Universal Responds to Harsh Backlash Regarding Plus Size Guests

in Universal Studios Hollywood, Walt Disney World

Guests riding Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge at Universal Studios Hollywood

Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

Following backlash, Universal has responded to the somewhat-negative reception of one of its newest rides.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal Hollywood. Credit: Universal
Credit: Universal

Related: Disney World Closing Theme Park Indefinitely in 2023

For those who don’t know, Universal Studios recently opened its own version of SUPER NINTENDO WORLD, a land that first opened at Universal Studios Japan in 2021. This Nintendo-centric area transports Guests into their own Mario-themed adventure, complete with rides, attractions, treats, and references to the classic Super Mario franchise.

Super Nintendo World is a gamer’s dream come true, with Universal creating an ultra-immersive world for Guests to get lost in. The new area ties in nicely with Illuumination’s upcoming The Super Mario Bros. Movie starring Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, and Keegan-Michael Key.

The new land isn’t just pretty to look at, however, with Guests having tons to do while inside. Guests who purchase a Power-Up Band can get the most out of the Super Nintendo World, using the band to deepen their interactions across the land.

Guests riding Mario Kart: Bowser's Challenge at Universal Studios Hollywood
Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

Guests can also enjoy themed dining at the Toadstool Cafe and do some serious shopping at the 1-UP Factory. However, there is some controversy forming regarding the land’s main attraction, Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge. This Mario Kart-inspired ride takes Guests on a virtual-reality adventure as they race against familiar characters such as Mario, Luigi, Peach, and of course, Bowser.

With the success of SUPER NINTENDO WORLD at Universal Studios Japan, it was revealed that a version of the land would also be making its way to Universal Studios Hollywood in 2023. The land officially opened in February 2023 and has been a big hit among Guests.

A version of SUPER NINTENDO WORLD will also be making an appearance at Epic Universe, the massive new Park being constructed for the Universal Orlando Resort. This isn’t the only property the new Park will contain, however, with a Universal Classic Monsters land rumored for the Park as well as an area based on Universal’s How to Train Your Dragon franchise.

Of course, Epic Universe will also introduce a third Wizarding World of Harry Potter land at the Universal Orlando Resort, but there’s not much known about the specifics.

universals epic universe
Credit: Universal

Related: Disney Alters Its Most Iconic Ride in Effort to Be More Inclusive

However, there was one major issue dominating the theme park news cycle recently, and it had to do with the main attraction at SUPER NINTENDO WORLD in Universal Studios Hollywood.

Ride accessibility has been a big issue for decades at theme parks, with Guests and fans alike pushing for more inclusivity among theme park rides and attractions. This is a crucial initiative for Resorts like Universal, Disney, and Six Flags to engage in, as it not only allows for more Guests to experience attractions but creates a more welcoming and friendly atmosphere as a whole through the Parks and Resorts.

Unfortunately, some theme park rides aren’t created with accessibility in mind, leaving a lot of Guests unable to experience them.

Universal was recently called out for the lack of accessibility on Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge at SUPER NINTENDO WORLD, with many slamming the company for not designing a more accommodating ride vehicle.

Credit: Universal

The New York Post detailed some of these reactions from fans, with criticisms mounting against Universal for how limiting this new attraction is. Universal itself states that anyone whose waistline is 40 inches or greater may not be accommodated at the attraction, a warning that rang true for some.

Social media personalities blasted the ride on Twitter, saying that “the body size limitations on the Mario Kart ride are absolutely ridiculous. I’ve never had any issue fitting into any ride in my entire life, and I can BARELY fit into this one. Completely absurd.” Another online personality wrote, “Trust me when I say ‘lose a little weight’ is not a novel suggestion. Universal has a history now of releasing new rides (Harry Potter, Life of Pets, and now Mario Kart where they don’t accommodate big people, yet they WILL take full admission price from us. Seems unethical.”

Following this backlash, Universal responded to the negative reception of this new ride with several quotes and mission statements.

“We are always listening to our guests and seek to balance their needs against our strong focus on the safety of our attractions,” stated Universal in a message sent to Inside the Magic. “We have a company-wide task force actively working with this community to make changes that can help them safely increase access to our experiences.”

Banner for Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollwyood showing an aerial shot of the immersive expansion
Credit: Universal Studios Hollywood

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Universal laid out a detailed plan and mission statement for its theme parks, which is shared below:

  • We have a company-wide task force that is working with members of this community to collaborate on everything from test-seat placement to ride design to sharing the right information with our guests so they can better plan their visit. 
  • We are actively working with others in the theme park industry and ride manufacturers who build our attractions toward implementing new ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) and EuroNorm standards for future rides to improve their accessibility for a broader range of riders.
  • We are reconfiguring some of our existing rides, beginning with Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure in Orlando.
  • We are making sure our test seats are located in a way that balances privacy and an ability to easily find them. We are also reviewing how we communicate information about test seats and accessibility with our guests prior and during their visit.
  • We are enhancing our design standards for future attractions while still maintaining our high safety standards.
Shigeru Miyamoto at Super Nintendo World with Peach, Luigi, and Mario.
Credit: Universal

Universal also reiterates that its size guidelines are meant to encourage Guests to use the test seat before entering the queue for a ride or attraction. This is a common feature at most theme parks, including Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Six Flags, SeaWorld, and Universal.

  • Guests of many different waist sizes are able to safely experience our attractions.
  • We’ve long used a 40-inch waist size as a general guideline to help our guests plan their visit. This is not a new standard specific to Super Nintendo World.
  • This guideline is not a specific restriction, but is instead meant to encourage guests to try a test seat or to speak with one of our Team Members before riding so they may comfortably and safely board the ride.
TRON Lightcycles moving through the Upload Conduit
Credit: Disney

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Many are worried that reactions will be similar when Walt Disney World opens its newest ride this April. Officially called TRON Lightcycle/Run, the attraction is themed around Disney’s 2010 film Tron: Legacy. The coaster is unique in that Guests straddle the ride vehicles like motorcycles, meaning the accessibility of the attraction is limited far more than a regular roller coaster.

The ride can be found in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom, right next to Space Mountain, one of Disney’s most famous and beloved attractions of all time. Space Mountain itself has a fairly clunky ride vehicle to get in and out of, with Guest soften struggling to exit the ride at the end of the attraction. This is a problem that plagues most older Disney Park rides and attractions like the Matterhorn Bobsleds at the Disneyland Resort.

Similar issues occurred back when Pandora – The World of Avatar opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017. The land itself is incredibly-immersive and beautiful, but the main attraction (literally) of the land prompted thousands of Guests to question whether or not they’d be able to fit.

Similar to TRON Lightcycle/Run, Avatar Flight of Passage, the main ride at the land has Guests straddle a motorcycle-like ride vehicle, only this time, it’s for a motion-simulator-based experience.

Credit: ITM

As we stated earlier, Universal is continuing to work on Epic Universe, its massive new theme park at the Orlando, Florida Resort. The theme park will feature its own version of SUPER NINTENDO WORLD as well as other areas inspired by Universal franchises like How to Train Your Dragon and Universal Classic Monsters. Epic Universe is also expected to house a brand-new section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The new Park is set to open in the summer of 2025 and looks to be a promising addition to the Universal Orlando Resort.

Have you visited SUPER NINTENDO WORLD at Universal Studios? What’s your favorite theme park?

in Universal Studios Hollywood, Walt Disney World

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