May 4, 2015 – On April 9, 2015, the Inside Universal team was invited for a special behind-the-scenes look at the new Springfield environment. From the moment we went through Walter’s Gate on CityWalk to the end of the event, we were amazed at the hospitality shown by both the Universal executives and park employees and impressed by the work they accomplished with Springfield.
After all the press had gathered, we were kindly greeted by the Project Director of Springfield, Jon Corfino. After a quick overview of what we were to see and do during the tour, we were taken behind WaterWorld and through the park to the area Mr. Corfino described as the “Pedestrian Central Hub.”
Next time you visit the park, stand in the middle of the walkway between Production Central and the Wizarding World construction. Surrounding you are the three main areas of the park: the entrance, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Springfield. Before today, we had never taken much notice to the location of Springfield. However, because of where it sits, a park guest will have to pass through Springfield multiple times just to get to multiple places in the park. To quote Jon Corfino, Springfield has become a “pivotal, central piece of the park.”
As you turn the corner from Wizarding World and see the “Welcome to Springfield” sign, you are instantly transported to the world of the Simpsons. With “The Simpsons Ride” and carnival games behind you, the Kwik-E-Mart and Springfield DMV to your left, 24 multi-level building facades in front of you, and Duff Brewery, Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck, and more to your right, it’s hard to realize that you are anywhere but Springfield.
Universal Creative worked very closely with Gracie Films, Creator and Executive Producer Matt Groening, Executive Producer James L. Brooks, and Fox Consumer Products to create a truly realistic reproduction of the Springfield we have come to love. Even before entering any of the Springfield dining venues, it’s amazing to see the attention to detail throughout this area. From color schemes, to quickly identifiable music choices, to small details like the Springfield, USA seals on the city grates, it was clear that each team wanted to create a very believable Springfield environment. It is hard to believe that at this point, there were still more details that they were planning to add!
“Universal Creative worked very closely with Gracie Films, Creator and Executive Producer Matt Groening, Executive Producer James L. Brooks, and Fox Consumer Products to create a truly realistic reproduction of the Springfield we have come to love.”
From here, we were taken into Krusty Burger.
For those of you who watch the show, you will remember Krusty Burger as a sort of obnoxious, knock-off fast-food eatery created by Krusty the Clown. One of the advantages Universal has had with working so closely with Gracie Films and Fox was their ability to create a truly immersive, but still enjoyable, experience.
When you first enter Krusty Burger you’ll be greeted by kind staff eager to answer any questions about the menu, all while having a huge Krusty the Clown head speaking his usual banter at you. Everything in this environment reminds you of the Krusty Burger on the show, with employees wearing a bright orange apron with the Krusty Burger emblem and a menu with item names that make your arteries want to cry.
As we continued on with the tour, we were led into Moe’s Tavern, which is directly connected to Krusty Burger. Again, Universal Creative and the Simpsons team really outdid themselves here. Moe’s Tavern was designed to work as an added seating area to accommodate its neighbors, Krusty Burger and Cletus’s Chicken Shack. However, the guests are still fully immersed in the Springfield atmosphere. For those who have yet to visit, try to imagine Moe’s Tavern in “The Simpsons” television show, except in a life-size, 3-D scale where you can literally drink a Duff Beer or a non-alcoholic Flaming Moe with Homer’s best friend, Barney Gumble.
Some other recognizable items from the show include the Love Tester, which has been seen in various episodes, as well as the telephone that sits at the end of the bar. Next time you visit Moe’s, pick up the receiver. You may be surprised, and maybe a little offended, by who is on the other line.
After a brief overview of what they offer at Moe’s, we were led into Cletus’ Chicken Shack, connected directly to the left of Moe’s Tavern.
Throughout every building in Springfield, Universal Creative and the Simpsons team managed to bring a cartoon world to life. Jon Corfino pointed out in this building specifically that in order to eliminate a primarily cartoon-like environment they used tangible elements such as wood paneling, genuine, exposed conduits, and a rusted tin ceiling. For us, this is where the details shined. As we looked around, we felt as if we were in a restaurant built by Cletus, himself.
There was wood paneling, exposed conduits, and a rusted tin ceiling. All of the picture frames and monitors were slightly tilted, you could hear the occasional chicken sounds coming from the coup outside, and the employees (for the most part) had a silly hillbilly accent. Despite Moe’s being connected directly to its right, we felt completely absorbed into this chicken shack setting.
Built behind the Springfield city facades that you see outside is the second floor seating area connected to all three eating venues. This is another aspect of Springfield that we felt carried the theme so seamlessly throughout each room. The Cletus’ Chicken Shack eating area continued with the downstairs detail, adding aspects such as Spider Pig and Cletus’ vast collection of Moonshine to which Jon Corfino stated that, obviously, “Cletus has a Moonshine issue.”
Finally, the last major thing we wanted to point out throughout the entire eating area was the use of monitors with various scenes from “The Simpsons” 26 seasons of television. These monitors were scattered throughout both the upper and lower levels. One thing the creative team had noticed since the soft opening was that it really created an environment that had people engaged in being here.
However, the monitors were not dominant features. Rather, they have found that they serve more as supportive aspects that help add to the overall atmosphere. Before this press event, I had gone to Moe’s Tavern once and sat on the side of the bar directly below the monitor. While there were definitely moments where it stole my attention for a few laughs, I never felt like it took over my conversation with my friend. If anything, I felt as if it added to our overall experience. We found that we agreed with Jon Corfino’s assessment of how guests interacted with the monitors. They add an extra fun element to the already interactive environment that they had created.
From here we went back outside and over to the Duff Brewery area. For those of you who have been to Springfield in Universal Orlando, you may recall that the Duff Brewery sat as an open bar along the walkway. The Duff Brewery here in Hollywood is actually separated into its own seating area that creates a more definitive environment for guests to become a part of. As you walk through the gates of Duff Brewery, you enter into a completely new section of Springfield. To your left are the bar and the brewery façade that serves as a covered seating area for guests to relax and enjoy their Duff Beer or Bumblebee Man Tacos. To your right you have the Bumblebee Man Taco Truck where you can enjoy a variety of Mexican style dishes. The only downside to this placement, we observed, was that the entrance to the line starts on the opposite side of the truck, outside the Duff Brewery area. The exit of this line lets out into the Duff Brewery area providing guests with easy access to seating under umbrellas or the brewery façade.
We really enjoy this outdoor eating environment because of all of the excitement and entertainment surrounding you. It gives you a perfect view of the Springfield façade, including the power plant. If you sit there long enough, you’ll get to experience the power plant meltdown that briefly shuts down the entire city. As you sit in this area, or the other seating areas throughout Springfield, you are exposed to the very well-crafted Simpsons-themed soundtrack and the occasional Simpsons character. Personally, I found myself forgetting that there was still more to the park than just Springfield simply because of how expansive and immersive this area really is. Jon Corfino mentioned that their team wanted to create a “very wide array of very detailed environments,” and I think they accomplished just that. The attention to detail both on the small and large scale has created an environment for guests to become completely immersed into, which we really appreciated.
The final, long-awaited, time of the day had arrived where we were given the opportunity to test all of the food they serve in Springfield. Keep in mind that with the advent of Springfield, Universal Studios Hollywood has welcomed a total of 9 new eateries, each with a menu that is unique to their venue. We were taken back up to “Krusty’s Clown Room” where we anxiously awaited the foods arrival.
Soon enough, we saw a line of Krusty Burger employees coming forward with trays of burgers, Cletus Chicken Shack employees with trays of fried chicken, the Moe’s Tavern bartender with her selection of Duff Beer, and, of course, the Lard Lad donuts. Inside Universal will have a another article shortly that gives a review of some of these items. For now, we’ll delve a little bit more into the process behind creating these very unique, and tasty, dishes.
Universal enlisted the help of a very well-trained chef who helped them create a variety of menu items that truly captured the quirkiness of Springfield, yet still maintained the integrity of the Simpsons brand
As the food began arriving, Jon Corfino gave us a brief overview of the thought process that went into deciding the menu. The team enlisted the help of a very well-trained chef who helped them create a variety of menu items that truly captured the quirkiness of Springfield, yet still maintained the integrity of the Simpsons brand. As a result, they came up with dishes that were equal-parts unusual and delicious. My favorite dish, surprisingly, ended up being the “Chicken and Waffle Sandwich.” This came highly recommended to me by one of the chefs that attended the event. Here’s an insider tip from this chef that I can also attest to: Ask for extra Maple Syrup Mayo on the side. True to the Springfield fashion, the idea of Maple Syrup Mayo sounds fairly odd, almost unappetizing, but it is easily the greatest sandwich sauce I have ever had. It is a perfect combination of sweet and tangy that pairs perfectly with the lightly fried chicken in this sandwich.
Jon Corfino mentioned that the happiest day on the construction site was the day that the cooks needed to start testing out the kitchens. We can definitely say that the food lives up to the hype! During the first weekend of soft opening, for example, Krusty Burger sold over 1,000 Krusty Burgers alone! It is hard to believe that the menu items could be improved, because we were incredibly impressed by their quality. However, Jon Corfino mentioned that the team is constantly looking for ways to raise the bar.
Dishes that were equal-parts unusual and delicious
As our day came to an end, we found ourselves leaving the park with full stomachs and happy hearts. Initially, when I learned that Universal Studios was planning on creating Springfield, I was hesitant and less than thrilled. As the construction continued to make it more and more difficult to navigate through the park, I grew more and more resentful to this place. However, my resent was met with a creation that far exceeded my expectations. Before Springfield, this area of the park was fairly scattered with no definite theme. The arrival of Springfield has brought about an aspect of this park that really shows how unique and creative Universal Studios Hollywood can be. Never in a million years did I think I would find myself craving to go to Krusty Burger. Yet now, as I am writing this, I have the Clogger Burger floating through my mind. Overall, we are incredibly happy with the job Universal Creative and the Simpsons team has done with Springfield. We think this is the first big step in the right direction for Universal Studios Hollywood and the plans they have for the future. Seeing how well they did with this area, we are even more eager to see what they can do with Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Victoria Station, and we think that guests who visit Springfield will agree.
Springfield will officially open to the public in May. Be sure to stick with Inside Universal as we keep you updated on Springfield and all things Universal Studios Hollywood.
» Springfield USA Officially Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood! (video)
» Behind the Scenes of Springfield at Universal Studios Hollywood
» Springfield Food Report
» Daytime Photo Tour of Springfield U.S.A. (video tour)
» Nighttime Photo Tour of Springfield U.S.A. (video tour)