Universal Studios Hollywood Fast and Furious and Harry Potter

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

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Published on May 23, 2014 at 3:00 am with 17 Comments

With Andy Castro delivering your guide to the 24 hour madness at Disneyland this weekend, we switch gears and bring you an In The Parks from Universal Studios Hollywood.  There is an astounding amount of construction taking place at this park both on and offstage, promising a full lineup of major additions for the next several years. Slated for a 2016 opening, The Wizarding world of Harry Potter is taking up a major portion of the upper lot, with steel framing and foundation work visible from almost any part of the park.  Meanwhile, on the backlot, a new Studio Tour attraction, Fast and Furious: Supercharged is also under construction and headed for a 2015 opening. Along with the brand new attraction in 2015, The Simpsons Ride will finally be surrounded by a new Springfield themed area.  We cover these sprawling projects along with a general update from the park and some great news from the Universal’s Animal Actors Show.  Let’s get right to work!

CityWalk

Walking through Universal Citywalk we can already see the cranes for Harry Potter construction looming high above the IMAX sized screens at the Cinemas.  Although, it might be a good time to take the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem banners down now.

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Incidentally, If you go catch a movie here while visiting, you get your parking fee reduced from your total ticket price.  Kind of a cool deal.

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Sheesh that crane for Harry Potter is huge.

If we are starting a wish list, and you know we are, it would be great to see this Starbucks location finally get the Disney treatment and become a world class, coffee palace.  We would love some Clover™ brewed coffee.

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They have also added new signage asking that visitors NOT climb on the water features and to avoid running through the dancing fountains.  You may walk, but DO NOT run. Tip-toeing is optional. ;-)

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Universal Studios Hollywood

Arriving at the front gates of Universal Studios Hollywood we see the classic red carpet rolled out.  It’s such a genuinely “hollywood” thing to do and is a nice touch.

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Entering the park, the entryway promises to be forever altered within the next two years.  The ubiquitous crane, sweeping overhead, acting as a harbinger of things to come.

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Looking down the entry path, we can imagine the buildings of Hogsmead drawing us into a magical new land.

House of Horrors

Taking a quick detour into one of our favorite attractions, the Universal House of Horrors, we notice some minor changes. (SPOILERS AHEAD)

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On either side of the Dracula figure are statue actors.

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The actors scare guests by gracefully lunging and scaring the pants off of them.

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We couldn’t photograph the difference in the mirror maze section without ruining the experience for others.  But it appears that a few mirrors have been removed to allow for less disorientation.

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Mother is waiting.

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One of our favorite scares.

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There is also a new figure in the final chainsaw sequence.  A little too gory to share with our normal non-Halloween coverage, it takes the place of the headless actor in the broken door.

Universal Plaza

Getting in to the center of the Upper Lot, we notice that the Universal Plaza is finding its footing and settling in nicely with visitors.  This place making project has seemed to really work, with guests grabbing food and sitting in the new hub of the Upper Lot.

 

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Theater Cafe

Getting rid of the old retail space, Universal has opened a new quick serve location.  The food offerings are all very good. . . which they should be for the prices on the high side.

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Honestly, the offerings are quite good and all made day of.

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But a small bag of Kettle Chips at $2.49?

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Domestic Beer is pretty spend too.

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If you want a premium beer, that’ll cost you extra.

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$11 pre-package salad?

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Disney prices?

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The sandwiches actually seem more reasonably priced. Yes, it’s $9 for a footlong. But there seems to be quite a bit in them.

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$3.99 for any one of these snacks.

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$2 for a piece of fruit.

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The location is lovely and the food offerings are varied and fresh. It’s the prices that left us feeling a little concerned.  Hopefully they will soon find their groove with this location.  It’s the right idea, it just needs some massaging.

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Incidentally, the award winning International Cafe was lost in the transition. This venue is currently closed.

Springfield

In the heart of the Upper Lot area of the park, Springfield is, well, springing up.  Based on the hometown of the hit show, The Simpsons, the area will now be a fully themed with a major attraction, food locations, shops and games. More place-making and theme.

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Universal’s Animal Actors

A while back, when MiceChat first started to regularly cover Universal Studios Hollywood, we caught the Universal’s Animal Actors show.  Less than impressed, we wrote that the show could use some help.  We decided to check back in on the show yesterday and found it vastly improved. Yes the show is still at the mercy of animals and their unpredictable behavior, but that’s all part of the fun. The show has been streamlined and cleaned up, offering a more entertaining, charming bit of fun.

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Prior to the show, trainers bring animals out to visit the audience.

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Gone are the larger (and more controversial to keep in a theme park), exotic animals.  No more orangutan folks.  Instead, they opted to fill the show with far more common animals, most of which are actual movie stars, and even better yet, rescues.

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The trainers really seem to have a bond with the animals they share the stage with.  Breezy and fun, this show has gotten it right.  Nice work.

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Fast and Furious: Supercharged

Coming in 2015 is the new Fast and Furious: Supercharged attraction. Part of the Studio tour, the tram will become part of the action and be drawn into a wild car chase featuring characters from the film franchise.  We are sure this will be much better than the dancing cars on a stick version from a before.

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A lot like the King Kong 360 3D addition, the tram tour will pull into a large building, featuring high definition 3D projections and special effects. The show building is being constructed along Falls Lake and seems to have a whole lower level below where the tram will pull in.

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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

We close with some pictures documenting the development of the highly anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  From a distance we observe the massive scale of the site.

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The large show building for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is nearly as tall as the IMAX theater to the left.

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From this vantage point we can also see what appears to be a portion of a Hogsmeade rooftop being assembled.

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Notice how small the construction workers in orange are?

 

From inside the park, we spy the angular peaks of the town of Hogsmead.

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Get your Flintstones Barbecue now. There is no way that location will remain after Wizarding World, or even Springfield for that matter, is done.

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One of the gates to Hogsmead

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You can also spot the angular chimneys taking shape, with their bent skeletons reaching up from the roofline.

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Boarding the Studio Tour, we look over and take in the colossal scale of the Forbidden Journey and its show building up close.

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To the right we see the open space that will soon become Hogsmeade.

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While riding the Studio Tour, you can already see the show building from afar.

Approaching the unload area of the Studio Tour, we get a nice look at the backside of the project.

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We simply can’t wait for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to open here in 2016.  This will be an attraction on a scale not seen at Universal Hollywood since the days of E.T. or Jurassic Park.

More Parking

Additionally, there’s more parking in the way too.  On the far end of CityWalk is the expansion of the parking structure.  Let’s hope this will be enough.

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With that we close what turned out to be an epic trip to Universal Studios Hollywood. Over the next couple of years we will be keeping you up-to-date on the projects happening here at this major theme park.  It’s an exciting time for Uni visitors and fans.

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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  • FerretAfros

    It looks like the assembled rooftop you saw will be where they will test out the various finishes for the facades. Getting samples like that is relatively common in big construction projects, especially to reference unusual finishes, so that the construction workers can make sure they’re staying “on model”, as it were

  • Ravjay12

    Wow! Great update and pictures! Very excited for Universal. I’m glad they are getting the Hogsmeade village like in Orlando. This is going to be huge for Universal LA. Fast and Furious attraction also? Universal is really pumping them out all over their theme parks. What does Disneyland have lined up the next 2 years? Upgraded animatronics in their Fantasyland rides? Sheesh…

  • M69

    Thanks for the update! Look forward to the changes… No surprise on the “Disney prices.” Here’s hoping Fast & Furious is better than previous installment (awful); that Kong in IOA is better than Kong in USH (betting it will be).

  • jcruise86

    Thanks for the excellent update, Norn!

    I like that Universal Hollywood is wisely creating nicer places in the park to just hang out. This is necessary if they’re going to charge more for APs and sell more of them. They are still foolish to not take advantage of their potential great views of the SF Valley.

    I love that they improved the House of Horrors, which is easily one of my favorite things at Universal. Audio Animatronics cannot compete with many, professional live actors in a haunted house. (Disney’s Haunted Mansion could benefit from the return of the live knight and about 4 other actors.) Universal’s House of Horrors’ monsters are not six-weeks-a-year fiends who work at the Scary Farm or at Hollywood Horror nights. They are true pros–year-round monsters who knew not to terrify my too-young daughter too much. She spent much of the experience laughing and insisted on going through it again.

    $3 for Jalapeno Chicken soup sounded reasonable. I’d still walk out through City Walk to Karl Strauss’.

    • a-mad

      Great update, Norm! The HP pics look great, and its cool to see the Hogsmeade structures rising along with the HPatFJ show building. It will be fun to see this develop over the next couple of years.

      Do we know yet what is going to be offered as far as attractions? I don’t think there’s been an official announcement, right? Obviously, it will be HPatFJ and Hogsmeade with Ollivander’s, Zonko’s, 3 Broomsticks, HoneyDuke’s… obviously no Dragon Challenge. What about Flight of Hippogriff? Probably not enough room, right?

      • dlpostcardguy

        Yes, I’m curious too as to what the other ride or rides will be in Hogsmeade, if any? If anyone has information please post. Lot’s going on at USH!! Looking forward to visiting soon.

      • Zero56

        Wizarding World of Harry Potter at USH will get everything IoA’s Wizarding World has aside from Dragon Challenge. Hollywood’s will be more similar to the one in Japan in terms of shops in Hogsmead; which has more shops than the one in Florida.

    • ayalexander

      jcruise86, the point of the Haunted Mansion isn’t to scare people. They learned that well after they first introduced the Knight. The Haunted Mansion is a tour through a stately retirement home for ghosts from all over the world; not a scare tour.

      • jcruise86

        ^ ^ “There’s always my way.” (Lightning flashes on man who committed suicide above, followed by a scream.)

        I do love the HM as it is. I expect it to be even better in 10 years.

        Knotts could have a ride through haunted house with some live actors since they’d cost less up front than AAs, and this attraction could be plussed for the Scary Farm.

        I hope that if Disney does do a 3rd park, that they design it so it could host the ultimate Halloween event, and that unlike the one in Disneyland, it would be rated PG-13. The rated R content of Universal Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights sometimes seems cheap and unimaginative to me. I admired how Sam Raimi’s movie “Drag Me to Hell” contained lots of fun scares with a PG-13 rating.

        –Tom Sinsky

  • DuckyDelite

    Thanks for the pics! I was nervous when I first saw construction pics as it looked like Hollywood was just going to get Forbidden Journey with room for nothing else. Glad to see there is room for all of Hogsmeade as the construction continues.

  • taunton

    Great info as always. Will be looking forward to future updates. Will have to return to Universal sometime in the near future to see it all for myself.

    I hope the parks realize how much business you generate for them. Hadn’t been to Knott’s in 20 years then attended one of your events there.

    • jcruise86

      ^ ^ I had wanted to attend Knott’s Scary farm since I first heard about it when I was 18, but thought I’d outgrown it. Then in my early 40′s I joined Norm and the Micechatters for the first of 5 or 6 Micechat Halloween events I’ve attended where I was surrounded by nice, like-minded (and like out-of-our-minds) adults. And that led to Knott’s Season Passes for our family. So Knott’s really does owe Norm and Micechat. (One Micechat Scary Farm highlight: eating with Al Lutz at the Pre-scare Boo-Fet and hanging out in the Scary Form with a cool older guy who helped start it all.)

  • Algernon

    I’ll be looking forward to walking through Springfield.

  • SoarinMatt

    With Disney basically telling me I’m too poor to visit them anymore, the WWoHP is getting me a little giddy. We Harry Potter fans don’t get books or movies to get excited about anymore, so this is super exciting! :-D

  • Soulquarian

    I really enjoy going to USH, but it really bums me out that almost every new attraction that goes in is essentially a simulator or screen based attraction. Transformers, King Kong, Despicable Me, The Simpsons, Shrek, and now Fast and the Furious…

    Give me something tangible! I can watch movies at home, I want to LIVE the experiences…

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