Universal Studios Japan officially partnered with The Pokémon Company last year to bring the property into the park over the next few years. While this was the first official announcement between the two companies, there have been several rumored attraction concepts in development for multiple Universal theme parks around the world.
Let’s go over every rumored concept we’ve heard about so far, and what we think the future may hold, for Pokemon rides at Universal theme parks. Be sure to check out the video version of this story for additional visuals.
Back in October of 2021, The Pokémon Company and Universal Studios Japan announced they would be entering “a long-term partnership to jointly explore groundbreaking entertainment that will immerse guests into the world of Pokémon with innovative technology and creativity beginning in 2022.”
According to the announcement, the project debuting in 2022 would only be the first, and that multiple projects were underway.
Just a week later, the two companies announced that the first project would be a parade, debuting in the spring of 2022.
The new No Limit! Parade will be the first at Universal Studios Japan to include Super Mario characters since the Super Nintendo World opened, and it will also be the first project to include any Pokemon representation at the park.
While a parade featuring Pikachu may not seem too exciting after a major partnership announcement like this, it has been long rumored that Universal’s designers have been trying to come up with unique rides and attractions for the property for over five years.
Before Universal secured the Nintendo theme park rights, let alone the Pokemon rights, they were working on a pitch to present to Nintendo. This concept, which was designed as an idea to replace the KidZone area of Universal Studios Florida, was likely never intended to be built, but instead, show off some possibilities to the rights holders of what could be.
This pitch included an early concept of the Mario Kart and Donkey Kong rides, as well as a possible Zelda show, a play area featuring Kirby, and something called “Pokemon Training Academy” near the land’s retail and dining areas. As far as we can tell, this was the first Pokemon concept dreamed up for Universal parks.
A couple years after this, the official plans for Super Nintendo World were finalized, and Pokemon was absent from the final concept, (as was Zelda, Kirby, and more that was originally included in the pitch).
While the land was approved and ready to start construction in Japan, Orlando’s version was moving away from KidZone at Universal Studios Florida to be built at their new park instead, eventually named Epic Universe.
Snap Safari Concept
With the original area inside of Universal Studios Florida no longer being utilized for Super Nintendo World, designers reportedly set out on creating some concepts for an entire Pokemon themed area here instead. (Plans were also being designed for a possible Zelda themed land to replace the Lost Continent at Islands of Adventure around the same time.)
There are several rumored concepts that were supposedly being designed for Universal Studios Florida, so it is possible that these ideas were being developed and then presented to The Pokémon Company before they had acquired the rights.
One rumor had a Pokemon Snap Safari ride that would’ve been an omnimover. According to reporting by Midway Mayhem, riders would use interactive technology on the ride, which would feature multiple animatronic Pokemon figures. The area may have been fleshed out with a show and smaller supporting attractions as well in this concept.
The Coaster Concept
Another concept, which is rumored to have made it further in development, was for a Mack Inverted Powered Coaster ride that would anchor a whole land. The family powered coaster ride would include both indoor and outdoor sections of track, similar to the Arthur ride at Europa park, presumably with dark ride scenes inside, and outdoor sections zooming around the land.
Known as Project 130, this new land at Universal Studios Florida would incorporate the existing Woody Woodpecker kiddie coaster, retheming it to Pokemon.
Fievel’s Playland would be replaced with a Pokemon training obstacle course. In at least one iteration of the plans, guests would enter a Drifblim-shaped entrance to experience the play area, which would include different sections themed to different Pokemon biomes. There would be a speed course themed to water, an agility course themed to ground, and a strength course themed to flying.
While these plans were being dreamt up and canceled, or at least postponed for now, other plans were starting to be drawn up for possible Pokemon expansions at Universal Studios Japan.
Since the theme park in Japan is short on space, one of the concepts that was being explored was for an interactive drop tower. Just like the Mario Kart ride, one of the possible features for the Pokemon drop tower attraction would’ve been Augmented Reality.
Riders would have controllers and would be able to interact with one another and with characters projected using the AR goggles. Their interactions would have an effect on how the ride vehicles would move up and down along the vertical tracks.
Retheming Spider-Man and Today
Instead of creating a small attraction to save space, another rumor would have an existing attraction at Universal Studios Japan re-themed. According to Theme Park University, a retheme of their Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction is being considered.
The ride track would remain the same, but once again, Augmented Reality goggles are rumored to be involved with this attraction as well, to add an element of interactivity.
So far, only the parade for Universal Studios Japan this year has been confirmed by either company. They have also announced that the Donkey Kong roller coaster expansion for Super Nintendo World will be opening in 2024.
That possibly leaves 2023 as a good candidate for something else. Whether it’s a brand new attraction, a retheme of Spider-Man, or even another smaller offering—like a show, or even an interactive game around the park—remains to be seen.
The Future for Orlando
Back in Orlando, a Pokémon GO event was rumored to happen back in 2020, but was possibly cancelled due to the pandemic. If it had happened, it was rumored to involve special Pokemon hidden around the parks, and a main event hub in CityWalk with meet and greets, merchandise and Poke Marts, and even a temporary gym.
One of the planned Pokemon areas for Universal Studios Florida may still happen down the road, although new rumors suggest that area may be rethemed to Dreamworks Animation properties instead.
Other rumors hint at one of the expansion plots for the upcoming Epic Universe theme park could include Pokemon attractions, either built later after the park opens, or even fast-tracked to open with the park.
Whatever happens, it’s clear from last year’s announcement from Universal Studios Japan and The Pokémon Company, that we’ll see something immersive added to the parks eventually, even if it doesn’t look like any of the concepts we’ve heard about so far.
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Be sure to check out the video version of this story for additional visuals, and stay tuned for updates to never miss an update as new Pokemon attractions are announced or new details rumored.