Monday, January 28, 2019

It really looks like Warner Bros. wants a fight with Universal over their new theme park name

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2019 at 3:44 PM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHAD SPARKES/FLICKR
  • Photo by Chad Sparkes/Flickr
Not long ago, leaked internal documents showed that Universal Orlando’s still unannounced, but certainly happening, third theme park was to be called "Fantastic Worlds."

Trademarks for that name were filed last June, but now it looks like Warner Brothers might object to the new name.

Warner Bros. has filed two extensions on the “Time to Oppose for Good Cause” related to the trademark. The new park was rumored to have a Fantastic Beasts area and the thought is some people may confuse Fantastic Beasts and the Wizard World, the overarching name for Harry Potter themed theme park lands, with the name Fantastic Worlds.

There has yet to be a formal objection to the name, but Warner Bros. is clearly taking their time to evaluate the name. The irony is that the new park, like Universal Orlando’s two current parks, would prominently feature Harry Potter-themed areas, meaning significant profits for Warner Bros., who own the Harry Potter film rights, which the lands are based on.



As Lance Hart of Screamscape speculated, Universal likely has multiple back-up names just in case the Fantastic Worlds name can’t be used, but if they choose to double down on using that name after a formal objection by Warner Brothers it could cause “bad blood” between the two companies, who have worked together on multiple projects.

There have been signs of cracks in the celebrated partnership between the two entertainment giants for years now, but the Fantastic Worlds trademark could bring new drama to the already souring relationship.

Signs of the rocky relationship date back to before the opening of Universal Orlando’s Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Early rumors pointed to Universal seeking the Willy Wonka franchise for use with the new restaurant and possibly a future ride. Even as the restaurant was being built, the rumors of the Willy Wonka theme were everywhere, but just a month after Toothsome’s opening, Warner Bros. announced that they were moving forward with a new Willy Wonka film. Even today, many tourists (and journalists) still seem to call Toothsome “the Willy Wonka restaurant.”

The Willy Wonka plan was never confirmed by Universal, so Warner Bros.' move there could be viewed as one that doesn’t affect Universal, but the same can’t be said for other recent actions by WB.

In Southern California, the two companies are becoming more and more rivals as Warner Bros. ramp ups its tourism attractions and special events. In London, Warner Bros. has shown that a Harry Potter stand-alone attraction can work with the Studio Tour there. But they’ve gone even further in Southern California, where their original studio tour is, just a few miles away from Universal Studios Hollywood. That studio tour has seen a number of upgrades and updates in recent years. Large new displays for Aquaman, A Star Is Born, and Crazy Rich Asians have been added in the last year. There is also, as Forbes put it, “interestingly enough” a Harry Potter section of the tour, making the studio tour a must-do for any Harry Potter fan. That could pull some fans away from Universal Studios Hollywood, where a massive Hogsmeade themed area opened in 2016.

Two years ago, Warner Bros. also debuted their own version of a Halloween Horror Nights like event; Horror Made Here. Multiple houses themed to intellectual properties like Batman and It, along with a horror makeup show, similar to the one found at Universal, and various horror-themed activities have made the Horror Made Here event a new yearly must-do for many in Southern California.

Some of the franchises Warner Bros. has used in recent houses are ones that Universal previously used at Halloween Horror Nights, such as Freddy and Jason. If rumors are to be believed, Universal tried to bring some of those WB-owned franchises to HHN, but were denied by Warner Bros. who then used them at their own event. This past year’s Horror Made Here even featured a drop tower attraction, possibly a test for Warner Bros. to see how their backlot can handle rides.

The Hollywood studio also unveiled plans last year for a $100 million gondola attraction that would take guests to the foot of the Hollywood sign. Other rides and attractions are also possible as the Studio Tour expands beyond the ‘how movies are made’ style tour that isn’t as much of a draw today (as witnessed in Disney and Universal both moving away from those themes at their own studios-based parks).

Moving outside of Hollywood, there are other attractions that could be viewed as even more of a threat for Universal. In Abu Dhabi, a Warner Bros.-branded indoor theme park opened a few months back and has nearly the entire themed entertainment industry calling it one of the top new theme parks of the past 20 years. That park, like the Warner Brothers park in Australia, is a partnership where Warner Bros. lends its name and franchises out to a third party who develops the park but it shows that the rich catalog of Warner Bros.’ library can be used for a successful theme park.

More recently, rumors have pointed to Warner Bros. possibly looking to get back into the theme park game themselves. The company has a long history in theme parks, including a short stint where they owned Six Flags, but if recent rumors are to be correct, Warner Brothers now wants large scale theme parks like the ones typical of Disney and Universal.

With certain aspects of the Six Flags DC and Looney Tunes agreement expiring in less than decade and with the runaway success of the Abu Dhabi park, Warner Bros. might be interested in shifting away from licensing deals and instead focus on owning their own parks. A few months back, Robert Niles on his Theme Park Insider news site laid out possible paths that WB could use to achieve this goal, including a long shot of buying the SeaWorld chain.

The most likely scenario could be Warner Bros.' new parent company, AT&T, looking to capitalize on their vast WarnerMedia assets via a new chain of theme parks and resorts. Between Cartoon Network, HBO, Turner Sports, CNN, and the entire WB library, AT&T would have plenty to work with if they decided to build their own theme parks. Already the world’s largest media and entertainment company (in terms of revenue) AT&T seems to be missing out on a major money maker that rivals Disney and Universal are cashing in on.

HBO is also moving forward with its own take on the studio tour, with the upcoming Game of Thrones Legacy attraction that is slated to open later this year. Cartoon Network has also seen huge success with a number of franchise deals around the world, including numerous theme park lands. Even CNN has an attraction of sorts with their own studio tour in Atlanta
With so many in-house attractions and with a proven track record thanks to the franchise deals, it wouldn’t be difficult to see AT&T create their own parks and attractions division that may eventually see full on theme parks. And that would definitely be a move that would all but guarantee an unhappy marriage with their Harry Potter partner Universal.

So maybe, just maybe, we’ll end up with a Fantastic Worlds theme park in Orlando after all, but one where Universal is nowhere to be found.

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