Star Wars Storm Troopers marching with Captain Phasm

The Top Five Ways Universal Plans to Keep Up with Disney World

During the biannual D23 Expo, Disney announced some pretty big plans – including how they plan to celebrate Disney World’s 50th anniversary, which is coming up in 2021.

Disney’s Plans

Disney’s Animal Kingdom just opened its largest expansion ever with Pandora – The Land of Avatar,

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is set to debut Toy Story Land next summer and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge a year later in 2019. Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, has even said that a Star Wars-themed resort will take accommodations to the next level.  Construction has already begun on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway to replace The Great Movie Ride.

In addition to those plans, a new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction is already being built in Epcot‘s Future World, which will be the first roller coaster in the park.  France is getting a Ratatouille attraction like the one in Disneyland Paris.

Magic Kingdom is going to get a Tron Lightcycle Run like the one in Shanghai Disney.

Disney is also planning 50 magical enhancements for the special occasion.

Will Universal will be left eating Disney’s dust? Is there any way for them to keep up now? They’re going to give it a shot.

Let’s take a look at the top five ways Universal plans to keep up with Disney World.

Note: these are all rumored and speculative plans that do not include things that are already under construction like the Fast & Furious: Supercharged attraction, which will open in 2018, and the Hogsmeade expansion, which is set to open in 2019.

1. New Construction

Universal, owned by Comcast, purchased a 474-acre plot of land about a year ago. They haven’t said what they’re going to do with this property, but it is twice the size of their current theme park property. Universal has said that they’re going to open more theme parks, so that could very well be what they plan to do with this land.

Before this happens though, they will probably finish their hotel construction first. The permits have already been filed for the former Wet ‘n’ Wild property where Universal plans to build 4,000 more rooms in three new hotels. This is in addition to the Adventura Hotel and the Cabana Bay Towers that are already under construction. Universal has said that they will have 10,000 rooms by 2020.

Why do they need so many rooms?

If they do build a third or even fourth gate on the new property, they will need to house these guests. As the saying goes, “Build it, and they will come!”

2. Harry Potter

Universal Studios made a big bet on Harry Potter, and it’s seemed to have paid off for them. They’re not done milking this cash cow though. Hogsmeade will expand in Islands of Adventure, Universal’s second gate, in 2019. Coincidentally, this expansion is scheduled to open around the same time at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

This isn’t the only Harry Potter-themed expansion, though. Experts are also saying that there will likely be a Diagon Alley Expansion to replace Fear Factor Live. This plan was thought to be tabled, but since Disney has made such huge announcements recently, the rumor mill has started churning again.

Some are also saying that the Dragon Challenge is on the way out to make way for an attraction based on the recent movie by JK Rowling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. They say this will be a ride with both indoor and outdoor sections with part of it being set in a forest. Universal patented an interactive wand ride format last year, and this could be the perfect use for this technology.

Harry Potter will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2020, just a year before Disney’s 50th anniversary. This could be the perfect time to debut a new attraction and get a jump start on Disney World.

It seems like Universal is targeting to open some new attractions around the same time that Disney will open Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
It seems like Universal is targeting to open some new attractions around the same time that Disney will open Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

3. Star Trek Attraction

Rumors have long swirled that a Star Trek attraction would replace Terminator 2, but it seemed for a while like that rumor had died out. It was first announced back in 2016, but there hasn’t been much talk of it since then. Again, this is another rumor that has regained some traction since the D23 Expo.

There has been a lot of planning already gone into this ride, so it may be nearly ready to start construction, and it would be a quick build, which would be good for Universal right now since they’re known for their quick projects (in contrast to the slower pace of Disney projects) and they need to keep up with Disney’s construction.

If this project comes to fruition, it would likely be use a mix of live-action and 3D animation. This sounds a lot like a Live Action Role Play attraction, which is Disney’s primary claim to fame with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and especially with their promised immersive Star Wars-themed hotel. Universal could very easily make their Star Trek attraction into a LARP attraction and hotel with multi-day schedule.

Another really good part about a Star Trek-themed attraction is that it would very closely compete with Star Wars fans. This could be just what Universal needs to maintain its footing with Disney World.

4. Super Nintendo World

It’s almost a sure bet that Super Nintendo World will open, though Universal hasn’t made any official announcement including the plans. However, it’s likely that the opening will coincide with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Super Nintendo world will probably take over the Kids Zone area, but what will be included is up in the air. Some say it will be a collection of flat carnival rides while others say it will include two major e-ticket attractions with one being a Japanese Mario Kart based on Yoshi. It’s also possible that there could be some Nintendo attractions coming to Islands of Adventure.

Either way, we’ll probably find out more details within the next year with a timeline to open this around the time of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge as well. This leaves Universal a year or more to get ready.

5. DreamWorks

Universal acquired DreamWorks Animation on April 28, 2016 for almost $4 billion. This was a huge milestone for the Comcast conglomerate especially because DreamWorks has several recent hits, even more films coming out soon, and still more in the works.

Universal could use the DreamWorks Intellectual Property much like Disney has used Pixar.
Universal could use the DreamWorks Intellectual Property much like Disney has used Pixar.

How to Train your Dragon is releasing a third movie in the series in 2019, so an attraction with this theme could be smart. A Sing!-themed attraction could be similar to Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland with dialogue and animated characters, and there’s a rumor that Secret Life of Pets could be getting a trackless dark ride similar to the Ratatouille attraction being built in World Showcase’s France Pavilion.

What’s more, Trolls, Croods, Madagascar, and Shrek all have movies in development, which could all result in profitability for Universal.


It sure seems like Universal is poised to try to keep up with Disney World.  However, none of these plans are official, and Universal could change anything at any time.

That being said, only a few of Disney’s D23 announcements have actually started construction. It seems like Disney is finally investing in their parks after a lull.

Can Universal continue to gain ground on Disney?