PHOTOS: Portal Archways Installed, Frankenstein Tavern Revealed, Test Dummies on Yoshi’s Adventure During Epic Universe Construction

Shannen Ace

Burning Blade Tavern in Dark Universe land

PHOTOS: Portal Archways Installed, Frankenstein Tavern Revealed, Test Dummies on Yoshi’s Adventure During Epic Universe Construction

Aerial photographer bioreconstruct shared new photographs of Epic Universe this week. The theme park will be the third gate at Universal Orlando Resort, with lands themed to Nintendo, “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Harry Potter,” and Universal Monsters (only Super Nintendo World has been officially confirmed). Epic Universe is expected to have a central non-IP land with celestial theming, plus an in-park hotel.

Epic Universe Entrance

Aerial view of Epic Universe entrance under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

The Epic Universe entrance archway has been revealed since our last construction update, when it was still being molded. The entrance is at the top of an eye-shaped courtyard, with the buildings around meant for ticket sales and more.

Epic Universe entrance archway under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

The archway is not yet themed but there is some hardware on it showing where future elements may be installed. Ladders leaning against the sides indicate crew members have been climbing to the top of the archway to do work.

It’s a much shorter archway than the iconic entrance to Universal Studios Florida. It looks similar to the squat portal entrances to the park’s lands.

Close-up of Epic Universe entrance archway under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

There are wood pieces on the bottom front of the archway. These seem to be support pieces for future paneling. The top of the archway has several concrete boxes where elements will later be installed.

Epic Universe entrance area under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

Past the entrance, bioreconstruct has pointed out some notable features.

  1. Back of house gate
  2. One of many octagon shapes in the ground
  3. Another octagon
  4. A backstage tunnel leading into a restaurant
  5. Concrete pours pending near Super Nintendo World

The restaurant is an octagonal building and sits on the water. Guests will enter on the second floor and then descend to the waterside seating area.

Octagon in ground of Epic Universe entrance plaza
Source: bioreconstruct

Here is another look at one of those octagons in the ground. This one is ready for concrete to be poured into it, with a yellow layer of waterproof sheathing.

Water feature and restaurant construction in Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

The construction work in the center of this photo, just beyond the entrance archway and between two buildings, is for a cascading water feature. The building at the top of the photo will be the flagship shop of Epic Universe. The building at the bottom right is the waterside restaurant.

Water feature construction in Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

This photo is another angle on the cascading water feature. The walls outline the shape of the future feature. The wider space at the top of the image is the lake that the restaurant sits on.

Dark Universe

Aerial view of Dark Universe construction
Source: bioreconstruct

Dark Universe will be a monsters-themed land in Epic Universe. Dark Universe was originally to be the name of a failed Universal Classic Monsters movie series. Last summer, Universal Destinations & Experiences trademarked the name along with several other names for Epic Universe offerings.

Aerial view of Dark Universe construction
Source: bioreconstruct

Other trademarked names that could be for Dark Universe include Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment, De Lacey’s, Pretorius’ Scientific Oddities, The Burning Blade Tavern, and Curse of the Werewolf. The first and last are rumored to be the names of the land’s two attractions. One is inside a manor house façade while the other is a roller-coaster.

Aerial view of Dark Universe portal and village under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

Guests will enter Dark Universe through a portal beneath a gnarled tree. The roots wrap around rocks and a thin tower sticks out of the top. A village unfolds beyond the portal.

Dark Universe tree portal
Source: bioreconstruct

Since our last update, the top of the tower has been installed. We previously noted wiring running through the tower, suggesting the top may light up. It looks like something straight out of Frankenstein’s lab — and most of the land’s trademarked names have to do with Frankenstein.

Burning Blade Tavern in Dark Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

This ramshackle windmill building is believed to be The Burning Blade Tavern. It’s atop a hill and may have fire effects when completed, inspired by a scene in the 1931 “Frankenstein” film. The actual tavern will be inside the hill.

Burning Blade Tavern in Dark Universe land
Source: bioreconstruct

Rock walls create the tiered hill. Fresh trees have been planted on and around the hill. A patio on the right will presumably be for outdoor seating.

Burning Blade Tavern and mansion building in Dark Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

Across from The Burning Blade Tavern is the main attraction’s manor facade, on the front of a large show building. To the left, concrete walls outline a courtyard that will hold the extended queue for the ride.

The building in the center will be a quick-service restaurant — maybe De Lacey’s. In the trademark filing, De Lacey’s was described as a food and beverage location. The name comes from the blind Frenchman who is kind to Frankenstein’s monster. If the ride is indeed Monsters Unchained: The Frankenstein Experiment, it would make sense for the nearby restaurant to be similarly Frankenstein-inspired.

Extended queue/grounds of mansion ride in Dark Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

In the extended queue courtyard is a circular structure next to two curved walls. The circle could be a planter. A crypt is up against the exterior wall. The courtyard may become a graveyard.

Mansion facade in Dark Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

The mansion will reportedly have a moat, and in this photo, we can see the bridge going over the ditch that will eventually hold water. There are jagged edges on top of the bridge’s and ramp’s walls. The front center of the manor is covered in scaffolding, but scaffolding has been removed from the sides. White tarps cover the windows.

Werewolf coaster in Dark Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

This coaster will likely be The Curse of the Werewolf. It launches from the large building at the top of the photo. The framework over the track on the right is thought to be for tent façades. At the center of the coaster is a barn-like building with an unfinished roof. This will be the coaster’s second launch.

Werewolf coaster building in Dark Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

Dark shingles cover most of the barn building now. There are bushy trees around the barn.

Path around werewolf coaster in Dark Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

Other trees around the ride are still growing leaves. A winding queue runs through the trees but won’t be as visible once the leaves are all filled in.

Dark Universe village under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

One curve of the coaster runs right up next to a black wall at the edge of the land’s village. The village facades feature pointed rooves and windows of all different shapes. A rocky wall juts out from the side of the village on the left in this photo.

Structure in center of Dark Universe village
Source: bioreconstruct

Crew members were working on the facades and a new framework in the center of the street when bioreconstruct took these photos. The new metal framework is surrounded by scaffolding on all four sides. It has a slanted roof.

Close-up of structure in Dark Universe village
Source: bioreconstruct

The facades are also mostly covered in scaffolding. Crew members were working on a section with another slanted metal roof framework.

Epic Universe staging area

Bioreconstruct also looked at a staging area for Epic Universe where props and themed models are constructed, and pavement tests are conducted. The numbers 1, 2, and 3 are pointing out dozens of cylindrical elements with thin pieces sticking out of their tops. We aren’t sure what area these will be part of.

At number 4, however, is a white covered wagon. It’s thought that this will go in The Curse of the Werewolf queue.

Isle of Berk – ‘How to Train Your Dragon’

Entrance to Isle of Berk - How to Train Your Dragon land in Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

The “How to Train Your Dragon”-inspired land for Epic Universe is rumored to be named Isle of Berk — which makes sense considering that’s the name of the film’s main setting. How to Train Your Dragon – Isle of Berk was trademarked by Universal.

The land’s portal entrance is coming along, with a tall thin tower sticking straight up from behind a gold and blue archway. It seems the archways of each portal will have a similar design, while the structures around them will be themed to each land.

Isle of Berk entrance portal under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

The tower is made up of poles painted blue, yellow, and red. There’s a thin platform about halfway up and a dragon symbol on the top.

At 1 in this photo is a theming model for the rockwork around the portal. At 2 is a temporary fence in front of the posts of a permanent fence next to the roller coaster track.

Aerial view of construction of How to Train Your Dragon land
Source: bioreconstruct

This wide view shows the portal in the top right and the land stretching out behind it. Guests will enter onto a boardwalk overlooking a lagoon featuring a dragon statue, a Viking statue, and Viking ships. The statues are straight out of the “How to Train Your Dragon” films.

The large building at the bottom of the photo is the land’s main dining venue, inspired by the Great Hall of Berk in the movies.

How to Train Your Dragon land statues in lake
Source: bioreconstruct

The lagoon at the front of the land has been partially filled with water. The boardwalk made up of wooden planks seems to be complete. It runs over the water in a couple of places.

How to Train Your Dragon land entrance lagoon
Source: bioreconstruct

At the top of this image is part of the main Isle of Berk roller-coaster. At the bottom is the load area for a boat ride.

More Universal trademarks indicate the coaster will be Dragon Racer’s Rally and the boat ride will be Fyre Drill. Two other attractions will be a spinner ride, likely named Hiccup’s Wing Gliders, and a stage show called “The Untrainable Dragon.” The name of the latter indicates it’s a version of the “How to Train Your Dragon” stage show at Universal Studios Beijing named “Untrainable.”

Framework on How to Train Your Dragon building
Source: bioreconstruct

A new complex metal framework has been installed on top of this building for rockwork. The building has a circular section and a rectangular section with doors in both. It might be a themed gift shop.

Scaffolding in How to Train Your Dragon land
Source: bioreconstruct

In the lagoon nearby are two Viking ships with dragon figureheads. The coaster track runs through the lagoon, so guests will almost splash against the water. The rockwork on the building will eventually blend in with the rock wall around the lagoon.

Rockwork around How to Train Your Dragon coaster
Source: bioreconstruct

Speaking of rockwork, these ridges look much further along. The gray and brown rocks run alongside the roller-coaster and are topped with green moss.

More rockwork is under construction next to the track, creating an almost triangular shape. This is thought to be a play area. On the right, one highly-themed wall is visible. It looks like it’s made of painted wood planks and columns with bright reds and blues.

Aerial view of How to Train Your Dragon coaster construction
Source: bioreconstruct

The arrow in this image points at a reach testing device on the coaster track. These are used to test that guests won’t hit their heads or hands on anything around the track. Reach testing is done before putting dummies and then actual people on the rides.

Aerial view of How to Train Your Dragon coaster launch
Source: bioreconstruct

The large building at the center of this image is the main station of the ride. The smaller building below that is the first launch. Nets around the track in the upper left resemble dragon wings.

Close look at How to Train Your Dragon coaster
Source: bioreconstruct

Scaffolding around the track on the left in this photo is for themed elements that will hide the off-shoot track leading to a maintenance bay and backstage areas.

How to Train Your Dragon spinning ride construction
Source: bioreconstruct

These two spinners likely make up Hiccup’s Wing Gliders. Their seats resemble dragons, including painted wings, and dragon figures are on the opposite ends of the poles from the seats. When in operation, it will look like the dragons are flying around, controlling the ride.

X user Peaceful Thrill Seeker shared daytime footage of this ride testing at Epic Universe last month. An arrow in bioreconstruct’s photo above points at test dummies.

In the lower left of the image is a building with new signage.

Grog & Gruel sign in How to Train Your Dragon land
Source: bioreconstruct

The yellow banner-like signs across the front of the building read “Grog & Gruel.” Columns are just barely visible through scaffolding beneath the signs. The name implies this will be a dining location.

Aerial view of back of How to Train Your Dragon land
Source: bioreconstruct

In this wide shot, the Great Hall is at the top center. The roller-coaster’s maintenance building is at the bottom right. To the far left is the theater for the land’s stage show. Guests will have to cross over the river with a bridge to reach the attraction.

How to Train Your Dragon boat ride under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

Here’s a closer look at the water ride, Fyre Drill. A roof resembling ramshackle planks of wood has been erected over the loading station. Black walls in the lagoon outline the ride path. There is more mossy rockwork on the edge of the lagoon.

There are fake trees on an island near the bottom of the photo. Not just fake trees that are supposed to look real — flat homemade-looking tree props. Several concrete forms in the lagoon indicate where more themed elements will be installed.

Front of How to Train Your Dragon restaurant under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

Wire mesh creates a tall rocky tower atop the Great Hall. The rockwork — not yet complete — descends across the front of the circular hall.

Entrance to How to Train Your Dragon restaurant
Source: bioreconstruct

The mesh on either side of the door creates the shapes of two Viking statues. Like the statues at the front of the land, these are straight out of the film, where they look to be carved straight out of the rock that the Great Hall is built into.

Celestial Park

Aerial view of dual-racing coaster in Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

Celestial Park is the rumored name for the central corridor of Epic Universe. The main attraction of Celestial Park is a dual-racing coaster, itself rumored to be named Starfall Racers, another trademarked name. Universal also trademarked Constellation Carousel and patented new carousel technology for another Celestial Park attraction.

Aerial view of dual-racing coaster in Celestial Park
Source: bioreconstruct

The dual-racing coaster has a yellow track and an orange track with stretch out from a long loading building. The tracks race over a green area with sidewalks — likely for maintenance. The arrow in this photo points to new foundations.

Entrance area of dual-racing coaster
Source: bioreconstruct

Last month, bioreconstruct shared the above photo of the coaster’s entrance area with a tunnel framework. A concrete circle on the ground features planets. Between the circle of concrete and the pavement under the tunnel is a star-shaped gap.

Entrance area of Epic Universe dual-racing coaster
Source: bioreconstruct

Since bioreconstruct’s December photo, a protective covering has been placed over the circle of concrete. It’s surrounded by blue netting for now. The star shape is still visible between the two sections of pavement.

Roof of Epic Universe dual-racing coaster
Source: bioreconstruct

The curved roof of the launch station has been covered with teal green paneling and a white tarp on one end. Crew members were working around strips of white tarp near the front center.

Front of dual-racing coaster in Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

Themed elements on the front of the building are surrounded by scaffolding. The roller-coaster tracks wrap around the front of the building, curving against a bank in a hillside in front of the ride. The section of track closest to the bank is covered in some protective plastic.

Epic Universe dual-racing coaster tracks
Source: bioreconstruct

In this photo, 1 is at a pair of “top hats” — an approximately 90-degree angle up and then a 90-degree angle down. Number 2 is the “Celestial Spin,” where the tracks cross over each other as they roll the riders. These two elements are immediately after the coaster launch.

Epic Universe construction in front of hotel
Source: bioreconstruct

Epic Universe will have an in-park hotel at the far side of the main entrance. Directly in front of the hotel is a large blue circle — the foundation of a fountain. The fountain is surrounded by concrete benches for viewing fountain shows.

Empty fountain in Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

Each set of benches is separated by a curved wall around a circle in the ground. Two of these circles are covered in yellow sheathing. There are currently four sets of benches going over halfway around the fountain.

Tiered seating next to Epic Universe fountain
Source: bioreconstruct

Another curved wall and circle are under construction between two of the benches. Take a look at the crew members in yellow-green vests for a better idea of scale.

Wide view of Epic Universe fountain and restaurant
Source: bioreconstruct

At the bottom of this photo is the portal to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter land for Epic Universe — more about that later. Directly in front of the Wizarding World is a restaurant made up of two slim rectangles and the framework of a dome.

Splash pad under construction in Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

Between the fountain and the park’s carousel is a semi-circle believed to be a splash pad. The carousel will be located over a water feature and the splash pad is on the edge of this water feature. The fountains in the ground create an almost atomic symbol.

Carousel construction in Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

Constellation Carousel is made of two domes, one larger than the other. One piece of white themed paneling has been placed on the dome framework. Zoom in to see the detail work on the panel.

Beneath the dome is a framework for more theming. The paved area in the foreground of this photo will be filled with water.

Octagon under construction in Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

Outside of the Wizarding World is another octagon. This one has a sort of gazebo framework. The framework may later be covered with paneling.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Place Cachée

Pavement near Wizarding World entrance at Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

The Wizarding World portal has a themed archway similar to the one at the Isle of Berk. Behind it is a tower topped with a golden hand holding a wand.

To the left in this photo is a paved area. Work has begun on paving a circle around a planter. This sidewalk will be the exit of the land, leading out of the courtyard behind the portal.

Porte Saint-Denis replica in Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

This larger squared archway beyond the portal is a replica of Porte Saint-Denis in Paris. This Wizarding World will be inspired by Place Cachée, as seen in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” Place Cachée is the Parisian equivalent of Diagon Alley — a secret street for wizards only.

Overview of Wizarding World Parisian streets construction
Source: bioreconstruct

After Porte Saint-Denis, guests will traverse narrow streets. In November 2023, Universal trademarked several Harry Potter-related names, although they have not trademarked a name for the land. It could officially be called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Place Cachée, which matches the names of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, but “Place Cachée” may be too general to trademark. It translates to “hidden place.”

Construction of a Parisian courtyard in Epic Universe Wizarding World
Source: bioreconstruct

This is a courtyard in the Wizarding World, almost full to the brim with scaffolding right now. You can also clearly see the shapes of the various Parisian rooftops and windows. Some are covered with themed shingles, while some just have weather-proof sheathing or decking.

Parisian street construction in Wizarding World
Source: bioreconstruct

In the above photo, a yellow arrow points at one section of the Parisian facades no longer covered in scaffolding. It has dark roofing and lightly colored walls with a grid of windows. The first floor doesn’t have themed paneling yet, just yellow sheathing.

The narrow street shooting off to the right appears to be inspired by Montmartre, a famous hill topped with the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur. The steel tower at the end of the street is the framework of a Basilica replica.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Place Cachée will have an E-ticket ride inspired by the British Ministry of Magic, which guests will “travel” to from Paris via the Floo Network. Trademarked names include Harry Potter and the Battle at the Ministry and Ministry of Magic. Tour En Floo was trademarked for a retail store, maybe connected to the attraction. The land is also set to have a show inspired by Circus Arcanus from “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”

Super Nintendo World

Aerial overview of Super Nintendo World construction in Epic Universe
Source: bioreconstruct

Epic Universe will have the world’s third Super Nintendo World after Universal Studios Japan and Universal Studios Hollywood. With more space, Super Nintendo World at Epic Universe will include Yoshi’s Adventure from Universal Studios Japan, which wasn’t built at Universal Studios Hollywood. It will also open with the Donkey Kong expansion underway in Japan.

Super Nintendo World portal
Source: bioreconstruct

The portal to Super Nintendo World in Epic Universe will be a little different from the entrances at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Japan. Still inspired by the green pipes of the Mario games, this portal will likely have one of the themed archways we saw outside the Isle of Berk and Wizarding World. Guests will also ascend an escalator inside the pipe instead of entering on the same level.

The wall around the land to the right and the top of the pipe have been painted green. Four poles of varying sizes stick out of the green pipe for future themed elements and a curved framework is behind them, surrounding the ramped roof over the escalator.

Mount Beanpole under construction in Super Nintendo World
Source: bioreconstruct

Guests will enter into the Mushroom Kingdom, with the Donkey Kong expansion beyond. In addition to Yoshi’s Adventure, the Mushroom Kingdom will have the Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge ride. In the center of this photo is Mount Beanpole with the track of Yoshi’s Adventure around the base of it.

Yoshi's Adventure track in Super Nintendo World
Source: bioreconstruct

Yoshi-shaped ride vehicles are on the track, separated by only a few feet. Inside the vehicles are blue test dummies. Yoshi’s Adventure is a slow-moving omnimover attraction.

Aerial view of test dummies on Yoshi's Adventure
Source: bioreconstruct

We were underwhelmed by Yoshi’s Adventure in Universal Studios Japan and doubt there will be significant changes at Epic Universe. But it’s a family-friendly ride with a nice view of the land. Read our review of Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan.

Yoshi's Adventure test dummies
Source: bioreconstruct

The Yoshi-shaped ride vehicles haven’t been painted yet. They will be various colors, just like the Yoshi species. Some of the Yoshi heads are covered in black tarps.

Mount Beanpole and Yoshi's Adventure construction
Source: bioreconstruct

Themed paneling has been installed on several of the nearby facades, making the land look more like the Mushroom Kingdom of the Mario games. There are layers of cartoon dirt and grass on Mount Beanpole. Pyramids are on top of the structure to the right.

Mushroom Kingdom construction in Super Nintendo World
Source: bioreconstruct

Guests will enter the Mushroom Kingdom through Peach’s Castle on the second floor. The castle is near the top of this image, with yellow sheathing and some gray paint. Guests will be able to walk down a grand staircase to visit the bottom floor of the land.

Peach's Castle construction in Super Nintendo World
Source: bioreconstruct

This side of Mushroom Kingdom has fewer themed elements than the Yoshi’s Adventure side, but the basic shapes of buildings are coming together. A gabled roof is at the top center of Peach’s Castle.

The land will have several nooks and crannies where guests can interact with blocks and play games with their Power-Up Bands. Universal Studios Japan revealed new Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong Power-Up Bands last month.

Overview of Mushroom Kingdom under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

The main dining venue of Super Nintendo World is Toadstool Cafe. The tube-shaped façade near the center of this image appears to be the entrance. It will eventually have a mushroom-shaped roof.

Read our recent review of some Toadstool Cafe items at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Bowser's Castle under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

The façade at the center of this image will be Bowser’s Castle, where guests will enter Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge. While covered in scaffolding and just gray right now, the castle will eventually have a giant entrance shaped like Bowser’s head.

Check out our photos and videos of Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Aerial view of Donkey Kong roller-coaster under construction
Source: bioreconstruct

The land’s third ride is a Donkey Kong-inspired family coaster. It will be named Mine-Cart Madness, after a level in Donkey Kong Country. More scaffolding has gone up around the ride’s lift hill, on the center-right in this photo.

Universal Studios Japan guests have seen that version of Mine-Cart Madness testing.

Themed walls and lift hill of Donkey Kong coaster
Source: bioreconstruct

Several crew members were working on theming the lift hill when bioreconstruct was photographing the ride. The walls behind the lift hill are covered in themed yellow-brown paneling making it look like a stone wall from the Donkey Kong games.

Crews working on Donkey Kong coaster lift hill
Source: bioreconstruct

The lift hill is immediately after the track exits the show building. Beneath the scaffolding, we can see more “stone” paneling on the walls around the lift hill. Crew members appeared to be installing and securing more paneling.

Donkey Kong coaster "broken" track
Source: bioreconstruct

Universal has created a unique ride system to re-create the experience of jumping broken tracks in the Donkey Kong games. The real ride track is sideways beneath the more obvious themed rail in these photos. The mine cart vehicles are held above the real track, so they look like they’re on the themed rail and “jumping” over broken sections.

Look closely at the gaps in the themed track and you’ll see the real sideways track on the right side.

Temple wall under construction in Super Nintendo World
Source: bioreconstruct

The real track is more obvious in this photo taken from a side angle.

Next to this section of the track is a blue stone wall made to look like it’s crumbling to pieces. More blue stones are visible above the scaffolding covering the building.

Aerial overview of Donkey Kong roller-coaster
Source: bioreconstruct

In this wide view, the two cherry-picker construction vehicles on the top right of the photo are working on the wall behind Mount Beanpole. Mine-Cart Madness will essentially be completely hidden from Mushroom Kingdom.

What Epic Universe land or ride are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.

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Author

  • Shannen Ace

    Shannen has been a Disney Parks fan and lover of dogs since childhood, despite Pluto's attempt to eat Shannen's Minnie Mouse doll the first time they met. They've made up now. You can email Shannen at shannen@wdwnt.com.

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