Since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010, Islands of Adventure has seen a dramatic 72% increase in attendance.  Over that same time period, its next door neighbor, Universal Studios, saw a much less dramatic 12% increase in visitors (Magic Kingdom over that same time period only saw a 1.7% increase).  In 2012, Universal began making major park improvements at the Studios park, with the addition of Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, the Super Star Parade, and the nightly firework show, Universal’s Cinematic Spectacular. With the ground work from 2012 laid, it is Summer 2013 that Universal is looking to see some big gains at the Studios park, as it prepares for another banner year in 2014 when Harry Potter and friends expand to the Studios park.

Transformers Preview

This past year, Universal Studios in Hollywood saw a 15% gain with the opening of Transformers The Ride 3D.  And Universal Orlando is hoping for similar results out here in Florida.

Exterior Queue

Word has gotten out that Universal is now holding technical rehearsals all day, and the locals have started lining up to experience this new, mega attraction.  Universal has built a VAST exterior queue, that will absorb the crowds that will descend on this attraction this summer.  The queue in the photo was displaying a 90 minute wait time.  If this entire queue is utilized, expect to see wait times over 200 minutes.


That’s hours in the sun with little shade. Wear a hat and slather on the sunscreen, because you’ll need it!


Interior Queue
The interior queue follows the N.E.S.T. base theme, with lots of concrete and military signage.  With 3 queue paths (Regular, Fast Pass, and Single Rider), Universal Creative has gone to great lengths to ensure that guests in all 3 lines receive the proper story setup.



















Load Platform
Once you make it to the load platform, you are assigned an “Evac” to help get you out of N.E.S.T.




What can I say about this ride? I’d love to tell you all about it…

Except you will have to come back to Orlando ParkHopper on June 20th, when the ride officially opens to the public, for the Official MiceChat review. But if I could use one word to describe this experience, it would be EPIC. And if you just can’t wait until the 20th, here’s MiceChat’s review from the opening of the Hollywood version of the Transformers ride, which is essentially identical.





What would any modern blockbuster attraction be without an exit which leads directly into a properly themed gift shop!  We love seeing the exit open, and seeing the excited families getting off this ride!


Transformers Meet and Greet

Crews are working frantically to get the Meet & Greet and Energon Stand open in time for the Grand Opening on June 20th.  Details are being added, and this once bland and empty corridor that used to be a quiet bypass from Shrek to Hollywood, will now be a very busy and popular area of the park.













At Diagon Alley, more details are being added by the day!  With front facade steel work now happening, we can begin to see windows being outlined, and the facades are beginning to take shape. Things will progress much more quickly from this point as the public facing facades are rushed to completion.















The Hogwarts Express tracks can now be easily seen in numerous areas of the New York and San Francisco sets.  It is exciting to see! The reality is sinking in that, in a years time, you will be able to travel to Islands of Adventure via train.





Universal’s other big addition for this summer is moving along at a steady pace, as workers from other projects have been moved over to help Springfield finish up before the July 4th weekend.   Detail work is being applied to the exterior of Duff Gardens. With other major work still to be completed, this is going to be a close call.











Vertical construction is finally visible for the new Spinner attraction, Kang and Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl.  While this won’t make headlines like Transformers, small attractions like this help to fill an entire day and add capacity to the park, keeping people in the parks, buying Flaming Moes and Krusty Burgers is a priority!








We will be back with more coverage next week, and some special LIVE Transformer coverage on June 20th starting at 9:00 AM EST, exclusively on MiceChat’s radio station V24 Radio.

With that, I would like you to sit back and listen to the Unofficial Universal Podcast for a more in depth look at what is happening at the Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood!

  • Trumpet

    Great Update Eric

    Transformers is looking great and in my opinion, is one of the best attraction at the moment. It blew me away when I rode it at USH, more so Radiator Springs Racers. Also, with the great additions on the horizons, USO will be the crown jewel of Florida. I think the main reason for the success is the new additions up to 2014, which makes guests visit yearly, especially when there is something new. I suspect Disney will not be adding new attractions in the run up the ‘highly popular’ AVATAR land before 2017. A poor move, because people will postpone visits until that date, because there will be nothing new. I last visited WDW in 2003, and looking back, apart from Expedition Everest (with a broken Yeti), there has been nothing new, and I mean completely new, no rehash of an old attraction, but revolutionary and completely different. Since the opening of WWOHP, Disney have failed to grasp the need for new attractions, and invest in MyMagic+, which I still have failed to grasp the need and important factor of investing millions into it. Still,. some WDW lovers will say that it is part of a strategic plan, but if there plan is to clone Cars Land and build a land, which to be honest, if from a film which is very forgettable and bland, then Universal have nothing to fear. If they keep the trend of regular attractions, and new parades then USO will be a regular holiday destination for me.

    Thanks Again Eric


  • eicarr

    Great update, but I did a spit-take when someone said it was a better experience than Radiator Springs.

    Although the special effects from Disney’s ILM were great(and I commend Disney for their great job on this ride), I thought it was a major disappointment after experiencing the fully themed Cars Land area and massive Radiator Springs canyon with its fun/uplifting ride. Transformer’s costco building exterior and parking garage vibe interior felt cold and cheap. But the Harry Potter and Simpson’s themed areas Universal is building at all their global parks are a major improvement from random one-off rides and steel roller coasters, and hopefully Disney and Universal will continue with the Potter and Cars Land type areas.

    After decades of massive expansion, WDW doesn’t have to panic too much as Universal’s attractions and titles don’t age particularly well.

    • Trumpet

      I think the land is amazing, even though, in my opinion, that is starting to wear off in how vast it is. The ride was good, but I didn’t get the feel that I was in a race, mainly due to the slow outdoor portion, and even though the inside was really cool, I think it detracted from being part of the race. Ideally, the racing portion is the main reason why people love ride, and I thought it was the best part. Transformers, on the other hand, made me feel part of an experience, and despite being from a franchise that is not well received, lots was happening all the time.

      Finally, your comment regarding WDW not having to panic and Universal’s titles do not age well, just looks at most of the attractions at Epcot, DHS and DAK, and tell me that they are ageing really well.

    • I’m going to agree. While I think Radiator Springs, the mountains, restaurants and shops create an immersive new land for Disney . . . I do think that Transformers as a ride slightly edges out Radiator Springs Racers for many demographics. Though RSR is still a SPECTACULAR ride, Transformers is a blockbuster attraction with an AMAZING ride technology and wow factor. Universal Orlando is very lucky to have this attraction and I’m sure summer crowds will appreciate that Uni built something new for them, even though, they probably could have coasted by on their Harry Potter successes until phase 2 opens next year. Universal is really giving consumers what they want!

    • urbanleadership

      I went to Universal Studios Hollywood for the first time in 15 years this past Saturday night. We had walk-on access to Transformers, the Mummy, and Simpsons… along with outdoor and indoor club events. I think there’s a lot of personal preference between whether Universal with Transformers and Disney with Radiator Springs Racers has presented a better product. I agree Transformers is a great ride system and action-packed, but leaves me cold, while RSR is more tame but has more heart. While I went on each of the Universal rides once – and had hours of opportunities to ride them as much as I liked – I did not once want to go back and ride them again. Considering the thousands of people at the same private event, there was not much of a line at all – so I hypothesize there were not a lot of repeat riders. But I am very much looking forward to Universal Hollywood’s ongoing transformation with the Simpsons-land/restaurants, Harry Potter, Despicable Me, and the new entrance pavilions.

      There may also be a big difference between California and Florida. Personally, I prefer Disneyland and California Adventure over Walt Disney World, and in a similar way, I might prefer Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure as a better product/experience. With the Marvel land, Hogwarts, Simpsons-land, and soon Diagon Alley, I can’t wait to experience Universal’s 1-2 punch. The competition between theme parks is creating great new rides and experiences, and I think we are all the better for it. I’m hoping I will be impressed with Walt Disney World when Disney Hollywood Studios has a California Adventure-like makeover. Until then, my next Disney trips will be to Tokyo, Mystic Manor in Hong Kong, and next year’s Ratatouille in Paris.

    • danielz6

      Actually Disney purchased ILM after transformers already opened in Singapore. But it is interesting to speculate that this amazing attraction wouldn’t have existed if Disney would’ve bought ILM sooner.
      Also I think its a poor comparison between transformers and RSR as the rides are completely different experiences. I think a better comparison would be Star tours 2 where ILM s stunning 3D effects are also showcased. In that comparison I’d give transformers an edge in thrill factor because ofof its huge 3D projections. However I give ST2 the edge in fun factor (given the guest participation that occurs) and rerideablilty (given the variable ride experiences) . Not to mention that Star Wars blows away transformers anyday of the week.

      • I agree with you that the two attractions probably shouldn’t be compared. Though, they are often compared because both opened at the same time and both drove large increases in attendance.

    • a-mad

      I tend to agree with you eicarr… we recently returned from a multi-day trip with extended family (over 16 kids ranging from 1 to 18) and while we all enjoyed our days at USO, it still paled in comparison to our overall experience at WDW – esp. from a customer service perspective. I had read so many things about how poorly run WDW was, I truly expected a disappointing experience… instead, despite an overall enjoyable experience, it was USO where we ran into bad customer service… and WDW had overall excellent customer service across the board. All of us noticed a distinct difference. I will say that our experience at IOA was far superior to USF – and USF is making the right moves to expand as they have… but as eicarr mentioned, WDW has expanded so much over time, and have created timeless attractions that will probably never grow stale. I’m not saying that USO’s will… but we’ve seen how many certain movie-based attractions that are popular for a few years have given way to newer models (BTTF, T2:3D, Jimmy Neutron, etc.) Who knows how long Shrek and MiB, for example, will “stay fresh” to the park-goer.

      Furthermore, while our off-season early-February park days at USO were sparsely attended (which I loved…) WDW was packed every single day we were there (all parks… weekdays included) There were no ride closures, and everything seemed to be operating well. People seemed to be blown away by New Fantasyland… and gauging the guest reaction at Enchanted Tales and Be Our Guest, esp. seemed to be overwhelmingly positive

      I’m impressed with what USO is doing… and I was stunned at how magnificent WWoHP was… but reading these comments every week makes it appear to some people that WDW is a dump and USO can basically do no wrong. You have to take the entire guest experience into account… and you have to view things in the eyes of a wide demographic of park-goer. This isn’t all just “Avatar vs. Transformers” or “New Fantasyland vs Harry Potter”… it is a much broader comparison encompassing a variety of things that are important to a vacationer.

  • KENfromOC

    A few comments;
    Haven’t been to Universal Orlando – ever, but would like to go next time I visit WDW. That being said, Universal would never be a destination resort for me, whereas WDW will always be.

    I agree with eicarr’s comment: Transformers looks like a Costco! I also think it has very limited appeal over time, where Cars Land (like most Disney & Pixar films) seem to have great lasting appeal.

    Harry Potter on the other hand was a brilliant move by Universal to get this property and capitalize on it as it does reach a wider audience and have lasting appeal.

    With Disney– Marvel yes, Avatar a big NO in my book. Avatar had a very polarizing effect – you either liked the movie, hated it, or like me had no desire to see it. Plus with it’s over-bearing “environmental” message, it can be off-putting!

    • Truecoat

      Limited appeal? Having a great ride with the draw of riding over and over trumps whatever theme is applied. Take the Mummy (Orlando version), I can ride that ride 5-10 times while I’m there if lines are short enough. I’ve watched about 30 min of a Mummy movie and got bored but that ride is one of the best.

      • KENfromOC

        Again: Families out here in Calif. have PLANNED THERE TRIPS to see Cars Land. And I would argue the same has been true for Harry Potter area at IA. But for Transformers? Or Avatar (if they do it) – not in my opinion. Again I am clarifying: FAMILIES.

    • pianojohn

      You said you have never been to Universal Orlando, yet you say it will never be a destination resort for you. If you have never been, how can you be so quick to judge?

      I live in Orlando and have been to Universal resort many times. I also work for Disney. I see the value in both products, yet Universal really seems to be pushing the envelope with new attractions while Disney seems to be resting on its laurels.

      A few hours ago I returned from a quick trip to Universal, and it was absolutely packed. Disney does not seem to be attracting the same crowds or enthusiasm for its new attractions.

      • KENfromOC

        I should have clarified: I live here in Orange County and we are APs for Disneyland. With a 61/2 year old girl, our Orlando destination is WDW. Yes, I would say now Universal, mainly IA would be part of our trip. But in no way would we plan a trip around Universal, it would still be WDW. And if we were there on limited time (just a few days) then it would only be WDW.
        We do have friends that are huge Disney fans (APs like us) and went to Orlando a few months ago spending time at all WDW and Unv parks, and said IA and MK were tied for the best places with the 2 kids (6 and 3 yrs).

        You must remember, when you and I use the term “destination resort” it means just that: destination! You live in Orlando. I get it. So a single-o r2-day trip to Universal makes sense. Just like we may plan a weekend down in San Diego for SeaWorld, etc.

        BUT… Would you plan a SoCal trip focused on any other themed resort other than Disney? I doubt it.

        More than likely, Universal Orlando is still only and added part to a family that is from way out of the area (longer than a days drive). Their main destination would be, I’d say at least 85% of the time, WDW!

    • Eric Davis

      I will have to disagree. I think that Universal Orlando truly is a destination resort. You could travel to Orlando, spend all your time at Universal, and leave feeling relaxed, fulfilled and entertained. You would have a much different view of what a theme park vacation should be like. You would return to work energized, and relaxed instead of feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation.

      • danielz6

        I agree…me and my girlfriend Spent 5 days in Central florida and didnt step onto disney property. We did Universal, Busch Gardens and clearwater. We were really impressed with busch gardens and jealous that USH pales in comparison with USO(we live in San Diego). We had an amazing time. I love disney but you dont need disney to have a good time.

  • Truecoat

    Universal isn’t sitting on it’s laurels with what is being built. After Potter 2.0, we can look forward to a Jurassic Park ride, a possible James Bond stunt show and my sister took a survey on the Lorax and Smurfs this week. There is also some rumored long range attraction going between the Simpsons and MIB.

  • Lee Mallaby

    Is there any real room between The Simpsons and MIB, to put a new attraction in? Transformers will be a stunning addition to Universal Studios Florida and we can debate the theming behind the building all day, the numbers that Hollywood has done in attendance, since Transformers opened, speak for themselves , universal is creating attractions and areas that people WANT to see, not ones that they are being told that they want to see.

  • Lee Mallaby

    You’re right there is a big space there, but Universal seem to be focusing more on themed lands with good attractions , rather than a ride in a building, Transformers aside.

    • Truecoat

      Tony Baxter was touring UO with the bigwigs recently. Is he looking for a new job?