You won't have to wait until 2025 to see something new out of Comcast's (CMCSA -0.25%) Universal Orlando in Florida. The resort's original Universal Studios Florida theme park will be closing several of its kid-friendly attractions in January, paving the way for what it is now describing as "exciting new family entertainment" featuring "beloved animated characters" in the future.

The mid-January shutdown will cause some temporary pain for families of young children that aren't big enough to experience most of the park's rides, but when you're a landlocked gated attraction, you can't add something new without getting rid of something old. All eyes may be on the prize for theme park enthusiasts awaiting the opening of the resort's ambitious Epic Universe come 2025 -- bumped from its initial 2023 debut -- but Comcast's ascending theme parks segment isn't going to rest on its laurels for the next three years. 

Walt Disney (DIS -0.12%) is on notice, as its most popular theme park resort is a 20-minute drive from Universal Orlando. The battle for fun-seeking visitors is never dull, but it just got a bit more interesting. 

Fiona, Donkey, and Shrek and the meet and greet area.

Image source: Universal Orlando.

Kidding around

Universal's theme parks business has more than bounced back from its pre-pandemic state. Comcast announced last week that revenue rose 42% for its theme parks segment during the seasonally potent summertime quarter that ended in September. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) soared 89%, hitting a new record. Disney is also clocking in with record results in its most recent financial updates.

Guests are craving the escapism and immersive experiences that the country's top theme park operators provide, but nostalgia for older attractions isn't enough. A successful theme park needs to keep raising the bar, and that is likely what Comcast is doing here.

Universal Orlando sat out 2022 as all of its major resort rivals added new rides. When Epic Universe greets its first visitors in 2025, it will treat them to next-gen experiences, trying to duplicate what the resort's Islands of Adventure did in 1999. This week's Universal Studios Florida announcement -- along with the Minions-themed attraction that it's working on closer to the front of the park -- show that Comcast is serious about keeping the positive momentum going. 

Once Universal Studios Florida locks its turnstiles after the last guests leave on Jan. 15, it will be the end of the KidZone area that has proven magnetic to young families. The kid-friendly Woody Woodpecker's Nuthouse Coaster along with the interactive Fievel's Playland and Curious George Goes to Town play areas will be gone forever. Meet-and-greet areas where Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey would mingle with guests as well as DreamWorks Destination where other costumed characters would interact with guests will close. 

What will take its place? Comcast has no shortage of options if it taps its DreamWorks Animation and Illumination studios. Illumination's Minions franchise already has an expanding presence at the park, but the studio's The Secret Life Of Pets inspired a new ride that opened at sister park Universal Studios Hollywood last year. DreamWorks Animation also offers up iconic franchises including Shrek and Madagascar. How to Train Your Dragon has been strongly rumored -- but not confirmed -- to be part of Epic Universe, so it's not likely to go there. Super Nintendo World is the only confirmed land going into Epic Universe, but could there be room at Universal Studios Florida for a smaller Nintendo (NTDOY -0.29%) experience to open before 2025? Those are "beloved animated characters", too, no?

New lands take time to build out, but Comcast can't afford to reduce its capacity for long. Between KidZone's closure and the shuttering of the Shrek 4D theater experience and adjacent Classic Monsters Cafe earlier this year, the park will face some near-term challenges with crowd control. Families with young children may go elsewhere, tapping back in when the new attractions open. When you're a leading player among travel and tourism stocks with year-round operations, you don't have much of a choice. Sometimes you have to take one step back to take two steps forward.