Universal Studios Hollywood and the Harry Potter Project

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in Features, In the Parks, Universal Hollywood, Universal Studios

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Published on April 04, 2014 at 3:00 am with 19 Comments

Universal Studios Hollywood is a flurry of activity as a new attraction opens and another is under major construction. Today, we stroll through SoCal’s busiest theme park construction project since DCA 2.0 and see all of the jaw-droppingly huge projects that Universal Hollywood is undertaking at the moment: Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Super Silly Fun Land, Despcable Me Minion Mayhem, Springfield and a secret project on the world famous Studio Tour.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

We begin at the site of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on the upper lot.  Taking all, and more, of the space left from the Gibson Amphitheater, the project is coming along nicely.

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The show building for Forbidden Journey is almost all framed up.

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Notice how the construction cranes tower over the movie theaters in City Walk. It’s going to be huge.

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The same crane from inside the park. (The crane was in motion at the time of these pics)

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From just below the top of the hill on the Studio Tour tram route.

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The Crane and show building from the backlot area below.

Below, near the load/unload area of the Studio Tour we can see more.  This is what will end up being the lower back side of the construction.

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From the left hand side of the construction we can see around the large show building into the center of the site.

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We are insanely excited for the WIzarding World of Harry Potter.  Who’s ready for a Butter Beer?

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

The Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction has been enjoying continuous soft openings since previews began on March 21st.  Just next door, Super Silly Fun Land is still under construction.  In fact, it will be a photo finish for this whimsical amusement area based on the seaside pier in the film, Despicable Me. The area is set to officially open on April 11th.

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Exiting Minion Mayhem, there is a dry playground area to the left.

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The Super Swirly flat ride is testing regularly and Team Members were being trained as we visited.

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To the right, we can see the midway games.

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Midway games. $5 per play.

Universal Plaza

As we walk through the center of the park, we see how the Universal Plaza is performing as the hub for the park.  Kids in particular seem to be loving the fountain.

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Springfield

As we head to the Studio Tour, we pass through what we believe will be the west coast version of Springfield.  I can just taste those Flamin’ Moes now.

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Studio Tour

Time for a ride on the world famous Studio Tour.  Everything looked great and was working perfectly on our trip through.  Here are a few highlights.

Jaws

The classic Jaws stop on the Studio Tour has finally returned.

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“See my clean, new choppers?”

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Mystery Project

The mystery project along the back of the tram tour continues to grow in scope and clarity.  We should be hearing something about this project soon.  Is it a new parking garage?  A new Studio Tour attraction? Is it the world’s largest Tram Drive-thru McDonalds? All should be revealed soon enough. For now, we are just amazed to see yet more construction at Uni Hollywood.

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That’s a wrap for our Universal Studios Hollywood update this week. As Uni ramps up their construction projects we’ll be increasing the number of updates from this park in our Friday column.

We will be back on Monday with a brand new Monday In the Parks from Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (while Andy Castro takes time off for a big school project).  See you Monday!

 

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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19 Comments

Comments for Universal Studios Hollywood and the Harry Potter Project are now closed.

  1. Thanks Norm! Great shots. Heard anything about timeframe for completing Springfield?
    Thanks again.

  2. Thank you, Norman!
    We’re excited about this and it should be interesting to see it get really tall!

    I wonder if this Hogwarts will be as tall as the one at Universal Orlando, which is taller than Cinderella’s Castle,
    and
    will it be visible from the San Fernando freeways below? That would be impressive marketing!

    I hope this has enough differences from Universal Orlando to make visiting both Wizarding World’s of Harry Potter worthwhile.

    • I heard a rumor early on that Universal was learning from the mistakes made with the first Hogsmeade/Hogwarts. One of the big ones was that they did not build the Hogwarts dining hall as a restaurant…you know, where you could actually eat in the castle at those long tables for each of the houses and up in the front of the room would be where the teachers ate on that dais and there was the podium where Dumbledore always made his speeches. Above you would be the floating candles and the sky that turned from blue to stars to storms etc.

      They could very easily have this be a buffet or something of that nature and my family would eat there very time we were in the park. It would be fabulous. I cannot understand why they would not build something like this in the Hollywood version. It seems like such a no brainer.

      But, then again, I’ve never understood just having a castle without letting people be able to go “inside” it. I love Cinderella’s Table in WDW and would love the chance to eat inside Hogwarts. I never heard anything more about this concept of a “dining hall” after those initial rumors though so I don’t know if this will be included. Universal is leaving money on the table for sure by not having this. The Three Broomsticks to me is a place to get butterbeer and I am not in love with English pub food enough to want to have a full meal in there. But boy would I ever line up to eat inside the Hogwarts huge dining room.

      That could be Universal’s answer to “Be Our Guest”, which apparently is making a ton of revenue for Disney in WDW.

      • Good idea, BradleyandBrady’sMom!
        Who wouldn’t want to eat in the great hall?
        But can Universal make the ceiling into a starry sky? (Probably)
        Or have Candlesticks floating? (No.)

        They could let certain guests eat at the faculty table provided they dressed like different faculty members. Maybe a Universal cast member could be Dumbledore and introduce the sorting hat. And Universal could have a $2-per-kid surcharge for children who insist on eating at the Gryffindore table.

  3. Visited the park last week. The Despicable Me area looks really good. Hitting all the door bells is a lot of fun. I would recommend doing transformers before Despicable Me. The 3d is pretty intense, especially from the front row and can be tough on those prone to motion sickness. I couldn’t really see the prices posted on the midway games in Springfield. It would be nice to see the prices properly displayed and not use such a small hoop for the basketball shot, especially since they have you shooting from 3 point distance. The fountain area does look really nice.

  4. “Universal Studios Hollywood is a flurry of activity as a new attraction opens and another is under major construction.” Meanwhile, Disneyland is a flurry of activity as they install safety railings on rides and add to Club 33.

    I will use my Universal ($84) annual pass for the first time right after the Spring Break crowds diminish.

    • I think it always needs to be pointed out that when comparing Disney and Universal you should be fair. This is not an apples to apples situation right now. Let’s be honest: Universal needed to spend a ton of money to bring its parks up in standards and quality to attract more guests and make people feel like they had to include Universal for a day during their trip to LA. Disney as a business has not had to invest that heavily in any of its parks because its attendance figures are where its shareholders want it to be. Universal’s attendance numbers were nowhere near where they needed to be.

      I think a good analogy is the food world. If Disney was a restaurant, it would be a successful TGI Friday’s kind of place in your neighborhood that is always packed, even on a weekday, and there is always a line to get in. Sure, there are things I’d love to see added to the menu but Disney has little interest in taking advice or ideas from its guests because management sees it is always busy and so “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Experts who do focus groups and business projections say there is no reason to change up the menu for many years in the future.

      Across the street from TGI Fridays is a greasy spoon diner that wants to be as busy as TGI Fridays and wants to be seen as real competition for that chain. For decades, it’s been an “also-ran” and a place that people have gone when the other restaurant was too busy or maybe too expensive. But, no one was lining up for miles to get into this place. New owners have decided to open the floodgates and pour tons of much-needed capital into improving the look of this place and adding things to the menu to attract new customers. But a lot of money and effort is needed to shake the greasy spoon image. Will they succeed in becoming busier? I think so. Will they ever take people away from the TGI Fridays and jeopardize its business? No, not really.

      What I see happening is that people who love Harry Potter will be making a trip to Los Angeles that they otherwise would not have made, just to experience the Universal Hollywood Potter. And while they are there, they will also go to Disneyland and DCA. So, Disney benefits from that because instead of spending a fortune to build something to attract people who weren’t coming to Disney before they are letting Universal build the magnet to attract these new customers.

      I think if people were planning on spending four days in LA that what’s going to happen is that one day that would have been spent sightseeing around Hollywood is now going to be spent in Universal at Potter. Let’s face it, Hollywood itself is really disappointing. I’ve had a lot of friends who planned for a day to be down there and then regretted it because what you think of as “Hollywood” with the Chinese Theater and walk of fame is really just two or three blocks and then it gets seedy in either direction. Not worth a day. The Tar Pits and other LA attractions like the Griffith Park Observatory are not really all that great either. It all looks better on TV and in postcards.

      I don’t think people are ever going to skip going to Disneyland/DCA but I also think that most people spend a maximum of two days at the DLR. Maybe some will cut that to just one day and the other day will be at Universal, but really I think there is so much to do at DLR that two days is just right. That third day will be at Universal though, definitely. Potter is worth at least half a day at Universal (with the other half heading down to checkout the Chinese Theater or something).

      I will tell you that my family went to Universal once years ago, just to see it. I thought it was junky. But, when Potter opens I can’t imagine being in LA and NOT going there and having a butterbeer and spending time in Hogsmeade. Potter is the only thing they could have built that would draw me to Universal for a day…but it’s not going to stop me from going to DLR for our usual two days. What we won’t be doing is going around LA to random things like the Queen Mary or the art museum or making a day trip down to San Diego or whatever. That will be cut in favor of Potter for us.

      • Fanboys are so cute. It’s so entertaining seeing people fight over which park is better.

      • If you haven’t been to USH lately, you should try out the Jurassic Park and The Simpsons rides. They really are first class.

        When I write stuff like this, I’m just trying to push Disney into getting with it. In my view, they have deliberately made Disneyland worse in order to pump up the previously failed DCA, hoping more people will go there, to justify their $1 billion expenditure. Why else would they have left Alice in Wonderland with those horrible tarps for so long? And the place really is overgrown with trees. Trees are nice, but so is blue sky, sunshine and the Disneyland buildings. Plus they throw off the forced perspective of the areas. They need to go back to the way Main Street used to look and get rid of the European style paving stones while they’re at it.

      • Jurassic Park was broken when we went in 2012. That didn’t stop them from running the ride, but it was disappointing when I finally got to ride it after having wanted to since it opened, and dinosaurs weren’t moving, a smashed car was somehow magically stuck halfway up a wall, and the T. rex was just covered by a black tarp. Is it still broken?

        Universal is an also-ran, just as BradyNBradleysMom said. We finally went on the tail end of a day in Hollywood, just for a couple hours, and my general thought was that it was only worth a couple hours but too expensive for those couple hours. Not a good value-for-time ration there. Contrary to what she said, Hollywood has a lot of interesting things if you’re actually interested in Hollywood history (historic sites, studios, hotels, museums, theatres, etc.), and Universal plays into that by offering the studio tour. Also, Griffith Park, the observatory, and the La Brea Tar Pits are AWESOME! In fact, if you’re a Disney fan you SHOULD be checking out Walt’s Barn in Griffith Park.

        At Universal we did Jurassic Park (which was broken), The Mummy twice (which was underwhelming and I got a stream of water in my ear), the studio tour, and the House of Horrors. If we had time to do The Simpsons that would have been one more thing. Otherwise, nothing else was really interesting. Adding Harry Potter (and ideally fixing Jurassic Park) would furnish our only conceivable reason for going back.

  5. I don’t get why Disney fans feel offended when Comcast decided to invest money into USH. It’s like they think USH is trying to replace Disneyland, when it’s not. Hell USH encourages you to go to Disneyland Resort, they sell ticket packages at their ticket booths. I’m glad USH is out of its dark era of GE and fixing all the damage its former parent company left. Sure is going to be a great time for all us locals in the next few years.

  6. Let’s see if I can relate this post to Universal Hollywood in the end. . .

    One the best ways Disneyland could celebrate its 60th and Walt’s dream that Disneyland will never be “finished” would be to make Tomorrowland a mess of construction activity.

    Rip out the abandoned Peoplemover track (or much better yet, add a new OSHA acceptable Peoplemover), rip out the abandoned Motorboat area and the 3D theater. Rip out the sight blocking and people-congesting rocks at the entry and move the AstroOrbiter back atop the old Peoplemover entry building.

    And add:
    –a Stark family-hosted Carousel of Progress sponsored by Samsung (which will build into a Korea Disneyland partnership to entertain the 50 million awesome South Koreans. Samsung has mountains of money and are already into the theme park business.)

    –Lots of Star Wars areas and attractions–no Ewok village, please–including an expanded Space Mountain into “Space Mountain Range featuring Star Wars” with three different tracks–one family friendly, NO LOOPS, and with cool sights for the Peoplemover as it passes through.

    I’d like a 3D 360 World Tour too with some older, restored 360 films shown fairly often there too.

    A physics and chemistry show could be uplifting.

    And Universal Hollywood can then come back with something cool.

    • I would love to see a Carrousel of Progress brought back. But I would also like to see the Peoplemover return, also.

  7. Great. Getting excited to attend Universal again. It takes about an hour for me to get there and 2 hours to get to Disneyland but I attend Disneyland much more often. It is more worth my time and money. But with the improvements and added attractions at Universal I will definitely get a Universal Annual Pass again.

    Excited for building and new jobs and dollars to be spent in Southern California. And we all benefit from more entertainment choices!

    • I hope Costco still has good deals on Universal passes when the WW of HP opens. My strategy will probably to be to get it before since Universal will probably (and should) raise prices on passes when it opens. And by getting it early we might get to ride it as they test it as we did with their excellent Transformers ride.

      Tip: my favorite place to eat there is at Karl Strauss in Universal City Walk–a short and interesting walk from the park. Get the beer sampler then get a full serving of your favorite. I had pork chops with a horseradish sauce there once which were. . . well I’m STILL writing about it over a year later. Not the kind of thing one eats every month if a life is to be long.

  8. Very excited to hear about increased updates for Universal. As they ramp up their building activity it will be great fun to see what is in store for the original studios park!

  9. I’ve been watching video from Fresh Baked Disney for
    a while, and I’m convinced that Disneyland Park is reaching
    an oversaturation point, with lines just last weekend that
    were ridiculous!

    Too many boats operating/clogging the POTC ride.

    Disney should be purchasing the square mile immediately
    west of the park, kicking out all the elderly in that retirement
    village and buying up the rest of the homes.

  10. I know exactly what’s going on near the end of the Studio Tour. I’m not going to say what, however, I will give you hint. But be careful, it’ll slip by Fast, so don’t get too Furious with me. ;)

  11. [...] out some of the photos below!  Head over to Mice Chat to see more photos of additional construction at Universal Studios Hollywood. Will you be making a [...]