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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A 'Despicable Me' mini-land is rumored to be in the works at Universal Orlando

Posted By on Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 3:32 PM

  • Photo via Wikipedia
Universal Orlando has confirmed an aggressive expansion plan that includes multiple new attractions every year for the foreseeable future, but there’s still plenty of discussion on what those attractions will be.

A Super Nintendo-themed land has been confirmed with an expected opening date around 2021 and an expansion of Hogsmeade that will include a family-friendly roller coaster. But there are still dozens of projects in the works that haven't been shared.

One of the older plans for the resort was a trackless dark ride themed to the Secret Life of Pets. In 2016, NBCUniversal Chief Executive Officer Steve Burke confirmed that the company was working on a new attraction based on the animated family comedy months before the movie opened in theaters. The ride was greenlit internally more than a year before the announcement. All indications pointed to two being built, one in Orlando and one in Hollywood.

The movie came and went at theaters without any update to the plans at Universal, then in December of 2016 Universal announced a new duo of parade floats themed to Secret Life of Pets replacing the Hop segment of the parade. 2017 was filled with conflicting rumors of what the future held for the ride that had already been confirmed to be in the making. In Orlando, the ride was believed to be replacing Shrek 4-D, but after delays and a confusing New York theme (while not technically in the New York area of the park) it looked like the ride was canceled. Over in California, the ride was believed to be going into the lower lot near Transformers, possibly replacing the Revenge of the Mummy attraction.

On both coasts, the ride was to be identical and was designed to address a number of concerns many have with Universal – most specifically, the lack of non-screen-based rides. With dozens of animatronics in highly themed sets, Secret Life of Pets was viewed as Universal’s chance to show they could do more than just nice 3D attractions. The two-story attraction building was to feature a themed queue and exit gift shop on the first floor with the nearly five-minute-long high-tech dark ride on the second floor. Using trackless ride vehicles similar to those found on SeaWorld Orlando’s Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin but themed to robotic vacuums, the ride would’ve sent guests on a trip through New York City as they searched for Norman, the Guinea Pig. Unique elements would’ve included a roundabout scene where the ride vehicles interacted with trackless props that moved around the scene, in a similar fashion to the Heffalumps and Woozles that move around the large dream sequence room on Tokyo Disneyland’s Pooh’s Honey Hunt dark ride, and a large animatronic bird that would look like it was flying towards guests as the ride vehicles move backwards away from the large bird animatronic.

By July of last year so, including the typically highly accurate theme park rumor tracking site Screamscape, were reporting that the ride opening was delayed until 2021 at the earliest. The ride looked to be shelved and new rumors of possible attractions replacing Shrek 4-D here in Orlando. Back in California, Shrek 4-D closed in August of 2017 to be replaced with a Spanish revival meets 1940's California themed DreamWorks focused theater that will feature an ever-changing selection on extended previews and 4-D experiences based around various DreamWorks franchises.

Just a few months later rumblings pointed to Secret Life of Pets was back in consideration as Universal looked to respond to Disney's aggressive expansion plans it announced at its D23 convention. But now it looks like Universal is moving in a different way with new rumors popping up of Secret Life of Pets moving forward in California. With its location shifting to the Upper Lot, where much of the focus has been in recent years including the addition of USH’s very own Hogsmeade.

Here in Florida, it still looks like Secret Life of Pets has been postponed and possibly moved to Islands of Adventure while the Shrek 4-D plot is now in play with a brand-new ride. Ironically, the new ride is from the same production company as Secret Life of Pets, Illumination Entertainment. Rumors have been percolating for some time regarding a new Despicable Me attraction to complement the current 4-D simulator ride at Universal Studios Florida.

Last week on the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast blog new details on this rumored Despicable Me dark ride. Themed to Villain-Con, an evildoers trade convention that is featured in the Minions film. Ironically, in the film, the convention takes place in Orlando. The blog post notes that the new attraction now planned for the Shrek 4-D building, which was originally home to an Alfred Hitchcock attraction when the park opened. Using the pre-existing Shrek building the new attraction can have both a quick construction timeline and less negative impact on one of the most congested areas of the park. The location would also create a Minions themed area in the park, with the current Despicable Me ride just across the pathway. There’s still no indication of what the new ride will mean to the dated, studio warehouse theme of the current building.

It’s believed the new ride will include the same trackless ride system as Secret Life of Pets, but instead of a traditional storyline, the new ride will have guests visiting booths at the convention with each booth featuring a short scene showcasing an item every evildoer would want. Various characters from the four Minion films would be sprinkled through the attraction. The booth style setup of the attraction along with trackless ride vehicle technology allows for randomization. Guests will be able to enjoy the attraction multiple times, each with visits to different booths. The individual booths can be easily changed out over time helping keep the attraction fresh.

The UUOP blog post points to Kids Zone closure, and therefore lack of kids rides as part of the reasoning behind the need for a quick turnaround on opening the new attraction. If that is true that places this new ride opening within the next two to three years, as the new Nintendo area, which is replacing Kids Zone and will have items for families, is expected to open by 2021.

If you’re worried about missing Shrek and his friends, don’t worry, as the blog post also mentions the possibility of a Shrek dark ride within a Fantasyland like area in Universal’s yet to be announced new theme park. That new theme park is believed to be a part of the 500-acre redevelopment that Universal is expected to break ground on very soon with many pointing to a mid to late-2020s opening.

Universal has confirmed it will be releasing major announcements throughout this year regarding its future so it’s likely we won’t have to wait long to learn what will be the Shrek 4-D replacement.

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