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Universal Rolls Out Its Nintendo Partnership in Three Theme Parks

Skift Take

Theme parks have found success in building immersive experiences around beloved characters. We have to wonder if the Nintendo strategy provides a glimpse of how Universal will use the recently acquired DreamWorks Animation.

— Hannah Sampson

Harry Potter, Shrek, and the Jurassic Park dinosaurs are getting some company from the Super Mario Bros.

More than a year after Universal Parks and Resorts first announced a partnership with Nintendo,  the theme park operator said Tuesday it will introduce “expansive, immersive and interactive” areas inspired by the video game giant at parks in Japan, Hollywood, and Orlando.

The Universal announcement described an “entire realm filled with iconic Nintendo excitement, gameplay, heroes, and villains” that will include multiple attractions, shops, and restaurants. No specific time frame was given.

“We’re going to be able to create an entire Nintendo world,” Mark Woodbury, president of the parks’ design and development group Universal Creative, said in a video that accompanied the news. “And as we continue to develop it, that world became
more immersive and more involved and more colorful and more exciting and more interactive.”

How that will translate into experiences for visitors — or which Nintendo franchises will be included —  is still unclear. Each park will announce details individually and the themed areas will open over the next several years, Universal said. Tuesday’s announcement does not specify where in the Orlando resort the Nintendo area will go; the complex includes Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, as well as land bought earlier this year that the company has not disclosed plans for.

A spokesman for the Orlando parks told Skift the company was “not ready yet” to give details about where the Nintendo attractions will be built.

Tuesday’s announcement will likely prompt new buzz about how the company will use DreamWorks Animation, which it acquired earlier this year. Executives have said they think the parks are a perfect outlet for characters from movies including Despicable Me and Minions.

Universal, which is owned by Comcast, has turned the Harry Potter franchise into a huge moneymaker, with themed lands now in Hollywood, Japan, and both Orlando parks.

Its biggest rival, industry leader Walt Disney Company, also is planning a bigger push with its intellectual property.

Star Wars and Toy Story-themed areas are in the works in U.S. parks, and the company recently announced plans for a Toy Story addition in Shanghai and “Frozen” and Marvel lands in Hong Kong. An Avatar land will open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom next summer.

“We’ve only just begun to mine some of the critical IP that we have created in the last few years, Star Wars being the biggest one,” Disney CEO Robert Iger said during an earnings call this month. “We’re building two of the biggest lands we’ve ever built in Orlando and in California…There’s so much more that we can do, and so much more we are doing.”

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