Universal Studios Hollywood Gearing Up For Harry Potter And Springfield

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in In the Parks

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Published on January 12, 2014 at 3:00 am with 51 Comments

Hooray for Hollywood folks! While Disneyland has no major attraction projects under construction down in Anaheim, Universal Studios is wasting no time lining up projects for the next few years.  Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, Harry Potter, Springfield, and a host of other things are already being built, along with one or two projects we are still getting information on.  So let’s jump right in and see how things are shaping up for Universal Hollywood in 2014.

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As we enter the upper lot there is a lot of action and darting about as people plan out their day at the park. Along the entrance corridor we glance at the productions happening on the lower lot.

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Central Plaza

The Universal Central Plaza finished hosting its first Grinchmas. The Plaza was behind walls for most of the week as the whimsical holiday event was removed.

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The massive tree was flanked with cranes and workers as they worked to dismantle this massive tree on Wednesday the 8th.

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Baker Street

Heading to the left of the Central Plaza we enter Baker Street.  It is still covered in a winter set dressing.  But, a new vendor has popped up.  Care for a personalized leather bracelet?

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Well, we give them props for themeing the kiosk, but leather bracelets? We suppose that someone will be excited about this.

 

DESPICABLE ME: Minion Mayhem

Let’s just call it right now, Hollywood has a better façade than Orlando for this attraction. Minion Mayhem is a family friendly simulator attraction ported over from Universal Orlando.  But here, there was much more building to obscure.  So, they built out Gru’s neighborhood and the orphanage to hide the massive show building that was originally constructed for Terminator 2: 3D.

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The façade is truly impressive and a sight to see.  But, it’s a little odd in that it’s butted up so close to Baker Street, an England style setting.  Nit picking to be sure, but it leads one to wonder if they will address this in the future.

 

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If we go around the right side of the construction walls we can see the exit area for the attraction coming along as well.  It is themed to the film’s fictitious theme park, Super Silly Funland and will feature a spinner flat ride.  Think Dumbo but far more irreverent.

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You can see the cement foundation already set and the perimeter of the attraction outlined by the whimsical flagpoles.

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SPRINGFIELD

As we wander away from Despicable Me, we head towards another large project, the addition of Springfield to the area around the Simpson’s ride.  The Springfield expansion in Orlando proved to be a huge success and now Hollywood wants its own version.  Soon, those in the LA area will be able to drink a Flamin’ Moe or eat a Ribwich.

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As you can see, everything from the Cantina to Doc Brown’s Chicken has now been shuttered.  Expect to see these food service locations return in the form of a food court, Simpson’s Style.

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There is even some work happening in front of the Simpsons Ride.  We have reason to believe this is where they will be putting the new midway games, similar to the ones installed in Florida near the Simpsons Ride there.

 

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Yessir, soon we will be embiggened with the spirit of Jebediah Springfield as the town comes to life.

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Doc Browns, now behind walls.

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Studio Tour

The Studio Tour is still, to this day, a unique experience among theme parks.  A dynamic attraction that can change day to day, based on the availability of the backlot due to live filming.  There was a ton of filming going on at the studio this week, but the tram is a noisy beast, so we experienced multiple quiet areas where the tour guide could not talk.

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There are a few things to note about the tram tour.  To begin with, we couldn’t be happier that, since the summer, we have not had to be subjected to Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift (or cars on a stick as Dusty likes to call it).  A curious development, to be sure since this was not a very complicated attraction on the studio tour and hasn’t been there for very long.

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Over near Falls lake, we can clearly see now that the old Mummy Tunnel has been removed. The tunnel dates back to the days of the Six Million Dollar Man and has received many updates over the years. But no more. Though, it looks like this is an active project area, so something new appears to be on the way for the tram tour.
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The tram now drives along the backside of the Falls Lake backdrop for now.

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From another angle we can look down on Falls Lake at what appears to be a rather large project.

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This is all that is left of The Mummy tunnel.

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They are moving pretty fast here. But fans won’t be too furious if something good ends up in this spot.

 

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On the far end of Falls Lake we can see construction trailers.

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Are these just for Harry Potter?

Harry Potter

We now look at the major expansion in the center of the park, Harry Potter.  The land for the new expansion has been leveled and vertical construction should begin soon.

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CityWalk is in the background, just outside the park border.

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They are now drilling deep.

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Just to the right we can see the backside of the Shrek 4D building.

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The large gray building in the background is the movie theater and IMAX screen in CityWalk.

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Just off to the south of the construction site, Universal is using an area to fabricate the steel frame for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and possibly whatever is going on at Falls Lake.

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Seeing the Harry Potter construction from another angle, we see that there is a bit of vertical construction already happening.

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Again, the backside of the Shrek 4D building, butting right up against the site.

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A tent from Springfield sits, waiting to be used again.

And that’s a wrap from Universal Studios Hollywood.  It’s an exciting time to be a fan of this park, as massive projects are set to completely transform it in the next few years.

Stay tuned for more updates from Universal and we will see you In The Parks.

 

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.

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  • StevenW

    The Terminator building needs to be covered up completely. You can still see the blue paint behind the Gru façades. There’s so much concrete. They need more green spaces.

    The Simpsons area is a mess. I wonder how the food court will look. I hope the add at least one more Simpsons attractions.

  • CaptainAction

    Norman,
    Thanks for a great update. I feel like I was there and have a great idea of all the new stuff Universal Hollywood is up to.
    Our family of 5 just got back from our New Years trip to Universal Orlando. It was our first time to really experience the Springfield area as it opened just as we left our last vacation in early June.
    We got to be in the first 100 folks to ride the Transformers ride at the end of May. Only construction folks and castmember’s and their family had been able to ride. We loved Transformers but missed most of Springfield on that trip.
    Our family is from 11 – 53 and we all really think that their are just so many funny things all over Springfield that you can almost find something you didn’t hear, read, or see, almost every time you go.
    We just discovered the phone in Moe’s which Bart rings with his prank calls.
    I asked the castmember at one of the food stands if my AP discount applied and he said, “I’m sorry, no, that Krusty is a stinking, greedy, clown.” There is a ton of mocking of theme park rip offs.
    The food is really unique for a theme park. We liked most of the things we tried but you can’t do much of it our you’ll put on 5 pounds real quick.

  • Malin

    Sad to see the last reference to Back to the Future close for ever at the Park. Not against adding Springfield to the Park but I hope the seating area will be expanded. It’s rather difficult to get a spot during the peak times like Summer. So more seating is needed… Especially with the likely higher demand for Krusty’s…

  • Haven

    Very fun to see all the action Universal Hollywood is up to. I am most excited about Harry Potter making his way to the West Coast. The only thing that will not be so great, is the massive crowds that will ensue after it opens (well bad for the guest, not for Universal). If Florida’s version was any indication of what is to come, the best day to see this new attraction would be a cold, rainy, Wednesday, hehehe. Is Hollywood still trying to build a resort hotel like they have talked about since the late 1990′s? If so, perhaps that is what is taking shape near the Falls Lake. I know they originally wanted to do this on the lower lot along the Barham Boulevard service entrance side of the property back in 1998.

  • MrTour

    Hopefully, the park will get some “flow” to it. I hear how horrible Hollywood Studios is in Paris, and can’t help but think it could be any worse that USH. As of now, there is nothing “park-like” about USH.

    Isn’t the rumor that a Fast and Furious 3D attraction will go where the Mummy Tunnel sat?

  • TacAlert

    If I am not mistaken, the tunnel was taken out to accommodate the parking structure that is being built in the E.T. lot, which is right next to the tunnel.

    USH is expecting a lot more traffic when Harry Potter opens and needs to park these cars somewhere.

    • Ryan120420

      Construction on the future E.T parking structure is well under way and does not affect the old mummy tunnel location.

      The cleared area over by falls lake is for a new tram attraction.

  • eicarr

    Hope they replace the six million dollar man Tunnel with something cool. The tour is the reason I go… not the biggest fan of the rides transplanted from Orlando so far. However, the step up in theming at minions and potter is a major step in turning it into a full day experience for me. Now I just rush through the tour and 1-2 rides and leave to beat traffic at my aneheim motel and spend the afternoon in Cars Land.

  • jasmineray

    This is all so exciting. This year is USH’s 50th anniversary… I’m hoping they secretly have something planned, even with all the construction going on.

    In regards to Despicable Me being at the end of Baker Street, where else is it going to go? USH is more landlocked than Disneyland is. Its placement looks fine to me. If we can talk about Despicable Me’s placement issues, we can definitely talk about Splash Mountain at Disneyland and how it’s so close to Haunted Mansion.

  • thegreatness

    It’s depressing to see that USH’s big updates are all existing attractions – most of which didn’t blow me away the first time – from the Orlando parks.

    Of course Forbidden Journey will be a great success but I personally don’t find that ride to be overly incredible. You think with the money they invested the could get the projection screen quality to a better level… Hopefully they figure out a way in the Hollywood version, then it might actually be worth riding. And even then that ride has very little appeal to riding it more than once. In Orlando they did a fairly good job of retheming the existing coasters to match but USH doesn’t have that option so the remaining available space will be shops. In USO, when they ran out of room for more shops they put in facades of fake shops. I’m sure they squeeze in a small Olivanders experience too, although it’s hard to imagine a smaller experience than the one in Orlando. But it does exactly what it was designed to do, sell $35 plastic wands

    • thegreatness

      Of course bringing WWOHP to Hollywood has nothing to do with anything other than stuffing Universal’s pockets with money from the biggest cash cow they have ever had during their time in the theme park industry.

      Minion Mayhem is a cute little ride but again it’s a carbon copy and it’s definitely not an E-ticket attraction.

      As far as Springfield is concerned, how can anyone get excited over a couple standard food offerings and new shops?

      USO’s last big update, Transformers, was this exact same process in reverse, take a carbon copy from Hollywood and open it in Orlando. Of course it looks nice but that ride system is already in use and the Transformers movies have gotten worse with every subsequent sequel to the point that if another film comes out I might not even spend the dollar to redbox it when it hits DVD.

      The combination of lackluster updates and the droves of fans who will inevitably clog the park up for months for HP will make it easy to skip over USH for the next few years.

      • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

        But at least Universal Hollywood has some big things under construction. Nothing new has broken ground yet at Disneyland. Kudos to Uni for stepping things up!

      • Internitty

        Exactly Dusty and let me think doesn’t WDW have a Haunted Mansion, a Tiki Room, Pirates of The Caribbean and a few other rides that were in Disneyland first? It’s illogical to think a franchise is not going to use its strongest products in all its parks. Some of us can’t go to Florida when we come to the USA either so thank goodness Uni is finally bringing all these things to somewhere we can see them, can’t wait to try Butter Beer :)

      • BradyNBradleysMom

        I’d like to address the comment made by “thegreatness”.

        My family makes it out to California about once a year because my husband attends a work convention in Anaheim every fall. We have never once visited the Universal park in California. It just had nothing interesting to us. We drive all around LA when we are out there and we see the studios (Paramount, Warner Bros, Disney, etc) and we just never felt like taking the Universal tour or seeing any attractions they had there.

        But, when Potter opens up at Universal, we will be going there from now on whenever we are in California. I don’t know if it will be a whole day, but we will definitely be buying tickets and seeing Potter and experiencing that.

        It’s similar to how we never went to Universal in Florida until Potter opened there and now I can’t imagine doing a Florida trip without having one day to do the Potter at Universal.

        As for the Springfield food court, I think it’s a fun theming. I think I would like the chicken and waffle sandwich and my husband would like the ribwich. My boys will like the Krusty Burger theme. It sure makes more sense than Doc Brown’s Chicken Shack that it is replacing.

        Though, to be honest, what I REALLY want is to be able to eat in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. I’d love if they had a restaurant in there, themed to Harry Potter, and we could eat at the tables of the various houses at Hogwart’s. They could have it as a big buffet. We’d eat there every time if that was a real place we could go.

      • CaptainAction

        Wow, the greatness, maybe you should change your name to the damp rag.

        Springfield is not two standard food options. Either you have never been or you are a Disney Castmember.

        WWOHP and Diagon Alley with Hogwarts Train may just put Universal within striking distance of beating AK, Dis Studios, and/or Epcot, but you don’t like WWOHP?!?
        If WWOHP doesn’t have the appeal to ride more than once then what does? Lame Little Mermaid? Dumbo? Small World? Pinocchio? Casey Jr?

        Minion Mayhem has a wait of 45 – 170 minutes almost all the time and you don’t like it.

        Were you once fired from Universal?

  • Bigben51602

    The despicable me are looks better than I Expected. The flag poles for the spinner ride look just like the target poles on the USO Kang ride so it looks like ours will have the same feature. I’m so sad that they took out the mummy tunnel, I’ve had many dizzying trips thru there over the decades. I’m not so excited for the Hogwarts expansion because of the lack of space ours will be severely watered compared to IOA.

    • Ryan120420

      You should be excited for WWOHP here in Hollywood!

      Hollywood is getting an exact clone of whats in Orlando, minus Dragons Challenge and Diagon Alley.

      There will be nothing watered down about this expansion!

      • Bigben51602

        I can go without the dragon coaster or flight of the hippogriff, but without diagon alley it’s is watered down to just the hogwarts castle and that is not the full experience of WWOHP

      • Internitty

        It’s only stage one so those things might come when they work out how to fit them in

  • Algernon

    I can’t wait to walk through Springfield.

    I hope the cars on a stick is gone for good.

    • CaptainAction

      Yes you will love Springfield. It’s hilarious. There is just funny stuff everywhere. Phones are ringing with funny comments, funny comments on signs, funny comments from castmembers, funny comments from attractions.

  • airick75

    They seem to crank out a ton of those leather bracelets in Frontierland at DL, so that little kiosk may do very well. I once waited in a line of at least a dozen people in Frontierland. They also did a steady business in Florida at the Animal Kingdom.

    And to some of the criticisms above, I always enjoyed USH – it’s like a cute, little park. It was fun and a little different. Definitely not DL, but it was good for what it was. And I loved the setting high up on the hill. I loved going down and up from the lower lot. I’m not even much of a fan of a lot of their properties, but I still enjoyed the park.

  • janvincent_1313

    How exciting! This makes me actually want to go to Universal Studios now. Loved the cars on a stick reference!

  • Director_Guy

    It’s sad Doc Brown has been given the boot by the Simpsons twice now. But, the replacment seems to be perfectly cromulent.

    A lot of you are complaining about Potter, but I couldn’t be more excited. The attraction I’m looking forward to the most? Butterbeer!

  • scarymouse

    Its nice to see new construction going on, anything is better than nothing. I for one can’t wait for potterland. It seems that Disney needs to get their priorities straight and get something going towards the direction of a new attraction like speederbikes or whatever instead of thinking of the elite and a new club 33. Thanks for the update Fish.