April 2, 2014 – Spring has finally sprung, and the crowds are pouring in from around the country to see what Southern California has to offer – including our own Universal Studios Hollywood. Spring Break also marks the prelude to the tourist-heavy peak season of summer, and there are many moves being made at the park to prepare. How Universal handles this mini peak season rush will give locals an indication of what to expect in coming months as construction continues around our land-locked park.
So what exactly is going on in the park right now as the tourist season picks up, and what do we have to look forward to? Here’s a look at the latest happenings from Hollywood.
This time, the shark is working! After a lengthy hiatus, which saw his lake drained and the Amity scene cleaned up, Bruce the Shark made his triumphant return to the Studio Tour lineup last week.
The refurbishment process seemed to take much longer this time around than previous efforts, partly due to the draining of the lake and the time taken to refurbish the shark himself. The new Bruce on the tracks seems much more fluid than before, while other elements were repainted and touched up.
A fan favorite since its installation, the Jaws experience returns to the tour at a crucial time. With crowds coming in for the peak season, the Amity area adds precious length to the already drastically shortened tour. The longer the tour, the longer more people are off the maddeningly crowded upper lot streets!
With construction rampant throughout the park still, Universal needs as many crowd-eating attractions as possible if it’s going to survive the summer months without too many complaints from squeezed in guests.
Speaking of crowd-eaters…
Following a month-long refurbishment closure, the #1 rated stunt show in America is set to re-open on April 4th.
As we reported last month, WaterWorld has changed management companies. The new management company, which also runs the show for Universal Studios Singapore, has decided to change the format of the Hollywood show to match Singapore.
Whether the new incarnation will be an exact clone of Singapore’s, or simply borrow features will not be seen until the show reopens to the public. What we do know is that a few of the long-time cast members are already slated to return, and new cast members are finishing their training this week.
Now well into its 19th year in operation, WaterWorld remains popular with guests, and helps alleviate the heavy crowds during peak times. With the upgrades to the speaker system last year, and the current efforts to refresh the show, it seems that it will remain for a few years yet.
And while the area that the WaterWorld arena occupies currently is shown as a site of future development on the Universal Evolution Plan, it is almost certain that WaterWorld will remain through the opening of the nearby Wizarding World of Harry Potter, slated for 2016.
For now, the closure of WaterWorld and opening of Wizarding World are both far away. What isn’t far away however, is the opening of another attraction at the park…
After months of speculation and waiting, Gru and the minions have arrived! The day after the employee preview night, Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem was opened to the public for technical rehearsals.
While the ride has had a few glitches here and there so far, such as the hydraulic lifts in one ride room freezing up, it has for the most part been a very successful soft opening.
The ride is different from its Florida counterpart in that it features two ride rooms rather than one, doubling the capacity and helping to alleviate long lines. In the short time that it’s been open to the public to ride, it has already boasted impressive wait times, with the line time skyrocketing up to over two hours at points.
Despicable Me is definitely a fun ride. It’s got action, laughs, and an adorable, heart warming story, and has something for everyone in the family to enjoy.
The neighboring Super Silly Fun Land has yet to open up to the public, but has been testing daily as the remaining touches are added, such as carnival style games and the final parts of the play areas for children. The attention to detail in the area that once housed Terminator 2:3D and Coke Soak is impressive, and for those who remember the attractions that previously called it home, the difference is flooring.
Minion Mayhem and Super Silly Fun Land mark a turning point in the level of creativity and quality that Universal is capable of. If this is anything to go by, the final result of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter should be nothing short of fantastic.
As long-time Universal fans know well by now, nothing good comes without change to the park or surrounding area first. After sitting abandoned for some time, the old Fung Lum’s Chinese Restaurant next to the Frankenstein parking structure is finally being torn down. It is being speculated that this is that location of the first of the new Universal hotels to come around the same time as Harry Potter.
Not much is known about the demolition or possible reconstruction right now, but we’ll be watching the area closely for signs of change. The demolition of the old restaurant marks the beginning of a new direction for the Hollywood park, as it attempts to compete with other rival SoCal attractions to make a name for itself as a go-to destination, rather than the afterthought to a California vacation.
As the area changes over the following weeks, check back with us for updates.
That’s the latest news from Hollywood this time around! Stay with us over the next weeks as we continue our full coverage of the grand opening of Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, and prepare for another Summer of Survival – from crowds and construction walls!
Also, be sure to keep an eye out as we continue to celebrate 50 years of Universal Studios Hollywood in the coming months with articles, photos, and a few more surprises. As always, thanks for reading! We’ll see you next time.
Adriana Morgan – also known by her internet handle Miss Betty Juice – is an editor for Inside Universal.
Adriana made her first trip to Universal in 1995 during Nickelodeon’s Big Help-A-Thon, and was hooked from day one. Since that first trip, her passion for films and for Universal Studios has grown, and she continues to enjoy the park and its history today as an annual passholder and a reporter for Inside Universal. Her areas of Universal expertise include Jurassic Park, the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue, and the Studio Tour.
Adriana currently resides in Los Angeles. You can reach her at her blog on Tumblr at MyUniversalExperience.tumblr.com, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.