Universal Studios Hollywood Announces Ambitious 5-Year Plan

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The relationship between the two domestic Universal theme parks was a rocky one for a long time. They were pretty much left to go their own ways. It’s only since Comcast purchased NBC/Universal that the Hollywood and Orlando are getting on the same strategic plan. Right now the plan includes a lot of development for both resorts and, it’s already well underway.

Yesterday, Universal Studios Hollywood revealed the latest additions which, in addition to the Harry Potter land, will include Springfield to the Simpsons Ride, Fast and Furious: Suerpcharged to the Studio Tour, night time tours and the redevelopment of the Upper Lot as a whole. These will roll out over the next five years.

That’s a whole lot of work, but it’s needed in Southern California, which is one of the most competitive tourist markets in the world.

“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.”

At Universal Studios Hollywood the expansion has been underway for a few years. It started in 2012 with the opening of “Transformers: The Ride” and continued in 2013 with  the installation of Universal Plaza, a 37,000 square foot art deco styled piazza. This polygon-shaped entertainment venue sits at the heart of the theme park as a welcoming open air courtyard, architecturally reminiscent of classic Hollywood glamour. Featuring a soaring 70 foot tall tower emblazoned with the word Universal, the venue is large in scope, yet provides a warm and inviting environment to host an array of special events and entertainment.

On April 12, 2014, “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” and “Super Silly Fun Land” will open at Universal Studios Hollywood. Based on Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-nominated film franchise, and created in collaboration with Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination Entertainment, “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” will resonate with the same endearing qualities and characters that catapulted the franchise to international blockbuster fame.

The footprint for “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” and “Super Silly Fun Land,” however, will serve as a crucial turning point for the theme park, as the adventure represents its first foray into fully expansive themed environments aimed at immersing visitors from the moment they enter the space. From experiencing Gru’s neighborhood to Miss Hattie’s Home for Girls and the imaginative seaside carnival, this all-encompassing approach is a decisive departure from the park’s more commonly used vignette ride exteriors to create holistic experiences and transport guests to that imaginary place.

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2015 will be a momentous year for the theme park with two spectacular attractions debuting as part of the 50th anniversary. “Springfield” an immersive land surrounding “The Simpsons Ride” will open in Spring 2015 and in Summer 2015, “Fast & Furious—Supercharged,” based on the blockbuster film series, will be introduced as the grand finale to the celebrated Studio Tour.

The former layout of the park will become unrecognizable when “Springfield” hometown of America’s favorite family, The Simpsons, breathes new life to the sprawling and vibrant space surrounding “The Simpsons Ride.” “Springfield” will capture the spirit of the town and engage visitors and fans of the show in the intensely absorbing and colorful world made famous throughout the series’ 25 seasons.

“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.

“Fast & Furious—Supercharged” will be a pulse-pounding, adrenaline-fueled finale to the world-famous Studio Tour. This technologically advanced thrill ride, will catapult guests into the high-stakes underground world of fast cars where they’ll join the cast in a harrowing escapade. The ride will be situated within a newly constructed 50,000 square foot building on the legendary backlot and will reunite stars from the Fast & Furious series in a groundbreaking mega-attraction, conceived as a new installment to the dynamic film series that can only be experienced at The Entertainment Capital of L.A.

The dynamic hydraulic-motion based ride will tell an original Fast & Furious story, incorporating hyper-realistic special effects and state-of-the-art 3D-HD imagery projected onto the world’s longest and most expansive 360-degree screen spanning nearly 400 feet in length to encircle Studio Tour guests in the Fast & Furious universe.

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 “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.”

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 with impeccable detail and authenticity. Similar to the dynamic Universal Orlando Resort themed land that opened in 2010, the Hollywood experience will be faithful to the visual landscape of the fiction and films, including Hogwarts castle that will serve as the iconic focal point of the impressively themed environment. “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” is a collaboration between J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Universal Parks and Resorts.

This evolution of Universal Studios Hollywood will also include the addition of two newly constructed parking structures that, combined, will accommodate thousands of additional vehicles. Construction on the second parking structure will be completed in late 2015.

I lived within walking distance of USH for a decade and often found myself wandering there for a quick tour and mental refresher. The park was never really abandoned by the ownership, but at times it felt like it was at best an afterthought. I’m happy that Comcast sees the theme parks as the cash cows they are and is giving them fertile fields of investment to grow on. Growth on both coasts will keep the pressure on other parks to continue to improve their entertainment options as well, which in the end, is all we really want as theme park fans, to have quality entertainment in an immersive environment.

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