Universal To Be Put Under Scrutiny Ahead of Theme Park Development

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Rotating globe with the Universal Studios logo, under a clear blue sky, welcoming visitors to an adventurous theme park experience.

Credit: Universal

As Universal Destinations & Experiences rapidly expands globally, the company is reportedly being put under strict scrutiny ahead of its latest theme park development.

Universal has been busy this year, announcing and developing all sorts of exciting projects to expand its presence in the theme park and entertainment industry worldwide. However, as one of the most exciting — and chancy — projects continues its progress, the company will be scrutinized.

Universal Orlando Resort Annual Passholders (Guests) posing outside Universal Studios Florida
Credit: Universal

We’re talking about the thrilling theme park and resort project Universal Destinations & Experiences plans to develop in the United Kingdom. But before jumping into the latest development, let’s make a quick recap about the project for those who haven’t been able to keep up to date on the possible U.K. theme park.

Universal is exploring a potential theme park and resort project in the U.K.

What is Universal’s development in the U.K.?

Last year, Universal blew fans away after confirming the purchase of an approximately 476-acre (192-hectare) parcel of land south of Bedford to explore a potential new park and resort experience at the site.

While the project is still in its earliest development stages, it could open a world of possibilities for a Universal Studios park located in the U.K. with special events, entertainment offerings, rides, attractions, and immersive lands inspired by popular franchises like Shrek, Despicable Me, Minions, Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, How to Train Your Dragon, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and more — although some franchises have faced historical backlash at the parks.

Comcast Corporation, from which Universal Destinations & Experiences is part, is a global media and technology company that also includes NBCUniversal and Sky Group (owner of Sky News) in the U.K. Supposing this project came to fruition, it would mean exponential growth for Universal theme parks and Comcast Corporation.

three young Guests visiting Hogsmeade at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal's Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort
Credit: Universal

Is the project certain?

Sadly, despite the purchase of the land and Universal’s months of diligent work towards the project, the company has not made any definitive decisions on the project’s future. Regardless, Universal Destinations & Experiences continues to push forward on the ambitious international resort.

The official website for the possible U.K. project states, “Whilst we still haven’t made any final decisions on whether or not to proceed with the project, we have spent the past several months undertaking feasibility and due diligence work as well as discussing the project with local and national stakeholders.”

A magical encounter: children meet a life-size dragon under the watchful eye of a viking warrior in a whimsically themed environment at Epic Universe.
Credit: Universal Creative

Related: Three Things We Want To See at Universal’s UK Resort (From Someone Who Lives There)

Do we know of any attractions for this theme park?

Last year, Inside the Magic reported that Universal Destinations & Experiences had filed a trademark for its fan-favorite Halloween event, Halloween Horror Nights, in the United Kingdom’s Intellectual Property Office.

This filed trademark could mean that the company has plans to bring the seasonal event to life at its possible theme park in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, no official confirmation of this event or any creative content planned for the project exists.

Inside the Magic contacted Universal Destinations & Experiences through Edelman — the global communications firm Universal partnered with in the U.K. — which clarified: “As shared before, no creative content has been determined for the potential project in Bedford.”

Guests screaming while attending Halloween Horror Nights
Credit: Universal Orlando

What is Universal Destinations & Experiences doing to keep this project moving forward?

As mentioned before, Universal hasn’t made any final decisions on whether or not to proceed with the project. However, the company continues to push forward to gain the favor of locals and authorities. To do this, the company began a public engagement period in connection with the planning proposal for this potential project. The Walt Disney Company held a similar period of public meetings for a new project coming to Disneyland Resort.

Universal states: “This period of public engagement represents an important milestone in our feasibility and due diligence work and is a key part of the planning process; it does not mean we have made a final decision on this potential project. It is really important we hear from local communities before our engagement closes on Friday 3 May 2024 so we can consider and incorporate your feedback where appropriate.”

According to the official website, the following events will occur on April 13 at the Kimberley College and April 16 at the Bedford College in Bedford.

A happy family enjoying their time at the entrance of Universal Studios, with the iconic rotating globe in the background.
Credit: Universal

Additionally, Universal is asking locals to provide feedback on the project by completing a survey, aiming to incorporate their valued input where appropriate. You can click here to share your feedback on the project.

However, Universal Destinations & Experiences clarifies that the company “is not soliciting or accepting ideas or proposals for designs, concepts, or creative materials for attractions, products or services to be offered by them or their affiliates.” “It should be recognized that UDX may develop ideas similar to any shared during the engagement process, and no person will be entitled to any compensation for any such ideas or proposals,” the website states.

Related: Yet Another New Universal Theme Park Takes a Huge Step Forward

“Special” treatment for Universal?

Earlier this year, the possible project gained an extremely positive response from the Government of the United Kingdom, with Transport Secretary Mark Harper assuring that “the Government will want to do what we can to make sure that this exciting proposal comes to fruition.”

Regardless, the latest development will put Universal under scrutiny, as the company is reportedly seeking a “special development order,” which could mean that plans for the potential Universal Studios theme park could be granted directly by the Government and Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire councils wouldn’t make any decisions.

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

According to a recent Bedford Today report, an approach to the Government for a planning decision could be made by Universal Destinations & Experiences in the coming months. “Universal says it’s now looking to explore planning permission via a special development order,” explained Central Bedfordshire Council’s deputy leader and Independent Biggleswade West councilor Hayley Whitaker. “This means the planning decision wouldn’t be made by CBC or Bedford Borough Council, but by the Government.”

The report states that Universal has considered the request for planning permission granted directly by the Government via a special development order as “one route for securing the necessary approvals to move ahead with [their] investments.”

Universal Studios Hollywood globe with Guests around it
Credit: Republica from Pixabay

Of course, approval for said permission is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and accompanied by a thorough evaluation of every project. Councilor Whitaker commented, “Universal has acknowledged a planning submission would need to be accompanied by an environmental statement, which will be subject to public consultation and publicized.”

This environmental statement, other relevant information, and any comments made on its impact must be considered when a planning decision is made.

Indicators suggest that Universal Destinations & Experiences should make a final decision on the project within the coming months. Following this decision, it’ll be up to the Government to decide on the special development order.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis trying to stop Guests from visiting Walt Disney World Resort
Credit: Inside the Magic

Funnily enough, endorsement from the Government is not always positive, as we saw during the legal and political battle between Walt Disney World Resort and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Other Universal Destinations & Experiences projects

Of course, the possibility of a theme park and resort in the United Kingdom is not the only massive project Universal is currently carrying out. The company is gearing up to debut a series of unique experiences aimed at fans of all ages across the United States.

Universal Kids Resort

Universal is expanding its presence in America by bringing a family theme park to Frisco, Texas, set to be named “Universal Kids Resort.”

The new website for the upcoming theme park in Texas details:

The new Universal Kids Resort coming to Frisco, Texas will offer a unique theme park experience for the younger crowd. Universal Destinations & Experiences is designing this smaller-scale theme park to inspire the unbridled creativity of kids through play, discovery and imagination, with a different look and feel from existing destinations.

With family-friendly attractions and immersive themed lands, playful interactive shows and character meet and greets, Universal Kids Resort will celebrate Universal’s iconic brand of entertainment, humor and fun. It will cater to young kids and their families and bring to life beloved characters and stories in ways that will wow the youngest theme park goers. An on-site 300-room hotel will give families a place to stay and play.

Concept art for an all-new Universal theme park planned to open in Frisco, Texas
Credit: Universal

Universal Horror Unleashed

In addition to its Resort project in Frisco, Texas, the company is developing “Universal Horror Unleashed,” the first-ever year-round horror experience being developed in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This is the official description of Universal Horror Unleashed, according to Universal’s website:

The new concept – to be located at AREA15 in Las Vegas — pairs the company’s impressive expertise in the horror genre with next-level immersive experiences in an all-new format. A variety of unique, immersive, and horror-centric experiences will surround eerie eateries and bone-chilling bar areas. It will deliver on the thrills Universal’s horror fans have come to love and excite anyone looking for a new level of experiential entertainment. In addition, guests can expect a continuously updated experience with must-see seasonal events and one-of-a-kind merchandise.

A building covered in redlight with a silhouette of Jack the Clown greeting guests
Credit: Universal

Universal’s Epic Universe

The crown jewel of Universal Parks’ upcoming projects is the breathtaking theme park Universal’s Epic Universe, set to be the third theme park at Universal Orlando Resort along Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure — or the resort’s fourth theme park if you count Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park.

Many are calling the upcoming theme park “The Disney Killer” since many fans have voiced their opinions, assuring that plans for Walt Disney World Resort cannot compare to the wide variety of experiences that will debut when Universal’s Epic Universe opens its gates next year.

Universal Epic Universe concept artwork for Celestial Park.
Credit: Universal Orlando Resort

Thanks to recent announcements, there are a few details that are certain about Universal’s Epic Universe, including the immersive lands the park will be home to:

  • Celestial Park – Universal’s IP and original park section, jam-packed with a 500-room resort, two new rides, and plenty of sightseeing, shopping, and dining.
  • The Dark Universe is Universal’s love letter to its Classic Monsters, allowing guests of all ages to experience these legends in an all-new way.
  • How To Train Your Dragon: Isle of Berk – An immersive land that will cover the entire Dragon franchise we have all come to know and love.
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Ministry of Magic – this new expansion will include areas and themes from both the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts film franchises
  • SUPER NINTENDO WORLD – A world built and designed to immerse fans of all ages into Mario, Donkey Kong, and so many more Nintendo characters.

What would you like to see at Universal’s United Kingdom project? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments below!

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