Universal Creative

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Universal Creative
IndustryEngineering, architecture, design
Founded1968; 55 years ago (1968)
HeadquartersOrlando, Florida, United States
Key people
Mike Hightower, President
ProductsTheme parks, resorts, attractions
ParentUniversal Parks & Resorts

Universal Creative designs and creates themed attractions, rides, and resorts, for Universal Parks & Resorts. Its divisions include master planning, creative development, design, engineering, project management, and research and development. The Universal Creative team is composed of artists, architects, engineers, designers, producers, builders, writers and more who design and create all of the themed entertainment experiences for Universal Parks & Resorts.

It is best known for its design of immersive experiences based on NBCUniversal and third-party intellectual property. Notable classic and modern licensed properties used by Universal Creative include Harry Potter works and films, Dr. Seuss properties, The Simpsons, Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, Transformers, Despicable Me, and Nintendo franchises.[1][2]

The company, headquartered in Orlando, operates at Universal Parks & Resorts locations around the world in the United States, Singapore, Japan, and China.[3] Universal Creative often collaborates with a wide variety of external themed-entertainment design companies, including: Forrec, THG Creative, and P+A Projects.[4][5][6]


In December 1958, MCA, Inc. purchased the Universal City Studio Lot in California. After MCA and Universal merged in 1962, MCA-Universal expanded into recreation.[7] In 1964, MCA-Universal officially opened Universal Studios Hollywood.[8] As the park grew, Universal Creative was founded in 1968 under the name MCA Planning and Development as part of MCA-Universal's recreation division.[9]

Universal Creative continued to operate through 1996 as MCA Planning and Development, opening Universal Studios Florida in 1990 and creating attractions such as Jaws and E.T. Adventure.[8] In 1996, MCA was sold to Seagram, which changed the company name to Universal Studios, Inc. In 1997, MCA Planning and Development was renamed Universal Creative. Two years later, Universal Creative opened Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort.

The company moved to Universal Orlando Resort in 2001, the same year it opened Universal Studios Japan.[9] In 2011, Comcast purchased NBCUniversal, incorporating Universal Parks & Resorts and Universal Creative into its portfolio.[10] Universal Studios Singapore, a joint venture with Resort World Sentosa on Sentosa Island, was opened by Universal Creative in the same year. The company opened the world's first "Water Theme Park" in 2017 with the opening of Universal's Volcano Bay. In 2021, Universal opened Universal Beijing Resort which was the first ever theme park to achieve a LEED Certification. The company's latest project is Universal's Epic Universe, which will become the fourth park at the Universal Orlando Resort. Universal Creative currently has offices in Hollywood, Orlando, Osaka, and Beijing.[3]

Executive Leadership[edit]

As of December 13th, 2022, the following information is outdated, as several individuals in this list have retired from Universal Creative as part of an NBC-wide retirement initiative. This list will be updated when their replacements are announced:[11]

  • Mike Hightower: President, Universal Creative Universal Parks and Resorts[12]
  • Modesto Alcala: Senior Vice President, Global Restaurant Development[13]
  • Steve Blum: Senior Vice President, Ride Safety & Engineering[14]
  • Thierry Coup: Senior Vice President, Chief Creative Officer[15]
  • Russ Dagon: Senior Vice President, Resort Development[16]
  • Gene Dobrzyn: Senior Vice President, Project Management Office[17]
  • Brawner Greer: Senior Vice President, Legal Affairs[18]
  • Charlie Gundacker: Senior Vice President, Executive Project Director[19]
  • Caryl Lucarelli: Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Universal Creative and International[20]
  • Daniel Memis: Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer[21]

Notable projects[edit]


Volcano Bay's 200 ft. tall "Krakatau" volcano.

Universal's Volcano Bay[edit]

Volcano Bay is Universal's first attempt at developing a water park. This project became the third park at Universal Orlando Resort after replacing Wet 'n Wild Orlando in 2017. The park icon is "Krakatau," a 200-foot-tall volcano at the center of the park. Volcano Bay brought a variety of new types of slides to the Orlando area. Including water coasters, capsule plunge slides, and slides that drop riders four feet above the pool below. Similarly to Disney's MagicBands, one of the biggest features of Volcano Bay is its TapuTapu wristband technology. Universal Creative further utilized this technology with the development of their Super Nintendo World areas.[22]

Jurassic World VelociCoaster[edit]

VelociCoaster is Florida's fastest, tallest, and most intense launch coaster ever created, catapulting riders 155 feet into the air at speeds up to 70 mph. VelociCoaster features two high-speed launches powered by linear synchronous motors, a signature 155-foot-tall top hat, four inversions, and a first-of-its-kind barrel roll over water named the mosasaurs roll.

Super Nintendo World[edit]

Universal Studios Japan contains the world's first Super Nintendo World area. This immersive land contains dozens of interactive elements, as well as two rides that let guests experience the world of the Super Mario franchise. Universal Creative worked closely with Nintendo, including Shigeru Miyamoto, to create an artistically accurate and innovative area. The rides in this land include Mario Kart: Koopa's Challenge, a technologically groundbreaking interactive dark ride that features augmented reality based on the Mario Kart spin-off franchise. Super Nintendo World makes use of "Power Up Bands" to interact with certain elements in the land, such as the "Power Up Band Key Challenges," and tracking high-scores through the official Universal Studios Japan phone application.

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure[edit]

Universal Creative's Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is considered to be the world's first "story coaster". The Creative team's coaster broke multiple records by being the first coaster in the U.S. to have a free-fall vertical drop (17 feet), catapulting guests 65 feet in the air at more than a 70 degree angle then immediately dropping them back down in one movement, having the most launches of any coaster in the world (7 total), and containing the longest coaster track in Florida, measuring approximately a mile in length. The construction of this attraction also included planting a forest of 1,200 trees.[23]

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure won the Thea Award from the Themed Entertainment Association for outstanding achievement, the Best New Roller Coaster Award from Theme Park Insider, and was named "best new attraction installation of 2019" from the 2019 Golden Ticket Awards.[24][25][26]

Transformers: The Ride - 3D[edit]

Universal Creative, in partnership with Oceaneering International and Industrial Light & Magic, created Transformers: The Ride - 3D to be featured at Universal Studios Singapore, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Orlando Resort. The attraction blends computer-generated imagery with reality through the use of 14 screens and a variety of physical props.[27] Universal Creative first opened this attraction in Singapore in 2011 and Hollywood in 2012, followed by Orlando in 2013. Univesal Creative's largest challenge for creating the Orlando iteration of the ride was real-estate space, which prompted it to be designed as a vertical, two-story experience.[28] Transformers: The Ride - 3D has won numerous awards, including the Thea Award for outstanding achievement, the International 3D Society Lumiere Award, and was named "best new attraction" from Theme Park Insider.[29]

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man[edit]

Universal Creative's The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man is a dark ride using advanced audio, with the sound accurate to 15 of a video frame.[30] "All of your visceral, aural and visual input has to be in perfect sync," says Steve Blum, Senior Vice President of Ride Safety and Engineering. "Humans are very sensitive to anomalies in their environment: If you don't give them the right input, they detect right away that it's not real."[31] Universal Creative partnered with Oceaneering International to create a 12-passenger motion-base simulator pod capable of six degrees of freedom (heave, sway, surge, yaw, pitch, and roll) and 360-degree rotation (achieved with a ring and pinion gear system), all contained in an angled shell to direct riders' view. Universal Creative's Phil Hettema and William Mason received inventor credits on the ride system patent, known as the SCOOP.[30]

Universal Creative employees Scott Trowbridge and Thierry Coup storyboarded a scene-by-scene breakdown of the ride that would be projected onto thirteen 30-foot-tall projection screens integrated with physical sets. Since guests would be moving toward, away from, or past these 3D screens, animators had to consider the perspective shift that viewers would actually encounter if these really. They developed a new process they called "squinching", used to account for a viewer's moving sightline and distorting the animation to match.[30]

Created for the Islands of Adventure theme park that opened on May 28, 1999, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man won Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Award for Best Dark Ride for twelve consecutive years from 1999 through to 2010. It has since placed second in that category, after fellow Islands of Adventure attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, took the top spot in 2011. In 2000, the ride won a Thea Award from the Themed Entertainment Association for outstanding themed entertainment and experience design. It has also won numerous public-voted Theme Park Insider Awards and Screamscape Ultimate Awards. The ride has been duplicated at Universal Studios Japan, which opened in January 2004.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey[edit]

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure)'s 200 ft. tall "Hogwarts Castle" facade.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey opened in June 2010 as part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure. It features robotic arms as a ride vehicle which are mounted on a track, to travel through the attraction while performing their movements in synchronization with the ride's show elements (animated props, projection surfaces, and so on).[32] In Amusement Today's annual Golden Ticket Awards, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey debuted as the best new ride of 2010. It won the Best Dark Ride category for five consecutive years from 2011 to 2015.[32] Due to the massive popularity of the ride, it was duplicated at Universal Studios Japan (which opened on July 18, 2014) and Universal Studios Hollywood (which opened on April 7, 2016).


The Universal Creative Resort Development team designs and develops resort, hotel, restaurant, and retail experiences for Universal Parks & Resorts. Universal Orlando Resort's long-standing partnership with Loews Hotels led to the development of Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Universal's Aventura Hotel, Universal's Endless Summer Resort – Surfside, and Universal's Endless Summer Resort – Dockside.[33] Universal Creative has recently opened resorts include The Universal Studios Grand Hotel and the NUO Resort Hotel – Universal Beijing Resort at Universal Beijing Resort.[34]


The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen at Universal CityWalk Beijing

Universal Creative designs and develops the restaurants inside Universal's theme parks, as well as their Universal City Walk shopping and restaurant areas. Award-winning restaurants within the parks include Mythos Restaurant, The Leaky Cauldron, and The Three Broomsticks at Universal Orlando Resort.[35][36] Award-winning restaurants in Universal CityWalk Orlando include The Cowfish, Vivo Italian Kitchen, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, and Savory Feast Kitchen. Other restaurants shared between several Universal City Walk areas include Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, Bubba Gump, and Voodoo Doughnut.[37]

All projects[edit]

Current projects[edit]

Universal Creative is in the process of developing Epic Universe.

Epic Universe, the fourth park to be added to the Universal Orlando Resort portfolio, was announced in August 2019. It will feature an entertainment center, hotels, shops, restaurants and more. It is expected to be located within a larger 750-acre site that will nearly double Universal's total available acreage in Central Florida. No opening date has been announced.

On January 11, 2023, Universal announced two projects: a "new concept"-styled theme park geared towards families with children in Frisco, Texas, and a "horror-experience" in Las Vegas, Nevada.[38][39]

Project Park/Resort Opening Date
Super Nintendo World[40] Universal Studios Hollywood February 17, 2023
Universal's Epic Universe TBA
Universal Studios Singapore
Illumination’s Villain-Con Minion Blast Universal Studios Florida Summer 2023
Universal's Epic Universe Universal Orlando Summer 2025
Unnamed family-centric theme park in Frisco, Texas Unknown TBA
Unnamed horror-centric experience in Las Vegas, Nevada Unknown TBA

Past projects[edit]


Universal Creative files numerous patents for new technologies with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In 2019, Universal Creative filed 43 patents.[41] Some notable patents include the SCOOP ride vehicle designed for The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man in Universal Orlando Resort, interactive wand technology for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and moving portraits for the queue of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.[42][43] "We actually had to create the technology which was used to make those portraits look like moving paintings," said Thierry Coup, Senior Vice President of Universal Creative's Creative Studio. "There's a whole portfolio of patents that Universal filed just with the creation of this attraction."[44]


Thea Awards[45][edit]

Award Year(s) Received Project Park/Resort
Paragon Award 2015 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal Studios Florida
Diagon Alley
Hogwarts Express
Diagon Alley Retail/Dining
Award for Outstanding Achievement 1996 Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular Universal Studios Hollywood
1997 Terminator 2:3D: The Battle Across Time Universal Studios Florida
2000 FiestAventura Universal Studios Port Aventura
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man Islands of Adventure
2001 Men in Black: Alien Attack Universal Studios Florida
2002 Animal Celebration Universal Studios Japan
2002 Templo del Fuego Universal Studios Port Aventura
2005 Revenge of the Mummy Universal Studios Florida
2006 Fear Factor Live Universal Studios Florida
2008 Peter Pan's Neverland Universal Studios Japan
2009 The Simpsons Ride Universal Studios Florida
2009 Universal Studios Hollywood
2010 Disaster! Universal Studios Florida
2011 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Islands of Adventure
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Islands of Adventure
2012 Space Fantasy The Ride Universal Studios Japan
2013 Transformers: The Ride 3D Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Singapore
2014 The Song of An Angel Universal Studios Japan
2015 Harry Potter & The Escape from Gringotts Universal Studios Florida
2017 Springfield (Themed Food & Beverage Experience) Universal Studios Hollywood
2018 Universal's Volcano Bay Universal Orlando Resort
2019 Universal Spectacle Night Parade – The Best of Hollywood[46] Universal Studios Japan
2020 Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure Universal Studios Florida
2021 Super Nintendo World Universal Studios Japan
The Bourne Stuntacular Universal Studios Florida
2022 Universal Beijing Resort Universal Beijing Resort
Untrainable Universal Beijing Resort
Jurassic World Adventure Universal Beijing Resort
Award for Technical Excellence 2015 Interactive Wands Universal Studios Florida
Classic Award 2002 Universal Studio's Tram Tour Universal Studios Hollywood
2017 WaterWorld: A Live Sea War Spectacular Universal Studios Hollywood

The Golden Ticket Awards presented by Amusement Today[47][edit]

Award Year(s) Received Project Park/Resort Notes
Best Indoor Attraction 1998 Back to the Future: The Ride Universal Studios Florida
Best Simulated Interactive Ride
Best Dark Ride 1999 - 2010 The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man Islands of Adventure
2011 - 2015 Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Islands of Adventure
Best Water Ride 2001 - 2002, 2004, 2006 - 2014 Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls Islands of Adventure
Best Indoor Coaster 2008 - 2019 Revenge of the Mummy Universal Studios Florida In 2019, Amusement Today retired the category of Best Indoor Coaster as Revenge of the Mummy had won it every year since 2008. As well as retiring the category, Amusement Today presented Revenge of the Mummy with the Legend's Award. [48]
Best New Attraction 2010 Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Islands of Adventure
2019 Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure Islands of Adventure
2020/2021 Jurassic World VelociCoaster Islands of Adventure
Golden Ticket Awards Legend 2019 Revenge of the Mummy Universal Studios Florida

Theme Park Insider Awards[49][edit]

Award Year(s) Received Project Park/Resort
Best Theme Park 2002 - 2004, 2010 - 2011. 2020 - 2022 Islands of Adventure Islands of Adventure
Best Attraction 2002 - 2005 The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man Islands of Adventure
Best Roller Coaster 2003 - 2004 The Incredible Hulk Islands of Adventure
2021 Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure Islands of Adventure
2022 Jurassic World VelociCoaster Islands of Adventure
Best Table Service Restaurant 2003 - 2008, 2019 - 2022 Mythos Restaurant Islands of Adventure
Best New Attraction 2004 Revenge of the Mummy Universal Studios Florida
2008 The Simpsons Ride Universal Studios Florida
2010 Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Islands of Adventure
2012 Transformers: The Ride Universal Studios Hollywood
Best New Family Attraction 2015 Hogwarts Express Universal Orlando Resort
Best Quick-Service Restaurant 2015, 2020 The Leaky Cauldron Universal Studios Florida
2016 - 2018 The Three Broomsticks Universal Studios Hollywood
Best New Theme Park 2017 Volcano Bay Volcano Bay
Best New Roller Coaster 2017 Krakatau Volcano Bay
2020 Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure Islands of Adventure
2022 Jurassic World VelociCoaster Islands of Adventure
Best Show 2022 Untrainable Universal Studios Beijing

Brass Ring Awards[50][edit]

Award Year(s) Received Project Park/Resort
Most Creative Holiday Show 2021 Crystal Promise Universal Studios Japan

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Universal Orlando". Universal Orlando Resort. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  2. ^ "Nintendo plans life-size video game at Universal Studios Japan". The Japan Times. 2020-01-14. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  3. ^ a b "Universal Creative Careers". Universal Creative Careers.
  4. ^ "Theme Park Designers | Theme Park Planning and Design". P+A Projects. Retrieved 2022-12-22.
  5. ^ "Universal Studios Florida | FORREC". Retrieved 2022-12-22.
  6. ^ Group, The Hettema. "PROJECTS". THG. Retrieved 2022-12-22.
  7. ^ "About Us". Universal Studios Lot. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  8. ^ a b "Universal Studios Hollywood - Chronology". The Studio Tour. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  9. ^ a b "A brief history of Disney's and Universal's theme park design divisions". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  10. ^ "Comcast completes NBC Universal merger". Reuters. 2011-01-29. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  11. ^ "Universal Creative Gutted After Execs Take Early Retirement". 2022-12-13. Retrieved 2022-12-23.
  12. ^ "Mike Hightower". LinkedIn.
  13. ^ "Modesto Alcala". LinkedIn.
  14. ^ "Steve Blum". LinkedIn.
  15. ^ "Thierry Coup". LinkedIn.
  16. ^ "Russ Dagon". LinkedIn.
  17. ^ "Gene Dobrzyn". LinkedIn.
  18. ^ "Browner Greer". LinkedIn.
  19. ^ "Charlie Gundacker". LinkedIn.
  20. ^ "Distinguished Speaker Luncheon: Universal Studios' Caryl Lucarelli". Burnett Honors College.
  21. ^ "Daniel Memis". LinkedIn.
  22. ^ "TapuTapu at Universal's Volcano Bay – complete guide".
  23. ^ "Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure: Universal Orlando Resort's Most Thrilling Coaster Experience Yet". Comcast. 2019-05-20. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  24. ^ "Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure wins 'outstanding achievement' award". Wizarding World. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  25. ^ "Hagrid's casts a spell to capture top roller coaster honors". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  26. ^ Bevil, Dewayne. "Hagrid ride, Horror Nights, SeaWorld, Millennium Falcon are Golden Ticket Award winners". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  27. ^ "'Transformers' roll out in Universal Studios ride". Yahoo. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  28. ^ "Interview with Universal Creative's Mark Woodbury: On Harry Potter, King Kong and Transformers". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  29. ^ "Transformers: The Ride-3D at Universal Studios Orlando". Orlando Insider Vacations. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  30. ^ a b c "This Amazing Adventure May be One of the Best Rides Ever Built. Here's the Inside Scoop". Theme Park Tourist. 2017-05-21. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  31. ^ Kramer, Scott. "The Magic of Universal Orlando: Revealing the Technology Behind the Rides". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  32. ^ a b "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey". Parkpedia. 2012-02-23. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  33. ^ "Loews partners with Universal Orlando on two new resorts". Hotel Management. 8 November 2017. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  34. ^ "First Look: The Creative Vision of Universal Studios Beijing". Comcast. 2019-10-14. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  35. ^ "Mythos Restauarant". Universal Studios Florida.
  36. ^ "Universal's The Leaky Cauldron grabs restaurant honors". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  37. ^ "Toothsome Chocolate Emporium is coming to Hollywood". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  38. ^ "Universal Brings Kids Theme Park to Frisco". 2023-01-09. Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  39. ^ "Year Round Horror Experience Comes to Las Vegas". 2023-01-11. Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  40. ^ Storey, Ken. "Universal shares new details on Super Nintendo World then even more details leak hours later". Orlando Weekly. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  41. ^ "Universal Creative LinkedIn". LinkedIn.
  42. ^ "This Amazing Adventure May be One of the Best Rides Ever Built. Here's the Inside Scoop". Theme Park Tourist. 2017-05-21. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  43. ^ "World Intellectual Property Organization" (PDF). World Intellectual Property Organization.
  44. ^ Hill, Jim (2016-03-15). "Universal Orlando Has the Tech It Takes to Make "Skull Island: Reign of Kong" Trackless". HuffPost. Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  45. ^ "Past Thea Award recipients: 1994-2017". teaconnect.org. Archived from the original on 2015-01-11. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  46. ^ "Thea Awards Recipients". teaconnect.org. Retrieved 2022-02-25.
  47. ^ "Home Page". The Golden Ticket Awards. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  48. ^ "Legend Awards". The Golden Ticket Awards. 2 February 2020. Retrieved 2020-07-14.
  49. ^ "The Theme Park Insider Awards". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  50. ^ "IAAPA Brass Ring Awards". IAAPA. Retrieved 2022-02-25.