Earlier this week, we heard the news that several titles by Dr. Seuss were being removed from store bookshelves due to racist and insensitive imagery. This certainly puts the land at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure, Seuss Landing, in a bit of an awkward spot.
This opening-day island is truly the only land where young visitors can enjoy all of the rides in Islands of Adventure. Even Toon Lagoon, which might sound like a land for youngsters, has fairly intense rides for young guests.
I’m not saying that I think Seuss Landing should be replaced. I certainly believe that the intelligent folks at Universal Creative could find a way to remove and repurpose elements in the land that would address the problematic references, saving the land overall – but it all depends on how the public reacts to Dr. Seuss long-term. That’s a hard thing to predict, but I can’t really imagine a Christmas season without “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” airing on television; but if Dr. Seuss was “canceled” in the public opinion, then Universal would need to make some serious changes. It’s not like “Dr. Seuss” is around to right his wrongs, and I doubt the Seuss estate would consider reworking his text.
So, if Islands of Adventure did decide that it was time for a change, what franchise could replace Seuss Landing? I think the most important factor would be that whatever replaces it needs to be geared toward the same age group. Islands of Adventure would be problematic without a land geared toward children.
Let’s start by taking a look at properties that Universal Studios already owns, and therefore, wouldn’t need to license the theme park rights: Illumination has certainly done well for Universal. Over at Universal Studios Florida, you can enjoy Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, but there’s currently no Illumination representation over in Islands of Adventure. Ironically, Illumination even made some Dr. Seuss movies including “The Lorax” and “The Grinch,” but let’s steer clear of those.
I believe the most obvious choice would be to do something with “The Secret Life of Pets” franchise, considering they already have a ride waiting to open at Universal Studios Hollywood. They could simply use that as inspiration. Or if they didn’t want to stick to one property, they could make an entire Illumination area also including “Sing,” along with other old and new titles.
Another option would be to do something with DreamWorks Animation, also owned by Universal. The DreamWorks title that stands out most to me that doesn’t already have its own attraction and is geared toward younger viewers would be “Trolls.” With multiple films, a holiday special and probably even more in the future, a “Trolls” land would bring the same vibrancy and whimsy to the park that Seuss Landing currently does. DreamWorks Animation also has the option of “Madagascar,” which has created even more media for the company than “Trolls.” Just when you think they’re done with the “Madagascar” movies, shorts, etc., it always seems to pop back up with something new.
What I would personally like to see happen to Seuss Landing, if they had to get rid of it, is a Hanna-Barbera land. This would probably be the least likely to happen considering that Warner Bros. currently owns the rights to Hanna-Barbera properties. But Universal and Warner Bros. have had a good licensing relationship for a long time. In the early days of the parks, Beetlejuice was licensed from Warner Bros. Pictures, and more recently, Universal has licensed Harry Potter from Warner Bros., so a Hanna-Barbera licensing agreement doesn’t seem impossible.
I personally have fond memories of The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera at Universal Studios Florida, and would love to see all of those classic characters return. The problem is that youngsters don’t seem to be super familiar with characters like The Flintstones (other than from their breakfast cereal) and The Jetsons, but Scooby-Doo has stayed in children’s consciousness (and often as characters in the Universal parks) through all of these years. I could totally see The Cat in the Hat becoming a Scooby-Doo dark ride; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish featuring The Jetsons’ flying vehicles; and The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride turning into something Flintstones-themed.
Overall, I don’t want to see Seuss Landing disappear (especially since that would most likely mean the end of Grinchmas), but I do think that Universal has some good options to replace it, should that be necessary. What do you think? Do you think it’s time for a Seuss Landing replacement? If Universal were to make a change, what would you like to see the land themed to? Leave a comment and let me know.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.