While most of the attention in the theme park business goes to Disney, over the last several years Universal Parks and Resorts has spent a lot of time and money to build a strong theme park presence of its own. With the debut of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the theme park game changed forever, and now Universal Orlando Resort is planning on building on that success with a third theme park, which is being called Epic Universe.
Universal has confirmed very little about what the future holds when it comes to Epic Universe, but based on information that we do have, we can paint a pretty accurate picture of what Universal's new gate will look like when it opens. Here's everything we know about Epic Universe.
When Will Epic Universe Open?
Building an entirely new theme park is no simple task. It's going to take time. This means that we don't exactly have an opening date for Epic Universe so much as we have an opening year. Universal Parks and Resorts parent company Comcast revealed on a financial conference call at the end of 2019 that the new park is set to open in 2023, but 12 months is a big window of time.
While we may not know anything beyond that, it's a safe bet that Epic Universe is aiming for an opening date sometime around May. Both Volcano Bay and lslands of Adventure opened in May, and the summer vacation season is something the new theme park won't want to miss. It seems likely that if Epic Universe opens any later than that, it will only be because of unavoidable delays. It's possible, if everything goes according to, or ahead of, schedule that the park could open earlier in 2023. Certainly Universal will want to open it as soon as possible in order to start recouping that investment.
Super Nintendo Land
Most of the themed areas have not been confirmed by the company yet, but one that has been is Super Nintendo World. Nintendo and Universal signed a deal to bring Nintendo themed attractions to Orlando several years and what was initially expected to be part of an expansion to one of the existing parks is instead going to be the centerpiece of the new one.
While most details of Orlando's Super Nintendo Land have not been confirmed, Japan's Universal park is getting a Super Nintendo Land this year, so we can take some educated guesses about what we'll be getting. This includes a Mario Kart ride as the area's main attraction. The two other areas of Super Nintendo Land are expected to be a Super Mario Land that includes a Yoshi attraction and a Donkey Kong themed area with a roller coaster. In addition, Super Nintendo Land will also include Power Up Bands, bracelets similar to Walt Disney World Magic Bands that connect to a smart phone app that will allow guests to do things like collect virtual coins and keep score, as if you were characters in a video game.
How To Train Your Dragon
Nintendo will be a huge addition to Universal's new park, but Universal has a lot of its own brands and franchises that you can be sure it's going to want to spotlight inside the parks, the synergy between theme parks and movies, and ones ability to promote the other, is one of the main reasons these places even exist. As such, one of the new lands coming to Epic Universe is reported to be one based on the popular Dreamworks Animation franchise How to Train Your Dragon.
Permits taken out for the construction and revealed by Orlando Park Stop indicate several potential attractions that are on the way for the new land, including what appears to be a dueling launch roller coaster. A play area of some kind is planned and there are a couple of indoor show building which will be locations for indoor attractions, one of which appears to be some form of "flying theater" attraction, similar to Flight of Passage at Disney's Animal Kingdom, that might put guests on the back of dragons. There's also a water area that is expected to include some sort of boat ride.
Long before the MCU, Universal basically invented the cinematic universe concept with its roster of classic monsters, like Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, The Mummy and The Wolfman, and while the studio may be having trouble figuring out what to do with these characters on the big screen, they're looking ready to make a theme park splash in a big way.
Not as much is clear from the public records revealed by Orlando Park Stop, but there appear to be a pair of structures designed for attractions, one of which could be a large amphitheater for a stunt show or similar performance. The other is rumored to be a large scale dark ride that could feature all of the Universal Monsters in a single attraction. The concept art for Epic Universe shows off what could be a castle (belonging to Dracula or Frankenstein) as well as a windmill structure, part of Universal's Frankenstein movie. It appears much of the land may be themed to that of a small European village of the era where many of these classic films were set.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has lands in both of the other Universal theme parks, so it would be conspicuous by its absence if it wasn't here too. According to rumors, however, it will be in the form of a land dedicated to the Fantastic Beasts portion of the franchise.
Previous rumors of a Ministry of Magic attraction being added to one of the other Wizarding World lands have now transformed into a potential attraction for the Fantastic Beasts land. If true, this would be a dark ride or an enclosed thrill ride that would likely be themed after the French Ministry of Magic, as seen in the second Fantastic Beasts film. However, this is the land in the new Epic Universe that we have the least information about, so anything is possible. Even if this is accurate, a second attraction in the land is a guarantee and while Universal has patented a number of potential attraction technologies that it has yet to use, we don't which one, if any, could be utilized for this land.
Traditionally, Universal theme parks have used a "race track" style design, where the park is basically a large loop and guests travel from one land to the next on their way back to the front gate. Based on concept art, Epic Universe is going to borrow a page from the Disney playbook and go with a hub and spoke design, where a center area branches off to the various lands, however, unlike Disney, Epic Universe's hub looks to be planning attractions of its own.
While we don't really know how involved this could be, it makes it seem like the hub, being refereed to as Celestial Gardens, could essentially be a fifth land in Epic Universe though we just don't know.
In the end, that's the case with a lot of this information. Considering how early in the process we are, a lot of this could be change, but based on everything that's been uncovered, it's accurate for the moment. Over the next few years we'll likely learn a lot more about just how epic, Epic Universe will actually be. See you all there in 2023.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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