Universal Orlando is set to open two new rides this year — and that’s about all the theme park giant has confirmed about either of them.
Only one of the two has a confirmed theme: a “Harry Potter”-themed coaster being built in Islands of Adventure, complete with vague concept art released last year. For the other, a replacement for the Terminator 2: 3-D show which closed in October 2017, nothing has been officially announced beyond Universal’s initial statement that it would be “an all-new live action experience based on a high-energy Universal franchise.”
It may seem unusual and frustrating to fans who want to know all the details on the next big Universal attractions, but it’s really rival parks who have changed their philosophies on announcing new rides.
“Until the last couple of years, this had typically been the approach of everybody,” Dennis Speigel, theme park consultant and president of International Theme Park Services, told Orlando Rising. “The regional parks and the destinations — Disney, SeaWorld, Universal — they really wouldn’t put their information out there that much in advance until they really had a fix on when the ride or attraction was going to open.”
Disney has taken a much different approach. In its last two D23 Expos, the company’s biennial convention, it had laid out theme park plans years in advance, often announcing details about the new attraction before its predecessor had even closed.
This leaves few secrets about the dozens of construction projects around Walt Disney World. See a large blue building taking shape over Epcot? That’s the “Guardians of the Galaxy” coaster, set to open in 2021. What’s with all the work behind Space Mountain? That’s where the new “Tron” attraction is being built.
It is unusual, Speigel admits, that Universal hasn’t said anything about an attraction set to open this year, as is the case with the Terminator 2 replacement. Reports from Orlando Park Stop and Theme Park University have made a “Bourne Identity”-themed show is the most widely-accepted rumor, though older stories pointed to using the James Bond or Star Trek franchises.
“In today’s marketing of theme parks, it is strange,” Speigel said.
The reason for Universal staying so tight-lipped is a simple: If they announce too far in advance, guests may put off taking a Universal vacation.
That’s not what travel agents like Robin Woodmansee, co-owner of the Orlando-focused Mouse & Muggle Travel Company, want to hear from potential clients. She told Orlando Rising she loves that Universal doesn’t announce much in advance. Disney’s tactics, however, have caused potential clients to delay travel plans until they know an exact opening date for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
“With Disney, they announce the new attraction so far in advance that it is talked about forever and then often they end up pushing back the projected opening date,” she said.
While dedicated Universal fans may be anxious for details about the Harry Potter coaster, the Terminator 2 replacement, and the rumored new coaster coming to Jurassic Park, Woodmansee said she doesn’t hear many questions about those coming attractions from Universal clients.
Announcing “too much, too soon” and having potential guests delay their trips is a legitimate concern, Speigel said. Disney’s Hollywood Studios, for example, saw drops in attendance in recent years as older attractions closed to make way for Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge. But he also said there’s a “balance” park operators have to find between revealing too much and leaving customers in the dark about future plans.
“I don’t know the answer totally and I’m not sure the parks do either,” he said.
Photo credit: Orlando Rising