News: Universal Studios Hollywood Expansion Plans Finally Announced

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

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Published on April 09, 2014 at 3:00 am with 31 Comments

Yesterday, in a series of anticipated announcements, Universal Studios Hollywood confirmed an impressive series of additions to their original park in Los Angeles, California.  Starting with Transformers: The Ride in 2012 the creative forces at Universal have been redoubling their efforts to establish themselves as a world-class destination and theme park.

While things were relatively quiet in 2013, aside from the addition of the Universal Plaza, they have kicked off 2014 in a big way with Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Super Silly Fun Land.  This represented Universal Hollywood’s first foray into creating new, fully immersive environments without the idea that you are visiting a working movie studio. See our full review and report of the attraction here.

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But don’t bother trying to be the first in line for the Despicable Me.  James Franco is already in line.

Fast & Furious—Supercharged

Next year, however, they are returning the focus to the world famous Studio Tour.  Building on the monstrous success of King Kong 360 3D,  2015 will see the addition of Fast & Furious-Supercharged in the former location of the Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (originally the Avalanche Tunnel).  Based on the auto-centric, seemingly never-ending film series, Fast & Furious-Supercharged promises to thrust visitors into the high-stakes underground world of fast cars where they’ll join the cast in a harrowing escapade.

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Near the conclusion of the Studio Tour, the tram will pull into a large building housing the world’s longest and most expansive 360-degree screen spanning nearly 400 feet in length, encircling the tram.  Sitting atop a dynamic hydraulic-motion based platform the new attraction will tell an original Fast & Furious story, incorporating hyper-realistic special effects and state-of-the-art 3D-HD.  The tour will soon have a grand finale along with giving us a reason to hang on to those 3D glasses through the end tour.

Construction is already underway.

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SPRINGFIELD

While the Studio Tour gets a new attraction, another piece of the upper lot will soon become a bit more, how should we say, yellow.  Springfield, an immersive land, will open in the sprawling area in front of The Simpsons Ride (Formerly Back to the Future).

“Springfield” is being designed to make guests feel as if they are being propelled through their television sets into the accurately depicted city, complete with signature eateries from Krusty Burger to Luigi’s Pizza and Phineas Q. Butterfat’s 5600 Flavors Ice Cream Parlor to iconic watering holes like Moe’s Tavern and Duff’s Brewery.

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Previous structures, such as Doc Brown’s Chicken, have been removed and the cartoon town of Springfield is already going vertical.

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

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How long will you have to wait for a butter beer?

Universal long ago announced the coming of Wizarding World of Harry Potter; however, the timeline was sketchy. 2016 will be a magical year for Universal Studios Hollywood as the theme park’s epic transformation becomes fully realized with the highly-anticipated arrival of Harry Potter!

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Inspired by the magical world created by J.K. Rowling and brought to life in the Warner Bros. films, “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Studios Hollywood will be a fully immersive land designed for the entire family that brings the Harry Potter fiction and films to life.  The Hollywood experience is aiming to be faithful to the visual landscape that fans are familiar with, including Hogwarts castle that will serve as the iconic focal point of the environment.

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“This is a pivotal time in the history of Universal Studios Hollywood as we build upon our extraordinary success and expand our vision for the future of our world-class destination,” said Larry Kurzweil, President of Universal Studios Hollywood. “This broad investment in our five-year transformation will further strengthen Universal Studios Hollywood as an economic leader, significantly contributing to long-term employment opportunities and tourism throughout L.A.”

Universal Studios Hollywood expansion plans are aggressive and will certainly help them devour a larger slice of the Southern California tourism pie.  Keep your eyes right here on MiceChat as we’ll be expanding our Universal coverage to bring you regular construction updates on this impressive series of headlining projects.

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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31 Comments

Comments for News: Universal Studios Hollywood Expansion Plans Finally Announced are now closed.

  1. Thanks Norm, great report and info.
    Any idea of the timeframe for completion of the Springfield area?
    Thanks

  2. Any idea if they are building the “Great Hall” restaurant that was rumored? This is where we were supposed to be able to eat in Hogwart’s, with the four long tables (one for each house). Rumor was that this would be like Rainforest Cafe at DAK where you could eat there even if you were not in the park, so an entrance in the park and then one entrance from the outside too.

  3. Thank you for that update, Norman!

    Exciting time to be Larry Kurzweil!

    So now the question Universal might not even know the answer to, when in 2016 will the WWo HP open?

    I hope there are interesting differences between this one and the one in Orlando–especially in the exterior of their buildings.

    Universal could increase excitement, by building up to the top of Hogwarts ASAP. Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion was constructed (correct me if I’m mistaken) in 1963, but with the distractions of the NY World’s Fair in ’64, Walt’s death in 1966, and constructing WDW, that exterior sat there unopened for six years through 1969. (We forgive you, WDW dwarf coaster.) While I feel for a kid who turned 9 in 1963 and couldn’t ride Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion till he turned 15, the day the HM opened was the busiest day at Disneyland up to that point. The opening of U Hollywood’s WWoHP might also be the highly anticipated by the more than dozens of California kids who’ve read the HP books.

  4. Glad my reason for going, the tram tour, it getting a new attraction.

  5. I’d rather have the Mummy tunnel than another video to watch while bumping around a little bit. Same with how I think the old King Kong section was vastly superior to the video screen now.

  6. 2016 will mark 10 years since the last time I visited Universal. Perhaps once they open Harry Potter, it will be time for another visit!

  7. You have got to hand it to Universal. New attractions that the public can easily recognize. When something is old, boring and dated, they rip it out for something fresh that competes. Instead of arrogantly, replacing flowers every spring and trolling out some cheesy old parade floats every other year. Hopefully, people will stop looking at Datedland with Rose colored glasses.

    UHS is drastically updating itself, right across the street from the Burbank, Disney Ivory Tower. Bravo!

    • Hmmm. I think “tooncity” has lost a bit of Disney-magic.

  8. Disneyland used to have major expansions like that. In 1959 they put in the Matterhorn, Submarines and Monorail. In 1967 they put in a (really nice) new Tomorrowland, with Mission to Mars, Peoplemover, Adventure through Inner Space, 360 Vision; and also added New Orleans Square, with Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion. Then, in 1984, they ripped out the iconic (probably the second most photographed spot after the Castle) Skull Rock Cove and Pirate Ship, and put in a New Fantasyland. Then they put in Toontown, and the extremely horrible New Tomorrowland.

    They have done nothing recently, except expand Club 33 and put up safety railings. However, it is probably just as well that Disney isn’t adding anything new, after seeing what they did with the Nemo Subs and Tarzans Treehouse.

    In my view, if Walt Disney applied for a job with today’s Disney Imagineering, it would probably go like this:

    Interviewer: I’m gonna cut to the chase, Walt—this interview ain’t going too good for ya, pal. You got no college; your only experience is workin’ on a farm, making a few slide shows for the local movie house. Meanwhile, this other guy has worked in Hollywood and has degrees up the wazoo. But nevertheless, I’m gonna give you one more chance: What changes would you make at Disneyland, if you had the power?”

    Walt: Well, sir, I’d kind of like to bring back the Peoplemover, the Skyway, and the original Subs, for starters…

    Interviewer: You’d do that, would you? And you—the other guy–what would you do?

    Other Applicant: Well, as you know, sir, Disney recently bought out Lucasfilm. That would give you exclusive rights to the wildly successful Howard the Duck franchise. I suggest you replace the Jungle Cruise with a Howard the Duck ride, maybe turn the Golden Horseshoe into a Howard the Duck meet and greet.

    Interviewer: Howard the Duck? I like it! You got the job, kid. As for you, Walt–we got an opening in Frontierland, selling Churros. And I don’t wanna hear no more crazy talk about bringing back the Peoplemover, them old Subs, and the other garbage you were spewing–got it?

    Walt: Yes sir. I’ll be going now.

    • ^ ^ The Disneyland Resort’s DCA with its still new Carsland and Buena Vista Street is so close to Disneyland that I’ve read that some people have actually walked from one park to the other!

      I’m disappointed Disneyland hasn’t announced a major Tomorrowland makeover, but other than that I think the Disneyland Resort is in great shape. EPCOT and the WDW studios park need huge restoration, and new pavilion & land investments much more than Disneyland.

    • If this interview was for WDW they wouldn’t agree to any new ride. If you want to get hired at WDW you have to talk about keeping folks in the parks with Magic Handcuffs and “free” bus rides.
      Only “imagineering” going on is retheming restrooms and meet and greets.
      If they do build a new c ticket attraction, they drag it out for 2-3 years to keep it cheap and try to build up some excitement around the sinlgle ride.

    • Don’t necessarily agree with your post, but it was highly amusing – thanks, Algernon. However, I don’t think that buying LucasFilms would give them exclusive…actually, any rights to Mr the Duck. That would belong to…Hey! You think that’s why they bought Marvel?

      Also, I think you gave ol’ Walt the short shrift. After all, he has beaucoup retail experience! Remember his own franchise selling apples and newspapers on the train?

  9. Nice update, We normally really only go to uni during horror nights. We will definitely be going in 2016 when Harry shows up. With all this news, you would have to imagine that Disney will have to counter strike with their own news soon.Competition is great, especially for us…. the fans. Now its time for Mickey to raise Harry as the battle for bucks carries on.

    • Yeah. That’s what they were thinking in Orlando. Don’t hold your breath.

      Geez, I’m starting to sound like C.A.

      • Sorry Marko50, I know how you feel.
        Someday, someone in leadership will get the message..or they won’t.
        We just need to keep sending the message. Maybe we can get some new leaders who want to compete instead of retheming bathrooms and tearing out rides for meet and greets.

  10. Good for Universal for investing in all the expansion projects.
    I do believe they will be needing another hit franchise like Potter eventually. Disney has Star Wars and Marvel to bank on for easy money in the future. Maybe Transformers will keep doing well for them with the newest movie coming out.

  11. never seen any of the harry potter films. never read the books. can’t see what all the fuss is about. but people seem to like it!

    • Maybe if you actually picked up the first book and read it you would find out what all the fuss is about. See the movies too as they are excellent. You don’t become the 2nd richest woman in the world by writing bad stories and she is charge of everything concerning Harry Potter at Universal on both coasts. Don’t knock what you haven’t read or seen the movies.

    • i didn’t particularly care for the books or movies. I would have liked Potter more if I hadn’t grown up with CS Lewis and Tolkien. Potter seemed dumbed down to the audience she was writing for but overall the books were well written at least

      • The Harry Potter books were written for children, but adults have nevertheless picked them up of their own accord out of interest and curiosity. My mother discovered Harry Potter when it was misplaced in the adult section. She read the synopsis and was intrigued – the artwork made her think that it was probably targeted for younger readers, but she decided to give it a try. She read it very quickly and was hooked, then got me to read it. I HATED reading and I was about 10-12 years old. These books changed my life – I now enjoy reading. And I enjoy re-reading the Harry Potter series.

        People young and old enjoy the Harry Potter books and the writing isn’t so long and inflated that it excludes readers. Perhaps in order to fully enjoy something, we need to appreciate it for what it is, instead of comparing it to other supposed “great works.” I can’t stand Tolkien, but to each their own.

    • ^ ^ Then again this is Universal, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see them testing in 2015.

      It all goes back to Universal’s sugar packets.

  12. This is all exciting news! With the new Fast and the Furious attraction what is to become of the old one? Are there any current plans to replace it by the time the new one comes?

  13. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of universal and their aggressive expansions in their parks. But I’m gonna need more than another motion simulator to get me excited. We already have Kong, transformers, despicable me, and Simpson’s. I can ride transformers and I really don’t need to ride any of the others. I would like to see more practical effects in universals new attractions. Of course we’ll see when it actually comes out, but if it’s just 3d projections on a bigger screen then what’s the point of Kong 3D?

    • I guess it’s just like making movies themselves, you have a hit “idea” and then you make a sequel. In this case, a hit 3-d ride through, so another one it is!
      I am happy that Universal is adding to the California property however. It reminds me of all the expansion Eisner did in Florida through the 1990′s and how relatively little attention California got. Now Universal is finally adding A LOT more to Hollywood after huge expansion in Orlando. Yay for west coast folks! It is like Hollywood is becoming the “greatest hits” park from what worked best in Orlando, but its all good :)

      • Hmmm. If I remember correctly…and if I don’t, it’s because I’m old…what really kicked off Orlando’s expansion was a clone from California – Transformers to be exact. And that really wasn’t that long ago for either coast.

  14. Your move Disney. And I call no; FastPass +-ies, no Next Gen-ies, no glorified refurb-ies, no going out of bounds (DCA), and you have to make at least one ride based of a new, original IP, made especially for Disneyland. The only thing allowed is new rides and complete overhauls (a la Star Tours 2). (Too bad they won’t follow any of these rules)