It's hard to believe that in just two years time, Universal Orlando will power on the portals to the fantastic worlds that wait in Universal Epic Universe – their third major theme park in Orlando. Even though Universal still hasn't officially confirmed what rides, lands, or even IPs we should expect in this celestial third gate, our friends at Orlando Park Stop have years of accumulated rumors that are being proven true through trademarks and construction...

Already, we've looked through the portals and dug deep into both the park's headlining, dueling-and-dancing mega-coaster – Starfall Racers – and into the Viking dragon-riding contraptions we'll soon find in How To Train Your Dragon: Isle of Berk, including an incredibly unique starring flat ride.

Today, though, Park Stop's hard work allows us to take a pre-opening peek into the land of Epic Universe that has classic horror fans salivating like the Wolf Man on a full moon... It seems that Universal's classic, black-and-white movie monsters that put the studio on the map will be reborn in Dark Universe – a multiversal 1930s European hamlet where villagers cower and creatures rule the night...


Dracula poster
Images: Universal

It all started with Dracula. In fact, Universal's 1931 black-and-white pre-code film adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel didn't just kick off Universal's monster movie marathon; it also created the popular image of Dracula we know today. It's hard to believe that the very same year saw the studio release Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff as the definitive version of the iconic, misunderstood creature cobbled together from corpses and reanimated by electricity, let lose in a Bavarian village. 

1932 added Karloff as the risen priest Imhotep in The Mummy; in 1933 came The Invisible Man. Then, in 1935, Bride of Frankenstein, and 1941's The Wolf Man; 1943's Phantom of the Opera; countless spin-offs, sequels, and crossovers bridge the gap to then 1954's Creature from the Black Lagoon, and by the time Universal's two-decade streak of creature features came to an end, they'd accidentally assembled a portfolio of characters that became known as Universal's Classic Monsters.

Naturally, those Monsters have been a part of Universal's theme parks since the earliest days. At Universal Studios Florida alone, that's been by way of the Horror Make-Up Show and the Monsters Café (now, the Minions Cafe), plus numerous Halloween Horror Nights houses and scare zones. But even though the definitive, classic monsters have maintained a place of reverence and pride in Universal's archives, the studio has made several high profile attempts to recreate their creature streak of the 1930s through '50s... 

Image: Universal

On the more successful end, 1999's The Mummy reboot turned the story into a swashbuckling '30s pulp adventure to rival Indiana Jones, inspiring a franchise of its own and of course, the Modern Marvel: Revenge of the Mummy thrill ride. (Its 2004 "spiritual sequel" film Van Helsing starring Hugh Jackman could've launched a whole "Monsterverse" – and might've if the Marvel Cinematic Universe model had existed! – but its lower-than-expected box office cancelled plans for more.) 

The less successful end also centers around The Mummy by way of a 2017 Tom Cruise reboot. Universal got a little hasty in announcing that the action-oriented reimagining would serve as the launch of a Marvel-sized cinematic universe they called the "Dark Universe," even announcing starring actors for forthcoming adaptations of The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein that would crossover Avengers-style with The Mummy's cast.

Image: Universal

Of course, the Dark Universe infamously sputtered out of gas right out the gate when Cruise's Mummy failed to land with critics or audiences, canceling plans altogether. (Complaints around the 2017 Mummy are the same that follow any film that sets out with the explicit purpose to launch a franchise: that in service of trying to set-up a bigger universe, it forgot to tell a good story on its own.) 

But now, Universal seems be reclaiming the "Dark Universe" trademark not with a splashy new reboot of the franchise, but a throwback ode to the monsters who started it all...

A World of Monsters

Image: Universal

When Epic Universe opens, the idea is that the park will use portals to instantaneously transport guests into immersive "Living Lands." In the style prototyped by the Wizarding World (and since made industry-standard across everything from Cars Land to Pandora; Super Nintendo World to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge), each of Epic Universe's lands will be fully immersive offering not just rides, but in-universe retail and dining opportunities...

So what will the world of Dark Universe look like? Well that's easy – just look back at the classic movies its monsters are drawn from...

Image: Universal

Though Universal went out of its way to obscure details or IP-specific markings in the lone piece of Epic Universe concept art it has made available, it's easy to get the gist of Dark Universe... Likely inspired by the quaint, pan-European villages often featured in the classic films, it looks like Epic Universe will transport guests to a small town terrorized by these cinematic creatures. 

After passing through a portal encased in the grisly growing roots of an ancient tree, guests will emerge in the dreary, morose cobblestone streets of a village living in fear. Roots spread throughout the town will reportedly have snared the buildings, holding them in a fearful grip as residents gird against the return of creatures that are only whispered about...

Image: Universal

Park Stop believes that one of the village's main offerings will be a substantial restaurant that – like the Three Broomsticks or Leaky Cauldron in the Wizarding World – will allow guests to take a seat in the soaring wooden interior of a tavern. In this case, it'll all be built around a gnarled tree carved with the iconography of the classic monsters. No doubt while diners nosh on skewered meats and hearty fare within, surrounded in hanging weaponry and ornate gothic chandeliers. 

No doubt among Darkmoor's alleys, you'll find evidence of the townfolk's constant war against the darkness – crossbows at the ready on rooftops; cages and torture devices tuned; bartenders in dark taverns who whisper about the monsters' imminent return; maybe even shops to assemble your own weapons to fight against the darkness... And you'll need 'em, because looming over the village is the old remnants of a castle where untold horrors await...

Read on...


Add new comment

About Theme Park Tourist

Theme Park Tourist is one of the web’s leading sources of essential information and entertaining articles about theme parks in Orlando and beyond.

We are one of the world’s largest theme park guide sites, hosting detailed guides to more than 80 theme parks around the globe.

Find Out More About Us...

Plan Your Trip

Our theme park guides contain reviews and ratings of rides, restaurants and hotels at more than 80 theme parks worldwide.

You can even print them.

Start Planning Now...