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 52 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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52 Comments

Comments for Universal Studios Hollywood Gearing Up For Harry Potter And Springfield are now closed.

  1. Cars on a stick makes me laugh!

  2. Is it okay to be more excited about future developments at Universal than at Disneyland? Feels weird.

    • Completely ok when Disney have adopted a too big to fail attitude and aren’t doing anything worth getting excited about

    • It does feel weird but their are more of us turning that direction every day.

      Disney has dropped their mantle and Universal has created their own.

  3. Looks pretty sweet. At least we have something to look forward to in Southern CA again!!!!

  4. I hope Disney is sweating Bullets right now. Maybe now they’ll think about putting Imagineering back to work at the park.

    • Me too! They seem to be too lazy to care.

      • Not sure it’s really being too lazy. I think it’s more of a financial decision based on the overspend on MM+ in Orlando and keep in mind, they are also building a completely new full park in Shanghai. Competition in the So Cal marketplace will be good, especially if Disney takes any attendance hit. If they don’t (and maybe even if they do), they will have no reason to rush to build anything new at the DLR.

  5. As someone who isn’t as fortunate as those on these boards to have been to Orlando, I for one am thrilled to see all the additions/expansions coming to USH, copies or not.

    Plus, they are cheaper than Disney, so I might just have to go to USH and let my Disney pass expire if Tomorrowland does go Star Wars.

    Potter! Potter! Potter!

  6. Harry Potter has not gone vertical in Hollywood yet. What you see is the base of the tower crane which will assist with the construction of Hogsmeade.

    Was at the park yesterday, and the two cranes that will build the actual castle have been erected and are HUGE. You can pretty much see them from every where in the park.

  7. I guess I’m really old, I still think of the Mummy Tunnel as the Six Million Dollar Man Bigfoot Ice Tunnel…

    If they’re quoting the Kang flat ride from Florida for the Super Silly Funland, is there any knowledge that Hollywood is planning a different flat ride for placemaking in their Krustyland?

    • I still think of it as the Avalanche tunnel.

  8. Actually, I’d say it’s a horrible time to be a fan of this park. Yes it’s true that a lot of things are progressing but what are we losing for it? We lost great practical and special effects shows for a simulator ride. To be fair, it’s a great ride. We lost a great simulator ride that saved the Florida park for a tacky simulator ride based on a property that Universal doesn’t own. Now they’re going to build a city around that ride. We lost a film/stage show attraction directed by the great James Cameron for a simulator ride based on a so/so property. And now we’ve lost the Mummy Tunnel that has so much history to it, to film and tv and to the tour, possibly for another property Universal doesn’t own. I weep for Universal and it’s history.

    • Problem with that is that the Water World show was just embarrassing, the Terminator has had its day and the show was dated and tacky. They are making much better use of the space now and probably sometime in the future will re-purpose these areas for something more current. I would have loved to have seen Back To The Future but when was the last film? Where is the relevance? Universal is not a nostalgia park (with some exceptions like the Psycho house and a couple of other classic sets) like Disneyland which takes you directly into nostalgia and the past as soon as you walk through the gates of both Disneyland and DCA. The movie industry is a dynamic, constantly changing industry, I personally think it’s great for them to upgrade and update and I hope it becomes part of their continued operations.

    • I can tell you that I have very little desire to spend time at Universal. I really enjoy the tram tour but it doesn’t have the repeatablility that other attractions have. The rides are good but not as enjoyable for me. Even with DL in hold mode, I’d still rather spend my time and money here versus USH. I will for sure go back once Potter settles in.

  9. Someday we’ll probably visit Universal here in California, but I have yet to see something there that makes me want to spend a day away from Disney and the extra money. I’d probably rather check out the new Diagon Alley in Florida vs. Potter land in California.

  10. Nice to see the investment in the future of the park. Unlike Datedland to the south, which is nothing more than a museum.

  11. [...] Story 6: New Hollywood [...]

  12. Nice update on USH.

    The last reference from Back to Future is still there-the famed Courthouse Square-it’s just not themed to Back to the Future.
    I can’t wait for Despicable Me! The outside facade is very close to the film.
    While I was never a fan of the tunnel, I am sad to see it has been demolished. It was so iconic!

  13. Keep the updates coming. I get to California about once every 6-7 years so am looking forward to the additions.
    The backlot is always fun…I’ve seen so many changes over the years and hope they continue to add for new experiences. I remember the old avalanche vividly and really think all the little “shows” on the backlot really make it a fun experience, so hoping for something new before our late summer trip.

  14. Captain Action are you on Universal’s payroll ? I can’t speak on Universal ORLANDO because I have never been there but out here in California Disneyland has no competition. I mean we re comparing apples and oranges here. Yay… (Sarcasm) even with the Harry Potter expansion maybe just maybe USH will finally be a day park … If you kill a few hours at the citi walk that is. And I assume it’s the same with comparing Disney World and USO. Yes it’s taking time for Disney to build some new things but is everyone really that short sighted? So Universal has had a few good years … they are still WAY behind. In a few years when Disney is building all of their major projects and Univeral is taking a break then what ? Disney is not and don’t have to be in a race because they re LAPS Ahead of the competition. I’m not saying I don’t want anything new because I do. But be a little patient. I think Disney has earned that.

    • I believe there is much more to do at USH than you might be giving them credit for. When we travel South, we always spend a couple of days at Universal in California. We spend more days at Disneyland, but Universal is a different experience and we cherish it. We normally take in the VIP Tour once every trip because this is a way to be treated like movie royalty and see things that so few others will see. Plus Universal is a working, busy movie studio and there’s lots of actual production going on constantly. You never have the same visit twice and that can be a lot of fun for all ages. Sure we do Disneyland more, because they have more attractions overall, but Universal has some pretty epic attractions themselves and they do not pale in comparison to Disney’s. Both parks are well worth the visit.

      We have found Universal to be a required visit every trip….. just like Disneyland. By the way, I am not on Universals payroll and i don’t believe CaptainAction is either. Just fans who appreciate what Universal is doing for its guests.

    • No, not on the payroll at Universal. See Country Bears comments as he pretty well covered it.

      I think Disneyland has made pretty good use of their land locked opportunities but WDW has really been insulting the guests for the past 10 years while Universal Orlando has been showing a lot of love to the guests. The WDW Magic Handcuffs and New Fantasyland sealed the deal for many former fans of WDW to wake up and realize how little respect current WDW leadership has for their fan base. WDW is now depending on and catering to the uninformed theme park guests who hit the parks infrequently.

      You really should come visit Universal Orlando and stay on property. The benefits, new lands, new attractions, etc are really amazing.

      Country Bear, can you tell me about the VIP Tour at Universal Hollywood? We always visit this park and love the history but haven’t done the VIP Tour. Thanks

      • CaptainAction, the VIP tour at USH is thrilling. It’s difficult to convey how you feel as you enjoy it, but the benefits are many and it will stay in your mind forever.
        They start the day (early) with complimentary valet parking just 100 feet from the front gate then a greeting area that includes food items and beverages which sets the one for the day. Everything is included with the tour. You then board a small tram with a maximum of 14 people and head into the park. They do a lot of the normal tram things like Kong, Earthquake (you get to stay and watch it reset itself), backlot, etc. But it’s the level of immersion that is so appealing. We’ve done this three times now and each time has been remarkably different. Your tram actually stops on sets and you get to walk around and take pictures and experience them in your own way. Some of our past walk around experiences have included Western Town, Bates Motel, New York Street, War of the Worlds Crash Scene, Wisteria Lane (Desperate Housewives street), Sound Production Studios (with an actual demo by an engineer), Production Sets (Ghost Whisperer and a few others). You tour the props area, the set construction shops, wardrobe dept, etc. On one trip we were taken into the historic Phantom of the Opera Soundstage from the 20′s.
        They feed you an amazing upscale lunch buffet (same one that the Universal Executives eat at) and they take you on most rides and shows with front of line access and reserved seating. When the tour is done, you can use front of line for the rest of the day at your own pace and get a 20% discount on all merchandise and food purchases.
        I’m not mentioning everything but the intimate tour is an awesome way to see the park and production studio. Most importantly, they make you feel like you are Hollywood elite and they ensure you have everything you want to enjoy the day. They really make you feel special. It’s not cheap at $200.00+ per person, but it was worth every cent to us three times now.

  15. Bigben, WWoHP is more than just Hogwarts castle. It’s also the village of Hogsmeade, which I personally enjoyed even more than forbidden journey. I haven’t experienced a more ”immersive” environment for years,even without Diagon Alley. From the merch to the food and drink selections, it’s all fabulous, like Main Street in the 60′s when Walt was still alive, and I’ve experienced both. And it’s winter all summer!
    Caption Action, I haven’t done the Uni VIP tour, but I’ve wanted to since I first heard about it.
    Apart from a small tour group, with a private guide, they treat you like celebs for the tour, with the regular backlot tram tourists sometimes buying into it, front of line access, and they take you to a few otherwise inaccessible areas, depending on availablity, like
    the wardrobe dept with labels identifying movies, or the props dept, ditto. If this info on the tour isn’t accurate, someone please correct me.

    • fnord, sounds like the Universal VIP tour in Hollywood would be something our family would really enjoy. Got to work on putting that together.
      Thanks for info.