Construction for Universal Orlando’s new theme park is on schedule to open by Summer 2025, an executive said Monday as he also traded shots with The Walt Disney Co. over their animation business.
Universal’s Epic Universe’s infrastructure and much of the steelwork are already completed so the construction process has moved into the vertical phase and is being built off the ground, said Jeff Shell, the CEO of NBCUniversal, which runs the theme park division.
“We’re right on track. Literally right on track,” Shell said during a question-and-answer session at the UBS Global TMT Conference.
Shell didn’t say exactly when the park will open but called the new park’s arrival “perfect timing” as Orlando International Airport opened a new terminal recently and the theme parks are packed with hotel bookings.
“There’s clearly a demand-supply imbalance. I think we’re opening a theme park (at) the right time,” Shell said.
What makes Epic Universe different from the two existing Universal Orlando theme parks — Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios — is its location near the Orange County Convention Center. For Universal, it’s going to be “an interesting experiment for us,” Shell said as the park seeks to tap into the nighttime convention business. Epic Universe was built so it can open one land for events while keeping the rest of the park open.
Nintendo is coming to Epic Universe, but Universal hasn’t officially shown what other land themes and rides will be debuting.
Shell acknowledged the importance of NBC’s DreamWorks Animation and Illumination for creating the “Shrek,” “Minions” and “Despicable Me” franchises. Characters from those films are appearing at the theme parks so the animation business has “giant implications” for the company, Shell went on to say.
Shell brought up competitor Disney which recently released the animated movie “Strange World” that’s been a major box office flop.
“Go back 10 years and say, ‘Is Disney ever going to be challenged in animation?’ I think most people, including me, would say ‘Impossible.’ They are the dominant player in animation. Their position is not going to be challenged ever,” Shell said. “I honestly think that not only are we challenging Disney and animation, but I would take our animation business over theirs.”