Universal Orlando Resort will debut an all-new themed land featuring DreamWorks Animation at Universal Studios Florida in 2024. This post shares the official announcement, which movies and characters will appear in the area, rumored attractions, and our commentary about the upcoming addition to USF.
Let’s start with the official announcement. According to Universal, guests’ imaginations will run wild as they step into this new DreamWorks Animation land and take in the vibrant colors, sights and sounds that surround them. They will share special moments with their favorite characters like Gabby from Gabby’s Dollhouse and explore themed, interactive play spaces and attractions that bring popular franchises like Shrek, Trolls and Kung Fu Panda to life in the most imaginatively fun ways.
The new DreamWorks land coming to Universal Studios Florida is part of a collection of new entertainment experiences debuting at Universal Orlando Resort in 2024 and is a continuation of the company’s commitment to rich storytelling that places guests of all ages in the most incredible and immersive environments.
In terms of background, this DreamWorks Animation area replaces Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone, which permanently closed on January 16, 2023. Always quick to get to work, construction walls went up the very next day and work got started. E.T. Adventure, SpongeBob StorePants, and the Animal Actors show remain open, but everything else–Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster, Fievel’s Playland, and Curious George Goes to Town–will be replaced or reimagined.
Since then, pretty much everything has been demolished, save for the kiddie coaster and a portion of the Curious George area. (At least, based on the last aerial construction images we saw.) Construction permits reinforce this, indicating a partial demolition of the Curious George section of the former KidZone.
Construction permits also indicate an end date of March 2024. While not necessarily conclusive of when the project will be complete, as extensions are always possible, that’s likely the tentative timeframe for the new DreamWorks Animation Land at Universal Studios Florida. Having it ready for what is sure to be a busy Spring Break (with Central Florida schools out and Easter happening in a tighter window next year) certainly makes sense.
It’s a bit difficult to discern, but if you look very closely at the right side of the concept art released by Universal, you get a glimpse of the new DreamWorks area. Above the people and below the balloons, there’s what appears to be a Shrek and Donkey meet and greet. These characters have been bouncing around Universal Studios Florida since Shrek 4D closed last year. (Speaking of which, the replacement for that attraction–Villain Con Minion Blast–soft opened just last week!)
The Shrek and Donkey meet & greet that was previously at the front of the park near their attraction was relocated to Kidzone, taking over the old Barney gift shop. When KidZone closed, Shrek packed his bags for Hollywood…or at least, that area of Universal Studios Florida. It would now seem that the dynamic duo will once again have a permanent home in the park.
Behind the Shrek and Donkey meet and greet, there’s a kiddie coaster that appears to be inspired by Trolls. One of that film franchise’s purple spiders is perched atop a column, and a spider web is above the coaster track. It’s safe to say that the Trolls IP will be attached to what was previously Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster. (I’ve seen people on social media already referring to this as a “Trollercoaster.” Knowing nothing about the Trolls franchise except that there’s one that farts glitter, I’m totally on board with this on the basis of that name alone!)
Beyond that, there’s less certainty about what’ll come to the DreamWorks Animation area. Permanent, purpose-built meet & greet locations are pretty much a given, and it’s likely that at least some of these will be of the next-gen variety with interactive elements that have been tested elsewhere by Universal in the last several years.
One rumor calls for something more than a meet & greet, which sounds like a Kung Fu Panda twist on Jedi Training Academy meets Turtle Talk with Crush meets Enchanted Tales with Belle in an interactive, kid-centric show. There could also be more atmospheric character encounters or greetings, with puppets or other figures.
At one point, there were also rumors of a Shrek’s swamp play area replacing Fievel’s Playland. It looks like there’s a pretty good chance of that being accurate given the concept art, but the details in the background aren’t quite clear.
Honestly, I don’t pay super close attention to the rumor mill when it comes to Universal, so I can’t speak to the credibility or currency of these rumors. But all of this passes the basic smell test for me and would fill a needed role for Universal Studios Florida, so it seems at least superficially plausible.
In terms of commentary, I can’t say that I’m looking forward to a land based on DreamWorks Animation…but I also recognize that I don’t need to be the target audience for every theme park addition. As noted above, Universal Studios Florida needs something like this. Establishing a stronger and more permanent character presence is a good idea, as is committing to these evergreen animated properties.
What I can say is that KidZone was incredibly tired and well past its prime even a decade ago. It felt very 1990s, and whatever replaces it will almost assuredly be a major upgrade and capacity add for Universal Studios Florida. But honestly, the fact that E.T. Adventure will remain is all that was needed to sell me on this project.
Personally, I hope that the Shrek swamp rumors are wrong and there’s instead a huge Puss in Boots presence (sorry, but sword-wielding felines beat ugly ogres every single time). Although it’s not going to happen now and certainly not as part of a DreamWorks Animation area, Universal Orlando still needs to find a space for Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash, a dark ride rivals Disney’s best!
What do you think of DreamWorks Animation Land at Universal Studios Florida? Excited for the new movies, characters, or improved placemaking with this reimagined area of USF? Any other updates you’d like to see to Universal Orlando? Which movies, games, or characters do you think Universal should adapt into theme park attractions? What kind of rides would you like to see built? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!