Monday, August 28, 2017

Bill and Ted are leaving Universal Orlando, but will Potter move in?

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 10:12 AM

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Since 1992, Bill and Ted have given Central Florida a wild year in review show, but Universal has now confirmed that after 27 years this will be the final appearance from the Wyld Stallyns at Halloween Horror Nights.

The Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure show began the year after Halloween Horror Nights was launched, though that first year it was simply known as Fright Nights. Universal closing one of the most iconic and longest running aspects of Halloween Horror Nights comes as a major surprise to many fans of the yearly event. But this isn’t the first blow to the show. A West Coast version of it, which featured different dialogue based on L.A. culture instead of Orlando’s, was canceled in 2013 after a scathing review of it published by VICE which called the show racist, homophobic, and terrible, went viral. In recent years a hip-hop dance group known as the Jabbawockeez have hosted a dance routine show during HHN.

In Orlando, the show put in place a strict no filming policy in 2007. Some believe that this might have been an attempt at lowering the risk of something from the show going viral or being caught by a sue happy company that the show might be mocking. With the Hollywood show being shut down due to public outcry regarding the show’s contents, some believe that Universal has decided the era of such a politically charged, raunchy comedy has passed.

While this might be true, some like Orlando Informer, have pointed out that both Busch Gardens and Knott’s have similar shows that feature scantily clad dancers intertwined into a pop culture focused year in review style comedy.

It’s this very existence of the shows at Knott’s and Busch Gardens that has some thinking it is not an attempt by Universal to shift the long controversial Halloween event in a more politically correct form, but instead the cost of using the Bill and Ted branding. The crude show was based on the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures craze that was sweeping the nation in the early '90s with the movie debuting, a television show launched, and tons of merchandise filled malls everywhere.

But these days, Bill and Ted are much less popular with the strong 20-something demographic that Halloween Horror Nights pulls in nearly all being born after that early '90s craze. With the brand being such a shell of its former self some industry trackers are speculating that Universal has chosen to just replace Bill and Ted with an in-house franchise, such as Beetlejuice or the classic Universal monsters. Beetlejuice and the classic monsters, like Mummy and Frankenstein, used to host a regular rock ‘n roll review at Universal Studios Florida. This show could be viewed as a family friendly, PG version of Bill and Ted. In the announcement regarding Bill and Ted Universal shared no details on future plans so there is no indication a new show may open next year.

Bill and Ted has used the same Universal Studios Florida theater for most of its life with a short stint in the mid-2000s in Toon Lagoon at Islands of Adventure. Outside of Halloween, the theater is home to the Fear Factor Live show which has long been rumored to be closing. Few other spaces at Universal Orlando could house Bill and Ted and the large crowds it draws. So, a closing of the show might signal an end of the theater that houses it.

The theater sits in between Men in Black and Diagon Alley. It could easily house a stand-alone attraction, similar to Men in Black or most of Epcot’s Future World attractions. An attraction of this type has been rumored for Universal Orlando based around the Secret Life of Pets film, but in recent months that rumor has died down, leading many to believe the project has been shelved.

click to enlarge Diagon Alley - UNIVERSAL ORLANDO
  • Universal Orlando
  • Diagon Alley
Inside Diagon Alley a large doorway that currently leads to a backstage area does line-up perfectly with the stage plot next door. This has been rumored to be a Phase 2 entrance since Diagon Alley opened in 2014. There are now strong rumors that point to the ending of Bill and Ted as a sign of an imminent Potter expansion that will begin soon after Halloween Horror Nights ends. Using former Universal Orlando construction timelines, this would point to an opening sometime around 2020. A new Potter phase has been announced for Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure. It will replace Dragon Challenge with a new family coaster and possibly other additions. A Diagon Alley expansion would mean both Potter areas at Universal Orlando would be getting new additions.

This could be Universal’s attempt at lessening the impact of the highly anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy Edge land that is opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by 2020. Disney is also planning many other major expansions across the resort leading up to the 50th Anniversary celebration in 2021, including new thrill rides in both Epcot and Magic Kingdom. Disney now has the lowest market share it has ever experienced in Orlando and the numerous new additions leading up to the 50th Anniversary celebration is viewed as an attempt to bring back some of that market share. On top of the new potter expansion, the new Nintendo themed area is expected to open at Universal Orlando around 2021.

Universal has been aggressive with its growth since 2010 when Potter first opened in Islands of Adventure causing massive attendance increases across the resort but more recent additions at the resort, like a ride based on Jimmy Fallon and a King Kong tram style ride, haven’t brought in those Potter sized crowds. That is except for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.

Universal might be leaning heavy on Potter in their response to Disney World’s expansions after successfully using the franchise twice already.
The Diagon Alley Phase 2 expansion is widely believed to be a Ministry of Magic attraction. Rumors range from an interactive ride to a live action show, to a walk-through attraction. It’s thought that the London water-front would be expanded to near Men in Black with new restrooms and refreshments kiosks. This area along the waterfront has already gone through the biggest transformation of any along the park’s lake, but it currently has a rather hodgepodge look with a large early 90s outdoor theater awning, a restroom left over from Jaws and some mostly un-themed vending kiosks.

For now, we must cherish this final season of Bill and Ted then, come November, the big question will be if Fear Factor Live returns or will we be in for even more growth at Universal? Until then we must continue to ‘be excellent to each other.’

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