The Rise and Fall of Universal's Lost Continent

Amusement Park History

Universal is known in the theme-park world as being the place you go to ride the movies. It is what they use to attract people to their parks. Rides like the Harry Potter and Spiderman attractions are gigantic draws to the parks.

Unlike Disney, Universal really hasn't ever attempted to create attractions that can stand on their own without any attachment to existing properties like Disney has with the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Enchanted Tiki Room, and many other attractions. But that's not to say they never did this.

I am talking, of course, about Universal's The Lost Continent.

Universal Islands of Adventure Lighthouse Port of Entry

Islands of Adventure opened up in contrast to any park Universal had ever made. Universal parks typically follow a general studio theme. They may have an individual immersive land, but it's all tied together by a general movie studio theme.

Islands Adventure did not do that, instead taking more of a Disney-like approach for an immersive theme park experience. With the exception of The Lost Continent, all of the lands and attractions were based on popular pre-existing properties from the works of Dr. Seuss, to Marvel Comics, to classic animation, to a then-recent movie series.

The Lost Continent Iron Gate Port of Entry Universal Islands of Adventure

Then there was The Lost Continent. The Lost Continent was Universal's biggest ever attempt to create a theme park experience that was exclusive to the parks and not based on any pre-existing film, TV show, book, or anything else. Lost Continent attempted to create a theme park land based on a lot of different mythology all tied together, but mainly three different myths, the myths of Atlantis, Sinbad, and Merlin.

It would open with four major attractions, Dueling Dragons, The Flying Unicorn, The 8th Voyage of Sinbad, and Poseidon's Fury. The Merlin section of the park was the only section to have more than one attraction.

So let's take a quick tour of the attractions of the land, in the order you would experience them traveling from Seuss Landing to Jurassic Park.

Poseidon's Fury Walkthrough Attraction Facade The Lost Continent Universal Islands of Adventure

As you walk through, you pass Poseidon's Fury, an attraction that has seen a lot of changes throughout the years, even to the basic storyline. It has changed from a more serious approach to a more humorous one, and switched whether Poseidon is the villain or hero of your story, as well as changing the entire animation design and most of the special effects.

But through this it has maintained the exact same layout and sets throughout the entire experience. The basic idea has always been you are being sent under the sea to witness a battle between Poseidon and other forces. 

It currently remains as one of the most impressive walk-through attractions ever created by Universal, assuming it survives its temporary closure due to the COVID19 pandemic. 

The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad was a stunt show, and let's leave it at that. It closed relatively recently and it is uncertain what is going to become of its theater.

Then there was the Merlin section of the land nicknamed Merlinwood. It included two major attractions, The Flying Unicorn and Dueling Dragons, which was a set of two dueling suspended coasters. This was an incredible feat at the time. Both coasters on their own were amazing, but together they were one of the best attractions in the park.

The Lost Continent Waterfall Cloudy Day Universal Islands of Adventure

Also in the land was Mythos, which consistently ranked among the best theme park restaurants in the world.

This land was never the most popular at the park, and Universal was often looking for a way to draw more people into this section. Myths simply weren't drawing enough people to the area, or bringing them to the park in general in the same way that other things in the park-like Spiderman was.

Then came a certain boy wizard.

Hogwarts Express Photo Op Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade Universal Islands of Adventure

Once Universal acquired the theme park rights for Harry Potter, it was not difficult for them to decide what section of the park they would replace with Harry Potter.

The Merlinwood section of the park was selected, and the two existing rides were incorporated into the design of the land.

This signaled a failure for Universal's only real attempt at creating unique park attractions based on their own original storylines, not pre-existing ones.

Dragon Challenge Suspended Roller Coaster Sunset Universal Islands of Adventure

The attractions however, specifically the two coasters of the land were well worth reusing. Dueling Dragons became Dragon Challenge and they still dueled for the early history of the ride, until some tragic incident caused the coasters to no longer duel, then "chasing" each other instead.

The rides story was changed from two dragons fighting in a castle to the Triwizard Tournament from the fourth Harry Potter book, Goblet of Fire. The unicorn-themed kiddie coaster was changed to Flight of the Hippogriff, with the ride getting some new ride vehicles and theming to fit the new area.

Flight of the Hippogriff Roller Coaster Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal Islands of Adventure

While Hippogriff fit in relatively well, Dragon Challenge did stick out. The land was highly themed, and having bright red and blue coaster tracks tower over the land didn't really work. It took away from the magical village theming of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts, leading to it eventually being replaced with Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.

Mythos Facade Lagoon Side Lost Continent Universal Islands of Adventure

Today the remainder of Lost Continent remains as a kind of sad reminder of what once was. Very few people will ever experience the attractions here, and despite the incredible theming, specifically of the land itself, it really has become just the way that you get to Harry Potter land.

Poseidon's Fury became the last functioning attraction in the land and who knows how long it is going to last, and if it will return from its current COVID19 related closure. Universal focusing most of their attention on Epic Universe will likely give the land a bit more life, but it is easy for Universal to look at this land first when they are looking to add something new to Islands of Adventure in the future.

Rumors have been swirling for years as to what will eventually replace this land, with everything from Zelda to the Forbidden Forest being floated as potential options, although the latter ended up replacing Dragon Challenge.

There is no way to know what Universal will replace this with, but it seems almost certain that it will be the next thing in the park to leave.

The Lost Continent From the High in the Sky Trolley Universal Islands of Adventureland

Universal took a risk with this land. They didn't base it on any of their pre-existing properties, and tried to follow the Disney model of making the park its own property. Unfortunately, confusing stories a lack of general theming, and really a lack of interest kept this from ever becoming the success that Universal wanted it to be.

Too many visitors of the park know it as nothing more than a highly decorated pathway that you have to take on your way to Hogwarts, completely ignoring the immense amount of work that went into designing this land and the really imaginative attractions that currently and once existed within.


  1. Turn it into Hyrule and then ship it over to the Super Nintendo World construction site!

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