Universal Acquiring Rights to Lord of the Rings Attractions

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

Tagged: , ,


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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  • 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.


    …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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