Universal Is Making All the Wrong Moves Ahead of Epic Universe’s Opening

in Universal Orlando

Universal Orlando offers three theme parks, Universal Studios Florida, Universal's Islands of Adventure, and Universal's Volcano Bay

Credit: Universal Orlando Resort

Universal could do more harm than good to its theme parks ahead of Epic Universe’s opening. Could the new theme park balance the company’s offerings?

Universal Orlando Resort is making multi-million-dollar investments to improve the guest experience at the resort — home to Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal’s Volcano Bay, and Universal CityWalk — with new attractions and experiences, including the multi-year development of an all-new theme park set to leave the competition in the dust.

Universal Orlando Resort globe with Universal's Islands of Adventure in the background. Photo by Aditya Vyas on Unsplash
Credit: Aditya Vyas on Unsplash

Related: “You Gotta Be Grade-A Scumbags to Do This Sh*t,” Universal Faces Severe Backlash

However, some of Universal’s decisions could do more harm than good for the resort, receiving severe backlash from fans and parkgoers and removing beloved icons from the parks. Seeing new rides, attractions, and dining locations is exciting, but some franchises that inspire these unique experiences have a history of divisive opinions and backlash.

Universal is relying too much on controversial franchises

Regardless of poor Guest reception and constant criticism, some rides receive at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood, the company seems to be relying heavily on its controversial franchises to headline new rides and experiences ahead of Epic Universe’s opening.

Two particular franchises could be considered among the most divisive, and, ironically, they are headlining two major developments at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood: the Fast & Furious franchise and the Minions franchise.

Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson
Credit: Universal Studios

Fast & Furious franchise

While the Fast & Furious franchise has delivered ten installments in theaters, multiple spinoff stories, and more sequels on their way, the two current attractions inspired by the high-speed, action-packed movies are among the worst rated by parkgoers. Fast & Furious – Supercharged in Universal Studios Florida has been considered the worst ride in the Resort, closely followed by Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Fast & Furious Supercharged brick exterior in Universal Studios Florida
Credit: Universal

And the ride doesn’t have a much better reputation at Universal Studios Hollywood, where Fast & Furious – Supercharged is featured as the “grand finale” of The World-Famous Studio Tour.

However, Universal is seeking to redeem the image of the Fast & Furious franchise in Universal Studios Hollywood with an all-new coaster themed to the popular franchise, featuring “technological achievements never previously employed,” equipping the upcoming roller coaster with a state-of-the-art ride system uniquely created to engulf guests within the dynamic Fast & Furious universe.”

The concept art for Fast & Furious - Hollywood Drift
Credit: Universal/Screamscape

Initial reactions to the new coaster have mostly been positive, with many excited for an actual thrilling experience inspired by the action-packed movies. However, fans will have to wait until the new Fast & Furious-themed coaster opens to see what Universal packed under the hood for the ride.

Universal and the Minions

Another divisive franchise Universal heavily relies on is the Minions franchise, which came as a spinoff of the Despicable Me franchise featuring Steve Carell as Gru, the leader of the annoyingly hilarious yellow characters.

Minions and Gru
Credit: Universal Studios

The movies — three Despicable Me installments and two Minions installments so far —, the characters, and the rides brought to life based on the franchise have caused heavily divided opinions among viewers and parkgoers. The latest installment in the franchise, Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022), sparked a nationwide controversy when it was released in theaters.

Minions controversy

When Minions: The Rise of Gru was released in theaters last year, fans flooded movie theaters across America to enjoy the film. Unfortunately, the movie’s premiere triggered a viral trend on TikTok in which viewers dressed in suits or tuxedos to attend the film had loud and overly excited reactions throughout the screening and threw bananas at the screen after the film had ended.

This caused movie theaters nationwide to ban groups dressed in formal attire from entering screenings of Minions: The Rise of Gru. The divisive trend and interest in the movie caused it to gross over $939M, probably motivating Universal to lean more into the beloved banana-loving characters.

Credit: Universal Studios

Minion Land at Universal Studios Florida

Universal has leaned so much into the Minions franchise that Universal Studios Florida is now home to Illumination’s Minion Land — an entire area dedicated to the banana-loving characters, greeting guests of all ages just as they walk into the park.

Illumination’s Minion Land at Universal Studios Florida

To many fans’ delight, young and young at heart, Universal Orlando Resort recently opened an all-new area at Universal Studios Florida inspired by Gru’s minions. Initially opening its doors in June, Illumination’s Minion Land is the latest development at the Orlando-based resort.

New Land at Universal Now Open - Minion Land
Credit: Inside the Magic

What is Illumination’s Minion Land?

Illumination’s Minion Land is a newly reimagined area steps away from the entrance to Universal Studios Florida. The Minions-inspired land is home to an all-new attraction and a couple of dining locations inspired by Despicable Me and Minions. Illumination’s Minion Land opened completely earlier this month when the headline attraction of the new land officially opened its gates.

Which attractions are in Illumination’s Minion Land?

Illumination’s Minion Land is home to two attractions, the known fan-favorite Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and the brand-new Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast.

Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast takes guests on an innovative interactive experience along with popular villains from the Despicable Me and Minions franchises, including Vector, Balthazar Bratt, El Macho, and more.

Villain-Con Minion Blast facade at Universal Orlando Resort
Credit: Emmanuel Detres

Universal describes the ride as follows:

It’s So Much Fun, It’s a Crime

Join Illumination’s Minions, Belle Bottom, Jean Clawed and the rest of the Vicious 6 at Villain-Con as you blast your way to supervillain stardom. Use your E-Liminator X blaster and test your skill in this fun, interactive attraction. It’s all-new fun now open at Universal Orlando.

Connected Gameplay

You can download The Universal Orlando Resort app to enjoy enhanced gameplay at Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast attraction and throughout Minion Land on Illumination Avenue.

Guests holding blasters on the new 'Minions' attraction, Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast at Universal Studios Florida
Credit: Universal Orlando Resort

Did Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast replace another ride?

Unfortunately, it did. Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast replaced the now-defunct Shrek 4D attraction at Universal Studios Florida. The fall of the iconic Shrek-themed ride, though unfortunate, allowed Universal to sell multiple props from Shrek 4D at jaw-dropping prices.

A close up of Shrek 4D sign
Credit: Universal

What else can Guests find in Illumination’s Minion Land?

Besides Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, and Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast, guests exploring Illumination’s Minion Land can enjoy delicious snacks from Illumination’s Minions Cafe, Bake My Day, Freeze Ray Pops, and Pop-A-Nana; shop for exclusive merchandise at Evil Stuff and Super Silly Stuff; and meet the Minions, Gru, Margo, Edith and Agnes, along with characters from the film Sing, at the Illumination Theater.

Banner for the Illumination Theater at Minion Land in Universal Studios Florida featuring the Minions
Credit: Universal Orlando Resort

How Universal’s strategy could be hurting its theme parks

Again, while new rides, attractions, and experiences are exciting, not every move can be a win. And Universal heavily relying on only some of its franchises could be doing more harm than good.

Guest reception of Illumination’s Minion Land

Illumination’s Minion Land and Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast were highly anticipated offerings at Universal Studios Florida. However, it seems that the actual experience was underwhelming for fans, as recently, the all-new attraction was overshadowed by Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, its older, non-interactive neighbor. 

Universal Just Opened a Brand-New Retail Experience, Which Can Only Mean One Thing...
Credit: Universal Orlando Resort

Universal’s neglect of other franchises

While Universal continues to put profitable but not-so-popular franchises in the spotlight, the company is neglecting other fan-favorite movie sagas, leaving the American Universal Parks behind. And perhaps the clearest example of this is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with multiple locations worldwide inspired by the beloved Harry Potter franchise.

Magical creatures encounter at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Japan
Credit: Universal Studios Japan

While The Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas in Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood haven’t had any significant developments in recent years — contrarily, they have announced the closure of an iconic attraction later this yearUniversal Studios Japan recently debuted all-new magical interactions with several creatures from J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.

Something as simple as new character interactions could improve the guest experience at more areas of Universal Orlando Resort, providing higher satisfaction levels and boosting attendance even more.

Epic Universe, Universal’s savior

Although unfortunate, it is understandable that Universal is not focusing as much on other franchises at the moment, as the company continues to develop an all-new theme park that will likely be the home of all the best improvements in the theme park industry and help balance the attention most franchises receive from the company, Universal’s Epic Universe.

Universal's Epic Universe logo
Credit: Universal Orlando

Universal’s Epic Universe

Universal’s third theme park in Orlando, Universal’s Epic Universe, is deemed by many as the “Disney killer.” Though we are still away from the expansion’s opening date, the swift construction and accelerated development of Universal Orlando Resort’s third theme park is exciting.

What is Universal’s Epic Universe?

Universal’s Epic Universe is set to be the crown jewel of Universal Orlando Resort — an all-new theme park packed with innovative experiences, rides, and attractions.

With Epic Universe’s opening, Universal Orlando Resort will inch closer to Walt Disney World Resort with three theme parks — Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Epic Universe — and a water park — Universal’s Volcano Bay — compared to Disney World’s four theme parks and two water parks.

Universal's Epic Universe
Credit: Universal Orlando

When will Universal’s Epic Universe open?

Initially set to open its gates in 2024, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back the development of the brand-new theme park. Now, Epic Universe’s opening is scheduled for 2025, with no specific date announced by Universal officials yet.

Are any attractions confirmed for Universal’s Epic Universe?

Universal officials have not officially revealed a complete list of attractions and their names. However, speculation suggests that upon Epic Universe’s opening, guests will be able to explore a realm inspired by the How To Train Your Dragon saga, an all-new area inspired by The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an immersive land inspired by the Mario Bros. franchise similar to Universal Studios Hollywood’s and Universal Studios Japan’s SUPER NINTENDO WORLD, and a land paying homage to the enduring Universal Classic Monsters, among other themed areas.

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

Indeed Epic Universe’s opening will launch Universal Orlando Resort miles ahead of the competition, and hopefully, the new theme park will provide experiences inspired by some of the franchises Universal is currently neglecting at its American theme parks.

What do you think of Minion Land at Universal Studios Florida and the upcoming Fast & Furious coaster at Universal Studios Hollywood? Are you excited about Epic Universe’s opening? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments below!

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