Disney has taken some serious hits from Universal recently, but the Mouse has just thrown down the gauntlet by announcing two major expansions to Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (which are, of course, in addition to Pandora: The World of Avatar). How can Universal keep up with all these new, high-quality Disney lands?
I believe Universal should answer this challenge with an entire Jurassic World expansion. Here’s why.
What, where, and why?
The prospect raises some major questions: why Jurassic World, where would it go, and what kind of rides/attractions should it feature?
For starters, the fourth Jurassic Park film has, to date, made nearly $650 million domestically, with a worldwide haul of over $1.6 billion. After two lackluster sequels, the JP franchise has been revitalized with all the unexpected ferocity of a raptor ambush. The film has done so surprisingly well that a sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, has already been confirmed for June 2018.
Kids (and adults) love dinosaurs. They always have been fascinated by them, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Subsequently, there is not much danger of Jurassic World being considered a passing fad or one-hit wonder with limited appeal that passes out of pop culture like the latest boy band.
But where should this T-Rex-sized addition to Universal Orlando go? I think there are two options. One is to take over a section of Universal Studios Florida – maybe Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone – which would establish a Jurassic footprint at both parks, much like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter currently enjoys. However, I believe the best bet would be to upgrade Jurassic Park at Islands of Adventure, tearing some things down to make way for new experiences, and also saving money and space by re-theming some of its current attractions.
What would Isla Nublar 2.0 look like? The main feature as you enter the new Jurassic World should remain the massive, intimidating gates we are used to, now with the electric blue of Jurassic World. But now they can open upon a scaled-down version of JW’s Main Street. This will provide a place for traditional souvenir shops and dining – maybe even a Starbucks, like in the movie!
At the end of the Main Street, the volcano-like triangle of the Visitor’s Center should loom high into the sky, which will house the island’s centerpiece and stunning new main attraction:
1. The Gyrosphere Escape
A mixture of the groundbreaking tech from the Harry Potter rides and Skull Island: Reign of Kong, The Gyrosphere Escape will mix dark-ride elements, audio-animatronics, and an immersive ride vehicle for a next-gen experience.
Obviously, these “gyrospheres” will be new, multi-passenger designs and would need some modifications for easy loading and unloading. They could have a real bottom portion, or three-fourths of a sphere with the other “missing portions” projected in your 3D glasses.
Of course, Jimmy Fallon will be on-hand via your on-board ride monitor screens, with a new safety and instructional video, acting as your tour guide through Jurassic World.
Things start off calmly as the guests venture into peaceful Gallimimus Valley to watch a herd of the ostrich-like dinosaurs speed past. Then it’s on to Triceratops Territory, where guests look on in wonder as the huge trikes lock horns in domination rituals overhead.
It’s not until we enter the Pachy Arena that – wait for it – something goes horribly wrong! One of the Pachys accidentally head-butts the ride vehicle into a strange paddock that looks like it would hold a massive dinosaur. But where is it hiding?
The Indominus Rex suddenly drops its camouflage and appears right in front of you! There’s a surprise appearance by Owen Grady and his raptors as they try to save you. Then the chase is on through the Aviary, as you dodge dive-bombing pterosaurs and then crashes into the huge paddock of the T-Rex Kingdom.
The beloved Rex offers a challenging roar at the Indominus, accompanied by John Williams’s soaring theme.
With help from Owen, Blue, and the Rex, the Indominus is defeated, and you help by slamming the Gyrosphere into the big beast, sending it down into the watery world of the Mosasaurus. But the Gyrosphere accidentally rolls off the edge, too, submerging to give you a look at the master of the JW deep making Indominus dinner.
Seconds before the Mosasaurus turns you into dessert, the Gyrosphere is yanked back out of the water by a huge crane, with Owen at the controls. He gives guests a salute, and raptor Blue roars his approval.
2. Jurassic Kids’ Club
This area will offer a new ride directly from the movie’s park brochure, plus a reboot of an old ride and a new kid’s play area.
The Egg Spinner
According to the park map, “Spin your DNA silly on our simulated Egg Spinner.” Children get in and get spun around at high speeds in this recreation of the Hammond Creation Lab’s egg spinner.
Pterosauria: The Live Experience
The current Pterandon Flyers attraction and its track can be rebuilt, revised, and fully expanded into a family coaster with a much higher capacity, much like how The Flying Unicorn was converted into Flight of the Hippogriff at Hogsmeade.
Gentle Giants Petting Zoo
This kids’ play area will feature large-scale model dinosaurs built for climbing, sitting, and taking photos upon with plenty of shade, benches, and a small snack area.
3. The Raptor Research Area
Next up, the current Raptor Encounter can be expanded into a huge new home: the familiar pillbox Raptor Compound just like we saw in the movies. This will not only give guests a respite from the sun for the queue, but it would also triple the capacity with multiple Raptor meet-and-greet areas.
Of course, it can also house a Raptor Research Area with hands-on activities, movie-quality raptor props and bones, a gift shop, and maybe even static raptor model photo opportunities.
4. Cretaceous Cruise
The existing Jurassic Park: River Adventure can be renamed for one of Jurassic World’s signature rides: the Cretaceous Cruise. This watery drop attraction can easily be updated and re-themed to JW with better quality audio-animatronic dinosaurs in the lagoons, and the nasty Indominus can replace the T-Rex as the villain in the end before the final plunge.