Universal soared, Disney slid, and SeaWorld slumped in theme park attendance last year, according to the newly released 2016 TEA/AECOM Theme Index report. [Read more…]
Universal Pictures has finally announced the revival of the studio’s classic movie monsters in a series of films titled “Dark Universe.” The announcement confirms the official relaunch of Universal’s iconic monsters into the modern film universe, as well as the confirmation of the initial cast. This announcement also revealed that Bill Condon director of Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” will direct the next film installment, “Bride of Frankenstein.” [Read more…]
Universal Orlando’s newest resort, Universal’s Aventura Hotel, is now officially accepting reservations for your next getaway. The resort is set to open on Aug. 1, 2018. [Read more…]
“Impractical Jokers,” a hidden-camera prank show, is set to air their season six premiere filmed at Universal Orlando Resort on May 11. The show, starring Brian “Q” Quinn, James “Murr” Murray, Salvatore “Sal” Vulcano and Joseph “Joe” Gatto as they play pranks on unsuspecting citizens, and endure punishments if the pranks do not go well. [Read more…]
Universal Orlando Resort has announced all new experiences for the Christmas 2017 season: new holiday offerings coming to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time ever, as well as an all-new Macy’s holiday parade. [Read more…]
By Matt Roseboom
I’m not sure why this one is called “The Fate of the Furious” instead of The Fast and the Furious 8, but does it really matter? It’s the same crazy, unbelievable stunts and the same cast trying to one-up the bad guys and save the world. [Read more…]
NBC has announced a huge list of celebrities for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” tapings in Orlando from April 3-6. Each taping of the show will be jam-packed with celebrity guests to help Jimmy and fans celebrate the opening of his new Universal Orlando resort attraction, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. [Read more…]
Want to go to the theme parks with us? Tune in live and interact during our weekly show, “Early Night Live”. [Read more…]
It’s been over a year and a half since the partnership between Nintendo and Universal Parks & Resorts was first unveiled, and today Universal representative Tom Schroder has released additional information about the video game-inspired attractions on their way to Universal’s resorts. [Read more…]
By Quinn Roseboom
It’s no longer a secret how great “The Secret Life of Pets” is. I went in expecting just another cute movie, and it definitely was cute, but it also had me guessing what was gonna happen next and how the characters were going to get out of each situation. It’s a great movie for the whole family. [Read more…]
By Seth Kubersky
The movie and theme park industries were rocked today when Comcast, parent company of NBC and Universal Studios, announced it was acquiring Dreamworks Animation — home of Shrek and Kung Fu Panda — for $3.8 billion dollars. [Read more…]
By Fowl Owlerson
Disclaimer: Unless where otherwise noted, the following is rumor and speculation, and should not be regarded as fact unless confirmed by the companies mentioned.
EDITOR’S NOTE – Jan. 25, 2016: Clarification was made regarding Universal’s agreement with Marvel. Thanks to Attractions reader “RPG” for providing more information on Marvel and Universal Orlando’s contractual arrangements. E.T. Adventure’s rumored fate and further clarification on Nintendo Land in KidZone were added after an anonymous source contacted us.
Happy New Year, everyone! It seems like our rumor roundup has become an annual tradition, and I’m OK with it. Recently, I moved to a new tree — it was from a juniper to a pine tree, if you’re curious — which left little time to pen this column. I apologize for its late arrival.
Without further ado, join me, your fine-feathered friend on a rumor roundup for 2016.
The Secret Life of Pets at Universal Hollywood and Orlando
From Illumination Entertainment, the creative minds behind “Despicable Me”, comes “The Secret Life of Pets,” an animated film slated for this summer from Universal Pictures. Word is that Universal’s top brass are pleased with the film and intend on bringing it to their theme parks. Yes, that’s plural.
The rumored attraction is described as a “trackless” motion simulator geared toward a general audience, which is congruent with the movie of course. The location for the experience in Universal Studios Hollywood is rumored to be Soundstage 28. In Florida, the location isn’t as concrete. The consensus seems to be Toon Lagoon Amphitheater in Islands of Adventure. However, a source disclosed that Shrek 4D is now rumored to close for this new experience.
Cars Land and Monster’s Inc. Land for Disney’s Hollywood Studios
In Spring 2015 Disney CEO Bob Iger affirmed during a shareholder meeting that Hollywood Studios would be getting a new moniker. The name I’ve heard tossed around the rumor mill most is “Disney’s Hollywood Adventure,” which is evocative of the park’s new direction with its announced Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land expansions.
Two future expansions said to be in the works are Cars Land and Monsters, Inc. Land. The former was originally slated for Hollywood Studios and was shelved, but rumors insist that the project is again under consideration for a future expansion. Monsters, Inc. Land is rumored to include the perennially rumored Monsters, Inc. coaster attraction.
Halloween Horror Nights 26
Halloween Horror Nights 25 wrapped up not too long ago and Universal’s Art & Design are hard at work conceptualizing this years event. I received a rumor that’s exciting and seems plausible given the influx of construction at Universal Studios, and it’s something fans have inquired about since post-2004’s event.
Universal Orlando is rumored to be planning to hold Halloween Horror Nights 26 at both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. The impetus for this being the need to disperse the major increase in crowds.
With The Incredible Hulk and Skull Island: Reign of Kong opening before Halloween Horror Nights 26, there would be an appeal in having guests venture over to Islands of Adventure during the seasonal event.
I was given an oblique rumor that Art and Design are making multiple pitches with a theme and icon, but no details were given. Here’s a rapid fire list of properties being considered for Horror Nights 2016: American Horror Story, Krampus, H.P. Lovecraft, Alfred Hitchcock, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Ash vs Evil Dead, The Purge, and The Walking Dead.
DisneyQuest to Remain Open Until 2017
It seems DisneyQuest will elude being demolished until 2017. The plan was to close the five-story interactive experience for the NBA Experience. Rumors suggest this is no longer the case. The deal is rumored to have fallen through due to creative disagreements and budget constraints, which means plans for the site will need to be reconfigured before DisneyQuest can be closed. We’ve officially heard DisneyQuest will remain open most of, if not all of, this year because the NBA Experience planning was just getting started. We shall see.
The Avengers to Assemble at Islands of Adventure
Once The Incredible Hulk’s refurbishment is completed in 2016, Universal is rumored to announce an overhaul of its Marvel Super Hero Island. Dr. Doom’s Fearfall, Storm Force Accelatron and Cafe 4 are rumored to be on the chopping block for a new Avengers attraction utilizing ride vehicle technology from Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
There’s a persistent rumor floating around that Disney and Universal have come to an agreement regarding the use of Marvel’s overflowing repository of characters. The specifics are unknown, but I suspect if it’s true, we’ll know more when The Incredible Hulk reopens in 2016.
I’ve been told that if the rumored negotiations don’t pan out, Universal could in theory base the attraction on a comic iteration of The Avengers and use computer-generated animation, à la The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction. Universal Orlando Resort owns the rights to Marvel’s characters in perpetuity and the The Incredible Hulk renovation proves that Marvel Super Hero Island isn’t going anywhere.
EDIT – Jan. 25, 2016: Universal Orlando Resort controls the exclusive rights to many of Marvel’s comic characters east of the Mississippi River in perpetuity, and the The Incredible Hulk renovation proves that Marvel Super Hero Island isn’t going anywhere. It should be noted Universal doesn’t control every Marvel character, as costumed characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy have appeared at Disney World.
Nintendo Land to Replace Universal’s KidZone
KidZone is rumored to be demolished, in a move that that will get Nintendo’s properties in the park as soon as possible. Curious George, Animal Actors, Barney, Fever’s Playland, KidZone Pizza, SpongeBob StorePants and Parade Building 79 are all rumored to be on the chopping block for Nintendo’s iconic plumber and his companions.
A source disclosed that the following is rumored for the space: a trackless Mario Kart attraction, a Nintendo store and a retiming of Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse coaster with a Nintendo property.
EDIT – Jan. 25, 2016: A source contacted us and revealed a rumor that Universal Orlando intends on demolishing E.T. Adventure. The original intention was to preserve the ride, but due to its now antiquated and worn down components, it’s in need of an extensive renovation. Per this source, rather than invest in a refurbishment, Universal Orlando would rather create a new attraction based on a Nintendo property.
There are rumors Nintendo would be part of a third potential park, but I remain skeptical. This would put the inclusion of Nintendo far down the line, as a third park is off the docket for a few years. KidZone is in need of an overhaul and Nintendo would be a great fit for the space.
EDIT – JAN. 25, 2016: Universal Creative is collaborating with Nintendo and fleshing out other concepts. A construction start date is unknown.
Marvel Super Hero Land Bound for Disney’s California Adventure
While Universal Orlando owns Marvel’s properties in perpetuity on the East Coast, Universal Hollywood does not, leaving Disneyland Marvel’s repertoire of characters at their beck and call.
A themed land expansion in Disney California Adventure is rumored with a new immersive experience featuring Marvel’s Avengers in what was described to me as a more “immersive” version of Universal’s Transformers ride. Rumors around the web suggest the location for this expansion to be on space behind The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
This expansion is inevitable given the popularity of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and the rights being in Disney’s possession to use on the West Coast. It’s only a matter of time. The question is, when will work start?
EDIT – JAN. 25, 2016: It should be noted that Universal does not outright own any of Marvel’s properties. Universal Orlando controls many, but not all of Marvel’s properties on the East Coast, while Universal Japan controls the Spider-Man property in Japan. Universal Hollywood does not control any of Marvel’s properties, which is why Disneyland may use them without any restrictions.
Universal Orlando Resort Expansion
I covered this in December: Universal is rumored to have purchased a 450 acre parcel of land near Universal Boulevard (which is adjacent to International Drive) from Sand Lake Road down to Rosen Shingle Creek Resort. There are rumors that say Nintendo and other iconic video game properties will be used to create a third park in this stretch of land. Based on what I’ve heard and my knowledge of Universal Orlando’s schedule, a third park is far down the line.
What’s likely to happen are a slew of shops, dining options and hotels. Wet ’n Wild is set to close at the end of this year and is rumored to become another branch of Universal’s CityWalk. I’ve been told by multiple sources that the eventual goal is to connect all of this land with walkways and a new transit system that’s comparable to Disney World’s Monorail.
With that, I conclude this countdown with a hearty thanks to all the “Attractions Magazine” readers. “The Rumor Queue” wouldn’t be where it is without you. I’m off to unpack my things and spruce up my new tree. Adventure is out there!
• Fowl Owlerson has been attending theme parks since he was a little owlet. When he’s not filtering through the latest murmurings around the industry, he can be found writing, reading, and snacking on the occasional rodent. Follow him on Twitter @fowlowlerson for the latest rumors, and drop an anonymous letter to him at email@example.com or via Direct Message on Twitter.
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Twenty-two years have passed since “Jurassic Park” was released in theaters. Even though there have been two other films, this fourth installment in the franchise made me feel like a kid again, watching that first film for the first time. [Read more…]
By Fowl Owlerson
Recently, Nintendo and Universal announced a partnership, which I’ve provided for reference below:
“Nintendo and Universal Parks & Resorts today announced plans to bring the world of Nintendo to life at Universal theme parks – creating spectacular, dedicated experiences based on Nintendo’s wildly popular games, characters and worlds.
The agreement brings two icons of entertainment together and represents a significant partnership for Nintendo as it expands the reach and popularity of its characters and intellectual property.
Universal theme parks offer incredibly popular, innovative themed family entertainment experiences based on compelling stories and characters – using powerful storytelling and innovative technology. Nintendo has created remarkable and imaginative worlds filled with captivating stories and beloved characters. Now, for the first time, those stories and characters will be brought to life in entirely new ways – only at Universal theme parks.
The immersive experiences will include major attractions at Universal’s theme parks and will feature Nintendo’s most famous characters and games. More details will be announced in the future, as the Nintendo and Universal creative teams work to create specific concepts.”
The timing of this announcement intrigues me. The wording of it suggests Universal and Nintendo are still in the brainstorming phase, fleshing out potential concepts.
I suspect this was prematurely announced to circumvent any leaks, as well as appease Nintendo’s shareholders. The company is in a transitional time and needs to pivot due to lackluster sales of the Wii U gaming console.
The company faced a major pitfall with the GameCube console and then recovered gracefully with the Wii console, which introduced an entirely new audience to video games. No longer just a niche hobby, games are moving toward becoming a viable medium to impart stories in an interactive way. They’re not unlike theme park attractions in that they require a unique form of architecture to impart a story and participation from guests to be properly enjoyed.
Another intriguing aspect of the press release is the phrasing, “… — only at Universal theme parks.” This leads me to believe the contract signed stipulates the properties are exclusive to Universal’s parks and resorts.
Nintendo is famous for being extremely vigilant with its properties, often being stringent on who it allows to license its characters from merchandise to other mediums to everything in between.
A translated interview with President of Nintendo Satoru Iwata informed us that Universal designed a Nintendo land prior to approaching them about the partnership.
Seuss Landing was said to have played a major role in securing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter license, and the latter surely helped Universal convince Nintendo that their creative team could properly handle their characters in an engaging and respectful manner.
After this announcement made a thunderous impact all over the web, a cacophony of rumors emerged. Join me as we distill all of these rumors in one convenient place, offer speculation and discuss their viability.
Rumor: Marvel Super Hero Island will be retrofitted with Nintendo properties.
I’ve seen fans and publications alike report that Marvel and Universal Orlando’s contract is set to expire in 2016. This is incorrect. Universal’s contract for use of the Marvel characters in Orlando will continue in perpetuity for as long as Universal wishes. It ending would require Universal’s assent.
Tokyo’s license is said to eventually expire at an undisclosed date whereas Universal Hollywood opted not to renew the license with Marvel in 2007. This is why Disney can use Marvel characters in Disneyland, but none of the characters Universal employs are permitted in Walt Disney World.
It’s important to remember that Universal Orlando can continue utilizing Marvel’s properties for as long a they wish. “Will they?” is the question. Universal recently freshened up their Marvel character meet and greet outfits and spruced up The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction. We heard tell this was in part due to Disney’s lawyers scrutinizing the Marvel contracts and representatives visiting Islands of Adventure to ensure the properties were being “properly” presented.
While it may sound surprising, Disney’s purchase of Marvel for the large sum of four billion dollars was rumored to cause Universal’s higher-ups to discuss contingencies in the event that the license had to be relinquished. Do keep in mind that the licensing of Marvel’s characters was originally due to Universal losing the rights to license Batman, Looney Tunes and several other properties from Time Warner to Six Flags. Islands of Adventure in its opening incarnation was the result of Universal surveying properties and “throwing” together a plan based on what they could acquire. Working in the entertainment industry requires one to adapt and Universal has had to do so in the past.
Is it necessary for Universal to once again pivot? The problem is the antiquity of Marvel Super Hero Island. It’s clearly a relic from a different era in Marvel’s history. As Marvel’s universe and characters continue to evolve, Universal’s Super Hero Island remains static.
So the rumors that Nintendo’s properties will serve as a replacement for Marvel’s characters aren’t unfounded. Dr. Doom’s Fearfall could be retrofitted with Bowser, The Hulk could be painted brown and replaced with Donkey Kong, Spider-Man could be gutted and replaced with the Mario Bros, Marvel’s comic shop could be replaced with a Nintendo merchandise and game store.
The entire land being rebranded is in the realm of possibility. This would first require Universal to sell the rights back to Disney, and ballpark estimates would put such a sale in the millions.
In the interim, Marvel has taken to pivoting its cinematic and comic universes. Disney Imagineering can’t use Captain America, Spider-Man or Iron Man, but it can employ Captain Marvel and the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Rumor: Universal’s New Water Park will feature Nintendo characters.
Based on what I’ve been told by sources and have found on other outlets, Volcano Bay will not incorporate any intellectual properties, but instead be its own entity. If anything, it may incorporate some of its characters such as the Minions from Despicable Me, but in the same vein Disney Imagineering incorporated characters such as Goofy, Mickey and Donald in its water parks.
Rumor: Toon Lagoon will be demolished and replaced with a Nintendo themed land.
Toon Lagoon was the result of Universal improvising and licensing whatever it could manage based on its rapport with other companies and budget. While it’s an area of the park I hold dear due to many afternoons spent watching The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and reading the comics section of the local paper as an owlet, it’s a relic from another time. This is dispiriting, but as I said, the entertainment biz requires one to be malleable.
Universal at one time was said to have considered replacing Toon Lagoon with a rendition of The Shire from Tolkien’s Middle Earth lore. These rumors have since faded, but the notion of Toon Lagoon being replaced still lingers. Between Marvel Super Hero Island and Toon Lagoon, I see the latter being less appealing to the general public.
Would the land be aquatic in nature? It’s not a caveat to a potential replacement, as Universal has shown it’s not afraid to spend the extra time, effort and money to completely overhaul a space.
Rumor: Kid Zone’s much rumored demolishment and reconstruction will include Nintendo properties.
Based on the rumors that have made the rounds, SpongeBob is still set to invade Kid Zone with a new major attraction and water play area.
From what I’ve had sources disclose, E.T. Adventure and Curious George Goes to Town will remain at Universal for the time being. E.T. is said to be incorporated into the rumored Universal 25th Anniversary Museum and Curious George will remain as it presently stands, although it could be the future site of an expansion.
This means Fievel’s Playland, Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster and A Day in the Park With Barney would be the new hypothetical space of this overhaul.
What if SpongeBob won’t be the only property included in this much needed rebranding of Kid Zone? What if this partnership results in a Nintendo store, character meet and greets, and perhaps an intricately themed game zone for kids?
I’m skeptical of this angle. Given the propitious nature of this license, Universal could push further and build an intricately themed land on par with Seuss Landing and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Islands of Adventure seems like the best fit, but a Nintendo space in Kid Zone is still possible.
Rumor: The Lost Continent will be demolished for a Nintendo themed attraction.
Unlikely. As far as I’ve heard, The Lost Continent will be the future site of a potential third and even fourth phase expansion for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
We’ve previously heard rumors about The Ministry of Magic and a more intricate spell experience being implemented.
I’ve received several tips that should “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” fare well and spawn a new series of films set in the Wizarding World, Universal will implement experiences from it inside a new section of the park that will require The Lost Continent be demolished.
Rumor: Wet ’n Wild will be rebranded with Universal and Nintendo’s properties.
Based on the information I received from a source, Wet ’n Wild won’t continue to be in operation past 2017. Things could change, as they have a propensity to do. Maybe Universal will rebrand Wet ’n Wild with properties in its wheelhouse and/or licensed work, opting to keep Volcano Bay a contemporary, tropical park that stands on its own?
Alternatively, Universal could opt to do something else with the estate, from new offices to a new park to selling the land for a nice sum. The future of the space Wet ’n Wild inhabits is up in the air.
Rumor: CityWalk will get a new establishment related to Nintendo.
One of the first ideas that sprang to mind after this was announced was an intricately themed bar, restaurant and arcade featuring Nintendo games and characters.
Think a mix of Player One on the scale of something like Rising Star, but with a broader appeal for families. It’d be a standout establishment at CityWalk and I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one elated to see it happen.
As far as location goes, Drew of “Orlando United” posited that NBA City near Islands of Adventure could be the ideal spot for such an establishment. Given the space available to Universal in CityWalk, I’m in agreement with him.
Rumor: Universal will build a brand new Super Nintendo Store and Game Center
I view this as a given. Universal would be foolish not to capitalize on the merchandising opportunities. Not only could they offer exclusive Nintendo merchandise, but they could also host events.
Imagine game launches and special events at this super store. For titles like Pokémon, guests could bring in their handhelds and get exclusive items and monsters.
This might surprise you, but many people of various age groups bring their handhelds to the park. I’ve personally found myself connecting with a seemingly endless number of players via Nintendo’s Street Pass system on the DS.
(Before you ask, yes, I can use a DS. It does have some issues given the feathers, but perhaps Nintendo will fix this in the new new 3DS?)
Rumor: Universal Japan and Hollywood will also be getting Nintendo attractions.
While this wasn’t explicitly stated in the press release, I’d be nonplussed if it didn’t happen. Frankly, a Nintendo themed land seems most likely in Japan. Hollywood, on the other hand, will likely have to settle for one attraction with a gift shop and perhaps a themed restaurant due to the space available.
A reader by the name of Ben at Theme Park Updates on Twitter recently revealed to us that Hollywood’s Soundstages 23, 24, and 25 are the likely future sites of expansion for Diagon Alley and possibly a Nintendo themed area. Indeed, this same rumor has since made the rounds around the web.
It would seem that any future expansion would require the park to cannabilize its soundstages. I can’t think of many alternatives that would be spacious enough for Universal Hollywood’s creative team, as Blues Brothers and Shrek 4-D are the only two that spring to mind.
I expect each Universal park to have its own unique touch on Nintendo’s work based on each resort’s constraints. This is not unlike Disney’s rumored plans for its future Star Wars expansions across multiple resorts.
No matter the direction, this acquisition is brilliant. Nintendo’s vast catalog gives Universal the freedom to explore a panoply of different worlds.
Imagine an interactive puzzle experience based on The Legend of Zelda series. Picture a haunted maze ghost hunting experience based on Luigi’s Mansion. Dream of a mine cart thrill ride based on Donkey Kong and his friends. Imagine soaring through the galaxy with Mario or picture taking in an interactive Pokémon experience. Imagine going on an aquatic adventure with Yoshi.
The brilliance of Nintendo is its versatility and ability to leap across generations and appeal to a new audience. Everyone knows of Mario, he’s iconic. The interactive and often portable experience of Nintendo’s properties allows Universal to offer a potentially more immersive experience for guests.
Even though we’ve a while until anything comes to fruition from this partnership, speculating and imagining all of the possibilities excites me. Features like Skipper Ben’s Top 10 Nintendo Attraction Ideas in Attractions Magazine’s Summer issue reinforce the notion that this partnership is a trove of potentially fantastic concepts.
What would you like to see? The sky is the limit right now.
• Fowl Owlerson, or “Fowly” as he’s affectionately known, has been attending theme parks since he was a spry owlet. When he’s not filtering through the latest murmurings around the industry, he can be found writing, reading and snacking on the occasional rodent. Follow him on Twitter @fowlowlerson for the latest rumors or drop an anonymous letter to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Direct Message on Twitter.
In a few years you may be riding on a Super Mario roller coaster, or helping Link save Zelda from the evil Ganon in dark ride. Yes, many Nintendo fans dreams are coming true, as Universal has partnered with the famous video game company to create major attractions based on Nintendo characters at Universal Orlando and other Universal theme parks. [Read more…]
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