Ask me about my new best friends, Chronos and Astronomica.
Photo: Universal via YouTube
The dream of a classic-movie-monster cinematic franchise called Dark Universe is alive in Orlando. In its ongoing noble quest to become the superior Florida theme-park destination (real heads know it already is), Universal Orlando Resort has released a trailer for Epic Universe, its long-anticipated “third gate” and the first new Disney or Universal theme park to open in America since Disney California Adventure beta-launched in 2001. It looks expensive. It looks creative. It does, in fact, look epic.
The trailer is hosted by Mark Woodbury, CEO of Universal Destinations & Experiences, who is feeling his Michael Eisner oats as he talks about the storied history of the studio tram tour that started it all. He then launches into Universal’s current mission of building a theme park that will offer storytelling and immersion in “the most visceral manner possible.” The result is a theme park made up of “five worlds,” connected through “portals,” a frightening example of multiverse oversaturation crossing over from movies to real life.
This is forgiven, though, once the president of Universal, Molly Murphy, introduces the concept of “Chronos, the first portal, where all the planets will align.” We love highfalutin world-building-, original IP–, sci-fi/fantasy-speak. Chronos leads to Celestial Park, which will “put the park back in theme park,” which I guess means it will have grass, benches, and landscaping in addition to “Astronomica, where you can play with dancing fountains.” Love that. The concept art lands somewhere between the Jules Verne Tomorrowland in Disneyland Paris, His Dark Materials, Spyro, and ancient civ.
The other four areas are IP based. There’s a How to Train Your Dragon land and a Dark Universe featuring Frankenstein, the Mummy, et al. that promises “everything you’ve ever wanted to experience with monsters in this world” (which … have you ever searched Dracula or werewolf on AO3?). There’s also another Wizarding World park, this time themed to the Ministry of Magic. I shudder at the thought of experiencing Grindelwald’s many crimes up close and in person. Finally, and most anticipated, is the East Coast version of Super Nintendo World, which will be larger than its Hollywood counterpart. While it wasn’t teased in the video, we know that Universal is constructing a Donkey Kong mine-cart coaster in addition to porting over the Mario Kart ride.
The video ends with Steven Spielberg promising that “Epic Universe is built on an amazing concept,” which the CEO defines as “What I think we’re trying to do most is give people the opportunity to really experience the full thrill of being alive.”
So what do you think? Too much for a theme park to promise, or just the right amount of ambition? Do you think there will be a Grindelwald meet and greet? Are you excited by the thought of Jay Baruchel’s prerecorded voice telling you to “keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times” on a How to Train Your Dragon ride? Epic Universe opens officially in 2025. Then, and only then, will we really experience the full thrill of being alive.