After years of false starts and countless rumors, Universal Orlando has officially announced that most of the Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone will be closing.
Often said by fans to be “cursed,” this area of Universal Studios Florida had remained mostly unchanged for twenty years, until A Day in the Park With Barney officially closed in February 2021. UPDATE: See the video version of this story below for additional details.
Today’s announcement confirms that all but E.T. Adventure, Animal Actors, KidZone Pizza Company, and the SpongeBob store will be closed on January 16, 2023, but a replacement has not yet been announced.
As part of the closure in January, Universal says that Fievel’s Playland, Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster, Curious George Goes to Town, DreamWorks Destination, and Shrek and Donkey’s Meet & Greet will close. The last day of operation for these experiences will be January 15, 2023.
Universal Orlando says that these experiences are being replaced with “exciting new family entertainment that will immerse guests in the adventures of beloved animated characters.”
There have been rumors in recent years for various properties that could replace KidZone, but none had been greenlit. Plans for Pokemon taking over the area were rumored to have gotten close. Since then, new concepts based on DreamWorks or Illumination animated films have been tossed around as possibilities.
When a temporary DreamWorks character dance party took over the former Barney theater last year, many took it as a sign for things to come. Perhaps this was a test to see if the popularity of these characters is exactly what this once quiet part of the park needed.
Then, more recently, Shrek and Donkey moved into the KidZone area, after being evicted from their original home when Shrek 4-D closed at the start of this year. The area seems to have seen an increase of foot traffic since these DreamWorks related characters moved in, but that is simply anecdotal based on my personal observations.
I spoke about possible plans to replace the remainder of the area with additional DreamWorks properties in July of this year, (you can see the video below). There were supposedly older plans from awhile ago that never came to fruition, but also rumors of new plans possibly forming earlier this year. These have not been confirmed by the company, and no permits have appeared for new projects as of yet though.
Funnily enough, when writing that story over the summer, I had noticed that Fievel’s Playland was receiving a refresh with a new coat of paint on most of the area. Seems a waste to remove it now, so soon after touching it up, but sometimes the parks work in mysterious ways.
Other rumors for a takeover of the area had a clone of The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash ride from Universal Hollywood built here. With today’s closure announcement mentioning that “beloved animated characters” are taking over the area, Illumination properties like Pets could also be in the mix.
If I were to guess though, and this is just a guess, DreamWorks’ Trolls would be my front-runner to receive an attraction of some sort. They are a fan-favorite with kids, and they seem to sell a lot of merchandise. (They’re no Minions mind you, but that’s already getting a new attraction in the park for 2023!)
It’s also likely that this new project may only consist of the existing play areas, the theater, and the kiddie coaster being lightly rethemed so it’s ready in time to open in 2024. That way the resort has something new to promote the year before Epic Universe opens, (and kids get an area themed to characters they actually recognize again).
We will keep you informed of any developments on this ongoing story, as it happens! For now, you can see our previous story on possible DreamWorks attractions to replace KidZone, including a brief history of rumors for KidZone, for more information.
It looks like finally, the curse may be lifted.