Transformation is the name of the game at Universal Studios Hollywood these days. Cartooniversal was last of the major shops on the upper lot to be refreshed. In its place is a beautiful new 1930’s Spanish Revival (or California Mission Revival) style building which will serve as the new Animation Studio Store. But this isn’t any old shop. Everything from the painted ceilings to luxury tile screams quality and permanence. The opening selection of merchandise is divided into three categories: Illuminations Studios characters, general park characters, and Hello Kitty. Let’s take a look at the new shop and a quick spin around the park.

They are smart to have the Kitty herself greet guests outside the store. It’s better than a billboard to direct attention to the shop within.

The building has that classic Hollywood golden age vibe. The ceilings and fixtures remind me of the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel (the location of the first Academy Awards).

The Hello Kitty section of the store is really like a stand-alone store. Its theme is theater box office and features unique merchandise created for the park.  Note the references to famous Universal films done in Hello Kitty style.

Psycho Kitty!!! Jaws (or should we say “Paws”), E.T., Back to the Future . . . and King Kong in a sort of Hello Kitty and Donkey Kong mashup. Absolutely brilliant.


You have an option of laminated mini-poster, t-shirt, or cup.

There was a bit of a flurry of interest in this bag among early guests.

You can also adorn a Kitty ear headband with bows and accessories of your choice at the Build-A-Bow station. No rose gold . . . yet.

I put together a little video to show you more of the store and the cute (but very sweet) treats available in the shop. (You’ll also see me in a Hello Kitty bow)

Outside the new shop is a courtyard with seating. This is a great spot to relax or meet with friends.

Elsewhere in the Park

A couple of weeks ago I brought you a Lunar New Year update from the Universal Upper Lot. Today I thought I’d take a spin on the world-famous Studio Tour and visit the Lower Lot.

Waits during the week have been enjoyable. But Spring Break is just a week away and things are going to start getting more crowded.

One side of the escalators is closed for refurbishment. They have you walk down to get to the Studio Tour and ride back up when you are done.

And away we go . . .

If you want to see real movie studio activity, go on a weekday. There were probably a dozen different productions we could see from the tram.

One thing that really stood out to me was how much new (or recent) construction there is on the lot.  The new soundstages are bigger and fancier (like the one below).

American Ninja Warrior filmed on the lot this week.

Those white tents are used for various production support services. Some folks call it a base camp.

I miss the old Collapsing Bridge. It’s still there, but they placed the King Kong 360 building directly in the path of the trams. So now it’s just a discarded old tour prop.

Kong remains one of the highlights of the tour. Though I’d love for them to build a Kong animatronic as a grand finale.

Most of the tour is mostly as I remembered it.

For a short period of time, this little turnabout held a silly Fast and the Furious thing (cars on a stick, remember that?). Nothing has come to this little area since.

The flood was only partially working.  Water was shooting out the side

No water from the top of the hill.

New production buildings are going up in the Falls Lake (parting of the Red Sea) area.

If you see a bunch of yogurt signs, you are in the sets where they filmed scenes from The Good Place.

More production trailers and tents just before you get to the Earthquake building. . .

Speaking of earthquakes . . . oh no, it’s the big one . . . watch out, the street above has given way and a giant tanker is headed toward the tram . . . whatever will we do?!

If you ever get the chance to scuba dive at Universal . . . don’t do it . . . sharks!

It takes a lot of guts to swim here . . .

Even on a weekday they had Norman Bates out to terrorize the tram.

This gate is used during Halloween for the Terror Tram. It doesn’t look so mennacing at the moment . . .

The War of the Worlds crash set is stunning.  It’s been here for years and still looks great.

I am not a fan of the new grand finale of the tram tour. Fast and the Furious: Supercharged just doesn’t do it for me.  The set-up is fine. But the acting is terrible and half-hearted, and the CGI for the immersion tunnel section is unforgivably bad for a movie studio park.  They should really redo the media for this attraction and fix it.  Perhaps building it into the budget of the next film and make it a tie-in.

Had to take a photo of this lovely lady. Ingrid was a fantastic guide with perfect delivery. What a treat!

These are some of the shows that were shooting:

Now, down, down, down to the Lower Lot . . .

Again, escalators under refurbishment. But there’s no inconvenience here as they recently built a 4th set of escalators. So having one set down is just like the normal operation we’ve been accustomed to all these years.

I love the view from the escalators and landings.

From above, the back lot looks so chaotic. The two big beige buildings are new. Those are the production facilities near Falls Lake.

I’d also like to point out the large expansion area for the theme park . . .

That’s the Mummy show building at lower right . . . look at the colorful mural just behind it . . . that’s Transformers (the old Backdraft area). The area to the left of Transformers, where you see those white tents, is where a couple soundstages once stood. Everything you see in that area is up for grabs in theme park expansion. I was just in the area for an event and it’s massive.

I was impressed to see so many characters and performers out in the park on a weekday.

You remember that expansion area I was telling you about? Well, it’s located just behind this gate.
If you look up (above Jurassic Park), you’ll see a parking structure. Super Silly Fun Land was built on top of it.                                                                                                                                                                      
Have you met my mummy?
That’s the city of Burbank beyond the back lot.
And if we zoom in a bit you’ll see a golf course with Warner Bros. just beyond.

Back to the Upper Lot.

Half of the new courtyard (where they just had Lunar New Year) is walled off as they prepare something new for us.

And just across from that, where Shrek 4D was located, is the construction on the new Dreamworks Animation attraction.

The transformation of the Upper Lot has been amazing to watch. They took simple buildings and a mish mash of a layout and slowly moved things around, created a logical flow, and gave the entry buildings a genuine classic Hollywood studio look.  Everything you see on the left was completed last year. Now the right hand side has been redone as well.

There’s just one building left to complete the street . . . the new Dreamworks building will mimic the style of the rest of the street. It will contain a movie theater box office, tower, covered queue/courtyard, and the theater itself. It juts out just enough to hide the entry to Wizarding World behind it.

The new buildings have much more sense of character than the old.

Waterworld is closed for refurbishment. I know this show is iconic . . . but is anyone else ready to see it go?  I REALLY want them to use this space for another Harry Potter attraction.

And that’s a wrap!

I’m so lucky to live in beautiful Southern California. Growing up in Kansas, I could never have imagined spending my life visiting theme parks and attractions to share them with the world. I’ll have another adventure for you very soon.

Do you live in SoCal or plan to make a trip soon? Want to meet up with your fellow MiceChatters in the parks and tourist hot spots all over Southern California? Join our new MiceChat Sunday Fun Days Group today – We have a Knott’s Berry Farm Boysenberry Festival event planned – INFO HERE