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A look at Universal’s unique Donkey Kong roller coaster under construction in Orlando

by Tharin White

Work is moving at an impressive rate at Universal’s Epic Universe theme park in Orlando. This new park will feature many exciting lands, rides, shows, and shops. And, thanks to Bioreconstruct on Twitter and his helicopter photos, we can get an up-close look at what will one day be one of the most innovative roller coasters ever created. Universal’s Donkey Kong roller coaster will combine technology, the Nintendo brand, and a bit of trickery.

Donkey Kong roller coaster construction at Universal's Epic Universe.
Donkey Kong artwork overlay courtesy of the Nintendo Company. Aerial image by Bioreconstruct on Twitter.

This roller coaster, themed to the Donkey Kong characters from the Nintendo video games, is set to be a totally new coaster design concept. This coaster is being built at the same time as the rest of Super Nintendo World. A Super Nintendo World Mario section is already open at Universal Studios Japan, with the Donkey Kong are being worked on. And soon, a Mario themed section will also open at Universal Studios Hollywood, without the Yoshi ride or Donkey Kong coaster. While Universal’s Epic Universe will open their Super Nintendo World last of these three parks, it will open as a Mario and Donkey Kong offering from day one.

Guests visiting Florida’s Super Nintendo World can expect food from Toad, a Mario Kart race against Bowser, a roller coaster ride with Donkey Kong, a toddler friendly ride-along with Yoshi, character meet and greets, interactive gaming elements, and more.

In case you don’t know, Universal’s Epic Universe will be the fourth theme park for the Universal Orlando Resort. Alongside Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, you can count Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park as a full-fledged park, which Universal does.

This theme park layout, seen above in Bioreconstruct’s tweet, gives a great idea as what is to come to this fourth theme park. Universal’s Epic Universe will be huge! This park will offer numerous themed lands, differing from Harry Potter to Universal’s Classic Monsters, Super Nintendo World, and How to Train Your Dragon. And, there will be other themed areas and rides offered as well. But only the Super Nintendo World area has officially been announced so far. The other lands should be considered rumors for now.


Zoom in on fake-out Donkey Kong roller coaster track at Super Nintendo World construction.

What makes this roller coaster so unique? Is it because it is themed to Donkey Kong? Yes, but that’s not fully it. Is it because it will offer high-up views of this new world-class theme park? Yes, but that’s not all. Is it because we expect the ride vehicles and track to be totally custom? Yes, but that isn’t everything. The truth, this entire coaster is one big lie. A huge fake-out.

That’s right. The black roller coaster track on top you see at the zoomed-in arrow, that’s not really for the coaster vehicles. And you will never get to ride on it. The real track is right beneath it, the sideways brown and black track. In fact, there may be areas of this ride where you won’t even seen any ride track beneath the vehicle. Universal has figured out a way to make our Roller Coaster Tycoon dreams come true, and hide the difficult engineering in plain sight.


MSC Cruises concept artwork for Kuka robotics arm that may be used for the Universal's Epic Universe Super Nintendo World Donkey Kong roller coaster.
Ride vehicle concept art courtesy of MSC Cruises. Aerial image by Bioreconstruct on Twitter.

The circled areas are what you would normally expect as roller coaster track. And, when you ride, your brain will tell you that is the roller coaster track. But in reality, this roller coaster is being held up sideways. The track you truly ride on can be seen, curved and somewhat underneath the fake-out track.

This Donkey Kong roller coaster ride vehicle is rumored to use a form of the Kuka robotics arm, seen in the image above. These have been used in numerous themed attractions, including Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey, The Sum of All Thrills retired ride at Epcot and soon the Robotron ride on the MSC Seascape.

Now, imagine this: you take that Kuka robotics arm, stick it on a sideways roller coaster track, and put a Donkey Kong mine cart in the robot arm’s “hand.” Now, try to tell me Universal wasn’t crazy to think up an insanely ambitious idea like that.

Zoom in on different fake-out and real roller coaster track pieces admist the Donkey Kong roller coaster construction.

Another example can be seen here. The tan track can be seen curving upwards, where it connects with the brown supports. Further down the image, you can see the tan track track elevate and and change into black track for a short portion. I expect this singular black piece will be visible to guests in the park who aren’t on the ride. Since this track piece can’t be hidden by theming, it is instead black to blend in and hide.

But, looking at land concept artwork, which you will see later in this article, it may be the opposite and only that black track doesn’t need to be themed tan. Only time will tell exactly where the theming starts and the ride track engineering ends.

Super zoom on T shaped supports for fake-out track construction.

If we digitally zoom in, we can see these circled T-shaped supports, which will hold up the fake-out track. On the second set of track, seen on the left, you can actually see the fake-out track end. It’s rumored the coaster will appear to jump off of the fake-out track and land back on the fake track, just like in the Donkey Kong Country video games. Riders will feel as if their mine kart is jumping and just barely landing on the next bit of track.

Starting to make more sense? Universal is so committed to this illusion of a runaway mine kart that they are building the entire coaster sideways, with specialty ride vehicles and equipment. And, they are essentially building a second roller coaster on top of the real one, just to help sell this illusion.

Partial ride track layout for the Universal's Epic Universe Super Nintendo World Donkey Kong roller coaster.

While certainly not a complete track layout for the Donkey Kong roller coaster, this gives an idea of what just one portion of the ride should be. You can see the main jump, as well as numerous twists and turns. While not expected to be as fast as the VelociCoaster, this ride will certainly be thrilling.

Possible water elements being built in to the Donkey Kong area of Super Nintendo World.

Looking nearly straight down, we can see the Donkey Kong roller coaster show building at the bottom. And, in the circled area, there should be water elements the coaster will go by. As with any of our construction articles, I suggest you look around the image for nearby cars and trucks to get a size comparison. Above the circled area you can see a white pickup truck. Using this truck, you begin to understand the immensity of this project.

Universal Studios Japan concept art.

Universal Studios Japan released this concept art for their Donkey Kong expansion. And, Florida’s Epic Universe theme park should be very close to the Japan offering. This is where I state that the black and tan track may be different colors to help hide the support pieces and let theming take over.

Bioreconstruct aerial image of Universal's Epic Universe with circles around Super Nintendo World and the Universal's Classic Monsters areas.

With this view, we can see a portion of Universal’s Epic Universe. The yellow circle is the Donkey Kong roller coaster. The red circle is the both the Mario and Donkey Kong areas of Super Nintendo World. The green circle is rumored to be the Universal’s Classic Monsters area of the park. If you want to get a better understanding of Universal’s Epic Universe as a whole, click here.

The Donkey Kong roller coaster will be just one of numerous new ride concepts that we expect to come from this all-new theme park destination. And, according to Universal’s parent company Comcast, we can expect to enjoy Universal’s Epic Universe sometime in 2025.

Are you excited for this new roller coaster concept? Or is there a different area of the park you want to learn about more? Let us know in the comments below.

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