When Super Nintendo World was being developed for the Universal Orlando Resort, there were rumors of Nintendo lands opening in each of the theme parks. While the original area would feature attractions set in the Mushroom Kingdom and Donkey Kong Country, additional lands based on Pokemon and the Legend of Zelda were rumored to be coming later.
Let’s dig into a possible ride concept that may have been created specifically for a Zelda ride at Universal Orlando. Be sure to check out the video version of this story below for additional visuals.
Universal’s original blue sky pitch for what a Nintendo-based theme park land could be included a wider variety of properties than the final plans they went with for Super Nintendo World. Designed to fit into the KidZone area of Universal Studios Florida, the original concept presented to Nintendo before they had even secured the theme park rights featured a large indoor Mario Kart attraction, an outdoor coaster based on Donkey Kong, play areas and kiddie rides based on properties like Kirby, a Pokemon Training Academy, and a Legend of Zelda area with a Hyrule Castle show.
It’s believed that this show would’ve utilized a patent for a “Moving Puzzle Theater.” This strange concept would have a show start with what appear to be ordinary stationary theater seating, but throughout the show each of the sections of seating would be able to move independently, maneuvering above the ground, and even passing above or below other seating sections. The main focus for the show would take place in a stationary center of the theater, with the seating arrangements changing depending on the needs of each particular scene, combining the excitement of a ride with a theatrical performance.
While a deal between Universal and Nintendo was ultimately reached, the final plans for the first Super Nintendo World land would be reduced down to only attractions themed to the Mushroom Kingdom and Mario Kart, with a phase two expansion planned involving Donkey Kong. Attractions for other franchises could possibly be utilized as further expansions or even separate lands in the future. For now however, they were going to focus on Mario and his friends.
This version of Super Nintendo World was designed to be built at Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Florida at the same time, both to the same specifications. However, before demolition of the KidZone area in Florida started in the Fall of 2017, Universal was granted permission to build their newest theme park in Orlando, on some recently acquired land near the Orange County Convention Center. They decided to move their plans for Super Nintendo World, with the Mario Kart attraction, over to this new park, named Epic Universe.
In an effort to create Nintendo worlds in ALL of their theme parks, plans were started for additional lands in the two existing Orlando theme parks. Universal had seen success in opening additional Wizarding World lands and they wanted to be ready to expand their Nintendo offerings if the first land proved to be a success as well. Pokemon was considered to replace KidZone in Universal Studios Florida. Several concepts were rumored to be developed, including a Pokemon Snap omnimover and a Mack Inverted Powered family coaster dark ride.
The other concept being discussed was a Legend of Zelda land that would replace Lost Continent in Islands of Adventure. Lost Continent had already lost half of its original land to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, and the Hogwarts Express train station. This re-do of the rest of Lost Continent would likely retain some existing structures, like bathrooms and back of house support. Most notably though, the Mythos restaurant would remain, although rethemed. The new land may even have repurposed some elements from Sindbad’s Market as well.
Both of the older attractions of Lost Continent would be removed to create an all new boat ride based on the Legend of Zelda video game series. This would include the now unused theater that previously held the Eighth Voyage of Sindbad stunt show, and the Poseidon’s Fury walk-through attraction, (which is currently temporarily closed due to the pandemic).
While concept art for this proposed Zelda ride has yet to surface, we do have a patent for the new ride technology that this attraction was supposedly going to employ.
Named “Hybrid Ride Vehicle Systems and Methods,” this unique attraction would start out as a regular boat ride, with our boat free-floating down the ride path, similar to the many boat rides found at Walt Disney World, like Pirates of the Caribbean or It’s a Small World. But then, about halfway through, our boat would be picked up by a track system above our heads, offering us a flying adventure over Hyrule Kingdom for the second half of the ride.
The patent for the ride system is described as:
“a ride vehicle configured to move along a path, an aquatic portion of the path defined by a water flow path, and an aerial portion of the path defined by a track configured to support a bogie. The ride vehicle is configured to freely float and move along the water flow path in response to currents of the water flow path. The ride vehicle is configured to be carried along the track by the bogie.”
Illustrations for the patent include a diagram of what appears to be a boat about to go over a waterfall before being scooped up by the overhead ride system at the last moment. While this is only for illustrative purposes, the diagrams do paint a picture for what this Legend of Zelda based attraction could’ve been like. An image of a possible ride layout is also included in the documentation, showing how this free floating boat ride becomes a soaring suspended dark ride halfway through, and then returns to the water before reaching unload.
The patent explains how the load area could utilize a conveyor system where the boat is moving at a consistent speed. The boat would then be pushed into the free flowing water, which the patent makes very clear the user would know that they’re not tethered to a track system, but are indeed at the mercy of the water’s flow.
At the end of the water portion, a bogie traveling above the boat would couple with the ride vehicle, locking it in place. The bogie and the track it travels on could pitch, yaw and roll the ride vehicle as it moves along, creating another level of excitement for the aerial portion of the ride. After dropping the boat off back in the water before unload, the bogie would continue on its track to pick up the next one.
As is common with patents, especially from Universal, alternative uses of the technology are also included. Another method illustrated is for transforming a ride vehicle running along the ground into a suspended ride vehicle partway through a ride, essentially causing a car you’re riding in to become a flying car, despite guests not seeing any suspended ride system elements prior to boarding. A similar concept has been rumored for a possible dark ride at another yet-to-be-built Wizarding World land being developed for Epic Universe.
Regardless of the methods involved, the patent explains that ride systems in theme parks offer little surprise as we have come to expect a certain type of experience from each system. By integrating more than one system into a single ride, it could “serve to surprise and increase a level of entertainment of the user.”
It has been reported that Universal executives got cold feet about developing additional lands based on Nintendo properties until after they saw a return on investment from the first land. Pokemon for KidZone and Zelda in Lost Continent were put on the shelf for the time being. At least we’re able to look over this unique ride patent for now, and let our imaginations fill in the gaps on what a Legend of Zelda hybrid boat ride and suspended dark ride would’ve been like.
That’s all for now, but be sure to check out the video version of this story for additional visuals. Stay tuned for more theme park news and rumors from Orlando, and around the world.