Universal Acquiring Rights to Lord of the Rings Attractions

Written by Eric Davis. Posted in Orlando Parkhopper, Universal Orlando

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Published on January 03, 2013 at 9:11 am with 45 Comments

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?

About Eric Davis

By day, Eric is in Marketing and Social Media. But on the weekends, he's a theme park addict. Eric is a frequent contributor to MiceChat's Orlando Parkhopper columns and tends to focus his efforts on what's new and what's news at Universal Studios and SeaWorld.

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45 Comments

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  1. 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…

    • Regardless if this happens you should come.

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

    • Another point for the Universal Creative vs. WDI game

  3. 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.

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

  4. It would be cool to see a walk around Bilbo

  5. 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!

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

      • 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.

  6. 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. ;-)

    • 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.

  7. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  8. 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.

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

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

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

    • Disney tried… alas. They did not get it.

  10. 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.

    • Who knows at this point… anything is possible

  11. Three words.. John Rhys Davies!

  12. 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.

    • It will be interesting to see what happens

  13. [...] theme park, possibly an entirely new park itself.  This rumor has hit the oft reputable site MiceAge, where Eric Davis [...]

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

  15. 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.