The Lord of the Rings Rumored for Universal’s Epic Universe

The Lord of the Rings getting its own land at the Orlando theme parks has been one of the most rumored stories of the past 12 years. Since 2010 there have been countless news stories, forum posts, and rumor videos—but could Universal Orlando’s upcoming theme park, Epic Universe, finally seal the deal?

Let’s dig into all of the rumored concepts, and what rides set in Middle-Earth were actually being developed for Epic Universe, in today’s rumor update. See the video version of this story for additional visuals.

Some of the first stories online about the possibility of a land based on The Lord of the Rings property came out in 2010, just two months after the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter land opened at Islands of Adventure.

These stories stemmed from a guest survey that was floating around. It asked users which possible theme park lands they would be most interested in being added to Universal Orlando. One of the answers was The Lord of the Rings.

First Wizarding World land opened in Summer 2010, Photo: Universal Orlando

The survey reportedly described this hypothetical land as:

Imagine if you will a world unlike any you’ve ever visited before: it’s Middle Earth, the ancient and beautiful land forged by J.R.R. Tolkien as the backdrop for his two most well known creations, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Walk as a human among dwarves, elves, orcs and hobbits-all faithfully recreated and portrayed in the spirit of the original characters as they appeared in both the books and the movies. In this land you’ll experience one-of-a-kind rides and attractions that bring to life some of the most memorable experiences of Tolkien’s world including Bilbo’s hobbit hole, the fortress at Isengard (before it was destroyed) and even the dark world of Mordor—including the terrifying volcanic Mount Doom.

Of course, we cannot put too much stake into guest surveys, but it may have meant Universal was curious to see if there was interest in the concept.

Fellowship of the Ring poster, ©New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.

It would be three years later before this story picked up steam, now with rumors of both Universal AND Disney supposedly signing contracts for the theme park rights to these popular stories.

The Disney rumor had a land being added as part of California Adventure’s overhaul, giving them an immersive land to compete with Universal’s Harry Potter worlds. The Universal rumor had a section of Toon Lagoon being rethemed at Islands of Adventure, an idea that would resurface 7 years later.

Toon Lagoon at Islands of Adventure, Photo: Universal Orlando

A legal battle over the rights between the film studio and the heirs of J.R.R. Tolkien, which had been ongoing since 2012, finally seemed settled by 2017.

This sparked a new wave of rumors for the possibility of theme park licensing. Around this time, Amazon began talks to create a television series, which were secured a year later.

Battle over the rights spanned years, Story from Huffpost

2018 saw an explosion of rumors about Universal securing the rights and planning a massive theme park land in Orlando. A story in “Disney and More” about Universal’s next theme park for Orlando was picked up and reported on by dozens of outlets, more than a year before Epic Universe was even announced.

That story said that “a Lord of the Rings land is being highly considered for one of the lands of this 4th park,” and as we would later find out, they were 100% correct.

One rumor had Popeye ride rethemed at Islands of Adventure, Photo: Universal Orlando

Jump to 2020, just a few months after Epic Universe was officially announced, and Theme Park University reported that Universal was “quietly working on a Lord of the Rings land.” Once again, this rumor was for a retheme of Toon Lagoon in Islands of Adventure, just like Orlando Informer reported 7 years earlier!

That Orlando Informer story suggested the Toon Lagoon retheme would contain “elaborate walkthrough recreations of The Shire, including Bag End, the home of Bilbo Baggins as well as a couple rides.”

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls at Islands of Adventure, Photo: Universal Orlando

The concept from 2020 mentions not only retheming Toon Lagoon, but removing Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and expanding the Popeye barge ride to be twice as big.

It would also be modernized, using newly patented technology to control the movement of the rafts using magnets under the water. This would create better show control, so you’re not reliant on the flow of the rapids for movement.

One of several new boat ride patents from Universal, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Two other ride concepts were also rumored around this time, including one that sounded like the Spider-Man SCOOP vehicle with the ability to go upside-down or be suspended from the ceiling. It seemed as though multiple concepts were being dreamt up, perhaps as pitches before the rights were even secured.

Which brings us to today, where Screamscape is reporting that a Middle-Earth land is being planned as the first expansion for Epic Universe in Orlando.

Just as was reported back in 2018, we do have proof that concepts were at least being drawn up for a Lord of the Rings land between 2018 and 2019, as they are listed in multiple theme park designer’s resumes and artist’s portfolio’s online.

Overlay graphic showing expansion pads in blue, Graphic: Tommy Hawkins

If the expansion rumor is true, there are two main expansion plots set aside at Epic Universe. The first is located between Super Nintendo World and the Universal Monsters land on the left side of the park. This plot is only 7 acres in size.

Two possible expansion plots highlighted, Graphic: Tommy Hawkins

The other is much larger, at over 20 acres, and is located on the right side of the park, just beside the Wizarding World area. From rumors, supposedly Universal was reserving this massive space, which could become the largest single land in the park, in case they were to secure the rights to another “Potter-size intellectual property.”

Screenshot ©New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.

Based on some of the concepts rumored to have been designed in 2019, we have an idea of what they were possibly planning for this massive land, at least back then.

In one possible exploration, the land would contain two main areas with a total of two E-Ticket level attractions, as well as some smaller attractions. One area would be based on Hobbiton, with a section devoted to Bag End. A River would separate that area from the second land within a land.

Screenshot ©New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.

Guests would take a bridge across the river, revealing the grand structures of Rivendell, as seen in both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. As you walk between the structures, gigantic screen-based windows would extend the world even further with lush waterfalls and scenery that appear to be outside and go on for miles.

The massive land would contain multiple shops and at least one large dining location. One of the E-Ticket attractions was designed as a boat ride with mostly indoor scenes.

Screenshot ©New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.

The larger attraction, named “The Fall of Gandalf” in one concept, would have possibly been a flying vehicle ride. One other concept for a small attraction was named “Escape from Moria,” and there would have been expansion space for yet another ride later on.

Official concept art for Epic Universe with speculated lands labeled

These plans were being designed in 2019, after the four main lands of Epic Universe were already locked in, so it seems like they were considering this for an expansion already when the park was announced in August of that year.

If a Middle-Earth land is still being considered for an Epic Universe expansion, plans could have changed since 2019, especially with the “The Rings of Power” series debuting on Amazon Prime later this year.

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Screenshot: Amazon Prime

Now that we’re caught up on 12 years of Lord of the Rings ride rumors, we will keep you up to date on any additional news we hear on this rumored expansion for the upcoming park.

Be sure to see our Epic Universe topic for recent construction and rumor updates based on everything we do know about this new theme park. See the video version of this story for additional visuals, and be sure to subscribe to the news feed to never miss an update!

©New Line Cinema/Warner Bros.

Be sure to subscribe to the news feed or enter your email below to never miss an update. Official Epic Universe Concept Art and Logos: Universal Orlando | Other images as captioned

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