Gru has summoned MiceChat to Universal Studios Hollywood for a tour of his new lair.  Who were we to say no?  Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem is set to open in spring 2014 and we got an exclusive first look at the progress inside.  We then take the opportunity to tour the other areas of the park.  For instance, there is a little project they are throwing together called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter which is taking up one third of their upper lot.  We think it might be big.  There is also the addition of what could be a west coast version of Springfield from The Simpsons that is under construction.  Then we take a tour of the Studio Lot to check up on the Front and Back Lots.  Let’s get started!

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem

We have a very special treat for you today.  Universal Studios Hollywood invited us in to see how things are going at the new Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem construction site.  With a tentative opening sometime in the spring, Despicable Me invites park guests to visit Gru’s foreboding hideout to become one of his adorable yellow Minions.  Riders will board training pods (motion simulator platforms) and go for a Digital 3D romp through Gru’s underground labs with the aim to join his ranks.

It was a no-brainer to bring this popular, popular attraction to Universal’s other parks.  The Hollywood team, lead by Show Producer Jon Corfino, had a lot more space to play with in building the west coast version of this attraction.  The construction site, which encompasses the former Terminator 2: 3D building and surrounding area is a hive of activity as they race to complete the new additions in time.

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The main attraction is almost completely done, with just a few final touches being made inside. Stepping behind the construction walls, we were literally up against the foundation of the new, expansive façade.  Leading us to one of the many front doors in the new neighborhood, Corfino triggered a doorbell. There are some ingenious audio surprises to be found here featuring Margo, Edith, Agnes, and the Minions.  It’s a detail that guests will have a great time playing with while in the queue.

The exterior queue utilizes the same space Terminator did, with switchbacks and a ramp that leads up to the interior pre-show spaces.

At the top of the pathway, we approach a 3D glasses station.  Guests enter one of the attraction’s two separate pre-shows here. There are two separate pre-shows and two separate theaters. Guests will enter Theater A by heading into the original entrance or Theater B by making a sharp right.

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Once inside, there is some brilliant themeing which makes you feel like you are in Gru’s home. Guests will be divided into rows of 6 and greeted via overhead screens by the Minions and the rest of the Gru crew.

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As with the Orlando version, little jokes are spread out everywhere.

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We entered the next pre-show room and, again, the aesthetic is identical to Florida.  Here we are deeper into Gru’s lair and we are about to be recruited as a minion.  The construction crew was still in the process of installing the guide rails in this room.

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After being blasted by a Fart gun, we continue on our bend to the left. Although, now, there is absolutely no resemblance to the former attraction. In fact, everything was custom built. Jon Corfino explained that once they gutted the attraction and stripped everything to its bare framework, they built what they needed from scratch.

Entering the main training room, there is a far more intimate feel to this version.  It’s not due to the capacity or size.  It is because the attraction was built with a far more elegant execution.  The simulator platforms here are totally hidden, completely level to the floor.  There are twelve total platforms in three separate rows; five in the back, four in the middle, and three in the front.  They are all facing the large screen that towers before them.

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The walls are made of sound proofing material with the cartoonish, metallic patterns actually printed on them.  Under the work lighting seen in these shots, they look fine.  But with all of the show lighting on, they are sure to look amazing.

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Looking to the rear of the training room, we see the dual projector system.
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Looking back from where we entered, we can see here that the entry doors were masked due to painting.
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Another shot from the same angle.

After training, guests exit through a long hallway and are greeted with the disco-dancing Minions.  As we visited the dance room the crews were hard at work, installing the massive mirror-ball that would be rotating above the dance floor.

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Exiting another long, winding hallway, we transition into the gift shop.  But this isn’t just any gift shop.  No, we have now entered Super Silly Fun Land.  As you can see, the store is still under construction.  But this will soon resemble a sea-side amusement store with all the trimmings.

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In Orlando, the experience would end here.  But, since there was a bit more room, they have gone on to build Super Silly Fun Land, complete with a spinner flat-ride, a brand new water play area (which includes changing rooms), a dry play area, a brand new Despicable Me counter service restaurant, complete with Gru-themed eats, and plenty of umbrella-covered seating.

We were prepared to share with you the images we shot while touring the Super Silly Fun Land construction site.  However, we were asked not to share them until we could accompany them with approved concept art of the final product.  So, we will stop the tour here and pick it up the minute we can share the photos with you.  Trust us, it will be worth the wait!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Now, while there is plenty of fun about to bust wide open at the end of Baker Street, there is still an even bigger project happening on the opposite side of the Upper Lot.  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter continues to gain steam with the land being prepped, leveled, compacted and stabilized.

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To give you an idea of the scale, that grey building in the background is a full-sized IMAX screen at Universal City Walk.

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From the opposite angle, we look towards the park with Shrek 3D in the background.

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The cranes are insanely tall.
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The base of the crane already has pre-fabricated, steel frames being staged at its base.

 

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The framework is being constructed on-site, next to the Curious George parking garage.

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From inside the park we see the ubiquitous, large crane.

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Walls near the Studio Tour funnel guests away from the construction site.

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Springfield

As if they didn’t have a number of major projects in the work, they are also in the process of constructing what appears to be a west coast version of Springfield.  We believe the front of The Simpsons Ride will feature midway games and is currently behind construction walls.

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Studio Tour

To round things out, we take a look at what is happening on the Studio Tour.  There were a few surprises along the way on this trip.

Collapsing Bridge

In a rare occurrence, we were actually treated to a trip over the old collapsing bridge.  The old drop effect is still there and doing just fine.  But now, it is made to seem as if it is rigged with explosives, about to be blown to smithereens.

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Loud speakers blare that the set is ready for demolition and suddenly the floor drops.  At the same time, water shoots up from the lagoon below.  It still works after all these years.  Fun stuff!

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Court of Miracles

On this recent visit we also noticed that the fountain in the Court of Miracles has been removed.

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JAWS down

We can also report that Jaws is currently under refurbishment.  It’s so funny to see the lagoon dried up and boats and sharks just hanging around. “(static noise) The shark is not working.  Repeat:The shark is not working (static noise)”

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Mystery Spot gets bigger

It is now clear that the Mummy tunnel has been leveled.  It’s a major spot and isn’t likely to have been removed without some sort of replacement in mind.

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So ends another epic visit to Universal Studios Hollywood.  Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem #Minionride seems like it will be pretty impressive.  It’s soon going to be a great time to be a pass holder to Universal.