This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at EPIC UNIVERSE! Just over one year ago in this fine blog series we took a look at Universal’s upcoming Epic Universe theme park and how it measured up (size wise) compared to areas we already familiar with (you can read that article by CLICKING HERE.) Universal has been hard at work over the last 12 months, and today we’re back to see how everything is taking shape. Before we start, let’s take a quick look at where things were one year ago via our blogger-in-the-sky @bioreconstruct…
…and below, a photo of the exact same area taken earlier this week.
As you can see, a lot of moving parts are at work, and we’re here to check out the entire area. Even better, not only do we have @bioreconstruct‘s amazing aerial photos, but master cartographer Tommy Hawkins is also here to give us a better idea of what we are looking at, and we’ll be fact checking everything with the permit princess herself, Alicia Stella. Bio, Tommy, and Alicia combine together to become the Holy Trinity of Universal Construction Projects, sort of like a Theme Park Voltron. So without further ado, let’s kick everything off with…
# 6 – INFRASTRUCTURE
To enjoy Epic Universe, first guests need to get to Epic Universe. Despite being located just a couple miles down the road from the rest of the Universal Orlando Resort, everything about EPIC Universe pretty much has to be built from the ground up, and that includes most of the roads to get there. As they would say in my former neck of the woods New Hampshire, “you can’t get there from here,” but that is slowly changing as Universal is in the process of connecting the new park to the Kirkman Road extension and the nearby Destination Parkway.
Aerial look at site work for the flat parking lot for day guests of Universal’s Epic Universe. I have to say, as much as I like parking in the shade of a covered parking garage, the fact that Universal Orlando’s parking garage is still a daily clustermess after 20 years, it’s probably a good thing we are going back to the tried and true flat parking lot. Say what you will about Walt Disney World, they have parking cars down to a science.
# 5 – Epic Universe Hub, Dueling Space Coaster and Grand Helios Hotel
Okay, now that we have the parking situation covered, let’s head into Epic Universe. First, let’s refer back to Universal’s own concept art for this upcoming park.
Now we’ll look at how the park lands will be situated in the Real World. It is certainly exciting to see where everything fits, and you can’t help but salivate over those expansion pads (although EPCOT fans would surely tell us to temper our expectations when it comes to those.)
Below we have a photo of Epic Universe’s Central Hub with an overlay separating all the various elements. The big circle in the center of the photo is the large Bellagio-like fountain area which will be located in front of the hotel. To the right of that we can see Universal is laying utilities for the lakeside carousel. The foundations for a Quick Service Restaurant can be found at 4 O’clock, while a BBQ Restaurant will be located at 7 O’clock. A Quick Service Restaurant in the Wizarding World is at 10 O’clock, while the Dueling Space Coaster is at 12 O’clock (circled in blue.)
The photo and overlay below show the dueling coaster tracks starting at the 3 O’clock position and working their way to the bottom right corner.
Here we have the dueling coaster in the center of the picture in relation to the nearby How To Train Your Dragon land.
I should note that everything in this article is “rumors and innuendo” because Universal has not publicly come forward with any information about Epic Universe save for the concept art we posted earlier. THAT SAID, between permits filed with the state of Florida, work that has already been done at Universal parks across the globe, and Those In The Know from within the industry, we have a pretty good idea of what is coming. Epic Universe is rumored to have several roller coasters on property (which you can read more about in THIS ARTICLE over at Orlando Park Stop), with one of them being a dueling coaster located off the main hub.
After the 1-2 punch of Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and the VelociCoaster, we know Universal can design coasters that will blow guest’s minds. According to Alicia Stella, “The most thrilling ride at Epic Universe is expected to be the dual-track racing coaster near the center of the park. This multi-launch coaster will feature two tracks, racing side by side for most of the duration.
It is expected that it will contain two separate tracks, each possibly longer than 5,000 feet, and could reach speeds as high as 60 to 70 mph. This would make these two coaster tracks not only the longest coasters in the park, but also the fastest.”
Taking a quick look back at the hotel in the Concept Art…
The name of this hotel is rumored to be the Grand Helios Hotel. It will have it’s own dedicated parking along with an entrance straight into Epic Universe. Seeing what Universal has been doing for their more upscale hotels, you can rest assured the pool for this hotel will be built with pool side cabanas in mind.
To give an idea of how the Grand Helios Hotel will look, we can take a look at the Universal Studios Grand Hotel that was built on site at Universal Beijing Resort. The Studios Grand Hotel is probably more of a blocky Minecraft-like version of the hotel we will most likely see in Orlando.
# 4 – Universal Classic Monsters
For years fans have been clamoring for the Orlando parks to incorporate more of the Universal Classic Monsters. You have to imagine that Universal was ready to “flip the switch” if Tom Cruise’s The Mummy would have taken off in 2017. However that wasn’t the case, as Brendan Frasier’s The Mummy, released almost 20 years earlier on 1,000 less screens made $10M more on its opening weekend and the planned Dark Universe series of movies was D.O.A. Every time the Classic Monsters are used for Halloween Horror Nights, they are a huge fan favorite, such as the recent Bride of Frankenstein house. Our calls for more monsters have been answered with Epic Universe, as the Universal Classic Monsters look to be getting their own land!
The “rumors and innuendo” suggest that this land will be themed to a small European village as seen in the old timey Frankenstein films. Somewhere we should be able to see Dr. Frankenstein’s castle. Possibly in the background, similar to how Disney did Beast’s castle for New Fantasyland, or maybe as the facade for the large indoor dark ride (whose steel frame can be seen below.)
It is expected that this land will have possibly have two attractions. In addition to the indoor dark ride, a family coaster could also be on the horizon (along with the requisite restaurant and gift shop.)
Below is a closer look at the steel frame so far in Classic Monsters land. Arrows at some interesting concrete forms.
Aerial look at interesting concrete forms near the front of Classic Monsters Land.
Next we will take a look at Classic Monsters Land with Tommy Hawkins’ overlay put on top. With what looks like a moat being built in front of the large steel structure, it is looking more and more like this building will be a castle.
Previously it was thought that the land would include the one big dark ride and one theater show. Over time it seems plans may have changed to include a second ride instead. Below Tommy has highlighted the area where the Monster theatre was supposed to go. The hatched lines would have originally been back of house stuff including the fire entrance and theatre parking. Will that move to accommodate more rumored coaster?
# 3 – How To Train Your Dragon
One of the most underused IPs in the Universal arsenal, at least here in the states, is How To Train Your Dragon. A trilogy of animated films whose excellence – in my book – is right up there with Pixar’s Toy Story and The Incredibles. Like dinosaurs, dragons are something that something that kids just love, so this land is all but guaranteed to a be a huge hit.
Ok, so if we take the layout above and tip it 90 degrees, we can see how that blueprint looks like in the real world. The large building in the bottom of the picture above is now on the far right in the picture below.
That building is thought to be where the How To Train Your Dragon stage show will go. There is a HTTYD stage show at Universal Beijing and it is amazing. You can watch it below.
A large part of the HTTYD land will be a launched outdoor coaster. I personally hope it is a lot like Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa and Universal’s own VelociCoaster, giving guests the sensation of flying on a dragon while getting some major speed. The trenches are being cut and concrete being poured.
Aerial look at the variety of construction activity in How To Train Your Dragon land.
Earlier this week a whole bunch of coaster track showed up in Orlando, rumored to be for How To Train Your Dragon. You can see pictures of this track by CLICKING HERE.
Below is a POV of how the ride experience for the How To Train Your Dragon coaster could be for guests.
# 2 – The Wizarding World
Let’s reset ourselves for a second and see where all the puzzle pieces fit. We’ll use an aerial taken by Bio back in May of this year. The numbered areas below refer to: 1) park entrance 2) park hub 3) Super Nintendo World 4) staging 5) Classic Monsters Land 6) Grand Helios Hotel 7) Ministry of Magic and 8) How to Train Your Dragon land
Back to photos from this week… below we have Super Nintendo World in foreground, and the Ministry of Magic is directly above the circular fountain basin. Classic Monsters Land is on the left while How to Train Your Dragon land at right.
In the foreground of this aerial below is steel frame for the Ministry of Magic. In background, the red crane is raising concrete walls for a Back of House building.
The overlay below gives us a better idea of how the separate sections of the Wizarding World in Epic Universe will fit together.
Alicia Stella is reporting that the Ministry of Magic attraction will be an elevator ride (which you can read more about HERE or watch the video below.) Many thought that originally this Wizarding World area of EPIC Universe would be themed to the Fantastic Beasts series of films. However, anyone who has actually watched those movies knew several years ago that Universal needed to cut bait on that idea quick. The Ministry of Magic should be a huge crowd pleaser.
# 1 – Super Nintendo World
This is the big one. This could be for Universal what the original Wizarding World was back in 2010. A game changer for the Orlando theme park tourism market. Below we have an aerial overview of the rumored attractions in Super Nintendo World: 1) Yoshi’s Adventure 2) Donkey Kong 3) Mario Kart
The large show building for Yoshi’s Adventure stands out among the construction in this area.
Let’s zoom in a bit closer and compare the entrance tunnel façade being built in Florida to the completed Yoshi’s Adventure in Universal Studios Japan…
Below is a look at where Mario Kart should be going…
Tommy Hawkins is here with an overlay over the section which looks to be the Donkey Kong Mine Cart Coaster.
Another look at Donkey Kong. At the top of the photo you can see the airplane feature and some stages. Elsewhere you can see many footers have been poured or have rebar to be poured soon. Several footers ready for track already on the ground (bottom left). In is expected that within 4-6 weeks we could have a lot of the ride assembled.
Getting an even closer view, we can see the very first ride track which has been installed at Epic Universe. Hard not be excited about how quickly everything is going, especially when some projects in Florida (no names mentioned) have been moving at the speed of molasses.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Outside of Volcano Bay, this is the first fully realized theme park we’ve had the opportunity to experience being built from the ground up in The Blogging Age. From the construction of Disneyland in 1955 until now, we’ve really only had access to what Disney and Universal have been willing to share with us on the construction process. Thanks to technology, we as an audience are now privy to theme park construction that Disney and Universal probably *don’t* want us to see. We are getting a look behind the curtain. I can see both sides of the coin. There is something to be said about the element of surprise. For example, in the world of movies now there is a growing trend of people who want to avoid any and all spoilers, and this means not even watching a single trailer. Most of us watch trailers and that’s what gets us excited to see the movie. Maybe we have some things “spoiled” that would have been nice to be surprised by, but on the other hand our appetite is whet months – if not years – before a movie comes out, allowing us to talk about it with friends and family, building anticipation.
One of my absolute favorite things released on Disney+ to date has been The Imagineering Story, giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Disney parks and attractions. For many people watching Disney+, they literally don’t care one way or the other how Pirates of the Caribbean was built and the stories behind it. They only care if the ride is fun or not in the park. I get that. But I am fascinated by how the jigsaw puzzle is built piece by piece, and I’m glad we live in an era where our access to information is greater than ever before. Words can’t express how thankful I am that @bioreconstruct takes the time and effort to document the construction of Epic Universe. For me, Bio’s pictures are the ice cream base of a Kitchen Sink Sundae at Beaches & Cream. The work Alicia Stella has done behind-the-scenes is all the awesome toppings on top like brownie, Oreo cookie, and chocolate sauce. The overlays from Tommy Hawkins are the E-Ticket kitchen sink-themed container itself, which takes the entire dessert up to an “experience” that you remember for years. We are all in their debt, and I’m so looking forward to the next few years until Epic Universe opens.
HONORABLE MENTION – Dare to dream…
So there you have it: A Look at Universal’s EPIC UNIVERSE! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).
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Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.