Universal Orlando recently announced new escape rooms themed around the iconic Universal Studios properties, “Back to the Future” and “Jurassic World.” Escape rooms are nothing new, but having them tied to specific intellectual property, as opposed to simply a theme or genre, is a rarity.
This announcement got me very excited. I’m fairly indifferent toward escape rooms in general but having them themed around two of my favorite franchises immediately piqued my interest.
One of my favorite things about this new kind of entertainment being offered at Universal is that it allows for older franchises to still have some major representation at the resort. I will never get over the theme parks not having a “Back to the Future” themed ride, but this feels like a decent compromise. It’s no secret that Universal likes to keep their attractions themed around current properties, for the most part, which unfortunately means we often lose iconic franchise attractions along the way.
We’ve seen Universal lean into nostalgic properties through their merchandise options more recently. Plus, they opened their newly themed Tribute Store as a throwback to summer blockbusters, and now these escape rooms. In my opinion, this is all a step in the right direction and may even encourage some new rides based on old properties in the future if all goes well.
The “Back to the Future” and Jurassic franchises are a great place to start (although I personally wish it were “Jurassic Park” theming over World), but if this escape room formula were to be successful, Universal has some other great options for the future.
I personally love the idea of paying tribute to some opening day Universal Studios Florida attractions in these escape rooms. On that note, I would love to see an Alfred Hitchcock themed escape room in tribute to the “Alfred Hitchcock: The Art of Making Movies” attraction of yesteryear. Although Universal has a relationship with the Alfred Hitchcock estate, I don’t believe they own it outright the way they do Jurassic or Future. But, for the moment, let’s pretend that there were no legal or licensing issues.
It could be fun to take on the role of Alfred Hitchcock’s assistant where you need to decode a script and get through the typical escape room problem-solving in order to save his latest film shoot. An experience like this could be filled with classic Hitchcock Easter eggs while also creating a brand-new experience.
I would also love to see “Jaws” brought back to life at Universal Orlando. At first, I was thinking this would be tough to do in an escape room where the central character is a shark. But then I realized they’ll be dealing with dinosaurs in some way for their “Jurassic World” escape room. My guess is we won’t see much of dinosaurs other than perhaps on monitors, rattling of the room, and in other minor ways. So, I think the sharks in a “Jaws” themed escape room could work similarly. Perhaps the guest is being recruited as a member of the Amity Island Police team and they have to help save the day before the shark reaches the shore.
Obviously, Universal wants to make sure these escape rooms have the widest appeal possible. Knowing that, I think they made strong choices using “Back to the Future” and “Jurassic World.” But there’s no denying that Halloween Horror Nights is a huge event for the resort, so perhaps having a year-round horror escape room could work well. Universal continues to make modern-day scary movies with companies like Blumhouse. An escape room themed around “The Purge” or one of their many other franchises could work as a scary escape room, allowing for a piece of year-round Horror Nights.
One franchise that I’m sure a lot of people would love to see created is a Harry Potter themed escape room (although not technically owned by Universal). Granted, I’m not really a Harry Potter fan aside from the theme parks, but I’m not quite sure I would want to see this one created. I’m sure the folks at Universal could build something unique and memorable, but they’ve already developed such an immersive Harry Potter experience in the parks that an escape room could simply feel like a step down.
Overall, I absolutely love the idea of highly themed escape rooms themed around favorite franchises being an option at the resort. I hope they’re a huge success, and that it encourages even more of this kind of entertainment. It’s obviously a lot less expensive to build than a theme park ride, but has the potential to leave an even longer lasting impression.
On a side note, I find the name “Universal’s Great Movie Escape” to be kind of funny. I can’t help but think of Disney’s Great Movie Ride and Universal’s marketing “Universal Studios Escape” disaster. Perhaps the new escape room name will clear the Google history for “Universal Studios Escape.”
If it were up to you, which Universal franchise would you like to see get its own escape room? Leave a comment and let me know.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.