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 . . .

I’m glad they still have this great old retro sign


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. IMG_2497

Barricades were up, so I couldn’t go right up to the globe..


Park Entry IMG_2503

The left hand side is the rebuilt entry street completed last year. The right hand side is now getting its chance to be reborn.


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). IMG_2509

Universal was still promoting their new animated film, Sing





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.

Curious George in his Chinese New Year duds




Since they moved Doc’s time machine to the Petersen Automotive Museum, he seemed kinda lost



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.



Couldn’t help but take a picture of the unintentional hidden Mickey


Lunar New Year at Universal consisted of four main attractions. The first was wishing cards. IMG_2589

Hope your 2017 wishes come true..


There were all kinds of places to put your wishes. They also had Curious George and Woody Woodpecker in traditional Chinese outfits in one corner of the plaza. IMG_2588

The other corner of the courtyard was a meet and greet with Po and Tigress from Kung Fu Panda

Tigress asked me to hold this pose, I’m not very good at it.

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.

I’m not sure what it is about Megatron insulting me in Mandarin, but it was more intimidating than in English.


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.

Beautiful cherry blossom arches.


Minion Mayhem/Super Silly Fun LandIMG_2629

This area is adorably impressive. Going into the park, I barely realized it existed, much less that the area is as detailed as it is. IMG_2625







Even the trash can is cute




Most of this area is a water playground. This being the dead of winter, this is the perfect time for a refurbishment. IMG_2644



I’m surprised by the huge character presence at the park.






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. IMG_2764

It’s so fluffy!



There seemed to be a plush for every character, big or small


Oddly enough, they still had some holiday merchandise out still… IMG_2788



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.

I don’t think a lot of people stop and realize what all these topiaries are, “The Seven Duffs.” How fitting considering so much of the Simpsons area (and the ride itself) is making fun of Disney already
One doughnut is enough for 2-3 people.


No one was stopping for poor Krusty…
That’s a lot of Duff



It’s a billiards table . . . table

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. IMG_3357

Something about hospitals and The Walking Dead go hand in hand. What doesn’t is small children and horror attractions. That family walking in front of me in this photo ended up having to leave one scene into the attraction due to the younger family member having a terror meltdown



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!

Attention to detail is what made this attraction impressive. I remember reading about this animatronic being molded from the same molds from the show…and it’s nasty looking!
This dude spooked the little girl in front of me so bad I thought she was going to pass out

It’s scary, very well produced and a great walk-through for those who are able to handle horror.

Studio Tour IMG_3193

Lots of filming was happening on Monday


The Studio Tour has Mandarin and Spanish tours. Nice!


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. IMG_2941

This is the oldest attraction here, is one of the most popular, has the highest capacity, and manages to keep the wait time low. Now that’s something for other theme parks to be jealous of.


I always hated waiting in this line…glad to see it was pretty empty during my visit.


Can’t go anywhere without seeing Minions
A Ted statue…classy
Gotta love how Universal decides to use it’s big, flat, empty walls…advertisement!
Hitchcock is basically my idol…yet he died thirteen years before I was even born
This is one of the new sound stages going in. They were ripping out some old ones for more park space
Kong 360 is still impressive after so many years. And how fitting I went to Universal and saw Kong after meeting Bob Gurr at MiceChat’s 12th Anniversary event last weekend… (Bob created Universal Hollywood’s original Kong animatronic)


Lots of filming was going on in the backlot
We may not have the Delorean on site anymore but they have this
Never heard of this show before coming on the tour…
They were filming in here recently so it still looked like New York instead of California


Watch out for your cameras!
I recall the tour guide saying they were recently using the Amity set for a show. Not sure if that has anything to do with the Jaws lagoon being drained
It’s hard to eat people when you’re all dried up



Never did find out why there’s police tape on this house...
Vin Diesel should let me borrow his car..



We can’t check in at the Hollywood Tower Hotel, so I guess we’ll just have to bunk with Norman at the Bates Motel instead.
Whatcha got there Norman?

Actually that doesn’t look right…

That’s better


This scene is always kinda eerie. A really impressive and powerful scene needs an equally impressive set
I always wondered where they got all the random objects
Heading to Diesel’s safe house. I still want him to let me borrow his car
I’m loving this Pepper’s Ghost effect.
Aaaand it broke. The one thing I hadn’t seen yet and I have to wait until next time.

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 LotIMG_3219 I I realized after heading down to the Lower Lot that there are just three attractions down there.

Seems they’re widening the escalator path down to the Lower Lot
This whole area was wiped out for the ongoing escalator construction






IMG_3295 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.

I find it funny that the area you wait in to meet the raptors is almost part of the splash zone for the Jurassic Park ride
When you know that Universal doesn’t take themselves seriously at all

The handler was really into it, the raptor costume is pretty impressive, and it was all-around an entertaining experience.

For a brief moment I thought Bravo might actually take a nibble at my arm


I wish more people looked at me the way Bravo does when she’s hungry


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. IMG_2805

We don’t have a Hogwarts Express attraction (and may never), but at least we have the conductor


This is where Dragon Challenge would be if you were in Florida instead of California
No Hogwarts Express, but you can take a picture in this studio that looks to be literally lifted from the Hogwarts Express attraction itself. Fool your friends!
$21 is a little steep for a theme park photo these days.


I heard a story once that Universal Orlando recouped their investment on Hogsmeade via Butterbeer sales alone. I’m inclined to believe them considering how many Butterbeers I’ve personally consumed.


The stage was closed. Disappointing, I wanted to see the frog choir
Only the best signs from the Ministry of Magic for this area
This is one of those shots I was warning you about. But it’s one of the reasons I LOVE shooting the theme parks. There’s real magic here.


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.

Not only did we have great Team Members on the platform, the other Team Members were nice enough to let me have a personal castle tour after the park closed because we spend so much extra time getting situated in the ride vehicle. I’ve taken thousands of photos at theme parks and I’ve never had a team/cast member let me have a personal tour with all the time I need to snag photos of their attraction. Thank you Forbidden Journey team, you guys are awesome. Because of them, you get to enjoy a short Hogwarts castle tour:





And what’s Harry Potter without tons of Hogwarts merchandise? IMG_3429


Marauders Map!

IMG_3439 \

And a nighttime tour of the Hogsmeade Village: IMG_3449



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.