Universal’s Epic Universe Update: Track Arrives and Rumored Changes

Alicia Stella 3 Comments

After pausing construction due to the pandemic, work on Universal Orlando’s upcoming theme park, Epic Universe, is finally starting to pick back up. Thanks to new aerial photos we’re getting our first look at the first ride track pieces to arrive.

Plus, new rumors suggest we might see changes to many of the areas of the park. Let’s see what we can learn from the new photos, and discuss what we think could change moving forward, in today’s news update. Be sure to check out the video version of this story for additional visuals.


First announced in August 2019, Universal’s Epic Universe, which will be the company’s biggest theme park in the U.S., is being built near the Orange County Convention Center, a couple miles south of the current Universal Orlando Resort.

Speculation map with labels added (Click on image for higher quality)

From rumors and permits submitted to Orange County, many believe the park was designed to open with lands based on Nintendo, How to Train Your Dragon, Universal Monsters, and Harry Potter. The park’s central hub is also expected to receive a couple attractions of its own, and a large hotel will be connected to the back of the park.


Aerial photo of the Epic Universe site, Photo: @bioreconstruct

This new theme park isn’t much to look at yet, with not much to see other than dirt and access roads at this time. But, thanks to new aerial photographs by Bioreconstruct on Twitter, we can spot some interesting things that are starting to arrive.

Work going on in backstage area, Photo: @bioreconstruct

As expected, a lot of work seems to be going on in the backstage areas for the park. The backstage area already includes a large Team Member parking lot, but it will also include many warehouses that will be used during the ongoing construction.

Google Maps image with submitted plans for warehouses and backstage parking, theme park area below

Other facilities will be constructed in this large backstage area, replacing some of the offices and support buildings currently located at the existing resort. It looks like additional pipes and other building materials have been delivered since our last update of this area.

Arrow pointing to possible materials tests, Photo: @bioreconstruct

Elsewhere at the site, what appear to be test sections have shown up. These types of items are often set up outside to test certain kinds of paints, stucco, and other materials against the harsh Florida weather. This way they’ll know how quickly they may fade, and which ones will fare better against the elements, before being installed on the real structures later.


Dewatering equipment on bottom-left, ride track pieces on top-right, Photo: @bioreconstruct

Nearby, a couple large pools and pumps have been installed for the dewatering at the site. Here’s where we find the most interesting of the new deliveries.

Ride track being staged at Epic Universe site, Photo: @bioreconstruct

Many pieces of ride track are being staged here at the Epic Universe site. Upon closer inspection, it appears that these track pieces are the same style as those used in the construction of Yoshi’s Adventure at Universal Studios Japan. The light green track can be spotted in older satellite photos during the construction of that ride.

Google Earth satellite image showing Yoshi’s Adventure construction in Japan

Yoshi’s Adventure is a family omnimover ride that opened earlier this year at Super Nintendo World in Japan, and it’s one of the attractions expected to open with Universal’s Epic Universe as well.

Shipping report for track pieces coming from Japan, Image Source

According to shipping reports, it’s possible this track may have made its way here from Japan, after being produced by Sansei Technologies. They may have produced this track at the same time as the pieces needed for Japan’s version of the attraction.

Track being staged at Epic Universe site, Photo: @biroreconstruct


Now, The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash does use the same ride system, but that attraction’s track was black in color when being installed at Universal Studios Hollywood. Plus, the shipping reports refer to the project number as 904, which according to permits, is the code for Super Nintendo World at Epic Universe.

Photo of the first Super Nintendo World, now open, Photo: Universal Studios Japan

Since we know that the Super Nintendo World area is already designed, and many of its elements may already have been fabricated, I am expecting it to start major construction first, before the rest of the theme park—other than backstage areas of course, which work has already started on.

Super Nintendo World could also be the only area of the park that won’t see any major changes going forward. Rumors suggest that other parts of the park may have been tweaked since permits were submitted prior to the pause in construction.

In our last story on possible new rides for Universal Orlando we talked about how the rumored Virtual Reality flying broomstick attraction, which was supposedly originally designed for a new Wizarding World land at Epic Universe, could instead be moving to Universal Studios Florida.

According to the recent rumor, this attraction would become a part of Diagon Alley instead, leaving a hole in the plans for Epic Universe, and be the first indication that plans could be changing for the new park.


Possible layout for Epic Universe’s Wizarding World land, (before changes)

Even though it is rumored that one of the two main attractions for the possible Wizarding World land at Epic Universe is leaving, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the land itself will be going with it. The other Wizarding attraction, expected to take place within the British Ministry, may remain. It does appear to be the largest ride at the new park according to permits. The other side of the land could remain empty, and be left as a future expansion spot for the Wizarding World when the park opens.

With at least one attraction missing for the new park, I expect that another will be added, just maybe somewhere else in the plans.

The NBCUniversal CEO, Jeff Shell said something interesting recently during a virtual Q&A meeting. He said that Epic Universe would contain attractions based on intellectual properties including Nintendo, DreamWorks, and Illumination. While Nintendo and DreamWorks fit with lands we are expecting for the new park, (Super Nintendo World and How to Train Your Dragon respectively,) this was the first time anyone had suggested Illumination would receive some sort of presence.

Illumination is the company behind films like Minions, The Secret Life of Pets, and Sing. And all of these films have attractions represented at Universal Parks around the world. Is it possible that one of the expansion areas for Epic Universe could receive some sort of “Illumination Land”? Could attractions like Hollywood’s Secret Life of Pets ride be cloned at this park, alongside the Sing live show and Super Silly Fun Land from Universal Studios Beijing?

The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash opened recently at Universal Studios Hollywood


It’s still too early to know for sure what exactly the company’s CEO meant when he said that, and new permits may reveal if any major changes have been made to the plans as construction ramps back up.

Other rumors suggest we could see changes within the Universal Monsters land and How to Train Your Dragon land as well. Not much has been said yet, but some believe we could see the shows eliminated from these areas, or at least put off until future expansions. If true, rather than saving money or time, it may be so resources can be allocated elsewhere to add more attractions to the park.

Official concept art for Universal’s Epic Universe

As for when the park will be opening, many believe it will open in 2025, despite Universal’s CEO saying the park would be ready in just a couple years. Given the park’s unique design, where each land features its own entrance in and out, some are wondering if we could see certain areas of the park open early, as a sort of special preview before the rest of the park is completed.

We’ll just have to wait and see. And we’ll be watching for new permits to be filed, to see if any of the rumored changes to the park show up in the plans. Plus, more ride track is expected to show up on site in the coming weeks as well, so stay tuned for that!

See the video version of this story for additional visuals. Subscribe to the news feed or enter your email address below to never miss an update. Graphics: Alicia Stella | Aerial Photos: @bioreconstruct | Official Art: Universal Orlando

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3 Comments
  • Jennifer

    Reply

    I am enjoying reading these updates so much!! Thank you for posting them. I am excited to hear that you still feel Harry Potter will be in the new park, at first when there was no mention I thought maybe it wouldn’t be included but since it is a huge franchise I couldn’t imagine that. Keep up the updates, hoping to see some things really moving along soon.

  • Kevin

    Reply

    Great update — and terrific detective work on the new track. It makes complete sense that it would have been produced at the same time as the Japan version.

    I’m struggling to understand how Illumination fits into their plans. The only existing land it could replace at this point seems to be monsters — and if they did that the park would skew way too much towards kids. Expansion land could make sense as you mentioned, but I wonder if they would fit it into the hub somehow instead.

    Really like your theory on the park opening up in phases. I think it would need a minimum of two lands to be a viable ticket, but could definitely see them doing that and packaging it with the other UO parks.

  • Gina

    Reply

    Awesome work Stella keep up the good work reporting on this

Leave a Reply to Gina Cancel reply