Theme Park Delays: Universal Guests Face Disappointment as Opening Date Axed, Mass Closures Continue

in Universal Studios Japan

Left: mario and friends racing in karts on a vibrant, colorful track with whimsical obstacles. right: a dramatic fantasy battle scene featuring a warrior woman and a dragon in a stormy ocean setting.

Credit: Universal Studios Japan

If you’re visiting one Universal theme park in the next few months, you may find yourself coming away disappointed as a brand-new land is delayed and multiple ride closures hit the resort.

Like all theme parks, Universal consistently seeks to add exciting new experiences for parkgoers. Over the past decade, Universal has pumped out an incredible number of attractions, including Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, VelociCoaster (considered by many to be the best coaster in Florida), and Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast at Universal Orlando Resort, Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge at Universal Studios Hollywood, and an entire park’s worth of additions at Universal Studios Beijing.

Hagrid's Motorbike Rollercoaster Islands of Adventure
Credit: Universal Studios Orlando

Related: Universal Studios Permanently Changes ET Ride

Best of all, it shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. The next two years are set to bring two more parks in the form of Epic Universe and Universal Kids Resort, as well as DreamWorks Land at Universal Studios Florida, a Minions land in Universal Studios Singapore, and the Fast & Furious roller coaster at Universal Studios Hollywood (and breathe).

The only downside to new attractions is the long wait when you can see a theme park working on an addition that isn’t yet open to the public. For guests at Universal Studios Japan, this has been the case for months as Donkey Kong Country – an upcoming expansion to the park’s existing SUPER NINTENDO WORLD – continues construction.

A golden temple behind the trees in Donkey Kong Country at Universal Studios Japan
Credit: Universal Studios Japan

This new land was originally scheduled to open in spring 2024. Now that we’re in spring, however, it’s pretty clear that this is not the case, with Universal confirming as much yesterday.

“Donkey Kong Country, which was previously scheduled to open in spring 2024, has been changed to late 2024,” Universal Studios Japan wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter). “We apologize for any inconvenience caused to those who have been waiting. We will announce the opening date and other details as soon as they are decided.”

What makes this delay all the more surprising is the fact that parkgoers have witnessed Donkey Kong Country testing for themselves in recent weeks, with everything looking pretty much ready to go. When it does eventually open, the Universal land will feature a new ride named Mine-Cart Madness, which will feature an illusion that makes guests feel as if their ride vehicle has left the tracks – just like the carts in Donkey Kong.

For guests visiting Universal Studios Japan this spring or summer, the absence of Donkey Kong Country will be heavily felt. Several major attractions are currently closed at the park. Jurassic Park: The Ride – a clone of Jurassic Park River Adventure at Islands of Adventure – closed for a major refurbishment in September 2023 and isn’t scheduled to reopen until early 2025.

Guests pass a dinosaur on Jurassic Park: The Ride
Credit: Universal Studios Japan

Related: Universal’s ‘Jurassic Park’ Ride Is Closing for Two Years

Space Fantasy – The Ride has been closed indefinitely at Universal Studios Japan since January 2023. Snoopy’s Sound Stage Adventure, Shrek’s 4-D Adventure, Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic, Ernie’s Rubber Duckie Race, and Sesame’s Big Drive are all closed indefinitely. Universal also has refurbishments lined up for JAWS and The Flying Dinosaur over the next few months.

This week, the park was also forced to close Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey due to an undisclosed technical fault. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction – which takes guests on a magical adventure through Hogwarts and its surrounding grounds alongside Harry, Ron, Hermione, and co. – has been temporarily replaced by Hogwarts Castle Walk, which allows parkgoers to tour the highlights of Hogwarts Castle without actually getting on the ride. Attractions at the park that do remain open include Flight of the Hippogriff, Hollywood Dream – The Ride (and its backward version, Hollywood Dream – The Ride: Backdrop), Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge, and Yoshi’s Adventure.

A still from one of the projection sequences in 'Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.' Credit: Universal
Credit: Universal

Like Tokyo Disney Resort, Universal Studios Japan’s attractions have attracted increasingly heavy crowds in recent months due to Japan’s tourism boom. The resort has also experienced a well-documented labor shortage, with Univeral beginning to look elsewhere to recruit new team members.

Do you plan on visiting Universal Studios Japan at any point soon? Let us know in the comments!

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