Home » 5 Things Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon Can Tell Us about Universal’s New Strategy

    5 Things Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon Can Tell Us about Universal’s New Strategy

    Universal Orlando Resort

    In 2017, the theme park world will meet Jimmy Fallon when Universal Orlando opens the doors on its forthcoming attraction, Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. It will be, for many, something of an anti-climax.

    That’s not to say that it won’t be a great, fun little attraction, but rather, it won’t match the same level of ambition that we’ve seen the company aspire to in its most recent projects. That would be nearly impossible to do, frankly – Universal has built some of the most technologically advanced and grandiose attractions found at any theme park in recent years.

    Nevertheless, Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon will show a different side to Universal Orlando, and one we haven’t seen much of recently. That is, the Universal that is content to hit a single rather than swing for the fences.

    Let’s take a look at a few things we can learn about Universal’s plans moving forward by looking at “Race through New York”:

    1. More Universal properties will be spotlighted

     Universal Orlando Resort

    Image: Universal Orlando Resort

    For years, the bread and butter strategy for Universal Orlando has been to acquire the rights to various popular entertainment franchises and then turn those into successful attractions. The most famous example of this, obviously, has been the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but they’ve done it throughout their history – Marvel Superhero Island, the Terminator, etc.

    However, those days might be over.

    The Tonight Show is one of NBCUniversal’s most successful franchises, with a history dating back half a century. It’s no surprise that they’d want to give it a place in their most successful theme park, but the benefit is that it doesn’t cost them a dime to acquire the rights for. Thus, they can quickly build an attraction that’s only cost is the brick and mortar of construction – that’s much better for business than the multi-million dollar deals for the rights to Harry Potter.

    Disney has obviously had great success plumbing its own intellectual property stores for attraction ideas, and the co-promotional relationship between theme parks and films helps both succeed.

    Thus, look for Universal to open more attractions tied to its own films and television shows. Fast and Furious: Supercharged is already coming down the line, and surely more will follow.

    2. Smaller attractions still have a place

     Theme Park Tourist

    Image: Theme Park Tourist

    The most recent attractions to open at Universal Orlando have all been blockbusters: Both Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter are about as grandiose as themed lands can be, Skull Island: Reign of Kong is a technological wonder, and Transformers: The Ride is as showstopping as any other attraction.

    So, with all those E-Ticket rides filling out Universal’s lineup, you wouldn’t be shocked to hear if the bar for new attractions raised to an impossibly high standard. In reality, that’s not the case.

    Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon will not be a marvel on the level of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. That attraction has global appeal and hordes of fans. It will, however, be a perfectly acceptable mid-tier attraction – something Disney and Universal have struggled to create in recent years.

    Theme parks thrive when they have a good balance of attractions that appeal to a wide variety of people. A park consisting only of massive E-Ticket rides can feel somewhat unfulfilling due to the long lines. A park of just filler would feel overpriced and underutilized. It’s the balance that makes parks work, and with Race through New York, Universal will add something that helps bolster that balance. And, clearly, they want to build out that middle class of attractions after removing Twister, Jaws, and Disaster.

    3. Universal’s main park theming still matters

     Theme Park Tourist

    When Amity Island met its demise for the construction of Diagon Alley, it seemed likely that within the next ten years, Universal Studios Florida would undergo such a massive transformation as to render it nearly unrecognizable. However, now, it seems like that might not be the case.

    The park has always featured a “New York” section, serving simultaneously as a fun photo-taking area and as a place for the former movie studio to shoot exterior city scenes. When the film studio portion of Universal Orlando largely shuttered, the New York streets were kept intact, albeit with far less to see. That changed when Universal opened Revenge of the Mummy in 2004, but ever since, it’s been relatively dormant.

    Now that Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon is incoming, complete with an intricately designed exterior, it’s clear that New York isn’t going anywhere at Universal. That also bodes well for Universal’s other themed areas, like Hollywood and Production Central – which might get tweaked down the line, but should maintain their unique character.

    4. The resort needs more capacity

     Theme Park Tourist

    People are flocking to Universal Orlando, and the wait times are flocking with them. That trend isn’t likely to slow, either – Universal recently opened Sapphire Falls Resort and announced Aventura Hotel to come in 2018.

    All of those people need things to do, and Universal Studios Florida has always been slightly sparse. Even Race through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon’s predecessor, Twister, wasn’t quite popular enough to take capacity like it needed to.

    Race through New York, in theory, should alleviate some of those problems. A new attraction always helps even out wait times elsewhere, and with Universal’s aggressive construction schedule, it’s unlikely that the lines for the ride will abate before the next new thing opens. And, the attraction’s design – a flying theater – is guaranteed to eat capacity and keep the park’s streets a bit easier to navigate.

    But Universal building a mid-level attraction of high capacity shows that they sense a need to increase the park’s total capacity for reasons that extend beyond even the new resort hotels. With Volcano Bay opening soon, and with the rumored third theme park well on its way, Universal could be poised to have an earth-shatteringly massive decade ahead. If they can keep pushing the envelope while keeping crowds in check, they’ll put themselves in excellent position to catch their version of the golden snitch: overtake Walt Disney World.

    5. Construction isn’t slowing down any time soon

     Universal Orlando Resort

    The forthcoming Aventura Hotel at Universal Orlando

    Image: Universal Orlando Resort

    With Disney plodding along on its theme park construction, content to let Star Wars Land and even Pandora: The World of Avatar take as long as they need to, Universal has clearly sensed an opportunity to strike. Construction at Disney’s northern neighbor has essentially never slowed down ever since the resort’s revamp began around 2010.

    And, with Race through New York arriving on schedule, it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

    That attraction, really, is something of a bellwether for the future of Universal. The attraction was officially announced in October of 2015, and now a year later, it’s very nearly completed. Compare that to Pandora, which Disney announced in September of 2011 and which is still several months away from completion.

    Even with Disney having the advantage of less government red tape due to a special arrangement with the Florida state government, Universal has been running circles around the Mouse, with no sign of coming to a stop. The good times are rolling on the northern end of I-4.

    All signs point to Universal finding success in the near future, even if Escape through New York isn’t a critical hit.  The actual story and experience of the attraction are secondary to what it represents both for Universal Studios Florida and Universal Orlando Resort at large: That is, Universal is not stopping its assault on Disney any time soon, and it’s going to do it from all angles — E-Ticket attractions, resort hotels, quaint minor attractions, and a breakneck construction pace.

    Even if they never surpass Disney, the act of trying is surely luring guests in. And, it seems like it’s a pretty good bet that the energy will keep them there in the future too.