Universal Studios Hollywood Changes the Scenery

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in Features, Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood, In the Parks, Southern California Parks, Universal Hollywood, Universal Studios

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Published on August 01, 2014 at 3:00 am with 23 Comments

Universal Studios Hollywood is abuzz with exciting construction projects. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is on track for a 2016 opening. Coming next year is the Fast and Furious Supercharged addition to the World Famous Studio Tour. Plus, the Simpson’s Springfield is being constructed on the upper lot. There are also a number of short-term projects under development as Halloween Horror Nights maze construction is now in full swing.  But it’s not all construction.  We finally see why the freestanding food location near Universal plaza was repainted,  we learn the fate of the former International Cafe space, and we find that Universal Management has mercifully decided to mix up the music on the Starway leading to the lower lot.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The enormous construction site atop the hill in Universal City will soon be home to the West Coast version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This is the largest construction project ever undertaken at the studios theme park.

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A crane presides overhead as the show building is pieced together.

At the foot of the project, steel girders support the show building above.

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As the outer shell is put onto the building, we struggle to view what might still be seen inside.

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Backstage work continues on the detailed pieces that will later be placed into the site.

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Here we see wire mesh being formed to resemble the rock at the foot of Hogwarts.

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The metal frames of the gables are being fabricated here.

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The wire mesh is formed and the pieces are receiving an initial coating. They will later become a rock mountain surrounding the Forbidden Journey show building.

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We now view the project from inside the park.

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Pinks Hot Dogs faces what will soon be the entrance to Hogsmeade.

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Only two years away folks!

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The angular spires of Hogsmeade.

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In the foreground, the doomed Flintstones Barbecue lives out its last days.

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Just beyond is the future Three Broomsticks restaurant.

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We see another side of the Three Broomsticks here.

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Can’t wait for Shepherds Pie and Butter beer.

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The Three Broomsticks to the left and the Food locations of the new Springfield to the right. We will be seeing the most progress right here as the food locations on the right will have to be ready to open a full year before Wizarding World opens to guests.

Cinnabon

We found out why the food stand near Universal Plaza was repainted. It was for Cinnabon, the insanely delicious cinnamon roll chain. They proudly brew Starbucks Coffee.

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Halloween Horror Nights

With everything happening on the upper lot we have learned that all of the mazes are going to be located on the lower and Back lots this year.  Some scare Zones will, of course, remain in the upper lot.

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Here we see that a third maze is under construction in the Backlot area behind the large city backdrop that lines the New York Streets.

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In the extended queue of Jurassic Park, the face for a yet-to-be announced maze is developing nicely.

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What is this cool looking façade?

Fast and Furious Supercharged

Along the Studio Tour route we see that construction on the Fast and Furious Supercharged attraction is progressing rapidly.  Still just a frame for the most part, this building will house what is hoped to offer a high-octane car chase finale to the Studio Tour.  It will be a sort of Kong 2.0 experience that will give visitors a reason to hang on to the 3D glasses throughout the tram ride until the end.

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French Street Bistro

Back on the upper lot, we were saddened to see the award winning International Cafe close its doors.  We are sadder still to see that it has simply become another cold food, counter serve restaurant.  It is fine for what it is, and the offerings are perfectly acceptable, albeit a tad overpriced.

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What is strange about this move is that they just recently converted the former Annual Passholder shop into a similar venue. Why have two of the exact same types of eateries so close to one another?

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The dining room is pretty much the same.

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It’s a nice space, but we lament the loss of hot entrees.

Starway Music

Bye-Bye Billy Bush!  Yes, the celebrated host of Access Hollywood, who has enjoyed a long run as the voice of the Starway escalators, has been retired.  Visitors will now enjoy music from upcoming Universal films.  Right now we get to hear music from the upcoming film Get On Up, The James Brown Story.

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Springfield

In the center of the upper lot we find that progress on the Springfield addition to Universal Studios Hollywood is still in the framing stages.  It will be wonderful to see a full sized, two-story version of some of The Simpsons most beloved locations.

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We are also told that Louie’s Italian food location will close down in the future to be re-themed as Luigi’s Pizza, to better match the Springfield theme.

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Parking Structure

We close things out by following the progress at the large addition to the Parking Structure.  This structure will also act as the primary spot for tour bus parking.

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That’s a wrap from Universal Studios Hollywood, the Entertainment Capital of Los Angeles.  Be sure to catch In The Parks next week as we bring you full coverage of the major announcements from Knott’s Berry Farm for Halloween Haunt 2014!  See you soon, 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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  • Larry Parker

    EXCITED to see the Harry Potter attraction coming here! Now I can hold off on my Florida plans and simply await the attraction opening here!

    • jcruise86

      Visit U. Orlando before it opens out here, then show off your Orlando T-shirts at U. Hollywood. It’d be smart of Universal to differentiate them to make visiting both worthwhile.

      • Marko50

        Isn’t it possible to get the T-shirts online? That’d save a bunch of $$$.

    • WDWorldly

      Even when it opens there, the Orlando version of Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be better. Still worth visiting.

      • solarnole

        The Orlando versions of Sea World and Disney are bigger and better too.

      • Marko50

        But none of them are the original. And you certainly don’t know about the WWHP until it opens.

        Funny how most of the original stuff came outta SoCal.

    • Susan Hughes

      Yay for Harry Potter Land at Universal. Hopefully it will drawn a large number of locals AWAY from Disneyland. Then the resort might have some easing of the overcrowding. So go bring your bad behavior over to L.A. and stay there!

  • eicarr

    I was there on a hot summer day and the French Bistro was the ONLY place we could find with AC seating. Since I’m not a big fan of Universal rides, I’m glad they’ll be themed areas to roam after the tram tour.

  • twainrider

    It’s hard to visualize just where all this stuff is going. I know it’s where the Universal Amphitheater was, more or less, but how all this is fitting while still having a working studio will be something to see. The question is, will they subsequently be building a West Coast version of Diagon Alley, which, if Hogsmeade and D.A. would be joined by riding the Hogwarts Express, would have to be at some other location.

    • jcruise86

      The Diagon Alley question IS the question. It could be connected to Hogsmeade via trippy floo network tunnels.

    • brandonshah97

      I honestly think that they will definitely consider building a diagon alley in USH in the future. the only problem with hollywood is space and so to construct such a masterpiece they will need to flood the theme park into the working back lot and build there. if the movie studios allows them, we will have D.A. now about Hogwarts express… I don’t know how they could do that considering the back lot is glued to the back of the park and there’s not really distance to travel to get to D.A. maybe they will get rid of water world to create more train traveling space? idk.

  • snidely whiplash

    From the photos, it seems like everything is just being crammed into too small a space. Is that the way it feels when you’re actually in the park and seeing it first-hand? Hogsmeade seems like the biggest offender – it seems like it’s sticking out into the flow of the top level.

    • jcruise86

      The “everything crammed into a small space” is one of the things that makes Disneyland so amazing.

      I hope Hogsmeade can clearly be seen at night from the SF Valley below.

      • FixitKronk

        unfortunately the harry potter stuff will not be visible from the valley. this part of the construction is up against city walk and will be visible from the mullholland turn outs up above studio city though.

    • brandonshah97

      this is one of my biggest problems with the project so far. while they are only in the early stages of construction, when I was there it seemed like every thing was too close together. I have a scary feeling that the other lands’ facades will be visible from the opposing land which will kind of ruin the magic. and that’s the thing with Disneyland, when you enter a land u are fully immersed in that theme because there is a large boundary separating the other lands. I want to see how universal creative will make this work. we will see.

  • jcruise86

    Thanks for the update, Norman! I think you have one of the coolest jobs in America and you sure do it well!

    • Marko50

      Agree. Although it might be a wee bit cooler with a paycheck. Or a bigger one, anyway.

  • imaginashton

    The facade in JP for HHN is The Slaughtered Lamb from An American Werewolf in London

    http://www.british-film-locations.com/scene-2s/American-Werewolf-In-London-1981

  • Carrie317

    We had the American Werewolf house last year om Orlando. It was fantastic and yes that is the facade.

  • Dereksdominance

    You forgot to mention that my favorite attraction, House of Horror, is closing down permanently after Horror Nights.

    • brandonshah97

      most likely the area will be made into gift shops or eateries like it was once before. maybe a large harry potter themed touristy store. maybe they plan on making the entrance strip more like main street USA like at Disneyland only filled with shops and confectionaries. but we will soon find out.

  • Pingback: Universal Studios Hollywood continues building Wizarding World of Harry Potter | MuggleNet()

  • Wreckless Abrandon

    Hooray for more Harry Potter at Universal Parks! But enough with the 3D on the Studio Tour. It only works on King Kong if you’re in the middle, and even then it’s not great if you’re sitting at the edges since you can clearly see the top and bottom of the screens. Practical over digital when it comes to the Studio Tour.