While it can be said that basically any month is a big one for Universal Orlando – the resort is, after all, adding several new experiences each and every single year – August really has taken the cake in terms of major announcements. This is probably because this past month has also been a rather large one for Universal’s competition down the street: Disney held its biennial D23 Expo, where it took the opportunity to unveil, at long last, its much-anticipated Star Wars Land and Pixar expansion at Hollywood Studios (you can read more about that here and here).
Although Universal didn’t reveal anything specifically during the D23 days, its large swath of announcements in general can be seen as its attempt at counteracting Disney’s suddenly positive (well, mostly) word of mouth.
Prepare to be blown away by the ever-evolving behemoth that is Universal Orlando Resort? Let’s dive fully in.
1. Looking evil fully in the face
2015 has been something of an odd year for Universal’s insanely popular Halloween Horror Nights, and not just because of it being its 25th anniversary; doing a record-breaking nine haunted houses, along with – apparently – a score of behind-the-scenes complications, has evidently caused some delays in revealing the event’s full lineup.
After officially confirming that The Purge would be the third haunt on August 17, Universal finally went ahead and pulled the curtain back on Horror Nights’s entire lineup (which is a record in and of itself – one of the latest reveals yet in the event’s history). The highlights include a second, slightly expanded appearance of An American Werewolf in London, a “greatest hits” anniversary house and scare zone, and the bloodiest scare zone in the event’s history. You can find full details here.
If you had checked out our leaked list from earlier this year, you’ll notice that every single element came true – with the single exception of The Purge, which was a last-minute replacement of the Scream television series (reportedly, there were some tense back-and-forths between not only Universal and the rights holder[s], but also between Universal’s own Marketing and Art and Design departments). Still, despite the lack of surprises, the lineup sounds promising and looks to be one of the most immersive yet.
Only three weeks and counting!
2. Announcing – and re-announcing – Fast & Furious
The award for the funniest development this month easily has to go to Fast & Furious: Supercharged, the brand-new attraction that will be replacing both Disaster: A Major Motion Picture Ride Starring… YOU and Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue. After Universal originally – and, perhaps, accidentally – published a news story announcing the move on Monday, August 24, it was pulled… and then put back up, and then pulled, and then, finally, put back up for the rest of internet eternity the following day.
What makes this item go from quirky anecdote to noteworthy development is how the announcement changed from its first to its final iteration: originally present was the note that the new ride will be set in San Francisco, which would be appropriate, given that it’s going in the San Fran-themed area of the park. What makes even this small morsel relevant is the rumor going around before the press release that Universal would be leveling nearly all of San Fran and changing it into Los Angeles, to better fit the location of the Fast & Furious film franchise.
Was the SF mention a mistake, or was it simply a case of the company giving away too much too quickly? (It is rather out of character for Universal to announce the arrival of a new attraction before starting work on its construction – could this be because of Disney’s headline-stealing performance at its D23 Expo this month?) We won’t know until, presumably, this time next year, at the earliest.
In the meantime, be sure to comb the press release for any other clues as to Universal Studios Florida’s future.
Read more: the official announcement.
3. Hulk smash!
As has been rumored for quite some time now, Universal announced on the fourteenth that The Incredible Hulk Coaster will be taken down for an extended refurbishment starting on Tuesday, September 8.
While it’s not unusual for theme park operators to temporarily shutter attractions in order to perform maintenance and other routine improvements, the breadth and depth of this refurb is truly breathtaking. While Universal will only officially say that it’s instituting some “great new enhancements” to the coaster’s storyline, ride vehicles, and overall experience in order to make it “more immersive and high-tech,” our sources have gone a step further, corroborating the rumors that its launch tunnel and ride vehicles will be updated and its ride track will be replaced.
The biggest draw, however, is sure to be the brand-new queue and train station, which promises not only a whole new look for the extremely dated ‘90s cartoony elements, but also that expanded storyline. The jury’s still out on whether this redo will bring in elements from the insanely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe that launched nearly a decade after the Incredible Hulk Coaster opened – and which features Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner in various films, from Iron Man to The Avengers – but, either way, audiences’ greater familiarity with the source material will give Universal the opportunity to get more in-depth with the ride’s narrative.
The most exciting part of this redo? Now that The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Hulk will be upgraded by next summer, online scuttlebutt is already pointing to Marvel Super Hero Island’s two remaining attractions: Doctor Doom’s Fearfall and Storm Force Accelatron.
The coaster will open again sometime next summer. We expect all to be revealed – whether Universal likes it or not – well before then.
4. A selling-out of Harry Potter
Tickets for the third annual Celebration of Harry Potter, which is held at both Wizarding Worlds, went on sale on the nineteenth. As fully expected, vacation package sales went amazingly quickly; the Premium Travel Package (which includes special seating at select panels and demonstrations and a Shutterbutton’s photography session) sold out almost instantly, along with the Annual Passholder Travel Package, to boot.
But don’t worry! The Celebration Travel Package (which will nab you breakfast at The Three Broomsticks, access to “exclusive” Q&A sessions, and special commemorative souvenirs) are still up and running, and you can purchase them at Orlando Informer Travel (where you can also get all your questions answered and vacation arrangements handled).
What’s on tap for the 2016 event? Universal has been sparse on the details thus far, but we fully expect it to be commensurate with this year’s showing, which included wand lessons, trivia contests, interviews with the films’ crew and the Wizarding Worlds’ designers, and, of course, Harry Potter movie screenings. You can see a quick overview of this past January’s festivities below, courtesy of Universal:
Which do you think is the most exciting news development this month? Let us know in the comments.
Up next: read about Universal’s next must-do experience.
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