Epic Universe News Update: Dark Universe Details, Ride Rumors, & Construction Progress

Universal has announced official details for Dark Universe, at Epic Universe, the new theme park opening next year in Orlando. New concept art for the land—based on the Universal Monsters—as well as details for its two rides, dining locations, and more were revealed. Plus, did Universal really double the size of Epic Universe’s land?

Let’s dig into all the official details for Dark Universe, and compare the new art to up to date construction photos, in today’s news update. See the video version of this story below for additional visuals.

About Dark Universe

One of the five worlds of Epic Universe, Dark Universe is an original land that will blend characters from the classic Universal Monsters films from 100 years ago with new characters and settings. This land is being touted a “first-of-its-kind theme park environment that offers family-friendly fun while also pushing the boundaries on intensity in a way that only Universal could achieve.”

The portal into Dark Universe features an electrical coil on top, which is said to be harnessing the energy for the village of Darkmoor. This electricity can be seen pulsing throughout the village, leading to the tower of Frankenstein Manor.

Universal says this village is “home to monsters, monster makers, monster hunters and the welcoming villagers who are just trying to survive.” Darkmoor was created as a way to tie all of the Universal Monsters stories together in one place, and this location is set within present day.

Dark Universe Rides

The main ride for Dark Universe is in fact named Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment. Universal says this will be their most terrifying attraction yet.

Taking place in Frankenstein Manor, we’re invited by Dr. Victoria Frankenstein, the great great granddaughter of Henry Frankenstein. She is showing off her newest experiments, an attempt to tame monsters. But when she attempts to tame the most dangerous monster of all, Dracula, chaos erupts, unleashing all of her captured monsters who chase us through the catacombs beneath the manor.

While the announcement did not say it explicitly, this attraction will utilize KUKA robotic arm ride vehicles, on a track. A model of one of these ride vehicles can be seen on Gregory Hall’s desk in the official announcement video, a model that looks exactly like patent illustrations we first reported on back in 2021!

Ride vehicle seating model seen on desk in video

Patent illustration related to restraint, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

New official concept art for Monsters Unchained also reveals the ride vehicle, first seen in the background behind Frankenstein’s Monster.

The ride vehicle can also be spotted in the foreground of the art below, depicting Dracula’s escape on the ride, (although it appears the final version of the vehicle has sanded down those spikes to look more like bolts instead).

The official announcement has confirmed additional story elements for the ride, such as this Frankenstein’s Monster specifically being Dr. Victoria’s version, and not the original Monster.

Other characters confirmed for the ride include The Wolf Man, The Mummy, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Brides of Dracula and Phantom of the Opera. (Hunchback has been rumored to appear on the ride as well, but was not mentioned in the announcement.)

Universal says “The Phantom of the Opera’s organ within the Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment features 14 individual flame points that shoot vertical flames over 3 feet in the air and dance in synchronicity with the organ music.”

The minimum height requirement for the ride is 48″, which is the same as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

While the ride vehicle seating will be similar to that attraction, as has been rumored for years, our peripheral view will not be blocked on this ride the way it is on Forbidden Journey. This is because Monsters Unchained will not utilize rotating screen domes, instead opting for larger, fleshed out scenes, which may incorporate screen media mostly as backgrounds, but will feature actual animatronic figures in front.

In fact, this announcement boasts that Monsters Unchained will have the most technologically advanced animated figures ever built. One section of the announcement video even features actual clips of the Wolf Man figure from the ride, which appears to have incredibly fluid motion.

To add to the ride’s scariness, its designers say we will be able to “feel” things on the ride, like the breath of a monster on our neck. Official descriptions for the attraction say that the electricity buzzing around us will make our skin crawl. And one rumored detail, that was not confirmed, has said that when Dracula turns into bats they fly through our vehicle, and we feel their wings flapping against us.

Along with this week’s reveal, the Augmented Reality feature within the Epic Universe Preview Center has been updated to give us a sneak peak into the ride building for Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment.

AR view of model at Preview Center, Image: Seth Kubersky

In the AR view we see the KUKA-style ride vehicle make its way through a room, as the Brides seem to escape their coffins.

Close up view of ride vehicle seen in AR view, Photo: Seth Kubersky

Zooming in on the back of the ride vehicle seating, we can spot an Easter egg. What appear to be the words CATACOMB NAVIGATION UNIT 01 can be seen. This may help explain why Dr. Victoria Frankenstein just has some strange conveyance system set up below the manor, as it’s being repurposed from something else.

Recent progress on manor facade, All aerial photos by @bioreconstruct

Looking at recent construction photos by @bioreconstruct on social media, we can see new architectural features added to the front of the manor.

Below is a good look at the manor gate with the name FRANKENSTEIN written above it.

We can now compare this entry to the way it appears in official concept art.

Looking at the model on display in the Preview Center, thanks to a close up photo from Blog Mickey, we can see that this attraction was perhaps temporarily named Monsters Unleashed, before becoming Unchained.

Close view of manor gatehouse in model, Photo: Blog Mickey

The model was originally constructed back in 2019, but it’s interesting to see leftover artifacts like these still in place.

The second ride for Dark Universe is confirmed to be named Curse of the Werewolf.

This spinning roller coaster will have a height requirement of only 40″ and Universal is calling it a family coaster (despite the pair of hungry werewolves with glowing eyes on the ride).

Set within a secluded wagon camp in the woods at the edge of Darkmoor, Curse of the Werewolf is a spinning roller coaster inspired by The Wolf Man.

“Guests will enter the encampment of The Guild of Mystics where they’ll be greeted by the Maleva, the guild’s all-knowing seer and leader, who warns them that they bear the mark of the werewolf. Guests then board a wagon and venture into the forest – racing to escape the werewolves before they become one themselves.”

Rumors say there will be two werewolf figures within the swing launch section of this ride, one above each of the openings we pass through.

The Maleva character has been reimagined for the ride, and will not appear as she did in the original 1941 film.

Universal says this coaster’s top speed will be 37 miles per hour and the ride time will be over 2 minutes.

Recent construction progress on Curse of the Werewolf, Photo: @bioreconstruct

Dark Universe Dining & Retail

As we had hoped the main restaurant for Dark Universe is in fact named Das Stakehaus. Universal says it’s themed as an old inn built over the ruins of ancient catacombs, but is now “a dining hall run by vampire “familiars” who size up unsuspecting patrons to be part of the vampires’ feast.”

The restaurant’s dining room will be decorated with “artwork and artifacts detailing the history of the village’s creatures of the night.” Rumors for this location said that the art on the walls would be interpretations of memorable moments from the classic films, as if these were events that had actually occurred in the village’s past— a clever way of tying the films to the land.

Das Stakehaus will be a quick service location, and will offer a menu featuring kebabs, a.k.a. stakes with steak on them, as well as burgers, sandwiches, and ribs. Initial permits said it will have 362 seats.

The other, smaller dining location for the land is in fact named The Burning Blade Tavern. The windmill sitting atop this tavern will erupt into flames every 20 minutes according to the official Universal Orlando blog.

We first reported that this windmill could contain fire effects a couple years ago when gas permits for the location described uses for “special effects.”

Universal says that “two types of fuel are used in different ratios, allowing for easy visibility to guests during both day and night.”

This quick service dining location will offer a menu of burgers, wings, bratwurst, pretzels and specialty beverages. Earlier permits said it will feature only 64 seats, but since then we’ve seen what could be outdoor covered seating being constructed, which may add more capacity.

The story for the tavern has it as a hangout for monster hunters. We may even encounter some roaming and willing to share their stories and show off their greatest trophies from monsters they’ve captured.

One last dining location confirmed was De Lacey’s Cottage. This is the small building located just to the left of the main ride. The cottage is based on where “the original Frankenstein’s Monster once received sustenance and friendship.”

De Lacey’s is a window service location that will offer a variety of snacks and treats like cinnamon bread, ice cream, twisted taters and more.

For retail, Universal did reveal that the main shopping location will be named Pretorius’ Scientific Oddities, offering commemorative merchandise and mementos.

The main ride’s exit gift shop was not mentioned, but is rumored to be named the Manor Storehouse. And a small retail kiosk can be seen across from the entrance to Curse of the Werewolf.

Something we did get official details on, however, was the Darkmoor Monster Makeup Experience. Connected to village’s main retail location, Universal says “monster makers have converted Dr. Pretorius’ infamous old lab into a parlor” where guests can change their outer appearances to showcase their fandom for the Universal Monsters.

As was suggested by another trademark application, this location will also offer temporary tattoos, in addition to monster makeover face paint.

Other Experiences & Rumors

Meet and Greets for the Monsters of Dark Universe have been confirmed, with Frankenstein’s Monster and the Bride of Frankenstein front and center in most marketing materials.

However, Universal stresses that you’ll be able to encounter more monsters roaming the land, as well as original characters; “strange and unusual inhabitants who are happy to pose for photographs in Darkmoor Village.”

In addition to Frankie and his bride, we have confirmations for meet and greets with Dr. Victoria Frankenstein’s servant Ygor, The Invisible Man, a courageous monster hunter, and a musician who may regale you with songs about the village.

One detail that was not revealed as part of the announcement, is who will be creating the original score for the Dark Universe land in Epic Universe. It has been rumored, and all but confirmed, that Danny Elfman may have been tapped to create the original music throughout the land and on the rides. Hopefully this can be confirmed by Universal soon.

Also not mentioned officially, but the Dark Universe land does feature what permits refer to as Phase 2 expansion space. This could later be used to add a third ride to the land, and while we heard rumors for an indoor boat ride based on Creature from the Black lagoon many years ago, there haven’t been any rumblings for what could go here lately.

Epic Universe Land News Update

Before we wrap up, it is worth mentioning that those “news” stories you may have seen about how Epic Universe has doubled in size are not true. The areas shown below in red were recently added to Universal’s master development plans, so they can be utilized in future projects too, but they weren’t even purchased recently.

Recently, adjustments were made to Universal’s development plans, Image: fasttrack.ocfl.net

In fact, it does not appear that Universal purchased any new land at all recently, and their special district has not grown as has also been reported. A permit for the additional parcels to be added to their future development plans is all that has happened, but it’s worth keeping in mind that they do own everything shown below in green, which is still a lot.

It’s not 2,000 acres as has been erroneously reported, but Universal already owns around 1400 acres near the Orange County Convention Center, (although some of that is set aside as private wetlands or will be utilized for future transportation projects).

Yellow areas for Epic Universe, backstage support, hotels, and parking lot

Regardless, they already have more than enough space to add another theme park, a water park or entertainment complex, several more hotels, and more all around the Epic Universe site. Plus, with these recent small adjustments to their master plans, it’s possible this indicates they may be gearing up to build something along Universal Blvd next. We’ll just have to wait and see.

That’s all for this update, but be sure to check out the video version of this story for additional visuals. A huge thank you to Bioreconstruct for the amazing aerial and on the ground photographs. You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter), Bluesky, or Mastodon for more incredible theme park photos.

Subscribe to the news feed or enter your email address below to never miss an update. Official Art: Universal Destinations & Experiences | Aerial Photos: Bioreconstruct | Permit Documents: fasttrack.ocfl.net | Graphics and Overlays: Alicia Stella | Other Images as Captioned

Subscribe to Receive Email Updates

Consider supporting us on Patreon for as little as $1/month. All patrons receive behind the scenes posts and exclusive podcasts. Learn More


Leave a Comment