Posts Tagged ‘Despicable Me’

SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We LOVE Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel

by on June 11, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Portofino Bay HotelCurrently, the Universal Orlando Resort has four on-site hotels, with a fifth (Sapphire Falls) opening later this summer. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Port Orleans Riverside), and Deluxe (Contemporary). Universal also has three levels: Preferred (including Royal Pacific Resort), Prime Value (Cabana Bay Beach Resort), and Premier, which is where the Portofino Bay Hotel resides.

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Portofino Bay Punch – Bacardi superior, Bacardi ‘O’, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, orange juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and a splash of Bacardi 151.

First, a little backstory. Steven Spielberg can be considered one of the main “architects” of the entire Universal Orlando Resort. Universal Studios Florida, the park which started it all, was built on the back of films that Spielberg either directed (Jaws, E.T.) or was a producer on (Back to the Future, An American TaleTwister, Transformers). While the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the current draw to Islands of Adventure, it’s Spielberg’s Jurassic Park that sits directly in the middle, and the iconic Jurassic Park visitor center is the first thing you see in the park when coming out of the Port of Entry. It’s only natural that when Universal was putting together Islands of Adventure back in the 1990s that they would pick Spielberg’s brain about ideas for the new onsite hotel they would also be developing.

Spielberg’s suggestion was for the new hotel to be inspired by the classic feel of Portofino, Italy. Loews took that idea and ran with it, faithfully recreating a classic Mediterranean fishing village by the lagoon, as well as representing the luxury of many high end Italian hotels on the inside of the resort. Portofino Bay and its 750 rooms can be considered the flagship resort of Loews at Universal. Today we are going to look at several of the reasons we absolutely love Portofino, including what may be the best themed room in all of Orlando. So sit back, put on The Three Tenors as background music, and let’s begin our list with…

# 6 – The Pools

A little while back we took a trip to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and fell in love with their Fuentes del Morro Pool. The Beach Pool at Portofino blows away the one at Caribbean Beach and joins the elite of Orlando pools including  Stormalong Bay at the Yacht & Beach Club, and the Nanea Volcano Pool at the Poly. There are a lot of activities surrounding the main pool, including a children’s water play area (complete with pirate ship), pool tables, ping pong, a giant checker board, a fantastic pool bar (with tons of seating and a great menu), two hot tubs, a sandy beach and more, The pool itself is an impressive fort-like structure you can walk around in, a grotto you can swim through, and a great slide. 

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The Beach Pool at Portofino Bay.

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The grotto.

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Lounge chairs are everywhere.

There are two other pools at Portofino, including the impressive Villa Pool. Located near the Beach Pool, this area includes even more lounge chairs, 16 cabanas, a hot tub and a plunge pool. Just a gorgeous area with maybe the best pool bathroom area in the entire state of Florida. The third pool is a true quiet pool and located on the other side of the resort.

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The Villa Pool, straight out of a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous magazine.

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Hot tub and plunge pool

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SATURDAY SIX: Movies and TV Shows That Were Filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort

by on June 4, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Movies, Television Shows, and Music Videos shot at the Universal Orlando Resort. Loyal readers have gone with us down the rabbit hole to see all the Walt Disney locations used in the Hulk Hogan TV show Thunder in Paradise. Then we checked out the times our favorite sitcoms like Boy Meets World and Full House that went to Disney World. Today we are taking I4 West across Orlando and checking out which movies, television shows, and music videos were filmed at the Universal Orlando Resort. Now, Universal Studios Florida is still a working production studio with several sound stages, and has been the home to such shows as Family Feud, TNA Impact, and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. However today we are going to look at productions which  – for the most part – filmed outside of the sound stages, allowing us to see our favorite Universal rides, hotels, and characters. So sit back, follow along with us on your Comcast cable box, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt “Kimmy Finds Her Mom!”

Season 2, episode 13

We’re going to start off our list with the newest of the bunch, as this particular episode aired in April of 2016. I have to personally begin with a mea culpa. I have never seen an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It’s one of those shows (along with Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and Veep) that we’re all supposed to watch. But there is just too much good TV on right now to keep up with everything. I will say this after watching just one episode of Kimmy Schmidt, I’m immediately going back to watch the entire first and second seasons. It reminded me of two of my all time favorite comedies: 30 Rock and Parks and Rec.

While Kimmy Schmidt the show didn’t have as much making fun of the theme park world we know and love (unlike Roseanne, which skewered the parks) it was top to bottom the funniest show I have ever seen involving a theme park (this also includes the more recent episodes of The Middle and Modern Family which went to WDW and Disneyland.) The A-plot of the show involved Kimmy Schimdt finally tracking down her mother, played by the incredible Lisa Kudrow (Friends and the must-see The Comeback.) The B-plots, which involved one character finding herself in the middle of the Washington Redskins owners, and another over at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, were just as good as the main storyline.

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Kimmy arrives at Universal Studios Florida.

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The Minions, Olive Oyl, and stilt walkers from The Mummy in the Hollywood section of USF. This led to a wonderful scene where Kimmy was mistaken for a meet and greet character and families kept lining up to take their picture with her just because others were.

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Kimmy and her mom buying Universal Express to ride Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. I just could not believe my eyes at this point. This would be similar to a sitcom at Walt Disney World  having a character make ADRs 180+10 days out.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Universal’s ROYAL PACIFIC RESORT

by on March 26, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort. Currently the Universal Orlando Resort has four on-site hotels, with a fifth (Sapphire Falls) opening later this summer. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Port Orleans Riverside), and Deluxe (Contemporary). Universal also has three levels: Premier (including Portofino Bay), Prime Value (Cabana Bay Beach Resort), and Preferred, which is where the Royal Pacific Resort resides.

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Loews Royal Pacific Resort. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

While Disney runs its on-site resorts, Universal partners with a luxury hospitality company in Loews Hotels. One of the benefits of being run by a third party, is that Lowes has a loyalty program with YouFirst. Many of us have been on Disney vacations dozens (if not hundreds) of times, and unfortunately it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time at Art of Animation or your 50th, what you get is what you get. At Universal you start accruing benefits upon your 2nd stay and can earn privileges such as free room upgrades, late checkout, and even a $100 credit.

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Royal Pacific’s courtyard. (photo by Brandon Glover)

While I understand the arguments of staying off-site, for my family, staying on-site is one of our favorite parts of a theme park vacation, especially at Universal. Today we’re going to look at what I believe is the best on-site hotel in Orlando. So sit back, grab an ice cold Jake’s Red Lager, and let’s begin counting down the top six reasons we love Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort starting with…

# 6 – Pool and Beach Areas

The pool at the Royal Pacific Resort is massive. While it is the only resort at Universal without a slide, it does feature the gigantic Royal Bali Sea interactive water play area connected to the pool. This play area is themed to a ship, features water cannons, and seemingly dumps about a million gallons of water on the people playing around it. When I was a kid all the pools were the same shape: a rectangle. If pools and play areas existed like this, I’m not even sure my parents would have been able to drag me away to go to the theme parks.

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One of the small islands found inside the Royal Pacific Resort.

For adults, there is plenty of seating, a white sand beach, zero entry, cabanas, two hot tubs, an ice-cream place, and the Bula Bar & Grille. The pool area offers towels, magazines and newspapers to read while laying out in the sun, and games such as ping pong. While there is plenty of covered seating at the Bula Bar, servers will come out to the pool area to deliver drinks and food. Our recommendation: Shipwrecked Loaded Nachos (but you can’t go wrong with the burgers either.)

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Royal Bali Sea water feature.

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Shipwrecked Loaded Nachos, pound for pound the best food offered pool side in Orlando. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Minion Mania takes over Universal Studios Florida

by on July 1, 2015

They’re small, they’re round, they’re yellow, and when you set foot in Universal Orlando, they’re seemingly everywhere. The adorable, funny, and mischievous minions from the Despicable Me movies are about to get their own movie and Universal Studios Florida is awash in minion mania. Families and fans can get minionized in more ways than ever before, making this summer the perfect time to visit Universal Orlando and celebrate all things minions. Let’s take a look at all the ways you can get into the minion mania.

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Minion Scavenger Hunt
New for this summer a fun, simple, and silly scavenger hunt takes place throughout all of the Universal Studios Florida theme park. It’s not elaborate and obviously temporary, but it adds an entertaining way to celebrate the new minion movie. Families and friends are sure to have a good time reading the clues and exploring the park together.

Simply pick up your scavenger hunt card at the minion merchandise store, Super Silly Stuff. The card will give you the instructions and contains 10 clues describing where to find each answer. It’s a scratch off card, so some of the clues are partially obstructed by the scratch off panels, which is kind of frustrating; I’m not sure why the scratch off panels aren’t just under each clue instead of on top off the clue, but I guess we’ll just say it adds to the mystery of the scavenger hunt. Each clue gives a description of where in the park you will find your answer. The answer is marked by a large decal or display of the minions with an answer indicating one of the three most famous minions: Bob, Stuart, and Kevin. Once you see which minion is the answer just scratch off the bubble for the appropriate minion.

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Universal Studios Hollywood Despicable Me Minion Mayhem opens April 2014

by on December 27, 2013

Universal Studios Hollywood Despicable Me Minion Mayhem April 2014

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem arrives at Universal Studios Hollywood in April 2014

Gru’s lovable yellow Minions have already wreaked Mayhem at Universal Studios Florida, and now we know when their popular Despicable Me simulator ride will arrive at Hollywood. According to the webpage for a contest sponsored by the retailer rue 21, at Universal Studios Hollywood Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem will debut in April 2014.

The new attraction, which replaced USH’s Terminator 2/3D attraction, is largely identical to the Orlando version, but features a much more elaborate facade depicting Gru’s home and neighborhood. Adjacent to the ride (replacing the Coke Soak area) will be Super Silly Fun Land, an amusement park-inspired playground with a “spinner” kiddie ride.

The addition of Despicable Me is the first of many changes coming to Universal Studios Hollywood, including the recent demolition of the revolving tunnel on the Studio Tour, the rumored addition of an expanded Simpsons area similar to the new Springfield USA in Orlando, and the eventual opening of a west coast Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Read the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland for complete info on USH, and keep an eye on this blog for future updates on the evolution of Universal.

 

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SATURDAY SIX: Top Six Gift Shops at Universal Studios Florida

by on December 7, 2013

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Top Six Gift Shops at Universal Studios Florida. Until recently, gift shops were seen as a necessary evil at our favorite theme parks – annoyances that many people either dreaded being herded through or mocked the existence of outright. One of the best gags in The Simpsons Ride involves the alien Kodos saying, “Foolish Earthlings, don’t you know all rides must end near the gift shop?”

Thankfully, over the past several years gift shops at Universal have become better themed and well merchandised, and several have even started to incorporate interactive features for their guests. It’s almost unbelievable to say it, but just as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey became possibly the first attraction in the history of theme parks to have a queue guests wanted to spend more time in, gift stores themselves are becoming features of attractions that guests can look forward to experiencing. Here now, a look at 6 of the best gift shops at Universal Studios Florida.

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“Thank you, come again!”

# 6 – Kwik-E-Mart

Despite the great joke mentioned above, the Simpsons Ride is one of the few attractions at USF that doesn’t exit into a gift shop. The Kwik-E-Mart, the ride’s merchandise location, is right next to the attraction and is filled with the high level of self-deprecating humor that is found throughout Springfield USA. Signs above the merchandise include sales pitches like, “Today’s merchandise at tomorrow’s prices!,” “These items won’t buy themselves!,” and “C’mon! If you owned a store we’d buy your junk!” There’s even a sign at the registers that has a call back to an episode of the Simpsons television show as it warns the cashiers not to take checks from various people including Chief Wiggum, Homer J Simpson, and Homer J Fong.

The walls and outside windows of the Kwik-E-Mart are laden with ads for fake products including Farmer Billy’s Choco-Bacon-Bars (“It’s like chocolate and bacon had a baby in your mouth!”) while the variety of actual Simpsons related products inside includes t-shirts, hats, plush, comic books and more.

IMG_0175Outside the store there is a photo-op available with Milhouse sitting on a bench and one of USF’s most hidden gems, the Simpsons pay phone. On the side of the Kwik-E-Mart closest to the Simpsons ride, there is pay phone mounted on a wall with the character Nelson next to it with a word balloon saying, “Answer the phone dingus…it’s for you.” Walking by this phone will trigger it to ring, and picking up the receiver will treat you to a gag line by one of the various Simpsons characters including Chief Wiggum, Moe Szyslak, and Bart Simpson.

With a pressed penny machine, the Big Pink donut, and lithographs of the hilarious attraction posters such as Captain Dinosaur’s Pirate Rip-Off (a jab at Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride), the Kwik-E-Mart is a must-do for any Simpsons fan.

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Universal Dining: Character Breakfast at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort

by on November 15, 2013

DSC_0265I have been fascinated by character meals for a long time now, probably because my parents would never take me to one when I was growing up. I’ve read all of Brian McNicholsarticles on character dining at WDW and love listening to various podcasts talking about the different dining experiences Disney has to offer. One thing no one ever seems to talk about is character dining at Universal. Well, today that is going to change.

Every Sunday, from 8AM – Noon, Jake’s American Bar at the Royal Pacific Resort has a character breakfast. About a month ago, I made a reservation for our party through Open Table for 10AM. Upon checking in, while we were waiting for our table, a couple of Pink Berets from the movie Hop were at the front of the restaurant. The children we were with made a bee line for these characters despite never having seen Hop.

The sheer awe that these kids showed in their faces and reactions made me realize immediately that my parents blew it. Big time.

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Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort: November 3, 2013 (Character Breakfast, Red Oven Pizza, Jurassic Park Games, and more)

by on November 5, 2013

This past Sunday I made the trip up to Orlando for a day at the Universal Orlando Resort. The first stop was at Jake’s American Bar at the Royal Pacific Resort for the on-site hotel character breakfast. This would be my first ever character breakfast, and we were drawn to it because of the characters from Despicable Me. It’s safe to say that meeting Gru and a Minion was pretty special to the youngsters in our party. Some bunny characters from the movie Hop made an appearance, as well.

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Observations from the Universal Orlando Resort: HHN 23 props, Simpsons photo area, Despicable Me Minions and more

by on September 10, 2013

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Props from AMC’s The Walking Dead at USF

This past weekend I headed up to the Universal Orlando Resort to get some research done for the new Universal menu pages on TouringPlans.com, and while I was there I got to see some new things that have popped up around the parks.

Obviously the biggest change going on right now is the near daily arrivals of props related to Halloween Horror Nights 23 over in Universal Studios Florida. Fans of the hit television show The Walking Dead on AMC are going to recognize many of the elements showing up in the park. Right across from the main gift shop is a beat up truck that has Daryl Dixon’s famous crossbow laying on it while nearby is the “Sophia stay here we will come every day” car that was located in front of Disaster! for HHN 22 last year. Over by Cafe La Bamba there is a section that is mostly covered up except for a well placed bicycle. This could an area set aside for “Bicycle Girl,” one of the most well known zombie characters from both the Walking Dead show and comic book series.

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