As any theme park aficionado will tell you, things in Orlando are going to be epic in 2025. That’s when Universal Orlando’s third theme park – Epic Universe – is set to be unveiled, powering up portals to fantastic worlds you’ve never seen before… Last month we launched into the cosmos for a sneak peek at the epic new Starfall Racers dueling-and-dancing coaster combo en route to the park’s celestial hub. But today, we'll pass through another portal entirely and see what Epic Universe may have in store...
We should say: in keeping with Universal’s long tradition of “worst kept secrets” (Jurassic World VelociCoaster was practically testing by the time Universal officially announced it), very, very little is officially announced about of Epic Universe at all. Technically, only Super Nintendo World is confirmed for the park. But construction images of the third gate align with what our friends at Orlando Park Stop have been saying all along in regard to the park’s hub and other three “IP lands”: Universal Monsters, The Wizarding World, and How To Train Your Dragon.
Today, we’ll explore what awaits in the Isle of Berk, the mythical Viking world where dragons are real… Along the way, we'll dig into Universal's upcoming version of a flat ride that only two other theme parks in the U.S. have. Are you ready to become a Dragon Rider? If so, you’ll want to head into Universal Orlando’s first immersive, DreamWorks-centered land and strap into a ride that’ll leave you breathless…
DreamWorks & Dragons
Universal purchased DreamWorks Animation in 2016 for $3.8 billion, equipping the company with one of the few modern animation character catalogs to rival Disney’s similarly-acquired Pixar. With that purchase, Universal became the parent company of a number of successful franchises, including Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, Trolls, The Boss Baby, and The Bad Guys. (Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda attractions existed at Universal Parks prior thanks to the same kind of licensing deals that allowed Disney to have Star Wars attractions before the company acquired Lucasfilm outright in 2012.)
Of course, if we’re talkin’ “epic,” few of DreamWorks’ franchises can rival How To Train Your Dragon, a three-film saga that arguably flies as close to Disney and Pixar’s brand of world-building and “timelessness” as DreamWorks tends to get. (Otherwise, the studio admittedly tends to favor more timely, modern stories, modern jokes, celebrity cameos, and top 40 pop soundtracks).
The film series follows the hapless Viking Hiccup and his unlikely companion – the last known Night Fury dragon – named Toothless.
Over the course of three films, three television series, and an expanded universe of video games, soundtracks, animated shorts, comic books, and graphic novels, fans have come to explore the Viking world of Berk – a rocky island in the “Barbaric Archipelago” of the Greenland Sea. There, the great Hooligan clan resides in a village of wood and stone, precariously positioned among the island’s rocky arches and crashing waves. And what awaits there for guests sounds like a stunning lineup…
Isle of Berk
Again, Universal hasn’t officially acknowledged that a land based on the How To Train Your Dragon franchise is part of Epic Universe’s lineup, even though site plans and construction confirms it. If there were any question, the existence of the land would’ve been triple-confirmed thanks to a recent trademark filing for the mouthful-of-an-official-name, “How To Train Your Dragon – Isle of Berk”.
Given that it’s still not technically, officially announced at all, Universal hasn’t released any confirmed concept art of the Isle of Berk at Universal Epic Universe. But from site plans and Park Stop’s research, we know more about this land than you might think.
For example, we expect that it’ll contain a “Great Hall” restaurant with diners communing in the soaring stone rotunda, undoubtedly noshing on flame-roasted meats.
The land will also have a large theater, likely meant to stage the ultra-impressive Dragon stage show “Untrainable” that debuted at Universal Studios Beijing, using staggeringly cool puppetry and animation. (It's likely that "in-universe," this theater and show will be explained as the Viking's way of remembering and immortalizing the story of Hiccup and Toothless.)
As for the land’s rides, it’s expected that the premise of this land will be that visitors become “Dragon Riders in Training,” with each attraction meant to be a Viking-constructed test of a particular skill or quality needed to become a Dragon Rider. And that’s where the fun begins… Read on…