Welcome to a Lunar New Year edition of Dateline Universal Studios Hollywood. Universal invited me out to cover their Lunar New Year festivities. I used my extra time to get reacquainted with the changes to the park. I haven’t actually visited Universal Studios in Hollywood since sometime before 2012 (I did visit Universal Orlando quite a bit while I was attending the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World in 2014-2015 though), and Universal has been rapidly growing all of their properties recently. For me, this experience was almost like attending a brand new park.
I’m a new contributor here at MiceChat and I’d like to warn you upfront that my photography style can be saturated and stylized at times. Some photos may look more exaggerated than others due to the techniques that I use when shooting (I’m not going to bore anyone with the details). To me, theme parks are a work of art and my photos are a reflection of that inspiration. In short, I’m having fun, please indulge me and enjoy the ride! Now, on to Universal Studios Hollywood . . .
Parking is spread out at Universal. If you want to park closer you have the option to pay more (it’s $30) and park in the Frankenstein structure near the entrance. To my knowledge, until recently, even if you had a season pass, there was no parking pass. You had to pay $20-30 every single time you came to Universal Studios Hollywood. The Gold Annual Pass now includes parking (it does have a restriction that requires you to enter the parking lot before 5pm though). Needless to say, I dropped $30 to park closer since my my parents were accompanying me. It was a very busy day and there was quite a security line. It took me a few minutes to even figure out where the end of the line was.
The right hand side of the entry plaza, all the way to the area in front of Water World is under major reconstruction. They’ve already demolished the large Cartooniversal building. I was told it was one of the oldest structures on the Upper Lot. I’m also surprised to hear about major refurbishments for Water World (it’ll be closed until April) considering its age and the prime real estate that it currently resides on (it’s one likely spot for future Harry Potter expansion).
If you love characters you’ll be very happy near the front of the park. In a three minute span, I saw five different characters walk right past me and then several more throughout the day when I walked through the same area.
Every roaming character I saw all day would stop and would pose like we were having an impromptu photo shoot. Scooby Doo was definitely into it, I took like four or five different poses of him. Crowd conditions were great on Monday, with most rides never going over a 30 minute wait.
Lunar New Year
Being the main reason I was invited to the park, I stopped here first. I was surprised to see so many people enter the park and walk right past this event, especially considering how much I ended up enjoying myself.
The other corner of the courtyard was a meet and greet with Po and Tigress from Kung Fu Panda
The main attraction for Lunar New Year was a huge Megatron that spoke Mandarin, and he was drawing quite the crowd. Not only did the line fill in immediately, there was a crowd that was just watching him in awe.
You’re going to want to listen to him, so here’s a quick video of him terrifying guests in a language few understood. I particularly enjoyed watching the reaction of those who actually did understand him.
Minion Mayhem is pretty much exactly the same as I remember Universal Orlando’s version being, the only difference was that the wait time was considerably shorter. I noticed what looked like a second show room for the attraction so the higher capacity could be why there was little wait. What’s Despicable Me and Minions without merchandise though? Their shop is pretty big and included an extensive variety of merchandise.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the expansion for the Simpsons area in Hollywood is very close to the one in Orlando. Although most of the expansion is just food and drink offerings, it still helps flesh out what was otherwise a fairly dull part of the park (and Universal used to have some of the worst theme park food offerings I’ve ever seen). I also think it’s particularly ingenious that they put all the food and drink offerings right next to the Studio Tour.
While the Despicable Me area was super detailed, the Simpsons area kicks it up a notch with additions that were very faithful to the cartoon source material. I didn’t have time to spend seriously exploring, but there’s a whole lot to look at here.
The Walking Dead Attraction
I visited Halloween Horror Nights in 2014 at Universal Orlando, but I never did get to see The Walking Dead maze due to how busy it was. I was thrilled to see a permanent Walking Dead attraction at Uni Hollywood.
The queue is pretty intimidating and immersive. Lights flicker, there’s all kinds of eerie noises, and when you walk in, a bunch of zombie hands try to pry open a door that reads “Don’t open, dead inside.” That was mirrored later on during the actual attraction where I had to walk through a tight corridor full of arms reaching out to grab me…gross!
It’s scary, very well produced and a great walk-through for those who are able to handle horror.
Not a whole lot has changed at the Studio Tour since I last saw it. Some sets are now being used for different productions, and there’s the new Fast and Furious Supercharged, but it’s still the same Universal Backlot Studio Tour everyone loves. It is this tour that sets Universal apart from all other theme parks.
Actually that doesn’t look right…
I don’t know what happened to the Fast and Furious Supercharged, but I didn’t get to see the ending. At least they gave me (and the whole vehicle) free front of the line passes, ones that actually didn’t have an expiration date on them. Lower Lot I I realized after heading down to the Lower Lot that there are just three attractions down there.
I I’d really like to see more on the Lower Lot. It’s a long journey down the Star Way. But they wouldn’t be adding an extra escalator unless they needed one . . . so, expect more big things in the future.
The handler was really into it, the raptor costume is pretty impressive, and it was all-around an entertaining experience.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter There are probably a few people squinting at their screens mumbling “where’s Harry Potter? I came here for Harry Potter.” Hogsmeade Village here in Hollywood is essentially a carbon copy of the original at Universal Orlando, with a few minor changes.
Huge shoutout to the Team Members at Forbidden Journey. Not only were they really attentive and helpful, but very patient with our many different requests. I knew full well it might be difficult for my parents to strap in quickly enough for the moving platform, so we requested the ADA non-moving platform. Now here’s a big tip for future riders who haven’t been on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: the ride vehicles and seats are tiny. They have to be for the ride system to work. Definitely request the non-moving platform if you’re anything but an average build so you have time to try to fit in the seat. I’m talking about any non-average shapes including tall people. My dad almost didn’t get to ride because he’s 6′ 2″ and a bit husky and just couldn’t fit in the seat properly (it barely fit around his shoulders and then with the position he was in, the restraint couldn’t fit on his waist properly). Needless to say, huge thanks to the Team Member who was running the ADA platform for his patience while I pumped the restraint down enough for it to be safe for everyone to ride (the Team Members will not help you pump down a restraint), as it took a solid five minutes of battling with the restraint to get it to lock properly. In the end, my dad had very little room to breathe but was safe, but my mom did get a little motion sick. I personally also get slightly motion sick from Forbidden Journey, so it’s something to consider. It’s a great end-of-the-day attraction for sure.
Team Members clearing Hogsmeade were very nice and considerate of my picture taking, something I often don’t even get at Disneyland after-hours. Improved Guest Service at Universal Hollywood was seriously impressive. And that’s it for this special edition of Dateline Universal Studios Hollywood! I was very impressed by the rapid improvement of Universal Hollywood, it’s leaps and bounds better than the Universal I remember over five years ago. I had an incredible time and so did my parents. If you haven’t been in years, now is the time to go, you’ll be glad you did.