Image © Universal
On July 4, Universal Studios Hollywood opened its new, year-round Walking Dead Attraction (because nothing screams patriotism like a horde of zombies, yes?). The experience is, on one hand, a fairly standard walk-through attraction–which isn’t surprising, given the fact that it replaces the House of Horrors (a maze starring Universal’s classic monsters instead of walkers) and the presence of The Walking Dead at the past four Halloween Horror Nights events on both the West and East Coasts.
On the other hand, however, this new attraction has garnered much more money, time, and resources from Universal Creative than either of its predecessors, befitting its mammoth stature in the pop-cultural consciousness and its nature as a permanent, around-the-clock fixture in the park. The sheer amount of detail poured into every nook and cranny of every scene is one of The Walking Dead’s biggest selling points; it has been routinely reported in the themed press that, despite its horror veneer, guests will want to linger in every room to try and soak up every last hidden detail and Easter egg to the television series it’s based on.
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The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a new land at Universal Studios Hollywood based on the Harry Potter series of books and films. The land officially opens on April 7, 2016, but we were able to catch a technical rehearsal to the fully operational land. In this review I will cover all of the attractions, dining, and shopping in Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I will try my best to review the west coast version of this land as its own entity, but there will be certain things that must be compared to the version of the land in Islands of Adventure in Florida, and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or WWoHP as I’ll call it for the rest of this post, is located on the Upper Lot, directly across from Animal Actors stage. It’s a short walk from the main entrance of the park, which is nice as that’s probably where most Universal Studios guests will start their day from now until the end of time. Luckily WWoHP is pretty much a straight shot from the entrance of the park, which makes it easy to find in a park that some people find hard to navigate due to having no central hub (unlike most Disney theme parks). It’s also worth noting Universal’s Upper Lot is mishmash of themes and architectural styles: one stretch is 1920’s Los Angeles, the next is Paris, and then all of a sudden you’re in Springfield from the Simpsons. If you expected Universal to change this with the opening of WWoHP, they did not.
Hogsmeade Village at Universal Studios Hollywood with Hogwarts in the background.
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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.
Earlier this week, the final puzzle piece in Universal Studios Hollywood’s ambitious “Evolution Plan” clicked into place, as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave final approval to the expansion of the famous movie studio and theme park.
Over the next few years, the Evolution Plan calls for radical changes at Universal Studios Hollywood, including the addition of parking garages, new CityWalk dining and retail venues, and two on-site hotels. Inside the theme park, the Special Effects Stage, WaterWorld stunt show, and Gibson Amphitheater will all be shuttered in the coming months for new attractions, and three additional points of interest will eventually be added along the Studio Tram Tour.
The most visible element of the expansion will be the addition of a west coast version of Orlando’s über-popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter. While details on what portions of the Islands of Adventure area will migrate to California are unknown, a copy of Hogwarts Castle complete with the Forbidden Journey dark ride is expected, along with shopping and eating opportunities.
In order to begin construction on Hollywood’s Harry Potter land, Universal has announced that its Adventures of Curious George playground will close at the end of the summer season. A similar kids attraction at Universal Studios Florida continues to operate. So if your kids love getting sprayed with reclaimed water and wading through plastic balls, get out to USH before September to bid farewell to Curious George.
Here is the complete official press release direct from Universal:
UNIVERSAL CITY, California, April 23, 2013 – NBCUniversal announced today plans to begin construction of the first projects of its 25-year Evolution Plan. The Evolution Plan represents a $1.6 billion investment in tourism and production. This long-term investment in two industries that are vital to Los Angeles will create more than 30,000 jobs and generate $2 billion of economic activity during operations for the region.
“After nearly a decade of work on the Evolution Plan, today’s vote sets the stage for our next 100 years in Los Angeles,” said Ron Meyer, president and COO of Universal Studios. “We are thankful for the support and leadership we have received from both the County and City of Los Angeles and are ready to get started investing in these important tourism and production projects in the next few months.”
Starting in late summer, NBCUniversal will begin construction of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter themed land at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, as well as new and upgraded television production facilities, office space and infrastructure on the Universal Studios lot. These projects represent a nearly $500 million investment in the Los Angeles economy and the creation of more than 2,000 construction jobs alone.
“We thank Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the entire Board of Supervisors, and County staff for providing us the path to bring much needed jobs and investment to Los Angeles,” said Corinne Verdery, Chief Real Estate Development and Planning Officer, NBCUniversal. “The working relationship we have built with the community was invaluable in developing our future plan and we are grateful to our nearly 7,500 supporters and union partners who have been with us every step of the way. We look forward to bringing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Hollywood, forever changing the face of tourism in Los Angeles.”
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood will be a fully immersive experience for the entire family designed to bring 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 centerpiece of the impressively themed environment. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a collaboration between Warner Bros. Entertainment and Universal Parks and Resorts.
On the Universal Studios lot, NBCUniversal will upgrade existing production facilities and add new capabilities to better respond to the needs of television production. In addition, NBCUniversal is looking to create modern offices that will house everything from post-production services to traditional office space.