We have recently learned that after a very long and protracted negotiation, Universal is  very close to acquiring the rights to develop and produce attractions based on the successful Lord of the Rings franchise of films. This, along with the vast Harry Potter content, will give Universal a leg up on the worldwide theme park wars.

What might be coming?  Nothing has been announced.  But one can only imagine where Universal Creative will take us.

Perhaps we will be able to take a carriage ride through the Shire and visit the home of Bilbo Baggins.  Better still, we could soon be wandering the pristine stone and water passageways of Rivendell for a visit with Elrond. Can’t you just imagine a spectacular Mordor coster-style attraction?

Which park will it be a part of?  It is far too early to know which parks (or perhaps even an entirely new park) will see Middle Earth first. However, the most likely scenario would have the additions appearing in Islands of Adventure first, perhaps replacing Toon Lagoon and any expansion space for Jurassic Park.  Another option might have it taking over the entire San Francisco area in the Studios park.  Universal Creative’s new motto is, “Go BIG or go HOME!”.  So, regardless of where, we know that it will be huge and undoubtedly, impressive.

But why Universal? How did they land yet another successful literary film franchise? Don’t think that their expert handling of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe had little to do with it.  In fact, Rowling seems to have even had a hand in convincing the Tolkien family that Universal Creative was the way to bring Middle Earth to life.

So how do you, the theme park goer, feel about this news?  Do you think this will lead to some brilliant new adventures or should the hobbits be left to pasture?  What would you like to see built with this franchise? What does Disney need to do, not just to catch up with Potter but battle the forces of Middle Earth as well?

  • LadyNimrodelle

    I’m SOOOOOO excited. I think I’m going to have to actually visit a Universal theme park for the first time in my life…

    • Eric Davis

      Regardless if this happens you should come.

  • Director_Guy

    Well, that’s huge news. Certainly bigger than Avatar.

    • Eric Davis

      Another point for the Universal Creative vs. WDI game

  • This deal is not 100% done, but Universal’s willingness to spend whatever it takes to rebuild their theme parks is absolutely astounding. They are committed to creating accurate representations of their source material and on a scale and level of detail that only Disney was capable of in the past.

    With Potter AND Lord of the Rings, Uni will be very tough to beat in Orlando. Though, I do think this news will encourage Disney to go bigger with Star Wars (as they should). That’s another potential game changer on the horizon.

    • Eric Davis

      Universal Orlando is becoming THE Orlando destination with Disney picking up the extra days.

  • mratigan

    It would be cool to see a walk around Bilbo

  • gboiler1

    While enjoying The Hobbit recently, I thought that would be a wonderful substitute for Avatar, but not surprised at Universals conquest. Actually though Universal and Disney while sharing common ground do differ in appeal. Both parks will do well and of course the consumer wins!

    • Eric Davis

      People often don’t understand that they are not competing experiences, they are both vastly different Resorts that deserved to be experienced.

      • JMazz

        While i totally agree about them being very different, it will come down to perceived value. Ppl don’t have endless amounts of money and time. They will choose what they *think* is better. Unfortunately for Disney, they will miss out on many vaykay $$$ b/c of this savvy deal that USO has made / will make. In this sense, they are in competition in most ways.

  • Gregg Condon

    LOTR is too big to just take over a land like HP did. There are too many destinations in Middle Earth to contain just one land. It needs to be it’s own park.

    Don’t think there is enough room on the existing USO property for a 3rd park so it’d have to be in another location I think.

    As for USH, don’t even think about doing something there. There isn’t even room for the Potter area they have planned.

    • There have been rumblings that Universal is trying to buy the big golf course next to Universal Studios Hollywood. 😉

    • Eric Davis

      Nothing is out of the question as of right now. This again is BLUE SKY. So we might see something, we might see nothing from these talks.

  • eicarr

    There is a LOT of dead 1970’s areas of the park that needs to get flattened(especially all underutilized theater/stadiums). The citywalk and parking area also seems to have alot of wasted space, and there is all that land they were going to sell off for real estate but stopped, and that HUGE adjacent golf course.

    The studio tour is the only reason I go back. Those lackluster rides they’ve put in over the last few years from florida all seem to be lacking budget, creativity and artistry for a huge local crowd that could become frequent repeat visitors and are used to the quality of the greatest theme park on earth less than an hour away.

    Immersive environments like LOTR and Potter would do it for me though. But I wish they would build LOTR BEFORE Potter since it would appeal to more demographics and the Hobbit movies are more current.

    • Ryan120420

      I take it you haven’t been on Transformers. That one ride alone is better than anything Disney has done in the past 17+ years. And yes, its better than Radiator Springs Racers.

      • danielz6

        Ryan I have to disagree. Don’t get me wrong, I think transformers is an excellent attraction, one of the best in the world, and really the only reason to visit USH at the moment. I wouldn’t call it better than indiana jones, soarin over CA, star tours 2, tower of terror, or grizzly river run though. But don’t forget that transformers is a great ride only because of Industrial Light and Magic’s (now owned by Disney) stunning video and effects that they created for the ride. All universal had to do is create the cars that move slowly from screen to screen. So although it is more entertaining than a ride like radiator springs racers, it is not nearly as complex or immersive as such.

  • horizonsfan

    This is awesome for two reasons. First of all, it could lead to some great attractions at Universal parks. Second, it might finally push Disney to really invest in all their parks, not just a few items here and there. They also might do more with Marvel and Star Wars in the near future, not 10 years from now.

    • Eric Davis

      I am crossing my fingers. I want this to happen, and I desperately want Disney to invest into their parks!

    • Marko50

      Re: your second reason – you’re obviously talking about WDW. Disney Left Coast doesn’t seem to have those issues (anymore).

  • martinjbell1986

    I thought Disney should have gotten on board with this idea once they realized Potter was doing so well over at Universal.

    • Eric Davis

      Disney tried… alas. They did not get it.

  • disdad70

    Perhaps Universal could sell the coveted east coast theme park rights for the Marvel characters back to Disney for a tidy sum and then convert that area of the park, plus the unused Toon Lagoon theatre, into a sizeable Lord of the Rings land.

    • Eric Davis

      Who knows at this point… anything is possible

  • G24T

    Three words.. John Rhys Davies!

  • themur

    Licensing deals are complicated and for LOTR expensive. It is always dangerous to not own the properties.

    While I am a bigger fan of LOTR than Potter, Potter seems to lend itself much better to theme parks. So much of the beauty of the LOTR movies is the gorgeous New Zealand expanses. That will be a challenge to simulate in a themed are but I look forward to see how they tackle it.

    This is ultimately just good news for theme park fans and Orlando in particular. This probably means longer stays in the Orlando area. Disney benefits from greater interest in the Orlando area as very few people come to Orlando and skip Disney. A stronger Universal hurts the other attractions in the area. It is nice to see that Comcast is committed to their parks.

    • Eric Davis

      It will be interesting to see what happens

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  • pineapplewhipaddict

    Universal is really stepping up to the plate! Disney needs to start thinking much bigger…

  • UUOPLee

    If it comes off, which I for one hope it does, seeing what Universal have done with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this area could be amazing.
    I think this is the perfect counterstrike to Disney’s Star Wars announement.
    I think this would fit into IOA more than it would fit in to the Studios and would go in either Jurassic Park or Toon Lagoon or even a combination of both.
    Toon Lagoon has never been finished, since they rushed getting the area ready for park opening and the Dudley Do Rights Ripsaw Falls encompasses a huge footprint, although I would be sad to see Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge Rat Barges go.
    As far as Jurassic Park goes, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid, if they demolished that area to make way for Mount Doom.
    We shall wait with baited breath.

  • A113PoCfan

    I hope that Disney is cooking up some good ideas for the near future. “Cough, Marvel, Cough”

    What could make Universal give up those rights?

  • WRDup

    I still think Disney has more potential and talent. Their problem is Disney isn’t using their talent. You have to keep practicing your talents or you will lose them. I really don’t understand why they’ve been so lazy.

    • danielz6

      They haven’t been lazy! All of their money is going to California, Hong Kong ,and Shanghai!

  • JiminyCricketFan

    Everything about the environment of middle earth screams Disney. Mush more than Avatar. Universal realizes that Disney in Florida has been faltering the last few years. Fantasyland is not enough of a draw to counter the work done at Uni.

  • waymire01

    The problem with Universal is not so much the parks.. but the rest of the vacation experience. Lodging, meals, transportation, guest services.. it’s what keeps us coming back to Disney time and time again. Going to Universal is practically “camping out” in comparison. If they gave us a similar experience we would go for sure.

    • The last time I stayed at Universal, I was blown away. FANTASTIC customer service compared to Disney, beautiful on property hotels, unique shopping experiences, great food (at the hotels, in the parks and in City Walk). It was a very well rounded experience. Plus, they gave us a sort of fast pass type of deal just for staying on property. Very impressive.

      • dlpostcardguy

        I have to agree! I didn’t stay on property but it was definitly not ‘camping out’ from what I saw. Food in the parks was great and customer service was wonderful. My biggest issue with Universal (besides having to check your bags at most of their rides) has always been the content of their rides. In general their rides tend to be more ‘in your face’ or ‘explosive’ while Disney seems more ‘fantasy and adventure’. I prefer that latter. However Disney is falling behind in terms of ride technology IMO. I hope this forces them to spend more $$ on ride technology than ‘next gen’ stuff and expensive gift shops and eating places.

  • Chernabog

    IoA/USF has pretty much been the highlight of my last two trips to Orlando. And that was before Harry Potter Land was put in. I would definitely make a trip just to see Middle-Earth. Avatarland, Princessville and a new restaurant? Not so much.

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  • lighttragic

    Maybe Disney is preparing to buy out Marvels theme park rights in florida? Perhaps thats why Transformers was green-lit and is under 24hr construction… Could that deal be in the works???

  • MickeyFickey

    NOT a fan of LOTR/The Hobbit/Tolkien. I could care less about any of this.

    BUT…

    …that being said, anything that builds Universal up and makes them a Superpower that can roundhouse kick Disney in the jaw and knock them to the ground makes me happy. I think this would fit in IOA much better than any other park (except Hollywood, but they need to seriously expand the theme park to make that happen), and it might start to help to build up the park from a mish-mash of separate non-conforming concepts into a park that ties magic/fantasy/middle-eastern folklore and mysticism into one tidy little package.

    My biggest concern is space: to do something of this nature properly is going to have to take over at least TWO of the Islands: Toon Lagoon and either Marvel or Jurassic Park. I think JP would make a nice buffer between the Potter and Tolkien lands. Toon Lagoon doesn’t work for me, so I say axe it. As sad as I’d be to see Marvel go, it along with TL would provide the perfect amount of space to create the world of Gondor, Mordor and other locales from the film franchise. But if they did that, imagine just how out of place Seuss Landing would be!

    Interesting. Thanks for the scoop, Eric.

  • danielz6

    I wish disney would focus on their roots of creating excellent rides and attractions which are not based on any film franchises. Even carsland in DCA works so well cause it’s not just about the movie, it’s about the spirit of route 66 car culture that’s a part of the greater american culture.
    I am not excited at all about avatar. I would be much more excited if they would build beastly kingdom, or convert the pathetic Dinoland USA into a truly immersive land. I remember how amazing it used to be going to the SD wild animal park and seeing the huge life size AA dinosaurs there as they’d have them temporarily every year before. Disney should have done something like that, along with the dinosaur ride. Triceratop spin? C’mon that’s rediculous. Or even fixing the Yeti I think is better than anything avatar. Or building a land based on another continent like austrailia with a great ride about rescuers down under. There’s so much they could do why avatar? Where’s disney’s legendary imagination? If anything avatar should be going into DHS not DAK.
    I’m just worried that the more disney tries to emulate Universal, the less it’ll feel like disney. Being in a movie is great and entertaining(like Potter) but it’s not a place I want to be in all of the time. Once a year is enough for me. Disney’s formula of themed lands and environments based on bygone eras or nature or different countries are places where I can visit time and time again and never get tired. Because it’s nostalgic and romantic. That’s what I want disney to continue to build. I would take a New Orleans square, frontierland, mysterious island, or buena vista street anyday over an avatarland, marvel land or even star wars land. Leave that to Universal, that’s the one thing that they do, and you’re not going to beat them anyways. At least put those things in the studios Parks, that’s why they were created anyways right? Don’t put them in Disneyland or a zoo where they’ll clash with the rest of the park. If Disney does go that way, at least don’t stop doing the classic disney stuff that is tried, true, and loved by so many.

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