It was recently announced that Universal Orlando had acquired several hundred more acres of land. When combined with Universal Orlando’s current holdings of undeveloped land, the Orland Weekly wrote that “Universal now owns nearly 1,000 acres south of Kirkman Rd. and west of International Drive.”
According to the Orlando Business Journal, “Universal Studios is 108 acres and Islands of Adventure is 101 acres.” This means that Universal Orlando now has more than enough land to build a new park.
Given that I’m a fan of theme parks in general and that I love visiting Universal Orlando, here are ideas for what Universal Orlando’s next park should be.
1. Video Game Land
This should have happened years ago. Video games are no longer restricted to arcades, consoles, or large computers. If a person has a smartphone or tablet, then they have video games that they play. With so many gamers in the world, it only makes sense for more theme parks to be designed around classic and popular video games.
Universal Orlando was rumored to be moving in this direction years ago when a potential deal between Universal and Nintendo were being whispered about. This would be a perfect deal. Nintendo’s flagship character, Super Mario, has been around for decades and has a cast of supporting characters and levels that would naturally fit into a theme park experience. A similar family friendly video game property is Minecraft, and this could be adapted in dozens of different theme park experiences.
Additionally, Universal Studios was part of the effort to bring World of Warcraft to the big screen. While Warcraft was not wildly embraced by movie-goers and critics, WoW could easily inspire real world rides and experiences that would attract millions to a theme park.
On top of this, Universal Studios has already had some success with video game exhibits in a theme park. Universal Studios Japan has featured limited-time attractions based on Resident Evil and Monster Hunter. This location has even recently opened a ride based on Final Fantasy.
A park centered on video games would also allow Universal to constantly experiment with VR and AR. Universal already has a patent for AR goggles and a 2017 panel at IAAPA has TJ Mannarino – the VP of Entertainment, Art, and Design at Universal Orlando – discussing how Universal is already interested in deploying this type of technology in their parks. And a video game themed park would be the perfect testing ground for new VR and AR products.
Finally, AR games like Night Terrors would perfect merge Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights with a new video game park. And I can only imagine how much fun these types of games would be at Universal
2. The Wizarding World
The Wizarding World themed environments at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios have been tremendously popular and successful. They have been so successful that it is time for Wizarding World to have its own theme park. The franchise that J.K. Rowling has dreamed up has proven to be more than just a series of books, it is a world of magic that people still want to explore and learn more of.
This theme park would not only allow people to visit setting they are familiar with, it would allow Rowling to beta test new ideas that could be potentially expanded upon in books and/or movies.
With Fantastic Beasts being well received by fans and critics, and Pottermore also expanding the mythos of the Wizarding World, there are numerous places and stories associated with Harry Potter’s world that a theme park could help explore.
3. Future – Bleeding Edge Tech The and Science Fiction
Building off the idea of a park centered on just video games, another great idea would be a park that is focused on “The Future.”
Longtime Disney fans will know that Tomorrowland and EPCOT were both built to celebrate the technology we would use in the future. Sadly, neither of these places have lived up to their promise and, at this point, feel dated. As such, a park dedicated to the future would be a mix of science fiction and cutting edge technology.
This park would use popular science fiction properties to create love letters to technology that is currently being developed to help people.
For example, a new ride based on The Terminator franchise can exit into a room celebrating robotic technology being developed to help doctors perform surgery.
Moving closer to Universal’s IP library, a few rides based on Jurassic Park/World could connect to an exhibit on how genetic engineering is curing diseases and helping humanity in other ways.
And seriously, it would be amazing to have a ride based on the Pacific Rim movies.
4. Lord of the Rings/Game of Thrones
Lord of the Rings is one of the most profitable and popular entertainment franchises of all times. Game of Thrones is currently, one of the most popular and exciting fantasy IPs. With the success of Wizarding World, it only makes sense for a Universal theme park to build on this achievement by having a park (or at least a subsection) dedicated to a medieval fantasy property.
While the brutality that Game of Thrones is known for would be off putting to most families, the park could have areas dedicated to GoT for adults only.
More importantly, Lord of the Rings’s fans frequently travel across the globe to visit Hobbiton in New Zealand. So a theme park entirely dedicated to this franchise in the US would provide fans another location to explore, and it could allow the franchise to evolve in context with Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings series.
A new section dedicated to sports would perfectly fit the tourism space of central Florida. Exhibits could highlight sports from all of human history and from all over the world.
A space like this would allow Universal to have arenas it could use to host sporting events, as well as rides and interactive experiences that allow visitors to place themselves in a big game environment.
Also, Universal already has a working relationship with WWE, making it the perfect location for WWE to build a real hall of fame.
6. Illumination Entertainment/DreamWorks
Few animation companies have been able to challenge Pixar’s and Disney’s Animation Studios box office dominance. Two of these companies are Illumination Entertainment and Dream Works, and – if combined – would have enough intellectual properties at their disposal to create an amazing and ever-evolving theme park.
DreamWorks Animation has is behind Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, Monsters vs. Aliens, Megamind, and various other animation properties. Illumination has created Despicable Me/Minions, Sing, and is now working with the Dr. Seuss estate to create animated movies. These are all properties that begging to be turned into theme park environments and rides.
More to the point, Comcast not only owns the Universal theme parks, they also own Dreamworks Animation and Illumination. Given that the already built attractions based on these properties – Shrek 4-D, Despicable Me – Minion Mayhem, and Seussland – there is already proof that audiences are hungry to experience these intellectual properties in a theme park.
7. Monsters, Evil, and Forever Halloween
Villains are great. Thor might be the buddy you bring home, but it is Loki that you party with. Universal and Disney both have great Hallow events, but it is time for there to be an entire theme park dedicated to villains, horror stories, monsters, and scary rides.
With Universal still trying to revamp its lineup of classic monsters under the Dark Universe banner, a theme park dedicated to ‘evil characters’ would allow Universal to beta test ideas for characters to see what audiences are most invested in. (Note: It is currently being rumored that Universal is still trying to make its ‘Dark Universe’ franchise a thing.)
A park like this could twist traditional roller coasters so that they have a narrative inspired by slasher movies in which the main characters are chased by a relentless killer. A pyramid could be built that has visitors being chased by a mummy before getting on a ride to escape this ancient creature. Though a mummy ride already exist, this would be amazing opportunity to redevelop it from the ground up and for Universal to build upon its current success. Universal could also use a park dedicated entirely to evil characters to expand its The Walking Dead attraction because few things are more than being able to kill off walkers and zombies.
There could even be escape rooms inspired by the Saw franchise. Hell, you could have an escape room inspired by a supernatural character that required players to figure out how cast a spell or decode ancient riddle. Could imagine just how cool it would be to be looked in the tomb of Dracula and if you don’t figure out how to properly escape, you will awaken the vampire. The potential for experiences at theme park like this pretty much create themselves.
In addition to the rides, a theme park centered on evil characters could have amazing shows and events that appeal to a demographic tired of child-friendly entertainment.
Just think of it like this: Halloween Horror Nights…year round.
So what do you all think of these ideas for a Universal Orlando theme park? Just remember to share your thoughts below.