Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Comcast NBCUniversal Announces Universal Beijing

It seems fitting that my first story after returning from Universal Orlando is about a brand new Universal theme park that was just announced: Universal Beijing.

The long-planned Chinese theme park will sit on 300 acres of land in Tongzhou and represent a $3.3 billion investment.  A new "universal" themed hotel will be located at the front of the park, and a CityWalk dining/shopping/entertainment district will also be built.

The resort will be a partnership between Comcast NBCUniversal and Chinese company Beijing Shouhuan Cultural Tourist Investment Co. Ltd., with Comcast funding a portion of the project unlike the Japan and Singapore parks.  No official opening date was announced, but rumors are pointing to 2019.

© Universal Beijing
This is the largest quality version of the concept art released for the new resort that I could find.  After looking at it a bit closer this park seems to include the best of what's at Universal parks across the globe, which means it could be quite awesome.

The park will be located in a region that includes colder weather (snow), and of course the smog is a constant issue in the area.  That leads to many of the attractions being located indoors, with a few notable exceptions.  The land for the park is already reported to have been purchased, and could allow the resort to expand up to 1,000 acres.

The press materials do not reveal any attraction descriptions, but let's take a closer look at the concept art of the park to see what might be planned.

© Universal Beijing
The entrance to the theme park will be under the first ever "Universal" themed resort, much like Disney parks in Paris and Tokyo.  At the bottom, across a water way, you can see a bit of CityWalk.  The main promenade of shops and food appears to have a general Hollywood theme, ending at the park's central lagoon.  On the upper left looks to be a copy of Universal Studios Florida's open-air Music Plaza Stage for live performances.

© Universal Beijing
Moving clockwise, the next land seems to be some sort of comic book/sci-fi themed area, perhaps staying generic in overall theme.  The buildings sport bright colors that remind me of both Marvel Super Hero Island at Islands of Adventure and Sci Fi City at Universal Studios Singapore.

The huge building on the right is a mystery, with a giant facade covering it.  Could be Men in Black? Or Spiderman?  The smaller building on the left appears to have a giant Transformer on it, so that seems like an obvious choice.  On the far left, and reaching out into the lagoon, is what is drawn as a clone of the Incredible Hulk coaster - not sure if it would have that same theme, though.

© Universal Beijing
Now the park is showing off its big guns, as it is taking on Harry Potter full force.  The back corner of the park appears to have a full lift of Diagon Alley, complete with the Gringotts Bank ride show building included.  On the right of the image also appears to be a train station for Hogwarts Express that will take passengers out into the park to Hogsmeade.

© Universal Beijing
It appears as though the plan is to have the Hogwarts Express go out and pass by Hogsmeade, leading to a station by Hogwarts Castle.  This section of the park is busy, but Hogsmeade is located along the water, with a small coaster at the end - probably Hippogriff.  Across a bride is the mighty Hogwarts Castle, which we would assume would have the Forbidden Journey ride.

So this park would contain both of Orlando's mega-hit themed Potter areas, even including the Hogwarts train ride.

Mixed in with the Harry Potter area are more attractions, like what appears to be a Mummy themed ride in the upper left corner.  Next to it is a blue roller coaster with a mystery building behind it.  Can't put my finger on what that building looks like, but somewhere in my mind it seems familiar.  One more large building can be seen in the upper right, also not sure what that is.

© Universal Singapore
Moving on there is a distinctly Jurassic Park themed area up next.  The iconic visitors center building will be featured along the central lagoon, with other similarly themed structures adjacent to it.  In the back is clearly the drop segment of a Jurassic themed ride, but the art blurs out the ride making it hard to tell if it is a Singapore style river rapids, or the shoot-the-chutes ride system also used.

© Universal Singapore
The last area of the park looks like it might utilize the Dreamworks properties, much like the Singapore park does.  An obvious addition is the Far Far Away castle that could hold Shrek attractions, along with another small roller coaster.  The rest of the land is a bit more mysterious, but I think I see a carousel building that looks like King Julien's Beach Party-Go-Round in Singapore, and the big show building could hold a Madagascar themed ride.

I've written about several proposed Universal theme parks over the years, many of which never materialized.  This one looks promising, though, mostly because Comcast is on of the main investors.  Plus China is absolutely theme park crazy right now, building them left and right.

For more on the park, here is a link to Comcast's announcement, and this L.A. Times story is the best one I've found on the announcement in terms of detail and substance.