Catching up with Universal Studios Hollywood

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in In the Parks, Universal Hollywood

Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,


Published on June 08, 2013 at 4:00 am with 16 Comments

Universal Studios Hollywood is a park that is never afraid to re-invent its image (or layout, for that matter).  The park is embarking on a multi-year overhaul of its upper lot area that will include a new central plaza, the Despicable Me attraction, and the Harry Potter expansion.  That’s not to mention some little additions they will throw into the park while the work is taking place.  And one of those additions is the Simpson’s Springfield!


Universal Studios Hollywood is at the start of a very long makeover process that will take several years and include thousands of feet of construction walls.  Memories of Disney California Adventure’s make-over will come to mind when you visit the Studios these days.

Upon making it through the long entrance corridor from the main gate, there is a new, HUGE project in the center of the upper lot.  Gone is the old Wild West stunt show, or any remnants of its boundaries.  This will be the new location of a central area from which guests will begin their journey into the world of movie making.

Called Universal Plaza, it will be similar to the hub at Disneyland from a guest perspective. The centerpiece will be an interactive play fountain surrounded by stores, a quick service food counter, and other things that will allow visitors to begin their day at the park.


This is the structure that faces the flow of traffic into the park.







Here you can see the plumbing and infrastructure for the play fountain.

The project is so large that it affects the flow of traffic near the the Animal Actors show.  There is only one way in and one way out of the Streets of the World section of the park and that is past the House of Horrors, down Baker Street or past Mel’s Diner.



The area in front of Mel’s Diner is a tight squeeze.



Back at the starting point, near the entrance to the park, the path to the right leads past the New York photo op and into the rest of the park.


Around the corner, to the left, in front of the Animal Actors show, is this structure.



Trenches and temporary asphalt hide the power and water lines for the area. Guide rails keep the hungry crowds in line in front of the Flintstone’s Barbecue.



Looking further into the park, the Special effects show to the left and the Simpsons in the distance.



The facade for the new Despicable Me attraction is developing behind construction walls.  While the major, flowing lines of the iconic architecture seem to be staying for the moment, there are other parts of the façade that are beginning to resemble Gru’s foreboding home.


The view down Baker Street.


To the left in front of the Globe Theatre.





The Fast and the Furious  photo op Zone.


There are also rumors floating around that the exit to Despicable Me will empty out into a new play area themed after “Super Silly Fun Land,” the fictional seaside theme park that Gru and the children visit in the movie. It will likely end up being a clever re-theme of the Coke Soak Zone water play area, along with midway games.


The Simpson’s home town of Springfield is coming to California. Hot on the heals of the Springfield expansion at Universal Orlando, which Eric Davis of Orlando Parkhopper reported on earlier this week, it seems the decision has been made to go ahead with a re-theme of the area in front of The Simpsons: The Ride here in Hollywood as well. And as you’ll see from my photos below, it should be a very good fit.


The area is currently a hodgepodge of themes, with the attraction façade dominating the area and a small Kwik-E-Mart off to the side.  Beginning sometime by the end of summer, the surrounding facilities will take turns closing and re-theming.


Obviously, the Kwik-E-Mart will stay.


It is almost a no brainer to take the old left over Doc Brown’s Chicken theme from Back to the Future and give it the Cleutus’ Chicken Shack Treatment.


There is already plenty of seating for outdoor dining in the center of the area.  So, it looks like a perfect fit for the food centric Springfield.



Behind the Kwik-E-Mart is an area that is slightly awkward, as it butts up against the Studio Tour entrance and a stand alone restroom building.  Major work is happening here now.





The brand new Transformers Meet and Greet area is wowing guests who wait up to 45 minutes to take a picture with the interactive characters.  Both Megatron and Optimus Prime can be seen greeting characters and interacting personally with them.  It is a fun illusion that works perfectly.





Down on the Studio Tour, things are business as usual for the moment.  At the base of the escalators they have set up a Marilyn Monroe photo op.



It’s nice to see her getting the star treatment. And adds a bit of Hollywood glamor.


Along the tram route, we see that the Back to the Future cars that were moved into the Universal Experience have not been replaced just yet.




But a Fast and the Furious 6 car has been added

Hallmark Channel’s Home and Family can be seen actively shooting on the set, quite often in fact.




The Serenity car has been randomly moved to the side of the Psycho house.


Jimmy Fallon has FINALLY been added to the Mummy Tunnel section of the Tram tour.


Along the back hill, just before returning to the Tram station, trenching work is taking place.


More than likely some irrigation work or a new stairway, nothing to do with Potter.



One thing we did want to point out was that if you are interested in seeing some Oscar winning costume design, now is your chance.  This past year, costume designer, Jacqueline Durran, won the Oscar for Best Costume Design for the film Anna Karinina.  One of the Oscar-winning garments is on display inside the Universal Experience now, along with other brilliant pieces including the tattered dress worn by Anne Hathaway in her Oscar-winning portrayal of “Fantine” in Les Misérables alongside the rebel uniform donned by “Marius” (Eddie Redmayne) and the white gown worn by “Cosette” (Amanda Seyfried). Other spectacular additions to the new showcase include the coronation dress worn by Kristen Stewart as “Snow White” in Snow White and The Huntsman and the scepter carried by Charlize Theron in her role as the movie’s evil queen.






Oscar winning costume from Anna Karinina.





There is plenty do do in Citywalk and Universal Studios Hollywood.  But, if the price of parking stings, you are in luck.  Universal CityWalk is inviting guests to catch the latest movies at the CityWalk Cinemas and get parking for just $2.  Essentially, you show your parkiong ticket at the movie box office, and they reimburse you the money towards the purchase of a movie ticket.  It’s a pretty good deal.

That’s a wrap from Universal Hollywood today.  Keep your fingers crossed that we will be able to soon be enjoying a Flaming Moe and Krusty Burger in the park!

About Norman Gidney

Norman Gidney, also known as Fishbulb, produces and edits many of the articles on MiceChat. Tune in every Tuesday for the Orlando Parkhopper and every Friday for In The Parks. But you'll also find his photos in the Weekly Round Up, SAMLAND, and numerous other columns on the site.

Browse Archived Articles by

  • eicarr

    Great update!!

    Hoping for a more cohesive upper lot experience rather than its current randomness. Less ride clones and more original or cloned areas like the Simpsons and Harry Potter will help keep me from racing back to Cars Land after the tram

    Darn I thought it was going to say Fallon was finally taken off the tram. While that tool isn’t as bad as Leno, I miss the randomness of the tram guides.

  • ChrisNJ

    Wow – lots of changes on the way. Great report – so much detail. Thank you.

    Guess I’ll be going back to Universal Hollywood in 2014/15.

  • Soulquarian

    This makes me very happy. Good to see prime real estate like the Wild West Stunt Show area finally be put to use. I wish something other than another simulator was going into the T2 Building, I feel like so much of USH is depended on that technology already (Simpsons, Transformers, and even King Kong and Shrek to a degree. What I always loved about USH as a kid was that everything seemed so BIG and over the top. Watching a screen, Transformers being the exception, doesn’t really deliver the same sense of scale and wonder.

    Also great to hear that Springfield is coming to the West Coast. Makes perfect sense really, and our Kwik E Mart looks great already! Great time for Universal! Now maybe add some new stuff to the tram and new animatronics in Jurassic Park, and it’ll be a powerhouse with Potter!

  • DCAfanatic

    Disney you have a problem, USH is probably gonna catch up to DCA attendace figures when all is set and done!

  • Dusty Sage

    Flaming Moe, Duff Beer, Krusty Burger, Ribwich, Chicken Thumbs, yes please!

    I’m glad to see them making the necessary upgrades prior to Potter. Once the Wizard comes to town, it will bring with it crushing crowds. Now is the time to upgrade and expand parking, shopping, food service and increase attraction capacity.

  • Big D

    It looks like a lot of good things are coming to Uni Hollywood finally. I haven’t been interested in going since I was a little kid back in the 80′s, but I think I might just have to take a trip down the 101 to check it out this year and see everything.

    By the way, am I the only one asking for a Back to the Future land that represents the city in the year 2015 with the Cafe 80′s restaurant in time for 2015??? I would think they would probably need to start building it now to open in time, and I haven’t heard anyone talk about this or even suggest that it would be a good idea, so I’m assuming it’s not going to happen, but to me it seems blatantly obvious.

  • k_peek_2000

    Springfield is NOT coming to USH, they’re doing a bathroom expansion. That’s it.

    • Norman Gidney

      From what we hear, a rolling renovation of the surrounding area will be starting later this year. But, you are correct, the current construction has nothing to do with a Springfield redressing of the area.

  • Lee Mallaby

    Great update Fishbulb.
    Having only visited Orlando, Hollywood looks such a different park and it’s great to visualise what you spoke about on our first What’s Newniversal – Hollywood edition.
    Thanks so much.

  • Miss Betty Juice

    Nothing regarding a Simpsons expansion has been said yet. As someone mentioned, they are expanding the bathrooms right now, and nothing else is expected for awhile. They may add something Simpsons related later, but it’s not a definite thing right now.

    • Norman Gidney

      Yes, exactly.

  • Gregg Condon

    I can’t be the only one who saw the Serenity car and thought “New Firefly/Serenity movie”!!!! I know it’s not true (sadly) but we can hope right?

    Great update. So glad that Springfield is coming to USH, hope we don’t get short changed. Any word on if the Flintstones area will be a part of it? Seems like a no brainer to have it extend all the way over there.

    • Ryan120420

      From what I’ve heard, the Flintstones games will be moved to the Minion Mayhem area and get re themed and become part of the whole Super Silly Funland play area.

  • topdad1

    So , regarding the Transformers meet and greet. What fun illusion, that works well’ are you referring to? Is there another person off stage doing the voice ?

    • Norman Gidney

      Yes, so sorry. I did not explain that very well. There is a stilt walker out there, interacting with guests and posing for photos, and there is a separate voice after delivering improvised dialogue to the guests. The seamless blend of the stilt walker’s movements and the voice actor’s words is awesome.

  • Zorro825

    Fingers, toes, eyes crossed for a Springfield addition!!! it would be a nice holdover til Harry and co arrive in Hollywood. Thank you for the great update!!