Universal Orlando Resort More Cash For Growth

Written by Eric Davis. Posted in Features, Orlando Parkhopper, Universal Orlando, Universal Studios

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Published on August 06, 2013 at 12:01 am with 24 Comments

This week it is all about Springfield USA, as the construction walls have finally come down around this latest park improvement. But we also have a short update on Diagon Alley as well as news about a $500,000,000 addition to Uni’s war chest. There’s also much ado about nothing on a ride ‘accident’ that really wasn’t.  So grab your Brain Freezin’ D’oh-Nut Sundae and get ready for an update that transports you to the world of The Simpson’s.

Springfield USA – Now Open

Over the past few months Universal has turned what once was a bland concrete waterfront walkway into a vibrant and exciting shopping and dining area based on one of the most recognizable fictional cities in television history.  As you come around the bend, passing the Kidzone, you finally begin to see some familiar places. . .

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Bumblebee Mans’s Tacos Truck

One minor character that has really endured on The Simpson’s is Bumblebee Man, who was a Character on a Spanish language TV show.  In Universal’s Springfield USA, Bumblebee Man has opened a taco truck that is selling a wide variety of Taco Fusion, with Fish Tacos, Chicken Tacos, Carne Asada Tacos, and Korean Beef Tacos.

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The exterior of the the Taco Truck is bright, vibrant and visually delightful. Note the front bumper is a taco.

Lard Lad’s Donuts (and IceCream)

Next door to the Taco Truck, is a GIANT statue of the iconic Lard Lad Donut boy.  The statue is so iconic and impressive, that guests might easily miss the actual donut shop next to it.  With a simple and clean design, the Lard Lad’s Donut shop is unassuming, but features a menu that is sure to delight crowds during the hot humid days here in Central Florida.

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Research I tell ya. That means no calories.

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Custom napkins. Does Disney even do this anymore?

While Lard Lad’s Donuts does serve donuts of all shapes and sizes (like the big pink),  what guests at Universal Orlando are sure to devour in mass quantities are the ice cream sundaes!  Universal has created a delightfully indulgent ice cream treat called the Brain Freezin’ D’oh-Nut Sundae, which features a frosted pink donut cut in half with Soft Serve ice cream in the middle, whipped cream, Oreo cookie crumbles and a cherry on top.  This has become my new guilty pleasure.

Duff Gardens Brewery

Next to Lard Lads is the Duff Gardens Brewery which is a dining and merchandise location.  In front of the Duff Gardens Brewery you will find the 7 Duffs, Tipsy, Queasy, Surly, Sleazy, Edgy, Dizzy, and Remorseful as beautiful topiaries, they make a terrific photo op.

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The large rectangular building allows for guests to walk up, and order a Duff, Duff Life, Duff Dry or a Flaming Moe along with some select food items that you can find inside at Krusty Burger like the Sideshow Bob Footlong Hot Dog.  Once you have your Duff and food in hand you can sit down under a nicely shaded table along the water front and enjoy your meal in Springfield USA.  One thing to note is the tables have some beautiful iron work details, that are really beautiful.

Duff Gardens Store

Attached to the Brewery is the Duff Gardens store where you can find new Duff Beer merchandise that you won’t find anywhere else.  Inside this outdoor merchandise location you will also find Duff Man, the marketing spokesman for Duff Beer.

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Jebidiah Springfield and Springfield Details

This land has been stuffed with great details, and visual treats for guests visiting Springfield USA.  The statue of Jebidiah Springfield has had a long and storied role in the Springfield mythology, so it is incredible to be able to see this statue realized, and with proper inscriptions on the front and back.

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Next to Lard Lad’s guests will find the lovable and incompetent Chief Wiggum – his police car crashed into a fire hydrant as he ran to get donuts.

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On a park bench, you can now find Millhouse drinking a Buzz Cola, just waiting for guests to sit next to him for a picture.

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Perhaps less notable to daily park guests, but no less important, are the custom printed napkins in the land. These napkins don’t say “Universal Parks,” the say “Greetings from Springfield USA.”  Then the Team Member costumes, are unique for each location.  Team Members who work at Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck have a red and yellow vest and a bumblebee hat.  At Duff Gardens they wear a nice yellow button up with a full white apron tied at the waste.  At Lard Lad’s they have bow ties and suspenders.  These costumes are all in addition to the 5 different costumes worn inside the restaurant across the street.

Another detail likely to be overlooked is the new themed covering for the projector system for Universal Cinematic Spectacular.  This themed covering matches the industrial theme of the Duff Gardens Brewery.  One little detail on the cover is where it says “Tank U” … well “Tank U” Universal Orlando for giving us the incredible new area to explore and escape to!

 Kang and Kodos Twirl N’ Hurl nearing completion

While the rest of Springfield USA is now open, the new attraction isn’t quite ready.  The interactive elements have been added and are now being tested for safety, but we can look forward to this ride opening very soon!

Diagon Alley Update

Almost all the facades for what will be Phase 2 of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter now have their exterior sheetrock. This is the point where the exterior details will begin to take shape.

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Accident on Rip Ride Rockit… much ado about nothing

This past week, local news reported on an accident on Rip Ride Rockit Roller Coaster.  With people on twitter abuzz about an accident and ride closures. It got out of hand pretty fast. The reality was that a guest was taken off the ride, seen by Universal’s health services, and then the park went back and enjoyed the rest of their day at the park.  Far from something catastrophic, or dangerous.

Universal Parks has an additional $500 million to play with

Universal Parks and Resorts are getting additional money from Comcast to invest in future projects.  While other Central Florida theme parks might be spending hundreds of millions on trying to get you to reserve your ride time on their aging attractions, Universal will be investing more into their parks as they begin to deliver value to the day guests to keep them coming back and spending money.  Universal has also been acquiring land again in Central Florida, with the purchase of the land they once leased below Wet-N-Wild to other land purchases near Universal Orlando and a little bit down the road on Universal Blvd. Now the big question is what is Universal going to do with all that money?  This is a story we really look forward to following.

Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast Meet-up

Please join myself and the 3 hosts of the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast Meet-up as we take on Men In Black, and then take on the Kitchen Challenge at the Hard Rock Hotel for Charity!  We welcome anyone who wants to join us and have a great time!  We will also be holding a silent auction that will benefit Give Kids the World.  So Click here to RSVP today!

The Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast will be hosting our very first podcast meet at Universal Orlando on August 23rd. While we are happily getting to know some of our lovely listeners we are also planning some fun events whilst raising money for a very worthwhile cause. Let me explain how …

Give Kids The World is a very special charity. If you don’t know of them, please allow me to introduce you. Give Kids The World is an organization that allows children with life-threatening illnesses to live out their dreams; whether it is visiting a theme park and meeting their favorite character or eating their fill of ice-cream for breakfast, the guys here ensure that no wish goes unfulfilled. We are working with the Give Kids The World village in Kissimmee, which is a 70-acre, non-profit, storybook resort for these brave children and their families. Village activities include Happy Harbor Fishing Pond, a sheltered area to fish that has been specially adapted so that wheelchair users can get close enough to be able to see; Matthew’s Boundless Playground, the world’s largest and only life-sized version of the popular board game ‘Candy Land’; Keaton’s Korral, which is horseback riding at a wheelchair accessible venue and so much more! To learn and see more (and I urge you to do so) visit www.gktw.org.

The Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast gang will meet listeners at 4pm for fun and high-jinks before making our way to the Hard Rock Hotel’s Kitchen restaurant at 5.30pm for some talks, fun and fundraising before being seated to dine… And dine a group of us shall – on the Kitchen Sink Challenge! There will be at least one guest speaker, an auction at the venue and an online silent auction for a Spiderman Baseball: send your bid to [email protected]. We will also be asking for donations on the night. For anyone not attending the meet who would still like to make a contribution to this wonderful charity, you can help us reach our $500 goal by donating here: UUOP Give Kids the World Event

 

 

Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast

Click play below to listen to the latest episode of the Unofficial Universal Podcast where Lee and Tracey interview Brent Young about the creation of the Madagascar Crate Adventure ride at Universal Studios Singapore.

That wraps up this weeks update!  We hoped you enjoyed your tour of Springfield USA, and can’t wait to see what else Universal Creative brings us in the years to come!

About Eric Davis

By day, Eric is in Marketing and Social Media. But on the weekends, he's a theme park addict. Eric is a frequent contributor to MiceChat's Orlando Parkhopper columns and tends to focus his efforts on what's new and what's news at Universal Studios and SeaWorld.

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24 Comments

Comments for Universal Orlando Resort More Cash For Growth are now closed.

  1. Excellent, update! Thank you, Eric!

    Would anyone please post a photo of the Springfield napkins? I love Universal’s little touches like their sugar packs and their friendly, seasonal, slightly elevated information stands at their Hollywood park I saw last summer–so much better than time share booths.

    • There are photos of the Springfield USA napkins in the update above.

      If Universal starts getting themed napkins for separate lands, then I’ll know that Universal really gets it while the flunking brain trust in TDA and TDO fiddle over backstage people and things that no paying guest will ever benefit from.

      Napkins in Disney theme parks don’t even have the generic Disney Parks logo on them any more. They are simply blank brown napkins. At least they are free.

    • There is 1 photo in the update. I have like 10 more if you want! lol

  2. Universal has me squealing with anticipation for what they’re going to do next. It just seems the news about growth is non-stop for them and they are definitely the player to be watching of late. I can’t help but wonder what else they are putting in all that building space in the Diagon Alley area. It is clearly more than just the Gringotts Bank coaster type attraction on all those floors of open space. Let us know if you hear anything about this Eric.
    Thank you Eric for your great reporting as always.

    • Universal just keeps adding more value. That is why I don’t really complain when they raise their prices. Sure the prices have gone up, but I am seeing my money in the park!

      I love seeing all the improvements. In 2012 there were some great simple additions:
      Spongbob StorePants
      Reanimated Spiderman
      DAy time parade
      Night time firework show
      Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem
      Hollywood Drive-In Mini Golf

      And so far in 2013 we have seen:
      Transformers
      Springfield USA

      And there is so much more coming, it is something hard to keep track of!

  3. Great update Eric, the above pictures show the reason why I’m looking to base myself at a Universal hotel next year… Better benefits including express pass which will allow me to skip the rides anytime I want without having to pre book months in advance. New themed environments. And a theme park Resort that is understanding my needs. If you look at construction of the Mine Train at Disney things have stalled. And I honestly believe Disney are holding back construction on this attraction so it can open it the same time as Diagon Alley.

    • I hope you are wrong. Having the Mine Ride open at the same time as Diagon Alley would be a terrible move by Disney. It would create even more of an impression that Disney can no longer compete with Universal. They’d be much better off to get the Mine Ride open first and claim a little glory before Uni slaughters them creatively with Wizarding World 2.0.

  4. Re: DUFF Beer – Is it real beer? And if so, who makes it for them (what’s the real brew they are using?)

    • Duff Beer is a real beer that you must be 21+ to consume here in Florida. It is brewed by the Florida Beer Company in Melbourne Florida.

  5. As cool as the Duff beer photo op’s look, it seams a touch… distasteful?
    I can’t wait to see that family Christmas card!

    • I love the Duff Beer photo ops. And i think it is personal taste that dictates if you take one! I just love that Universal brought all 7 Duffs to life.

      The entire area, just fills you wish a child like wonder. I cannot wait until across the street is LONDON! When Universal opens up Diagon Alley.

  6. Great update Eric, I really cannot wait to get in there in the next few days!!!

  7. More impressive stuff coming from Universal. I think Disney can still easily beat universal if they’d just supply the budget for it. Don’t forget about Tokyo Disneyland which easily outperforms universal in both attractions and themeing. Every Disney resort has gotten or is constructing new e ticket attractions accept WDW. I think the biggest reason however for WDWs current stagnation is that Disney is putting most of its theme park dollars into Shanghai. 4 billion last I heard. Imagine what could’ve been done in Epcot, AK, and DHS if they would have gotten some of that money. Its a shame Disney is simply taking advantage of WDWs reputation while offering less and less for higher gate prices.
    Universal is doing it right here in Florida, however, and they definitely deserve all the love and support from us theme park fans. You vote with your dollar and when I go to Florida universals getting mine!

    • Disney is putting a sickening amount of cash in WDW but not in their rides and shows. The money flows to timeshare additions and the silly wristband thing I hate.
      If all that money was put into new and amazing rides I would visit Disney again but the last new addition I saw was Soarin and Mission Space and both didn’t do anything for me. Any addition after that didn’t tickle my theme park bone and I went to Universal and Sea World (coming from Europe they have a cheap 14 day pass for me) and I was enormously impressed (2 years ago). I’m ready to go back to Orlando again this winter and was planning to visit Disney but again nothing new that I care to see but I’m sure to be riding Antarctica, Despicable Me, Transformers and visit Springfield and the new parade and night time show for sure.

  8. LOVE SPRINGFIELD!!! Thank you so much for the update!!! I really really really need to see this in person!! Or maybe we can get a small taste of it here at Universal Hollywood

  9. “While other Central Florida theme parks might be spending hundreds of millions on trying to get you to reserve your ride time on their aging attractions, Universal will be investing more into their parks”

    Yes, but can you put a price on not having to wait in the stand-by line for Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment? ;)

    • “Yes, but can you put a price on not having to wait in the stand-by line for Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment? ;)

      That made me laugh out loud.

  10. Just while Disney ripped out Snow White’s ride and built restaurants and stores in “New Fantasyland” with one pretty lame new ride so far, look what Universal did.
    New parade, new nightime watershow, upgrade to Spiderman, new Despicable Me attraction, new Transformer’s ride (with awesome theming), new Simpson’s land, AND an amazingly fast construction job at new Potter area at Universal, new train station and theming around it currently under construction at Islands with cool new technology which will simulate the ride from London to Hogwarts. All the new Potter stuff should open in 8 – 9 months.
    Current Disney leadership should put sacks over their heads as they walk from their cars into their offices. Look at “Beast’s Castle” (small 4 foot tall toy on top of a 20 foot tall “mountain”) and compare it to Hogwartz which was completed prior to New Fantasyland. Fantasyland indeed. Guests better bring GREAT IMAGINATIONS when they enter New Fantasyland to fill in for the lack of it from current Disney leadership.

  11. Current Disney leadership wants me to decide what food I’m going to be in the mood for 180 days ahead of my vacation or go counter service. Lock in all my vacation activities and ride times on their computer. Promise to give me “free” food if I pay for it with exorbitant room and ticket prices.
    Universal, with Loew’s First gives me Portofino, a luxury 4-5 star resort, free upgrade to gigantic suite with two full baths, very nice boat ride through beautifully landscaped mile long ride to the front of the parks, $100 credit for Portofino restaurants per stay, my key skips almost all lines at the parks. I can ride what I want, when I want, at any moment. I can eat what I’m in the mood for at any moment. My Portofino annual pass discount allows me all this for the same price as ONE room with ONE bathroom only, at a moderate Disney resort. My Portofino Bay view suite is almost always less than TWO ROOMS at a Disney VALUE resort with a bus ride!
    Disney; “Please don’t go to Universal! I’ll give you “free” food if you promise not to leave our grounds for 7 days”. Time to wake up folks. This is lame and embarrassing!

  12. “Yes, but can you put a price on not having to wait in the stand-by line for Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment?”

    That is so funny! Also, unfortunately true. Forget the rumors of the imagination pavilion refurb, that ride is a prime example of Disneys lack of trying because they know they have the customer base in Florida. How is it even possible that in 2013 with all the technology we have, that an attraction is far worse then it was in 1990? That ride is a walk on, along with countless others. Universal knows what its doing. However, I’m one of the crazy Disney fans who will love it no matter what. That might just be whats stopping WDW from returning to the vacation kingdom of the world. Guests like me who have an emotional attachment to the park and will love it in some way no matter what or what isn’t done. Disney really needs to step it up, and as much as this My Magic + is not necessary, who knows what Disney has planned for the future…maybe there is more to it then they are sharing at this point. Time will tell.

  13. Yes, I understand the emotional connection with WDW. I think Disneyland deserves it but WDW not so much. It’s not hard to imagine WDW turning into the Nursing Home of Theme Parks. Some of us old coots going to ride Haunted Mansion, or Pirates, our Peter Pan while the cool teenagers pronounce WDW as the has been. Preteens will want to copy the cool teenagers and go to the cool Universal parks that rose up and appreciated the theme park guests who pay the bills.
    Old guests pushing walkers at WDW will mutter to themselves, “Oh yeah, what about that second Dumbo ride next to the other? Ya don’t think that’s cool! I also say Avatar is a timeless hot commodity that folks just can’t quit talking about!”
    As they push the walkers up to Pirates they say, “Stupid young people don’t know what they want to eat 180 days ahead of time…wimps!”

    • CaptainAction I believe you are correct. That is WDW continues to mine the the past emotional connection, eventually their base will die off.

      I know a lot of kids growing up right now, who have a very strong emotional connection to Universal Studios. It is pretty incredible.

      In my own family I have nieces and a nephew, who talk all the time about how they can’t wait to come back, and dance with minions, meet up with Captain America, ride Men In Black etc.

      These are going to the be classic rides of their childhood.

  14. Is there a map to see what pieces of land Universal bought?

    I hope a part of the new money go’s into doing something new where now the horrible Fear Factor show is. I hate it! If it was up to me they level it and extend Harry Potter.
    Also it would be nice to see them do something permanent in the Cartoon stadium (not sure how it’s called). Except from an awful BMX show I haven’t seen it used for anything. Universal does a great show with the Grinch each Christmas so I know they can make a good show but it’s something the park lacks.
    I also hope they but a great log ride in Universal. The current one in Islands is awful. Because of my arthritis I can’t get into these horrible seats anymore. Please copy the logs from Magic Kingdom.