There is a great disturbance in the theme park world. I think it threatens to upset the balance of the long-established hegemony in Orlando.
In other words, Universal’s Epic Universe is on the horizon and moving ever closer to a summer 2025 opening.
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What exactly is Epic Universe?
Epic Universe is a massive addition to the Universal Orlando resort. It will give guests a third option in the Universal group of theme parks, not including the waterpark option.
In particular, it will bring five new themed lands, likely to be based on established franchise options in the Universal galaxy of stars.
What rides are going to be in Epic Universe?
First of all, keep in mind that Universal has not officially released a lot of information about Epic Universe.
However, a lot of internet sleuths have pulled building schematics on file in Orlando government offices, various ride patents and more.
With those and some similar lands already existing in the wider Universal Universe, we have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
One thing we can surely say is that Epic Universe will be filled with innovative theme park attractions. Some will live up to the Epic branding and some will be met with a more Minions Villian-Con-like reception.
With that in mind, here are some rides that we can expect to see in Universal’s Epic Universe theme park:
1. Donkey Kong Mine Cart in Super Nintendo World
I believe this will be Epic Universe’s main attraction. Patent applications for this unique coaster show a ride vehicle set on a bar attached to a track that runs beneath the visible version of the ride.
This faux track seems to be supported by the real track underneath. It provides an illusion of mine carts jumping over broken tracks and various other obstacles.
How sure are we about this ride? Almost 100 percent. There’s a similar version and expansion of the Super Nintendo Land at Universal Studios Japan that’s set to be open a full year before Epic Universal.
2. Roller coaster based on How to Train Your Dragon
Is it a little surprising Universal is putting so much investment into this aging IP property? Yes. But also, the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise was pretty great and offers a lot of fun and visually stunning options for a new land.
This attraction is rumored to be a steel-launch roller coaster encircling the land.
How sure are we that this ride will exist? Again, nearly 100 percent in some form. You can, in fact, see the track under construction.
3. Starfall Racers in Central Hub
The theming for the Central Hub will be galactic in the Universal sense, but not much is known about this ride other than it’s supposed to involve dueling coasters.
4. Wolfman Coaster in Dark Universe
This coaster is rumored to be called the Curse of the Werewolf. It has got a little bit of Hagrid’s DNA to it, taking riders racing through the forest. I’m roughly 65 percent sure about the accuracy of this prediction.
5. Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge in Super Nintendo World
This ride is based on the ride in the Super Nintendo World in both Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Hollywood. In Japan, it’s named Koopa’s Challenge.
It’s a mix of practical sets and augmented reality, so you can blast turtle shells and the like at your opponents.
However, the point is to get the coins and win the race no matter the name.
This fun and interactive ride is based on the classic Mario Kart racing game. The only downside? When the ride opened in the smaller Super Nintendo World in Hollywood, the ride vehicles were not friendly to larger body types.
Hopefully, Universal will take a page from Disney’s TRON ride and invest in a handful of ride vehicles that fit a wide variety of body types. After all, there would be no safety hazard on a slow-moving, interactive dark ride.
How sure are we? This ride is almost 100 percent happening.
6. Monsters Unchained: A Frankenstein Experiment in Dark Universe
Believed to be similar to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, this ride will take passengers through a classic gothic castle where the good doctor is experimenting on bringing his classic monster to life.
Will there be a Mel Brooks-style gag or two? I hope so, but I doubt it.
I’d place my confidence at about 75 percent on this one.
7. Ministry of Magic in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Fantastic Beasts franchise has not done that well for the Harry Potter series, so I might be ranking this attraction a little low.
It’s believed to be some sort of dark attraction based on escaping from the French Ministry of Magic.
I do expect the theming in this Parisian-based land set in the time when Dumbledore was a younger man to be, well, fantastic.
Also, the fact that there’s not a quidditch ride similar to Avatar Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom’s Pandora is almost criminal at this point, in my opinion.
We will see something Harry Potter based in France here, but what the ride will be, we can’t be 100 percent sure.
8. Constellation Carousel in Central Hub
This will likely be some sort of celestial double-decker carousel, according to published plans.
It’s described as a free-moving carousel on the patent. So, how confident are we? This one could be fairly easily changed up until late in the process. We’ll call it a conservative 70 percent.
9. Sky Fly based on How to Train Your Dragon
This flat ride will be something like classic viking boat rides that swing riders back and forth but on dragons. I’m about 80 percent convinced on this one.
10. Interactive Boat Ride based on How to Train Your Dragon
This will likely be a splash battle ride featuring Viking boats where you can blast water at other guests. I’ll put this one at 65 percent confidence.
11. Yoshi’s Adventure in Super Nintendo World
This family-friendly omnimover already exists in Universal Studios Japan. I’d be very surprised if it got cut from Orlando.
12. Universal Monsters Boat Ride
There’s not a lot of formal knowledge about this land. It will likely be based on Universal classic monsters like Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The rumored land name will be something along the lines of Dark Universe, according to the prevailing internet wisdom. This indoor dark ride is believed to be a boat ride that will also feature the infamous Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Confidence? Low. There are reports that this ride has been put off for future expansion.
Why is Epic Universe so important?
Universal has had its niche as the best destination for roller coasters in Orlando for a long time. However, in the last few years, the park was outpaced by Disney in terms of park additions. Certainly, a lot of that is because Universal was building towards its new Epic Universe.
For example, Hagrid’s opened in 2019, and the VelociCoaster opened in 2021 when Universal had only refurbished the Mummy ride and built Minion Land.
Meanwhile, Disney opened TRON, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. They then began work on Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and the ambitious (but ultimately failed) Galactic Star Cruiser resort.
But when Universal has big plans, Disney fans want something too. Disney has floated some “blue sky” concepts but has not announced them formally.
Is Disney biding its time to announce plans or waiting for the winds of change to clear? It’s hard to say.
Universal is building lands around IP that don’t have the cultural cachet they once did. For instance, the classic monsters will still be a draw, even though the planned multi-verse built around Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe is paler than Dracula.
How to Train Your Dragon was big, but other than the Minions, what Dreamworks properties does Universal have?
Is Epic Universe bigger than Disney World?
No, Disney is much larger. Despite all the news recently with Disney and the government of the state of Florida bickering back and forth, a lot of people don’t understand how massive the Walt Disney World complex truly is.
Disney is about 43 square miles, roughly the size of San Francisco. Universal Epic Universe is expected to be about 750 acres, which is about 20,000 less than Walt Disney World.
Still, Epic Universe will be truly epic. In contrast, Animal Kingdom, with all of its necessary behind-the-scenes space, comes in at 580 acres.
Could we compare the entire Universal Orlando Resort, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida, the Volcano Bay water park and all the Universal Resorts to Disney?
Not in terms of size, and at least not fairly.
Are you looking forward to Epic Universe? If so, let us know in the comments!