Home » 5 attractions most likely to be up next on the Universal chopping block

5 attractions most likely to be up next on the Universal chopping block

Theme Park Tourist

While Walt Disney World has — in Walt’s words — the blessing of size, it doesn’t always take that size for granted. The company has been quite judicious over the years at deciding when an attraction has run its course and should be replaced, often to the consternation of passionate Disney superfans.

Universal, on the other hand, has had to make similar difficult choices based entirely on need, rather than on want. When Universal wants a new attraction to come to its Florida resort, usually, that means that some attraction has to make way so the new attraction can be built. Yes, there are plenty of rumors about what Universal might do with the massive tract of land it purchased near the Convention Center, but for now, theme park real estate is still at a premium.

In recent years, that trend has meant tearful goodbyes to great attractions like Dragon Challenge, not-so-great attractions like Twister: Ride it Out, and attractions right in the middle like Earthquake.  

So, when thinking about what’s next for Universal, we must also ask ourselves what might go away to make room for the big changes? What follows is an attempt to answer that question.

Here are five attractions and lands that Universal could place on the chopping block sooner rather than later.

Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone

 Theme Park Tourist

In 2015, Universal made a bold proclamation when it announced a new partnership with Nintendo, obtaining the theme park rights to its characters and franchises while also hinting at a sizable collaboration in the future. Theme park fans, of course, assumed a Nintendo Land was quickly approaching.

Those plans have not yet materialized in public, and the new rumors of a third theme park at the Universal Orlando property have certainly confused some potential designs for where a Nintendo Land could go.

But, Universal has shown a willingness to split intellectual properties up between their parks (as evidenced by Harry Potter appearing, creatively, in both parks), so it’s possible Nintendo just might make its way to more than one spot.

And, naturally, one of the oldest sections of Universal is its Woody Woodpecker KidZone, which remains mostly untouched from its mid-1990s heyday. That would seem like a great fit for Nintendo — replacing a dated kids-first section of the park with something new, modern, but still appealing to young children.

Regardless of whether or not Universal opts to put Nintendo in that spot, Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone surely must have its days numbered. Every other section of Universal Studios Orlando has been reinvigorated in recent years, and it seems like only a matter of time before that wave hits the park’s kids section.

Shrek 4D

 jared422, Flickr (license)

 Image: jared422, Flickr (license)

15 years ago, Universal opened Shrek 4D while the ogre was near the peak of his popularity. The film, a cute mini sequel to the first Shrek movie, has been shown without any major alteration ever since — despite the fact that several subsequent sequels to the original Shrek film rendered moot much of the action in Shrek 4D.

And now, we’re roughly nine years removed from the last Shrek movie hitting theaters. While there are always rumors of a reboot for the franchise, the character — while beloved by some — has never been less popular than he is today.

With Universal overseeing both Dreamworks Animation — which produced Shrek, as well as the surprise hit How to Train Your Dragon — and the famed Minion-creating studio of Illumination, there are plenty of Universal-owned animation properties that could use a prime theme park attraction in an Orlando park. It seems likely that, in the next few years, Universal would choose to swap out Shrek for something more modern.

It’s possible that a Shrek reboot would be enough to spawn a reimagining rather than a replacement, but as it stands now, the dated feel of Shrek 4D might be enough to push it into the recycling bin.

Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt

 Theme Park Tourist

Removing ten-year-old roller coasters isn’t usually something a theme park would consider, but Universal isn’t any old theme park and Hollywood Rip Ride RockIt isn’t any old roller coaster.

The ride has never been the top-end thrill machine enthusiasts were promised when it was first announced, and down time combined with an uninspiring music gimmick made the coaster something that has always felt less than essential. 

None of that is to say it’s a bad ride — surely there’s someone out there for whom this is their favorite roller coaster — but it is something of a missed opportunity, particularly when you consider its footprint. While it’s not a large ride necessarily, it does take up some valuable real estate near the front of the park.

If Universal were serious about a mega expansion of Universal Studios Orlando, replacing this attraction — and maybe even the nearby studio support buildings and the Blue Man Group Theater — with some new innovative themed land, it would likely be a better use of the space than what exists there now. Plus, the removal of the coaster would benefit the sightlines of both the main entrance plaza and the New York City section of the park.

The rumor mill isn’t spinning too quickly about this attraction being removed, but it would make sense.

Poseidon’s Fury

 harshlight, Flickr (license)

Image: harshlight, Flickr (license)

Over at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, space isn’t quite as cramped as it is in the Studio park. However, there is an ever-expanding territory in the park that Universal’s management is always looking to expand: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

When it was created, The Wizarding World took over half of the “Lost Continent” section of Islands of Adventure, leaving behind a handful of old attractions still themed to the mythological tales. One attraction left behind was, of course, Poseidon’s Fury.

More of a Las Vegas-style effects show than a theme park attraction, Poseidon’s Fury is a walk-through experience that puts guests in the middle of a battle between an evil god-like figure and Poseidon himself. The show is the epitome of cheese, but its much greater sin is that it takes up a very large amount of space that could be devoted to its magical neighbor.

With the forthcoming Forbidden Forest-themed roller coaster on its way, it seems unlikely that we’ll get another major expansion to the Wizarding World any time soon. But when it does happen, expect to see Poseidon’s Fury depart to make way.

Toon Lagoon

 mokaiwen, Flickr (license)

Image: mokaiwen, Flickr (license)

Universal’s Islands of Adventure was a glorious experiment when it first launched in 1999. It built its islands around unifying intellectual property themes, which included Jurassic Park, Marvel superheroes, and even comic strips.

It was this last IP that really gave the park’s designers the most space to showcase their skills, however, and Toon Lagoon was born.

The result is a endlessly creative and hilariously fun mishmash of different art styles that features, at its heart, two incredible water attractions called Dudley-Do-Right Ripsaw Falls and Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges. The former is a clever and thrilling log flume ride that, while not nearly as innovative as Splash Mountain, has a tremendous amount of heart and even more of an ability to get you wet. The latter is, arguably, the best river rapids ride built before 2018. 

But, as newspapers slowly fade from relevance and the Sunday Funnies find themselves on shakier ground than they’ve ever been on before, it’s hard not to look at Toon Lagoon as something of an anachronism. The rides might be great, but the characters aren’t particularly relevant in modern times. It’s possible Universal could opt for a retheming rather than a full demolition, but it seems very unlikely that they’ll sit by and let a large chunk of the park be dedicated to IP that they don’t control and have no monetary interest in.

Of course, Toon Lagoon is one of the most refreshing places to be on a summer day. And while the allure of IP can be tough for large companies to ignore, going without a couple of premier water-centric attractions might be even harder for a theme park based in Florida.

These are just my opinions about what might close next in Universal as the park seeks to expand once more. Obviously, attractions closing is never fun, and we all want there to be more to do than ever before. But, as we’ve seen in the past, Universal often must close things before it can open new attractions. Time will tell if that is still the case.