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We love rumors here at Orlando Informer HQ. And we certainly should – we’ve reported on what seems like almost every single one of them over the past three years, and we’ve even spread a few of our own (including “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” being the name of that fancy new ride in Diagon Alley and, much more recently, Konami and Universal executives having been in talks with one another about a theme park alliance).
Still, with that said, there are a few whispers that have made their way around the mill that are… well, shall we say suspect, at best, and outright fanboy wish fulfillment, at worst. They’re still a barrel of laughs to go over, however, so we decided it might be the perfect time for a bit of levity – what with Halloween Horror Nights starting today and all – by listing our top five favorite ridiculous Universal Orlando rumors.
Ready to have your socks be blown off? Here we go…
#4 – Skull Island being delayed and/or cancelled
In case you haven’t heard the news from last week, Legendary Pictures is taking its upcoming Kong: Skull Island away from Universal Pictures and moving it on over to Warner Bros. (the distributor where Legendary originally had set up shop, ironically enough). The change is happening, from what we hear, purely for legal and advertising efficacy – Warners already owns the distribution rights to Godzilla, another Legendary production, and we’ve known for some time now that a shared-universe crossover film between the two cinematic titans has been the end goal for Legendary Pictures. Having both of those properties under the same filmmaking roof would make for a much smoother development and marketing process.
Still, the news hasn’t stopped many a themed enthusiast’s heart from beating out of its chest and making her fear that the upcoming Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction at Islands of Adventure would be getting delayed – or, even worse, getting the axe. It turns out King Kong has been in the public domain for quite a while – meaning that even if Disney were working on a rival Kong ride at its parks, it wouldn’t impact Universal’s plans in the slightest – and, besides, Reign of Kong and the filmic Skull Island have very little, if anything at all, in common; the former is set in the 1930s while the latter takes place in the ‘70s, for instance, and that’s just for starters.
So calm down, internet. Universal Orlando’s tentpole experience for 2016 isn’t going anywhere.
#3 – Discovering a new Discovery Center
Rumors about a new attraction going into Jurassic Park are practically as old as the theme park land itself. And for good reason, it so happens – there’s a rather large expansion pad that was deliberately built into the area, with the original intention that, at some point down the road, a Land Rover-esque tour through JP’s dino paddies would be erected.
Although one would think that slice of real estate going towards Skull Island’s construction would be enough to stop most of these rumors in their tracks, there’s been another, perhaps unforeseen development that has only increased the clamor for brand-new Jurassic Park experiences: a little movie called Jurassic World, which has gone on to rake in $1.6 billion at the box office, becoming the most successful movie of the year to date (yes, even blowing Furious 7 out of the water). And Universal’s seemingly last-minute response – installing a brand-new raptor meet-‘n-greet at the old Triceratops Encounter attraction – apparently just isn’t enough to sate fans’ colossal appetites.
Enter the rumor mill’s rather preposterous response to fill in the void: the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, which was loosely meant to imitate the main building from the first film 22 years ago, will be razed to the ground and built from the ground up to be an exact replica, featuring fully themed exhibits for visitors (including that neat DNA explanation “ride”!) and, perhaps, a tie-in or two for Jurassic World 2, which is due to arrive on June 22, 2018.
Suffice it to say that the Discovery Center as we know it today isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – and, even if it were, there are a whole multitude of other, better replacements that Universal Creative would be more than happy to implement.
#2 – Harry Potter and the never-appearing hotel
We’re sure this one is going to break many a theme park fan’s heart, but – alas! – it’s true: it’s never going to happen.
We’re talking about the possibility of Harry Potter being allowed to move out of his theme park digs, of course, and setting up shop on the periphery of Universal Orlando as a themed hotel. Author J.K. Rowling has been rather insistent that her creations remain off-limits from the normal grind of theme park operations, such as character meet-‘n-greets or parades, and, unfortunately, hotels would fit right into this category.
Still, it’s fun to entertain the notion, particularly as it would not only be one of the most highly themed places to stay anywhere in the world – eat your heart out, Art of Animation Resort – it would also easily be one of the most profitable, making Cabana Bay Beach Resort’s endless booked weekends look mild by comparison. And the whispers out on the themed web only reinforce this sold-out scenario; a hotel has supposedly been designed by Universal Creative as part of a blue-sky process, theming it to Hogwarts Castle and even having it feature moving staircases in its main lobby.
Then again, maybe we should learn to say “never say never” – it wasn’t that long ago that getting a high-quality stage show in one of the two Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter was deemed an impossibility, thanks to Rowling’s initial reluctance to engage with Universal Creative on this front, and, even before that, just getting any theme park land based on Harry’s wondrous world was seen as a long shot, as well. (Although I still think the moving staircases would be a ridiculous expectation – the safety concerns alone could choke a Thestral.)
#1 – Comcast buying SeaWorld
Now, this one takes the ridiculous cake.
A little over a year ago, Comcast was riding high, thanks to its unprecedented annual investments in Universal Parks and Resorts (the theme park division of Universal, of course), and the sky truly seemed the limit for whatever NBCUniversal wanted to do next. SeaWorld, meanwhile, was just hitting its post-Blackfish-crisis nadir (Blackfish being, in case you aren’t aware, the documentary that purported to expose the marine park’s repeated abuses of its orca whales), with its stock price falling below its initial public offering that happened just a few years before. When combined with the news that something big was going to be announced by SeaWorld to help staunch its systemic bleeding, many sites started putting two and two together and came up with a sum that seemed to make sense, if not be totally plausible.
That big unveiling that SeaWorld ended up having, of course, turned out to be its Blue World Project, which aims to nearly double the size of the killer whales’ tanks while also investing $10 million into research and conversation programs, among several other smaller initiatives. (Just in case you’re curious, Blue World hasn’t helped much over the past 12 months, and, yes, the park is still facing problems on this front.)
In hindsight, would it have been better for Universal to have made the acquisition? That’s still a tough one to answer, especially considering that the value of the proposition is so heavily dependent upon what Universal would’ve done with SeaWorld Orlando and its two sister parks, Aquatica Orlando and Discovery Cove (which is not to mention the nine other properties SeaWorld owns across the country, including the Sesame Street-themed Sesame Place). Many permutations of the rumor had the company transforming the nearby trifecta of parks into a massive third gate for Universal Orlando, with an emphasis on water attractions (though, presumably, not marine-based ones).
With Volcano Bay already on the way, however – and looking mighty fine, we might add – such a move might not have been the wisest use of resources.
What are your most ridiculous rumors? Share them in the comments below.
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