those lucky enough to be able to travel between the two. After all, isn’t that the dream for all those Muggles who aspire to to visit the Wizarding World and maybe learn a little magic along the way?
(1/25/20) While this isn’t anything new to Screamscpae readers, it is worth mentioning that the addition of Super Nintendo World as part of Universal’s Epic Universe theme park project was confirmed by Universal Orlando and Comcast executives when it opened in 2023. The addition of Super Nintendo World as an IP in the park was compared directly to the impact of when they added the Harry Potter IP to Universal Orlando back in 2010.
(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!