Universal’s Epic Universe is a whole new theme park being built in Orlando. Opening in summer 2025, one of its themed lands is expected to be based on the Universal Classic Monsters. How does Universal plan to bring this 100-year old property to life, and will it be based on the classic designs, newer iterations, or something else entirely?
Here is everything we know (so far) about the rides, dining, and more for Universal Monsters at Epic Universe. Be sure to see the video version of this story below for additional visuals.
Epic Universe will be Universal Orlando’s newest theme park when it opens in 2025. It is being built a couple miles south of the current parks. In this 5-part series we are digging deeper into each of the areas of the new theme park. In our last section we talked about the park’s central hub, and how we will need to pass through a portal to enter each of the four themed lands.
The land we believe will be based on the Universal Monsters, known as Project 902 in permits, is rumored to contain a portal with a tall beacon atop themed as an electrical tower. This is likely inspired by the original Frankenstein film from 1931, one of Universal’s most well-known properties.
The portal is also expected to be wrapped in the roots of a large, twisted tree. This is a motif that seems to have survived through multiple iterations of the plans for this land, which has undergone some tinkering since the park was first being dreamt up many years ago.
The land itself will be themed as a village that was once terrorized by real monsters. And the roots that have taken hold, wrapping around the town, may represent the lasting trauma of the people of this village… Always worried the monsters may someday return.
The village itself was designed as a dark and dreary place. Done in an old European style, this town may not represent any specific place from films like Frankenstein or Dracula. Instead, it may be a completely new location, one where ALL of the monsters once resided in history.
Since the town is locked in fear, we may see cages hanging from rooftops, weapons at the ready around every turn. Crossbows armed on turrets, and other various weapons hanging on every wall inside the shops. We may be tourists, visiting this place of legend, but the residents know the truth and don’t take the threat of their return lightly.
The land will feature multiple facades to flesh out the feeling of a town, but site plans only show one main retail location, located near the entrance to the land. Across from this location, on the right side of the land after entering, will be the area’s main dining establishment.
Referred to as the “Stake House” in early concepts, (and that it is STAKE as in stake-through-the-heart,) this 362-seat restaurant is expected to be an upscale quick service location. That means you will order your food from the counter, but then be seated and have your food brought out to your table when it is ready, similar to existing locations like The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. In fact, it looks as though each of the four lands for Epic Universe will all have one of these upscale quick service locations.
The Stake House will be well-themed, with large gothic candle chandeliers hanging from above and near Medieval-style decorations along the walls. Continuing the motif of weapons at the ready, there will be crossbows hanging on the wall worthy of Van Helsing, and barrels of other various instruments of protection at the ready, always within reach of diners.
In at least one of the concepts for this restaurant, the centerpiece of the dining hall is a massive tree filled with intricate carved figures. Carrying the motif of the roots from the land entrance, this tree was to feature carved scenes depicting the horror of the monsters that once haunted this village. While this tree is keeping within the immersive theme of the land, it’s also a clever way to tie scenes from the classic Monsters films into the experience.
The land will feature another, smaller dining location, this one shown in permits as having 64 seats. Designed to look like the windmill from the original Frankenstein film on the outside, this will be another quick service location, but it is expected to also contain a bar.
The interior of the windmill lounge was designed to feature large turning gears and mechanical pieces overhead which move in time with the windmill fins outside. Outside, permits show gas lines leading to the structure, which are described as being for a flame effect. This may mean that like in the original 1931 film, we may see this old windmill burst into flames ourselves. Whether this would be continuous, or every 15 minutes or so, perhaps similar to the dragon fire effect at Diagon Alley, remains to be seen.
One rumor from early in this land’s development is that you would be able to meet all of the Universal Monsters within the back section of the village. While the plans have gone through some major changes, it is still expected that we may be able to meet and greet with some of the various characters, but contrary to some rumors, it will not be set up like a Halloween Horror Nights haunted house or be filled with jump scares.
Regardless of whether or not the land will feature character greetings, there is one place where you will be guaranteed a chance to see all of the monsters together, and that will be the land’s main attraction.
Looming at the back of the land will be a large, old manor. This will be the entrance to the land’s main ride, which is completely indoors. The facade for this Universal Monsters ride is said to have been partially inspired by the former Château Miranda in Belgium.
The gothic style of roofline, along with the pointy spires—and of course the large central tower—certainly seem to match the construction happening now at Epic Universe.
After entering, it appears we will ascend a staircase within the mansion, where the queue continues on at the second level. It is expected that the ride’s load platform will be located on the upper level as well.
This ride has long been rumored to be a KUKA-arm style dark ride. That is the same type of ride system currently in use at Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. In fact, patents for an updated restraint system may have even included illustrations for what this new version of the ride vehicle may look like.
Rather than a flying bench, this ride vehicle may appear to have been designed right here in Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, which is where the load platform is rumored to be located. With gears and mechanical details, as well as an almost coffin-like headrest shape, this ride vehicle was designed with a different restraint to allow for a much broader viewing range than Forbidden Journey.
While Forbidden Journey blocks your peripheral view, and focuses your attention to only what is directly in front of you, the Universal Monsters ride seems to want you to be able to see much more. This may be because this new attraction will not contain the isolated screen moments that Forbidden Journey has, instead focusing on a more classic style dark ride approach.
Other patents describe a round load platform, which is another departure from the Forbidden Journey set up. Here, we walk onto a continually rotating round platform to load onto the ride vehicles. The arms and bases for the vehicles will be hidden beneath the floor, with patented covers placed between vehicles to hide our view of them below.
One advantage to this round platform is that if a rider is taking a longer-than-usual time to board or disembark from the vehicle, that particular vehicle can be sent around the round platform again to allow them more time. On Forbidden Journey, the entire ride would need to be stopped, otherwise the vehicle would travel through the entire ride path again before the rider is ready. This round platform design should then hopefully cut down on emergency ride stops for this reason.
The image below is a possible ride layout for the main attraction. It was assembled using several site plans and patents, as well as aerial photos, to help illustrate how the ride may be set up. You can see the round load and unload platform in the center. The darker colored track to the right is for stationary loading, which will still be included for ADA accommodations.
One thing that is apparent on this possible layout, is the absence of any large screen carousel moments, of which Forbidden Journey has three. The layout for the Universal Monsters ride is instead laid out more like the physical scenes on Forbidden Journey, and not the extended simulator sequences.
Now, that is not to say this attraction will not feature screen-based elements, only that it will not utilize the long, entirely screen-based portions we’ve seen on the Harry Potter ride. Screen-based elements could instead be incorporated in other ways.
While story details for this attraction are still not yet known, we can assume that someone may have restarted Dr. Frankenstein’s research, and somehow has unleashed ALL of the monsters. So far we believe this ride will contain appearances by updated and modern versions of Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, Wolfman, Hunchback, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and possibly Dracula.
Despite being a massive attraction, which is no doubt one of the park’s main E-ticket rides, this land will not open with only one ride. A second attraction is being constructed to be ready for opening day as well, an outdoor roller coaster.
Track for this roller coaster attraction is just now starting to be installed, but we first reported this attraction would be built here as the land’s second ride earlier in 2022.
Originally designed as an indoor theater attraction, according to early site plans filed with the county, plans officially changed earlier in 2022. The theater and its roller coaster replacement were both rumored to have been themed after The Wolfman.
Expected to be a family spinning roller coaster from Mack Rides, this ride is not expected to go upside down, and may be almost entirely outdoors. Plans for the land had to be changed to accommodate for the larger footprint of the new attraction, which takes up more space than the original theater, but surprisingly the only structure that had to be moved was what permits call a “drink stand.” The additional section of land the coaster has taken over was originally being designed as a small central park type area.
Permitted site plans do not contain many details for this attraction, other than the load area building and a section of the roller coaster called “Scene 2” near the middle of the land. This is one we will be keeping a close eye on, as the layout will become clearer once supports and track is installed on the array of coaster footers already in place.
According to official site plans, additional space has been allocated for a third attraction within this land. At 3.34 acres, and located at the very back of the land, this area is listed as “Expansion Phase 2” in the plans. In fact, this is the only land in the entire park with a phase 2 explicitly mentioned.
Long rumored to be set aside for a boat ride based on the Creature from the Black Lagoon, some believe this attraction was put off while they continued to work on perfecting the ride technology behind it.
It is rumored that this future attraction would be an indoor ride, and may even be Universal’s take on something like Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure at Shanghai Disneyland. There has not been any news on this rumored concept in quite awhile, and so far no permits have been filed for this section of the land, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
While based on a classic horror movie franchise, this Universal Monsters land is not expected to be like a year-round Halloween Horror Nights. Universal may be attempting to balance the scarier elements with some kid-friendly fare. The replacement of the theater show for a family spinning coaster may even have played a part in this, now offering a fun-looking coaster attraction that can be seen from the land’s entrance to help entice families into the land.
Despite earlier concepts calling this area of the park the Dark Universe, the idea of basing the land on the failed cinematic universe seems to have been let go. Instead, this area may be designed as a new take on the classic Universal films of the 1930s through the 1950s; a series of films that quite literally saved the production studio from financial disaster.
This immersive land may be Universal’s love letter to these important characters, and Epic Universe will soon be the only place in the world where you can walk into their world—a world where Monsters are real.
That’s it for this installment, but be sure to check out our previous story all about the Central Hub. Stay tuned for more information for each of the lands at Epic Universe, including never before seen details. Be sure to check out the video version of this story for additional visuals.
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This may be a super premature question, but back pre-IoA opening Universal annual pass holders were invited to visit and preview the park for weeks (maybe longer?) before the opening. The caveat being that some attractions were still under construction or may be down for testing on a given visit. All that being said, it was amazing…and most of everything was operational and wide open. Any chance that something similar would still occur?
Yes, I do believe there is a chance we could see special previews for Annual Passholders ahead of the official opening. Or, I hope so at least!